For many people, the worldwide recession impacted travel, including yours truly. While I did only a few overseas and domestic trips the past year, I feel they were all worth every penny spent. As we look forward to a 2010 hoping for more places to discover and explore, I recollect my most memorable travel experiences last year:
1. Washington DC - the promise of a big change happened as Barack Obama was sworn into office as the 43rd President of the United States. We went there the day before the big event to witness then Pres. Bush landing at the White House south lawn for the last time. We went there again in spring to witness the Cherry blossoms that truly made the usually staid capital of the US very colorful.
2. Airbus A380 - flying the world's largest aircraft from New York to Dubai aboard Emirates was proof to the adage that it's not just the destination but the journey that counts. This double-decker of the skies did not disappoint in the wow factor: more room, quieter cabin, mood lighting, bigger windows, mind-boggling choice of inflight entertainment and for those in First Class, an onboard shower.
Emirates A380 photo courtesy of Airliners.net3. India - where do I begin? It is such a huge country to cover that two weeks are not enough. But I was happy doing a solo trip to some of the India's very captivating spots. From the chaotic capital city of New Delhi, I traveled to Jaipur and saw how the Maharajahs of a bygone era lived. In Agra, I came face to face with the iconic Taj Mahal at three different times of the day: full moon, sunrise and sunset - really bewitching! Luckily, I happened to be there during the very colorful Holi festival.
One of India's best rural destinations can be found in Orchha, a place that seem a million miles away from civilization. On the other hand, Khajuraho is quite a shock to the conservative senses - talk about Kama Sutra and this is just the right place to admire temples dedicated to carnal wisdom. For the spiritually hungry, nothing is closer to the divine (for the Hindus at least) than being in Varanasi - no one questions the faith of the living as they dip into the waters of the Ganges along with ashes of the cremated dead.
4. Stockbridge, Massachusets - Catholic faith takes a feverish pitch at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy as thousands gather for the annual Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend, offering me a chance to witness how America has not forgotten God contrary to what others say. The beautiful setting shadowed by the Berkshires couldn't have been more appropriate.
5. Intercourse, Philadelphia - in a digital age, no one would think there are still people in the US who live like it's the 18th century. But that's the Amish way of life - no cars, no electricity, and they're proud to wear conservative dresses. A peek into their unique lifestyle is like stepping into a period movie and one that gives the visitor a lesson in simplicity as opposed to our excessive ways in the big city.
the Amish taking an earth-friendly ride6. San Francisco, California - it's only my second time but the City by the Bay never fails to capture my heart - after all, many visitors leave their hearts behind (remember the song?). A trip to the Redwoods National Park gave me a glimpse of what it must have been during ancient times in the Northwest - the only thing missing were the dinosaurs!
6. New York - closer to home, I sampled what the upstate could offer: a 5-mile trek on a section of the Appalachian trail and hiking up Sam's Point Preserve in the Shawangunks; kayaking in the Hudson just as New York celebrated its 400th year since its re-discovery; biking at the Cornwall-on-the-Hudson; and strolling on Huguenot Street in New Paltz, considered America's oldest continually inhabited street.
7. Philippines - as always, there's nothing like going back to my place of origin. And I wouldn't tire going back year after year what with more than 7,100 islands to choose from. Besides visiting family and old friends in Davao, I did a detour to Siargao Island, the country's surfing capital and to Gumasa, a very rustic beach destination in Manny Pacquiao's Saranggani Province. In Davao City, our adrenaline was pumped-up as we took zip-lining at Outland Adventure and reunited ourselves with the endangered Philippine Eagle in Malagos, Calinan.