Ah January, am I glad to see the back of you.
I guess it’s not your fault that not only are you the longest month when it comes to pay day, but you are the bearer of all things dark and hideous when it comes to the weather.
Your only redeeming feature, January, is that your lack of money and nice weather is quite conducive when it comes to planning travel adventures.
So with that I am pleased to announce where Our Next Sunrise will be in 2014. Only Burma, Japan and Russia so far! Oh and Birmingham. Not much in the way of distance or culture shock but an adventure none the less. There may also be another trip to Italy thrown in the mix as I am simply a sucker for Italian wine, weather, food, people and scenery.
For now here’s a preview of Our Next Sunrise’s top 2014 destinations:
This is going to be a trip like no other! Our Lonely Planet guide is already well thumbed as we’ve pored over the most beautiful places to visit in this newly accessible destination.
Ok, so there is some controversy about visiting Burma and about whether doing so validates its regime. But the fact remains that development in Burma is now rolling at full steam ahead and there is a limited window for people to visit before it becomes engulfed by tourists so we have made the decision to embark on what is going to be a once in a lifetime experience.
In Bagan, we’re going to take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise, so we can soar over the famed valley of over 3,000 Buddhist temples. You can also take in the temples by cycling or driving, but I really don’t think you can beat the magic of seeing them from the air at sunrise.
We’ll then be shacking up at the iconic, inky Inle Lake. There are temples, hot springs, floating markets, day treks and villages, and of course, the wondrous lake itself.
Then it will be time to relax at Ngapali beach, which boasts some of the best restaurants and freshest seafood and Burma, as well as the $2 mojitos at Lily’s bar. According to Lonely Planet, the preferred mode of transport for locals is to take an ox drawn carts along the beach. Sleepy. Several big new resorts are currently being built so I’ll be savouring its sleepy character.
Burma photos courtesy Dreamstime Images and Myanmar Travel Information
From one extreme to another – underdeveloped to the height of consumer culture that is Japan. Despite Japan being at the forefront of technology, urbanisation, food and fashion, it’s how old and new come together in this fascinating country that I’m most interested to see.
Old and new will certainly be a theme that defines this trip. For example, we’ll be staying at the Park Hyatt Hotel – known not just for its dizzying views of the Tokyo metropolis but also for being the main setting of the film Lost in Translation. It’s a stone’s throw from Harajuku, populated with more over the top sub cultures than you can poke a stick at (rockabilly goths anyone?).
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Yet traditional cuisine abounds, the food scene being so sophisticated that most restaurants will specialise in just one type of Japanese food. And cultural strongholds such as the geisha and the sumo are still thriving.
From the buzz of Tokyo, we’ll then retire to a ryoken on the outskirts of Kyoto – a guesthouse in which you are expected to don the traditional robe and slippers, sleep on a futon and bathe in the hot springs. I don’t normally like to be told what to do when travelling, but in this case, it’s all about playing by the rules!
Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We have no set plans for this long weekend in Moscow, but I think a trip to the ballet is in order, don’t you? Our Lonely Planet guide is a little less well thumbed than the ones we have for Burma and Japan as this trip is slightly further down the line, but one hot tip we’ve had so far is to visit the famous Cafe Pushkin. It’s traditional food, old world settings, live music and vast selection of dramatically named dining rooms (Fireplace Hall, Library Hall, to name a couple) make this the most epic looking cafe I have ever head of.
Image courtesy of Matt Banks / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Where will you be in 2014? I would love to know what adventures you have planned. Better still, if you have any top tips for Burma, Japan, Moscow, and even Birmingham, let me know!