5 SMALL COUNTRIES YOU MUST VISIT: GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKETS.

I have been exploring the many views from my #SoulWindow solo since 2008 across India. After having visited 150 destinations in India, I am curious to explore what lies across the border. In recent past, I have travelled to Nepal (Everest Base Camp trek), Jordan and Bhutan (twice) outside India. Despite their small size I was impressed by the variety they offered and the personal satisfaction as a traveler. As much as I am attracted to bigger cities and bigger nations, I am equally attracted to smaller cities and nations as well.

peruEarlier I spent all my salary on Indian destinations. I could have done many foreign destinations but I chose to explore India first. These days, my eyes are set on international travels. I am saving money and planning well in advance to make my travel dreams come true. There are many options to manage your funds these days such as Sabse Important Plan by Birla Sun Life. Companies like Birla Sun Life have identified that today’s consumer want to save money not only for the basics but for vacations and other pursuits of life as well. Their sip investment plan is a great idea to save money and make your travel dream come true.

Below are some of the small nations I wish to explore. As they say, good things come in small packages, so do these countries:

Peru: Who wouldn’t want to follow the Incan trail, hike up to the citadel of Machu Pichu or take selfies with Peruvian llama? But there is more to Peru than the above mentioned clichés. It is amazing that this small country hides so many secrets under its sleeve. Be it the exotic wildlife, a rich heritage and culture or the peaks of Andes mountains and tropical Amazon Basin rainforest, there is a lot that Peru offers.

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Hike to Machu Pichu in South America is everyone’s dream.

Israel: When I was in Jordan, I could see parts of Israel during my road trip. I was tempted to cross the border and explore the Israel side. I learnt a lot about the rich history of the region as I walked through Petra and Wadi Rum etc in Jordan. The history of Israel is somewhat connected with that of Jordan. I would love to study it, connect the dots and grow my understanding.

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Israel

Indonesia: There is so much this small country has to offer. I would love to visit its important places and study the Hindu roots of the region. I would love to see Wayang Kulit, the shadow puppet shows, where the artists play scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata.  Despite the touristy frills I am curious to explore Bali and ancient stupas of Borubudur and Yogyakarta.

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Borobdur in Indonesia

Japan: Japan has fascinated me since long. The mere culture and quirks attract me more than anything else. I can’t wait to try the vegan ramen, sushi or explore the Wonderland Tokyo, bump into a geisha, walk over a carpet of cherry blossom, sleep in a capsule hotel or sit on a complicated Japanese commode. Despite being a small country, Japan is full of things to do/see/eat. What’s not to love?

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Japan is full of quirks

Mexico: I was first interested in Mexico after reading a piece on Mexico by the feted travel writer Paul Theroux. Later when my aunt and a family friend, both of them settled in USA, showed me pictures of their Mexico trip, I had started dreaming of going there someday. The Mayan archaeological sites and the unexplored deserts and tropical beaches attract me the most.

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Aztec ruins of Mexico

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I can’t wait to see Commodo Dragon in Indonesia

 

 

DEAD SEA IN JORDAN – WHY I RAN OUT SCREAMING AS SOON AS I ENTERED IT?

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Sunset at Dead Sea, Jordan. Private beach of Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa

Dead Sea was towards the end of our 7 days journey in Jordan. As soon as I entered the Dead Sea, I ran out screaming, unable to open my eyes. My co-travelers, between guffaws and friendly teasing guided me towards an open air shower next to the beach. Before I could reach that, I needed water.

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Me at sunset in Dead Sea, Jordan. Private Beach of Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa (Pic: Stuti Shrimali)

I needed water without even a gram of salt in it. My friend Stuti came to rescue and helped me wash my face with drinking water. Just to make sure, I still stood under the shower and rinsed of every bit of Dead Sea water from my face.

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Me floating in Dead Sea, Jordan at sun set. Private beach of Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa (Pic Stuti Shrimali)

My friends told me that in Dead Sea, you are not supposed to take a dip or submerge your head. The water is so saline that it causes burning sensations on skin; eyes and nose being the most vulnerable. Once bitten, twice shy, I entered the sea again this time with head held high (No pun intended here). The water was way too salty, dense and sticky. It felt heavy.

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Sun-Set at Dead Sea, Jordan. Private beach of Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa

I tasted a small amount only to be overwhelmed by its strong taste. As I gingerly lied down on my back in Dead Sea, I was amused to ‘discover’ that the ‘floating story’ is not someone’s fabricated story. I floated effortlessly, keeping my eyes open at all times, lest I drift deep into the Dead Sea like a tragic poem.

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Sun-Set, Dead Sea, Jordan. Private Beach Of Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa

The sun had started to melt far in the horizon as I floated eerily on the water, pebbles visible on my sides. It was a surreal moment. It was an unprecedented experience for me and easily one of my finest moments from not only Jordan but all my travels so far.

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One of the many pools which Jordan valley Marriott Resort and Spa boasts of! Dead Sea, Jordan

I almost did not make it to the Dead Sea. After a comforting lunch of Pasta and Pizzas (mezzes are great, but I needed my comfort food) at the resort, we were instructed to check in our room and show up at the private beach of the resort before sundown when the beach closes. Tired, I decided to lie down in my comfortable room.

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Stuti Shrimali floating in the Dead Sea, Jordan. Private Beach Of Jordan Valley Resort And Spa

I didn’t realize when I caught a sound sleep. God alone knows what woke me up after few hours and the first thing I did was check the time. Panicking, I ran towards the beach, not even bothering to carry any swimwear or towel. I jumped hurriedly in the sea with my shirts and pants on.

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The Lobby of Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa, Dead Sea , Jordan

When I emerged from the Dead Sea, it was already dark. As I passed the café of the hotel, someone announced a Belly Dance Performance. Scared that I might miss the show, I watched the entire show wearing my salty wet clothes.

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The Belly dancer at Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa! It is located next to Dead Sea, Jordan

When the show ended, my clothes dried naturally by the warm Dead Sea air. The Belly Dance I saw was the best I had seen till date. The presence of Dead Sea made it even more atmospheric.

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Me not wanting to leave Dead Sea, Jordan. Private Beach Of Jordan Valley Marriott Resort And Spa (Pic: Stuti Shrimali)

10 COOL FACTS ABOUT THE DEAD SEA

  1. It is world’s lowest point at 430 meters (1412 feet) below sea level.
  2. 33.7 % salinity makes it the world’s saltiest sea.
  3. It is called Dead Sea because no flora or fauna can survive.
  4. Asphalt for preserving Egyptian mummies was sourced from here.
  5. It served as the first health resort of the world.
  6. Potash sourced from Dead Sea is used for fertilizers.
  7. Thanks to its rich mineral content, many new age resorts have mushroomed across the Dead Sea in Jordan and Israel. They offer natural spa treatments. Dead Sea cosmetics made from its salt and minerals are quite popular and are available everywhere in Jordan.
  8. Swimming is not possible in Dead Sea due to heavy density of its water.
  9. It is 9 times saltier than the ocean.
  10. If you walk around the beach, you will see salt deposits on rock. The drive next to Dead Sea is scenic.
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Me next to Dead Sea in Jordan posing on my way to the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa! (Pic: Stuti Shrimali)

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Pictures above: Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa, Dead Sea, Jordan

I stayed at:

Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa: It was my most luxurious experience in Jordan. My cozy room overlooked the sea. The bathtub helped me rinse off all the salt on my body post a dip in Dead Sea. Their restaurant serves good Italian. What I enjoyed was their buffet of a vast variety of mezze and Arabic sweets. Some so sinfully good that I was almost having a dessert dinner. They have a private secluded beach. They have many pools in the premises. A live belly dance performance combined with above factors made my stay memorable. My favourite part was of course the balcony of the room where I would sit and smoke in night, listening to music played far away.

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Dead Sea, Jordan. On the way to Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa

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Me in Dead Sea, Jordan. Private beach of Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa (Pic- Stuti Shrimali)

NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

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