Atacama Desert in northern Chile is known to be the driest place in the world. Before arriving, I envisioned super dry skin and chapped lips, but strangely enough, it was not as dry as I thought. I have had drier skin in NYC in the winter. What is interesting in Atacama Desert is its Martian landscapes, salt flat and lagoons, geysers and wind-swept canyons.
Agra is the home to the iconic Taj Mahal and Agra Fort and is also the last stop on our train journey before returning to Delhi. The Taj Mahal is widely regarded as the one of the world’s most celebrated symbols of love. This white marble mausoleum was commissioned by Shah Jahan when his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died.
Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, is the capital and largest city of the state of Rajasthan. It was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer after whom the city is named. Jaipur is a major destination filled with attractions such as the Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal, City Palace, Amer Fort, etc. I wished we could have stayed longer here.
Rajasthan, which translates to Land of Kings, is located in the north of India. It is filled with majestic forts and opulent palaces of the maharajas of a bygone era. The best way to get a taste of Rajasthan especially on a tight schedule is to join one of the luxury train journeys. We took the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels which is an upgraded version of the famous Palace on Wheels.
I was always confused about the difference between Delhi and New Delhi. New Delhi is actually a district of Delhi and it is the capital of Delhi as well as India as a whole. All the government bodies are located in the New Delhi area of the large metropolis Delhi. On this trip, we stayed at the Oberoi in New Delhi which is located next to Delhi Golf Course and very close to Humayun’s Tomb.
This is my second visit to Norway, the first time was years ago and only to Oslo. My father and I wanted to see the Northern Lights as well as some of the Norwegian coastline. We went with the Hurtigruten which is a no-frills ship that provides transportation of people and supplies up and down the western and northern Norwegian coast. Unlike traditional leisure cruises, there are no big amenities or restaurant choices on board. The cabins (other than the suites) are quite basic with private bathroom facilities and twin beds, one of which can be turned into a sofa. Some cabins also have upper and lower berths. But having said that, it is a great way to see the small towns dotted along the coastline as well as visit the Fjords when the weather allows it. We went in the late fall/early winter so we didn’t get to go inside the fjords but instead we got to see the Northern Lights. A lot of time was spent at sea with beautiful views of the coastline.
After our safari in Sabi Sands, we flew to Cape Town which is the second largest city in South Africa. It is the legislative capital of South Africa. As a tourist, Cape Town felt much safer than Johannesburg, and has an European feel to it. The layout of Cape Town somehow reminded me of Hong Kong with the harbour and mountain behind it, and the beach area on the other side of the mountain with the more affluent residential neighborhoods.