While I wait for the global coronavirus pandemic to ease, and travel to re-open, I started to reflect on the places I have visited before.
There are a number of places firmly planted in my mind as being places I loved to visit and would like to visit again.
Here they are, and unsurprisingly there are a number in South East Asia.
Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
I absolutely loved Siem Reap. The town still has an authentic feel to it despite the number of tourists heading there, the people are wonderful, friendly and helpful and the choice of food and nightlife is excellent and relaxed.
Then, just down the road, is the incredible, spectacular Angkor Wat temple complex. Every temple offers something a little bit different and awe inspiring as you marvel at the technical ability and ingenuity to construct the temples in an area prone to flooding and long dry seasons that would cause most buildings of any scale to collapse.
Our visit here was far too short and we must visit again to the place that still heads my list of places I have visited.
Ravaged by the 2004 Tsunami, Khao Lak has made a miraculous recovery and looks as good as ever.
Tourist areas are spread out along the beachfront and main road, meaning that the area never looks crowded or over-developed.
The area has some of Thailand’s best beaches, often with few if any people, increasing the sense of paradise and you walk through the warm water as it gentle meets the shore.
The area also has some of the most-tasty food I have eaten throughout Thailand. There is food for everyone but sample the Thai dishes for a more authentic Thai taste than in other areas of Thailand centred on the tourist industry.
My last day in Khao Lak we visited a regular restaurant of ours, small and by the roadside. I ordered my meal and was asked how hot I wanted my meal. I asked for hot, I had eaten a similar strength meal there a few days before.
She looked at me and asked if I was sure, of course I said yes.
When the meal came it was stunning, but wow was it hot. I used my napkin and every other one I could find to mop my brow and to stem the flow from my streaming nose.
I ate the meal and sat there, nursing a much-needed Chang, happy with the meal but still reeling from just how hot it was.
She came to take my plate and asked if it was ok? Yes, I said, but it was hot. I know she said, and I only gave you medium.
I only stayed here a few days as I was travelling through Europe.
I loved the place though.
Getting around the city was easy, with plentiful and reasonably priced buses, trams and underground trains as well as good links to surrounding towns and mountains.
The city itself was clean and relaxed with excellent nightlife and plenty to see and do in the daytime too.
It is a lovely place to just walk around during the day, admiring the architecture, a mix of old and new. I especially recommend spending some time around Marienplatz, the large, open square in the centre of Munich.
Munich has a wide range of professional sports teams for those who want to experience some sporting prowess and who doesn’t know about the largest beer festival in the world, Oktoberfest, every September and October.
Keswick (English Lake District)
I fell in love with the Lake District in my 20’s and the affair continues to this day with Keswick and its surrounding fells, lakes and villages.
You need to pick your visit right though. High season and the sheers numbers of tourists make sit for an expensive visit, surrounded by people and with far too busy roads. Outside of high season though, Keswick is still a delight primarily due to the surrounding countryside and incredible walks available.
Make sure you take your waterproof clothing as even the sunniest days can have a shower or worse. Although the day that I decided to walk to the top of Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, by the long route turned out to be the hottest day on the fells on record and I returned defeated and very hot to my tent.
Yes, it is a town built on tourism. The original village sits further away from the sea and is still happily existing away from the main body of tourists.
But it is a tourist town that still manages to keep a charm about it that doesn’t affect the enjoyment.
I prefer to stay at the north end of Ao Nang, away from the main hustle and bustle. When you want the shops, bars and livelier parts of town it is a pleasant walk or a quick tuk tuk ride away. However, you can also escape the hustle and bustle and head further out of town or to the quieter Nopparat Thara beach and seafront both also easily walkable.
Ao Nang is also a perfect place to base yourself to discover Krabi Town, Railay Beach, Koh Phi Phi and the Andaman Islands. If you love your snorkelling or scuba diving, there are options galore from short Longtail boat rides to full day trips to some of the top diving sites in the world.
If you want to experience a Thai city most will only think of Bangkok. That is all well and good but Chiang Mai offers much more as far as I am concerned.
A wonderful city that manages to blend the modern and the tourist industry, with the traditional and historic.
Offering access to the north of Thailand and the staggering national parks and adventure travel options.
Chiang Mai is also a pleasant place to spend a few days.
Pick the right place to stay and you can easily walk around Chiang Mai, day and night, to the main attractions, including a number of incredible temples.
Kefalos (Rhodes, Greece)
Another town that has grown through tourism but has managed to keep some of its Grecian charm.
Quieter than many resorts and featuring a main beach plus “hidden” quieter beaches it offers a relaxing Greek experience not suitable for the party animal in you.
Just along the coast from Lindos, one of the main tourist attractions on the island, if not on the Greek Islands, it is bounded by mountains and just jumping on the local bus provides many sights you could easily miss.
Rhodes town is only a bus ride away and has some excellent shopping alongside the historical harbour.
Leek (English Peak District)
I thought long and hard about including Leek. I live here after all. However, unless I end up travelling permanently, I can’t think of anywhere that I would rather live.
I was born and raised just over an hour away from Leek and travelled here quite often after a day a work or at the weekend for the incredible rock climbing available on the Roaches and nearby crags.
Since I stopped climbing, my fingers are wrecked, I have discovered the joys of just wandering around the Peak District that sits on my doorstep a short drive away. The ability to walk from my house with the dog and end up away from many, if any people, walking in picturesque English countryside, woods and riverside makes it a tranquil location.
The small market town is also a great bonus. A decent number of shops, many of which are independent, rather than chain stores, and often offering specialist products or services. There is a good range of restaurants and pubs, often playing live music, in town as well which makes it a fun and relaxed night out.
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