Asia

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The Path of Peace

In Ryukyuan legend, Nirai Kanai is the mythical realm across the sea where deities dwell and when invited, bring blessings into the home of the villagers. However seductive that imagery really is, present day Okinawa still styles itself as the island paradise (there’s even a bridge here named after this place), if the tree-lined paths, the beautiful coastal roads, the constant warm sea-breeze and the island vibes are any indications of what’s plastered on tourist sign boards. After days of driving along the coast and staring at Okinawa’s turquoise waters, it is beyond difficult to go back to the cramped streets and buildings of Naha and not feel somewhat claustrophobic. The place I’m putting up...

Route 58

If route 66 has become synonymous with the ultimate American road trip, Okinawa’s own version is found on route 58, a road that narrows in parts and widens in others and stretches from the south to the very far north of the main island. I spent a couple of days plying this route from Chatan northwards, loving every minute along this stretch of capes, winding curves and the constant, unchanging view of the aquamarine of the sea. The cars thinned out the further north I got, eschewing the rural part of Okinawa, but the distances aren’t as great as I thought they would be, unlike Hokkaido’s roads. The expressway makes...

Okinawa’s draw

When I first decided that I wanted to dive as well as see things, few places came to mind. Okinawa was one of these places, because it seemed ‘cultural’ enough with things to do apart from dive, yet small enough to cover in a short period of time. For about a week away, Okinawa seemed like a fantastic compromise and so different from what I know about Japan: subtropical region that showcases its mix of cultural influences so boldly (particularly in the cuisine) such that calling Okinawa an integral part of Japan sounds almost like a misnomer. But it is in any case; standard Japanese is spoken here, as are incomprehensible dialects...

Too much sun, too little action

Day 4: We walked for about 45 minutes to the sand bank towards the tail end of Dhigurah (which actually means ‘long island’ in Dhivehi) and found a little slice of paradise there. I frolicked in the water, took some bad selfies which I later deleted and looked at the neighbouring atoll with water villas in tourist envy. Snorkelling after lunch just a couple of hundred metres from the hotel was surprising and strange after doing dives. But the coral beds were more alive with fish that I’d initially assumed. We said goodbye to the beach, tried to wash off the sand – which turned out to be a fruitless...

Taking a load off

Day 3 of diving: Similar to day 2, with the same sort of fish, with more plankton in murky, soupy water that’s so deceptively blue under the sun’s rays. But every time there’s at least some kind of unusual sea creature to make up for it and there were some rays, turtles and large schools of fish that made me gawk. After paying tourist prices for a measly amount of snacks, I turned in desperation to Irish, a lovely Filipina lady running the spa next door for help. Perky, tiny and a social dynamo, Irish simply packs a punch. Having lived in the Maldives since she was 14, Irish has...

The dives so far

Day 2: Sort of jet-lagged and straight into the water A full day of diving after breakfast, to Manta Point and Hule Hule – sites that are about an hour away from Dhigurah. But I’ve learnt the hard way in diving, that the sea life you want to see never shows up as intended; instead, Manta Point was full of fish and coral, memorable only for the very reason that I got stung by a sea anemone when a particularly strong sweep of the current brushed me against its pretty but painful tentacles. I soldiered on and entertained the thought briefly of giving up, until the shouts from nearby boats...

A “true” resort

Day 1: Long and so tedious. But we endured, because at the end of the road is apparently clear aquamarine sea, white sand and paradise unnamed. The flight was uneventful. But the boarding procedure was filled with well-dressed (if not overly so) Koreans, Japanese and Chinese with tons of branded shopping bags and fur coats – someone was even eating a whole cheesecake like a hamburger – , soon to be sweltering under the humid heat of the Maldives. A guy from the Czech republic stood waiting for TC and me, ushered us to the domestic terminal a couple of steps away and said goodbye, presumably to do the same for...

A Thai pocket of paradise

There is a little something for everyone in Thailand, even the Travel Companion (TC) who is known to be finicky at the best and worst of times. Having been to Thailand thrice in the last half this year, I think I’m inclined to understand why. Khao Lak – a small place that’s really a series of villages about 70 km north of Phuket – wasn’t a destination that TC had initially agreed to, but after some form of cajoling, agreed and upon arrival, didn’t find the place too bad at all. A long stretch of highway connects Phuket Airport to Khao Lak and an hour’s drive brought us to The...

What?

3 days in Krabi and that sentiment might just characterise the Travel Companion’s (TC) and my dive experience. The TC had too many questions (mostly unanswered) about buoyancy – an issue that sorted itself out by the second dive day. The poor thing somehow figured it out all on her own after the numerous explanations given by several dive instructors. That, and a rather ‘deaf’ Norwegian man who went ‘Haarh?’ loudly at everything people said to him, before answering in an unintelligible accent. Coupled with a Divemaster in training (from Sweden) who was made the errand boy for all things and still didn’t quite know what to do. We sailed on the...

Bruised, battered, victorious

The travel companion (TC) finally tells me – on the way to the airport – that Bali has been, on hindsight, quite an enjoyable experience. It helps that we’ve both passed the different dive courses we’ve signed up for, even though we’ve been bruised, battered and badly cut in the process. For that I’m thankful, even if we’ve spent most of our time shopping at Guardian pharmacy (TC simply bought more and more bottles of shower gel and muscle ache packs for god knows what reason) and eating at the same Italian place more times than I can count. We’ve finally trudged along Sanur’s beachfront walk, done the obligatory shopping and rub-downs...