“To travel is to live” said once a wise man called Hans Christian Andersen. I don’t think there is anything more true than that. For me travelling is the key for your happiness,a fundamental step in your personal growth, the best way to ‘invest’ your money. In all of us there is an insatiable curiosity for the unknown. It is in the human nature. And so is travelling. Because, in the end, the best part of travelling is not where you are or where you will be, it’s what you feel when you travel. It’s the unexpected journey.
To me travelling means to fully know who I am, to expand my horizons, push my limits, judge with my own eyes and hands, learn new things.
I also learnt not to put any limits, physical or psychological, to what I do or feel. To embrace what surrounds me and experience it all. How did I do that? Well, the answer is simple. I used all my senses.
Little by little I started to discover the real power of our senses, too often dozed off in our daily lives. The result is a whole alternative way of experience things, a different method of seeing the reality, a new approach to life. It’s also true the countries I’ve visited did 99% of the job for me. It’s hard not to fully dive into the atmosphere and be transported when everything around you is simply sensational.Here’s a list of the countries that most amazed me. 5 countries, 5 senses to be awaken.
SIGHT – MYANMAR, THE HEAVEN FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
Maybe is the failed political system, or the crumbling colonial architecture, or even more the previously isolated population that seems to have just acknowledge their presence in the world. Perhaps is the background of colonial building, thin and long vegetation and colorful street markets or just the simplicity and authenticity of the place, either way Myanmar is a true paradise for photography.
The country is a sight for sore eyes. Everywhere you look you can see the true beauty that is intrinsic in Myanmar essence and people’s hearts. The Burmese culture is clearly visible in the customs and traditions of the people and is indeed the people who make Myanmar such an incredible and unique country. Fly on a hot-air balloon over Bagan’s valley, with its several temples and buildings, to have the shot of a lifetime or board on a boat trip across Mandalay lake or Inle lake to capture their suggestive scenery.
And look at people’s eyes to notice their innocence and simple elegance, typical of those who haven’t yet experienced the modern society and all the troubles that come with it. Out of all the countries in Asia, Myanmar is certainly the one that will most satisfy you curios eyes.
TASTE – VIETNAM, A FESTIVAL OF FLAVOURS
Vietnam is definitely a place that should be experienced with your taste buds first and foremost. This beautiful country has found a way to be even better: to provide a various, extravagant and fantastic cuisine. No matter shape, consistence or color your food will be, it is a matter of fact that it will taste great. And the coffee? Oh, the coffee is incredible (said by an Italian counts even more).
From the most common dishes like Pho (noodle soup), Banh Mi sandwiches and spring rolls to the specialties like Bun Cha and Cao Lau, passing by the crazy, weirdly-looking, traditional delicious food of the many ethnic communities present in Vietnam, the country never fails to surprise its visitors with some sensational food, indeed one of the best in the world (always said by an Italian). Ask Barack Obama or Anthony Bourdain, they love Vietnamese food.
However the conclusion I came to is that Vietnamese cuisine is so sensational because it is incredibly simple. Being so simple, it relies on the use of several herbs and spices (which I didn’t even know the existence of) that are not only an addition, they are an essential part of the dish. The whole, mixed together, creates a powerful explosion of tastes and a unique, harmonic balance of flavors in your mouth that will be hard to forget, or more likely, will make you fall in love with Vietnam forever.
TOUCH – LAOS, THE LAND OF CRAFT PRODUCTS
If you’re looking to keep yourself busy with some different and amusing hands-on activities, then Laos is definitely the place for you. Besides the stunning nature, Laos is home of some of the most unspoiled, fascinating and intriguing traditions of the Asian continent.
One of the trademarks of Laos is the diversity of its people and cultures (49 ethnic communities, all preserving their own dialect, traditions and customs) as well as the strong religious influence that always return in the arts and architecture.
Laos is also well known for its traditional crafts like wood carving, silver smithing, ceramics, textiles, mat and basket making and weaving. However it’s hard to collect Laotian arts and craft under a single category as each ethnic group has its own craft styles and traditions. The best way to get to know better their arts is by creating it. Place your own hands on Hmong Batik waxes and silk dyes, learn the techniques to make Saa papers, cook some amazing traditional Laotian food and practice your stencil art skills.
What are you waiting for? Make your own unique Laos craft products in the traditional way, a funny and entertaining activity for adults and kids, which will create great memories of your time in Asia.
HEAR – THE SOUND OF SILENCE IN CAMBODIA
It’s certainly true that Cambodia has seen a troubled past which has shaped the souls of its people through long and dark years of pain. However, what we find today is a country that wants to open to the world and be seen for what it truly is: an incredibly fascinating place. Cambodia has a long lasting tradition and a strong religious society, which make the culture extremely interesting both in people and places. By all means it is hard not to fall in love with Cambodia, with its people, its history and its architecture.
Angkor (Wat) is definitely the most known site in Cambodia with its 2 million visitors every year. The stunning ancient site seems to fight against the passage of time in order to maintain its original beauty. And it looks like it’s winning hands down. However, as much as Angkor is an astonishing place to visit, it isn’t the only attraction in the country. If you want to know why Cambodia is a real paradise you should head to the beaches. Long, beautiful, untouched beaches which will make you feel like a cast away. Also you should check out Battambang, the former capital and one of the major hubs in the country. It is a true gem.
The real beauty of Cambodia though is it’s quiet and peace that must be fully experienced when in the country. Angkor and its gorgeous temples, the unspoiled beaches of Kep, Koh Rong and Soong Saa island, the vibrant cities of Siem Reap and Battambang, the spectacular temple of Preah Vihear with its stunning view, wherever you might be, at sunset, take a moment to sit back and relax, observe the quiet life going by and feel the atmosphere surrounding you. Enjoy the sounds of birds flying over your head, listen to the waves breaking on the beach and the monks praying. It’s a magical moment for a magical place.The peaceful atmosphere and the quiet life of Cambodia make it a must-go in Southeast Asia.
SMELL – THAILAND, THE LAND OF SCENT
Thailand is famous for countless things: beaches, food, temples, you name it. Indeed every single aspect contributes to make Thailand not only a worldwide favorite destination for holiday but also one of the greatest, most interesting and most fascinating countries I’ve ever been. And I guess you too.
What really impressed me about Thailand, besides other things, was the constant smell surrounding you. I’m talking about any kind of smell, especially ones I’ve never experienced before. For your entire journey in the country you will always be accompanied by certain smells. Always, even in your hotel room.
After spending a few weeks there I learnt to find my favorite ones, smells that you won’t find anywhere else. One is the Durian. The Durian is a spiky fruit that looks like a medieval war club from the outside but contains a sweet, soft, creamy inside. The fruit is considered by many really bad smelling. To me it’s a unique smell hard to find anywhere else. Its scent is so strong that can stay for days, making it even illegal to carry on some public transport. The Durian is a bit like a Russian roulette: you either hate it or love it. Personally I find its smell extremely pungent and delicious. Let me know what it is for you.
Another one is lemongrass. Oh, lemongrass! The smell of lemongrass will be your best friend when travelling Thailand. It’s everywhere, even where there is no lemongrass. Magical! The lemongrass herb is essential to Thai cuisine, but is also widely used to make soaps, essences, perfumes and spa products. And it smells like heaven. The scent is citrusy but much sweeter than a lemon and it is extremely relaxing, it helps you calm down and relieve stress and even insomnia. The unique and amazing lemongrass smell will definitely make you fall in love with country, so much that you will want to stay in Thailand forever.