Romance on the Road
Yeoh Siew Hoon names her top romantic spots in the world, but the list isn’t quite like what you imagine.
What is more romantic to you? A candlelit dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant or campfire fare under the stars? Your answer will determine how you view love and romance on your travels.
Writing this on Valentine’s Day, love and romance are on my mind – and I started thinking about the most romantic places I’ve been to or the most romantic moments I’ve experienced on my travels.
For me, the notion of romance on holidays is not restricted to the obvious – doing something special with someone special. To me, romance can be experienced even when you are travelling solo or in the most ordinary of situations. It depends on what romance means to you.
Here are my top five most romantic moments and places.
1. Cape Reinga, New Zealand
This is the northernmost point of New Zealand’s North Island. I love the idea of the place. It’s the spot where two oceans – the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean – meet. It’s also a sacred place for the Maoris. They believe this is where spirits enter the underworld.
The drive to get to this point is spectacular, almost as if you’re following the spine of a fish as it swims and curves towards its destination. On the walk to the point, you learn about its secrets, how it was formed, the flora and fauna in the area and about this lone survivor – a kahika tree that clings to the rocks at the point where the spirits enter the underworld. It is said the spirits use the tree’s roots as steps to descend to the ocean.
I find the idea of this lone tree romantic, as I do the notion of two oceans blending. As with the Chinese belief of yin and yang, the Maoris believe the two oceans, as they sweep and flow over each other, are two complementary forces bringing balance to our world. Standing atop the point, you can feel the magic and the romance of one of the world’s most isolated and sacred spots.
2. Shangri-La, Yunnan, China
A few hours’ drive outside of Zhongdian will take you to the countryside that more than deserves its moniker – Shangri-La. A walk on the grassland will make you realise you are but a speck among the glories of nature. Wander as far as you dare to escape the madding crowd, you will find yourself sitting by a stream where the water flows cold and pure. Hold out your hand and remain still long enough, and a butterfly will alight on your hand.
I know. It’s obvious, but you can’t dismiss a place just because it is already revered as the most romantic city in the world. As many times as you have been, you can still create new romantic moments in Paris anywhere, anytime.
Grab a baguette, find a spot on the banks of the Seine, have a picnic and just watch the city go by. You can also rent a bicycle, ride through the streets of Montmarte, pop into a florist and get yourself some flowers or offer them to a random stranger – Parisians appreciate spontaneity. Aspiring writers can ride through the Left Bank on a motorcycle, stop at a café and work on your latest tome.
4. Inle Lake, Myanmar
Inle Lake, Myanmar remains in my memory as one of my most special and beautiful experiences. In the mid-‘90s, it was yet to be discovered by the masses and I distinctly remember being rowed across the lake by a boat unique to the area, where the boatmen use their feet to man the oar. At the time, my boatman looked like Myanmar’s version of the gondola men of Venice. I was completely immersed in the Inle Lake experience, far away from anywhere and fully enjoying the moment.
5. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Okavango Delta is so different from where I live and what I am used to that it absolutely gripped my imagination. It is a place where wild animals run free and where you sleep at night to the sound of lion’s roar. As an urbanite, we’re so removed from nature that the beautiful landscape of our city often escapes us. In Okavango, I was plunged right into the heart of nature – I saw little birds walk on water and hippo chasing a crocodile into the river. Nature, free and wild, is the most romantic idea on earth.
Happy travels and remember, romance can be created, imagined or real.