On the occasion of my 30th year of existence, I’ve decided to come up with a travel wishlist. Some people make a “30 before 30″ list – a bucket list of sorts before they turn 30 – but since it’s too late for that now, mine’s “30 beyond 30″. A bit similar to a bucket list; but I’m setting a time frame of roughly 20 to 30 years to cross out everything. After all, I doubt my knees would still agree to a Saint Peter’s Basilica dome climb when I’m in my sixties. No extreme goals here though; you won’t find bungee jumping, base jumping or skydiving here (I still want to avail of my senior citizen’s discount, thank you).
Among the top weekend getaways from Tokyo is to Hakone, some 100 kilometers southwest of the Japanese capital. Hakone may not be as historically packed as other day trip favorites like the former shogunate capital Kamakura or world heritage town Nikkō, but Hakone compensates by having gorgeous views of Japan’s tallest and most revered mountain, Mount Fuji. Add a picturesque lake and a touristy mix of transportation modes, and you get a fantastic destination that makes an excellent day trip (or two) from Tokyo.
Sixty nine years ago, Kyoto was identified by the United States as one of four A-bomb targets, along with Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Kokura (part of present-day Kitakyushu). The then US Secretary of War Henry Stimson lobbied for the removal of Kyoto from the list, citing the city’s immense cultural significance. He also had a personal connection to the city, having reportedly been to Kyoto on honeymoon two decades prior. Kyoto was removed from the potential targets and the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward to the present day, the former imperial capital is home to roughly 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Kyoto and neighboring Otsu and Uji cities host a high concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, collectively inscribed on the heritage list as the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”. On a trip to Kyoto, it’s almost a given that an average visitor will check out at least one of these World Heritage Sites. After four visits to Kyoto, I only managed to see 7 out of 17 of these sites so far.
Seeing the Grand Canyon in Arizona wasn’t part of my plan when I went to California last February 2013 to be with my wife, who was on business trip at that time, on our wedding anniversary. On her insistence though, I drafted a plan for the roughly 750-mile (1,200-kilometer) drive from the Silicon Valley area to Arizona’s lone World Heritage Site. Fellow officemates who were also on business trip happily agreed to split the long drive with us. We would leave around midnight, a few hours after my arrival in the US. I would take the first shift behind the wheel – as I was still on Manila time – and exchange places with the rest of the group until we made it to Arizona.
2014 marks the 150th year of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Yosemite Grant Act that set aside Yosemite Valley and neighboring Mariposa Grove for its preservation and subsequent enjoyment as public domain. It paved the way for the establishment of the national park system in the United States. Today, Yosemite National Park encompasses 3,026 square kilometers of vast wilderness and spectacular scenery in central California near its border with Nevada. It is known for its numerous waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, and giant sequoia trees.