My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets » Lifestyle Strategies, Travel, Adventures--Todd's Wanderings

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My friend Megan who writes the blog See. Write. Live. nominated me to share my three best travel secrets on Todd’s Wanderings. The nomination is a part of Trip Base Blog tag in which the Top Bloggers’ Best Kept Travel Secrets will be published in a free ebook that will be shared with the “entire online community…” Hmmm, good luck with that!

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First, I had to decide if my secrets were safe for the average traveler…my lawyers tell me I should be okay (by reading this you have now waived all your rights). So here you are, some of my well kept secrets, and favorite places in this wonderful world:

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1. Mount Koya, Japan

Everyone visits the major temples in Kyoto and Nara but these days they are little more than tourist attractions, albeit pretty ones, lacking that lived in, struggle for enlightenment feel. Mount Koya, the secluded mountain temple complex of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism in Wakayama Prefecture, is a hideaway for a more authentic massive temple experience. Located in the heart of the Kii mountains, it was founded in 816 by the monk Kukai, mythical founder of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The complex houses 100 temples, many offering lodging, and the most famous cemetery in Japan leading to Kukai’s tomb. A walk through the cemetery is an otherworldly experience dominated by centuries old cedar trees and hundreds of moss covered stone Buddhas playing hide and seek in the mist.

2. Castlereigh Reservoir, Dikoya, Sri Lanka

I couldn’t possible live with myself if I didn’t include a stay at Castlereigh Family Cottages in my list of best kept secrets. Not that I want to fight the crowds to visit, but they do such a wonderful job they deserve my  unabashed fawning. Two small cabins sit in the middle of a working tea plantation, right on the reservoir, with amazingly large porches to wile away a relaxing day soaking in the scenery. One cabin can sleep four while the larger one sleeps up to ten wanderers. Add the genuine friendly staff that wait on you hand and foot, delicious BBQs and the incredibly cheap prices and I am wondering why I ever left. Most visitors to Sri Lanka head up to the large tea plantation areas, but Dikoya delivers on scenery, tea trail hiking and is close to Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka’s best known pilgrimage.

3. Dili, East Timor

Timor Leste has a troubled past, and the instability in 2006 led to travel warning advisories most governments have yet to lift. Excited to go yet? If you are a scuba diver, or you are someone who wants to see a young country before it is transformed, then you should be. The travel advisories mean there are few tourists but plenty of facilities catering to the peacekeeping and development workers helping Timor Leste to recover. Located in the coral triangle Timor Leste boasts acres of unspoiled reefs, world class underwater walls stretching miles into the distance and a friendly local population eager to share their country with the rest of the world. Dili is the main base for diving and most dive spots are off shore,just a few meters from the secluded beaches lining the coast. Of course you need to be careful and watch your security, but this is not Afghanistan folks!

Now that I have shared my secrets it is time for me to “tag” five bloggers to participate in the “Three Best Kept Travel Secrets”. Your it:

1. Lili at Muza-chan’s Gate to Japan
2. Kirigalpoththa, name to remain a mystery…
3. Suzanne, THIRTY: Own up to Being Growing-up
4. Stephanie, Where in the world am I?
5. Marianne, Zen & the Art of Peacekeeping

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9 Responses to “My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets”

  1. Deb ChusidNo Gravatar says:

    Hey Todd,
    I’m putting your Sri Lanka secret on my list of must see places. Thanks for a great share. And I promise I won’t tell too many people about it ;)

    deb
    http://imwalkinhere.wordpress.com/
    Deb Chusid´s recent [type] ..Kuala Lumpur- Get a taxi and achieve nirvana

  2. AndreaNo Gravatar says:

    Great to hear how much you love Koya-san! My Japanese co-workers thought I was really a strange person for liking it, too. In their opinions, it was a place for senior citizen day trippers. I’ve stayed in the temples three times, the last time being a few years ago. I decided to go for a late night walk in Oku-no-in on my final night. A few steps into the grave yard, lit only by flickering lamps and obscured by mist, I was met by a three-legged white dog who stood and blocked my path. I took that as a warning omen and turned back to my room at the temple.

  3. Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

    Marrko Submitted the following questions (moved from the About section) on camping and traveling in Timor-Leste (East Timor):

    “Hi Todd,

    I came across Your website, when searching for information about East Timor and hiking / camping / hammocking there.
    Since You’ve been living there, then maybe You can answer some of my brief questions.

    We’re a diving instructor couple, currently living in Egypt and finishing our stuff here by the end of April. Since it’s been a long season, we would like to take a deserved holiday, before looking for another job in Indonesia or some other country in SEA region.

    In general, what do You thing about the idea of spending 3-4 weeks in Timor by foot or random public transport and camp there? We still don’t know will it be with a tent or a hammock, but we prefer the latter one. Will somebody jump on us instantly and tries to charge us or do the people there usually allow campers and are rather curious than irritated about them?

    Do You have any suggestions what route to plan or what one must definitely see or do? At the moment we’re trying to figure out, if it’s possible to reach some of the remotest parts of the south coast also. I know, that we should bring everything with us (water, food, etc), so if wanting to travel light, that’s not an option. Or do I have wrong information about that question?

    Also about safety? I’ve read mixed review about safety in general there. Most of them are positive and say, that there is no real threat to people visiting the country, but on the other hand others suggest to avoid some places and moving around at night. What is Your personal standpoint about the issue?

    I really hope, that You’ll find some time to answer my questions, even if the answers are brief ones.

    Hoping to hear from You soon!

    Tervitades / Kind regards,

    Markko Junolainen”

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Markko,

      Thanks for visiting my site, I am glad that you like it and find it useful. Luckily enough I was just in Timor-Leste (the name was changed from East Timor) for work last week. I was really impressed by how the security situation has improved there, and it is now safe to walk around at night. That being said you should always follow common sense and not walk alone in unlit areas…as in anywhere in the world.

      3-4 weeks in Timor sounds like a great plan, and it will take a while to travel around the country if you are planning to use local transportation. Mikrolets (the small local buses) travel just about everywhere in the country so you should be fine catching them to the “major” “urban” areas of the country. The more remote areas can be trickier and you will have to have a lot of time and patience.

      I can’t speak for everywhere in Timor, but I found it safe to camp on the beaches, however, I avoided sleeping near towns and had my own motor bike to get me around. You should be careful about sleeping out in the towns as people can get the wrong idea. While I was there last week I heard a story of someone who pitched their tent in the local market in Baucau. Someone was “curious” and slit the tent with a knife and cut this guy’s girlfriend a bit…so you need to be careful and use good judgment. I would say they did not use good judgment…and I am sure his girlfriend will not let him forget it!

      Food and water will be a must in the remote beaches. But in the towns you will be able to find plenty. I have not been to the remote south, but you can always do some research once you get to Dili. There is GREAT diving in Timor, so just pop down to Dive Timor Lorosae and ask them about getting around the island, and of course arrange some shore dives. There are only two dive shops in Dili so I am sure you will find them easily.

      As for places to visit, I would recommend, Mount Ramalou (http://www.toddswanderings.com/2007/05/road-trip-to-mount-ramalou-east-timor.html), Com, and Jaco Island near Tutuwalla. Just remember that in the mountains and it will be colder at night. Also, head out to Atauro Island (accessible from Dili). It is close but quite isolated with great diving and, hiking and camping opportunities. I haven’t been to the south so I can’t give you any advice. If you go write about it and send me some pictures and I will put you up on my website as a guest author.

      You two are going to have a great time. I love Timor-Leste, the people and the dramatic landscape.

      Cheers,
      Todd

  4. Hi Todd,

    Glad to hear you ‘ll be back in SL!

    My email – kirigalpoththa@yahoo.com

    Cheers!

  5. Muza-chanNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Todd,
    Thank you for tagging me! :)

    I would put Mount Koya on my list of future Japan travels :)

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Sure! you have a great blog! Mt. Koya is great, I am missing Japan so much. After five years there and marrying a Japanese woman, Japan is in my soul for better or worse :)

  6. Hi Todd,
    Thanks for tagging me :D

    I will name 3 places from Sri Lanka

    1..Panama
    2. Sri Pada.
    3.Knuckles

    I shall probably write more about them later :)
    Cheers!

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      No problem, you need to follow some guidelines to submit your secrets. What is your e-mail and I will send you the details? I am back in Sri Lanka in about 2 weeks and looking forward to it. I might be taking a trip to Ella!

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