I have always felt this innate need to be near a body of water. It calms me down to hear the sound of water lapping against the shore. Where I stay, I would normally have coffee facing the marina. It gives me the best feeling. And the fact that every time I go there, I have to compete for the best seat makes me realize that a lot others share the same sentiments. Island paradises have become the preferred holiday destinations. I’ve been to a few and would like to share how beautiful they are and how blessed I felt to have seen it with my own eyes. The pictures normally don’t do it justice but here goes.
First up was our 2007 visit to Sumilon Island in Cebu, Philippines. Sumilon means refuge which was what we needed at that point in time. To get here, we took a 3 1/2 hour flight from Singapore to Cebu, a 2 hour drive to the coast and a 15 minutes boat ride. Believe me, the place is worth it. We stayed at the Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort. It is an island paradise which only has 12 cottages all with balconies facing the sea. We enjoyed taking a dip in the infinity pool before dinner and lazing around on the powdery fine sand bar. I’m not sure if they had new cottages constructed after our visit or if they let it be as perfect as it was.
Santorini – officially known as Thira always been said to be the lost island of Atlantis. I don’t think this island really needs any introduction. This island forms the remains of a volcanic explosion. It is made up mostly of dramatic cliffs and a jaw dropping view. The drama of the white domed houses against the clear blue sky and the wonderful Aegean sea is something of out of a postcard. To get to this paradise we had to endure a roundabout ferry ride due to the Cyclades literally closing shop for winter. Instead of taking a ferry from Mykonos to Santorini (around 3 hours of ferry), we had to take a couple of ferries: one from Mykonos to Piraeus (near Athens for around 6 hours) and another one from Piraeus to Santorini (another 9 hours) just to be able to see the wonder of Santorini. It was well worth the amount of pills we took to avoid being seasick. The sunset is the highlight of Fira. People actually try to be early to get the best seat to see the explosion of colors once the sun hits the water.
Positano – this village forms part of the Amalfi Coast. This is where the Port of Mongibello for The Talented Mr Ripley has been based on. Anyway, two words: Amalfi Coast = Paradise/Postcard. To get there from Napoli (where we were based for this trip), we took the Circumvisuviana line (make sure to get your tickets at the local tabacchi and make sure to validate it) all the way to Sorrento. Then from there we boarded a bus (remember to get your tickets and validate in the bus) going to Amalfi that goes to Positano as well. The speed of the bus as well as the hairpin turns makes it hard to keep your lunch in. But the view getting there is so breathtaking it keeps you from remembering how fast the driver is taking the turns. Remember not to get off on the first stop in Positano. It would be harder on your knees but well worth the nice restaurant we found. Make sure to get a bottle of Limoncello just for experience. It reminds me of raki or ouzo but a lot nicer.
Cinque Terre – located on the Ligurian Coast in Italy. Literally means the five lands. It is made up of five charming coastal villages: Riomaggiore, Maranola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. All the villages are interconnected by paths and railways but not all are open due to the flooding that happened last October 2011. Nat Geo Traveler featured this beautiful place on one of its covers and I felt compelled to pick it up and bring it to the counter.
These five villages are not as accessible as the rest of Italy. They are better reached by rail or sea (we took the train from Milan to La Spezia Centrale). Getting the Cinque Terre Card helps as they have per day passes as well as ones which include unlimited use of the regional trains from La Spezia Centrale all the way to Sestri Levante. The card also gives you access to paths, museums and allows you to take the park buses. One of the better known paths, Via dell’ Amore, connects Riomaggiore and Maranola is a must. We started from the Riomaggiore side. Make sure to enjoy their cuisine and wine as the freshest seafood and the nicest wine. The friendliness and helpfulness of the people of Cinque Terre is a plus. We really enjoyed our stay in Riomaggiore and loved having dinner at La Lanterna da Massimo in front of the marina.
The beauty of these places cannot be captured by our cameras or even by videos. They have to be experienced. I have to hear the waves crashing on the shore, see the beautiful cliffs or beach, feel the gentle breeze and smell the sea. It never fails to put a smile on my face. I always feel so blessed and humbled every time and it never gets old.
P. S. Cinque Terre was hit by a disaster on 25th October 2011. The flooding caused mud to wash away the villages of Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza. The White Cross of Riomaggiore has set up a site for donations for Vernazza as they would need up to 5 million euros to rebuild it. Let’s help bring back beauty to Vernazza.