As you might already know from one of my earlier posts, this month marks the 3rd anniversary of my departure from Canada. It’s been an incredible 3 years! I have lived in 3 countries and traveled to over 20 others. Today, looking back on my adventures, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite places around the world.
Narrowing a list of 20+ countries and hundreds of cities down to only 5 places seems like a rather daunting task. Every country I have ever been to, every city I have ever traveled to, every neighbourhood I have ever visited, was special and memorable in its own way. Each offered unique experiences: from cultural immersions, to heart racing adventures, to breathtaking views, and great parties…
But some cities were special. So let me try to explain why.
A small city in Yunnan province, about 8 hours away from Kunming, Lijiang is a UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s a secluded gem with fresh air, breathtaking mountain views, and winding cobblestone streets. Lijiang retained a lot of the traditional Chinese architecture and thus has very little resemblance to the rest of China. The town is inhibited by the Naxi people, one of China’s 55 ethnic minority groups.
While this small town has become a popular travel destination among the Chinese, it has remained fairly untouched by international travellers. I loved getting lost in the narrow streets of Lijiang, drinking famous Yunnan tea, or trying delicious but often weird and wacky foods and snacks at the street market. I enjoyed spending days exploring the town and the natural scenery that surrounds it. At night it was great to get immersed in traditional Chinese entertainment alongside Chinese tourists.
Lijiang hasn’t quite made it into the Lonely Planet guidebooks, but one that, I hope, everyone travelling to China will add to their list.
There is a commonality between all travelers that end up in Pai. Most of them, including myself, never planned to come to Pai, and all of them find it hard to leave. Pai, named after the Pai River, is a small town about 3 hours north of Chiang Mai that’s known as a place to relax, slow down, unwind and take it all in.
The town itself has no major sights or attractions. It is set in beautiful country side with rice paddies, waterfalls, treks, and hot springs and it does have a live backpacker and hippie scene. Days are spent on a motorbike exploring the country side. While the nights are devoted to sipping beers on the floor of some bar, exchanging travel stories with a fellow backpackers.
Is a small city in central Switzerland, known for being the centre of Swiss history and stunning natural beauty surrounding Lake Lucerne.
I loved the cool air, the smell of freshly baked bread, the local produce markets, and its maze of streets passages and squares. And for those of you that know my love for cheese, you will understand why the traditional swiss fondue that I first tried here in Lucerne might be slightly skewing my perception of this town.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I love about this city. It’s not a specific sight or a single memory, but rather an overall feeling.
I loved Polish food, the delicious hearty meals that remind me of growing up in Ukraine. I never got tired of Krakow’s historically preserved old architecture and the beautiful cobblestone streets. But my favourite part of my time in Krakow were definitely the locals: from the farmers at the local market, to people on the streets, Polish people are some of the friendliest and nicest people I have ever met.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao is a small island of only 21km2 on the Western shore of the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao is much less developed than its neighbours Koh Phanghan and Koh Samui, and is known for being the centre of scuba diving.
The diving culture is deeply ingrained in Koh Tao, uniting most travellers as soon as they step foot off the ferry. I loved getting up at 5am and getting into the water at the crack of dawn, just as much as I loved getting back from a day of diving and hanging out on the beach with a beer in hand. It was here that I fell in love with diving and here that I spent one of the happiest weeks of my life.
So there you have it… I know that this isn’t the list of the best cities to visit or cities that you “must add to your bucket list”. These places definitely don’t offer it all, but to me, that’s part of their beauty!
These are simply MY favourite places in the world – the places that have left a very special mark on me during my travels for one reason or another. These are the cities, towns, and villages that I will always want to go back to…
What are some of your favourite places in the world?