Spam in your inbox is one thing you can do without. Forwards are another source of annoyance, especially the preachy kind that asks you to forward the forward to ten more. A click of the ‘delete’ button rids you of the contents before you think twice and that’s what my friends and siblings do.
But not I. After the first exasperated sigh there is always that uneasy feeling that I may just forever miss out on something wonderful. So no mail gets expunged unless I have read it and I have rarely regretted my curiosity getting the better of me.
How many countries have you visited, seen the mandatory touristy sights, even ventured into lesser known places that give you the feel of the city or country or its people, only to return home and discover you’ve missed some extraordinary experience simply because you had neither heard nor read about it. This is where my forwards come in – they will give me an edge when I travel next, the feeling of having gone where not many have been before.
In spite of having friends and relatives in the UAE I have only been there once, deferring a second visit to some vague time in the future, for if you’ve been on the desert safari, and shopped at the gold souks and Dubai airport, what else is there left? Then a forward introduced Al Ain Paradise, near Dubai, which holds the Guinness record for the largest number of hanging flower baskets and is a riot of unimaginable, amazing colours. I asked a relative if she had heard of the place; she hadn’t, but now plans to visit the place soon. Similar was the Montreal Gardens with its unbelievable topiary of birds, animals and monuments, using variously coloured greenery and foliage for physical detail. A friend who’s lived in Montreal for more than 3 decades thought it was probably a temporary annual outdoor garden called the ‘Floralies’. She had never been there but will this year.
Who has heard of a Venice in the Netherlands? A village without a single road where all transportation is only by boat? I have visited Holland several times before this forward landed in my inbox. A niece living there did a search of this vividly picturesque village, Geithoorn, to the east of Amsterdan and the Hague, which she feels may be worth a visit now that she’s heard of it.
If you are a dedicated foodie don’t miss the Waldgeist Restaurant in Hofheim, 17 km west of Frankfurt (to think I was in Frankfurt and unaware of this place), where beer is served in half to 2 litre steins, a steak or a sausage weighs 600 gms, and burgers are only 12 inches wide!
Last month some friends toured China, but my itinerary must include a trip on the Beijing-Lhasa railway stretching 1956 km mostly across permafrost, the world’s highest rail track at 13500 feet above sea level. The train is pressurized like an aeroplane to insulate you against the average minus 45 C temperature; the elevated track, constructed on pillars so as not to affect the migratory lifestyle of the region’s wild life, offers breathtaking views of endangered animals, whitest mountains and glaciers and bluest lakes.
Rather belatedly, one realizes there are not-to-be-missed places in one’s own country. For instance, who says that the London and Paris wax museums are the ultimate in wax magic? The Siddhagiri Museum outside Kolhapur in the state of Maharashtra depicts wax scenes of bucolic life – farmers ploughing fields, women drawing water from the village well, grinding corn, and other vignettes of daily life such as the village market, stonecutters and weavers and goldsmiths at work, the village physician, the anxious mother having her child’s horoscope read by the Brahmin – every scene so true to life in its costumery and expressiveness of features.
North-eastern India is no stranger to me for my mother hails from one of the states, Meghalaya , whose town Cherapunji holds the record for the world’s wettest spot. I have walked inside the many natural caves dotting the area, but nobody told me about the 500-year old root bridges used daily by the locals. These are betel nut tree trunks hollowed out and spanned across rivers, which become living bridges within ten to fifteen years as they take root on the other side.
Few have heard of Kodinhi, a village in Kerala, packed with 220 sets of twins born to just 2000 families, almost 6 times the global average in twin births. The phenomenon, started three generations ago, has mystified doctors because despite the localised nature of the village, the twins, a majority of them identical, are mostly without genetic defects. Can there be an answer here to the prayers of infertile couples around the world?
Constraints of space prevents me from enumerating a few other places in America and Asia that I would love to see, of which you have probably not heard, because you have not conserved your forwards as I have!