Three Underrated Travel Destinations That Deserve Your Attention
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ParaguayNestled between the behemoths of Argentina and Brazil is Paraguay. Whoever thought that the Kansas of South America could contain waterfalls a mile long, desert cattle farms run by Mennonites, and five different Jesuit Missions you can visit in one day. Hop on a bus and get a cheap tour of ornate, 19th century classical buildings whose facades line Avenida Espana in the capital of Asuncion. If nature calls you, such as exotic birds, answer back with a weeklong trip to the Pantanal. Or strolls through the Parque de Salud for an hour in Carmelitas, a rich suburb of Asuncion.
Many museums are free, specialized and appeal to the curious. For example, The Chair Museum, where beanbags reside next to those designed by Gropius and Mies Van der Rohe. Or the Museum of Sacred Arts and Bellas Artes, which are two great options to view more traditional works. All offer free tours in Spanish.
Paraguay is also a meat-eaters paradise, where chorizo and varieties of grass-fed beef (the envy of South America) practically hang from trees. Or snack on the traditional Chipa, sopa and Chipa mebeju, all made from mandioca flour, cheese and lard. If you visit between April and October, comfortable weather greets you, plus Paraguay is generally quite safe for foreigners.
KuwaitAnother pearl is Kuwait, nestled right on the Arabian Gulf, dwarfed between the two behemoths of Iran and Iraq.
A tiny country often overlooked as it is surrounded by two famous neighbors, its voice rings loud and clear - from the call to prayer of the Giant Mosque to the voices of the gulls. From the beach you can scale the heights of the Towers of Kuwait, then celebrate by dining in the largest man-made ancient dhow, or fishing boat, in the world. Visit between April to November and spend a day at the races, the camel races, complete with jockeys as robots.
Not your typical beach resort, Kuwait is where Gulf Road pedestrians walk the shoreline completely covered. Scuba dive from a beach hotel and notice that while the fish are real, the reefs are not, as they all died out during the Gulf War. You can parasail, jet ski, and kite board with no crouds watching. You can find excellent food from all over the Arab world, as well as from India, France, and more. If you are nostalgic for the Arabian Nights, take a trip to the desert, ride the dunes, and watch the moon rise. The next day, visit the Friday Market or the Old Souk during the day, as well as the Arab Fund building and the Tariq Raj Museum.
Leyte, the PhilippinesHow do you pick out Leyte from all the other 3,156 Filipino islands that surround it? Simple. Leyte is the only place with palm trees and shoreline upon which permanently strides giant walking men in metal, specifically, bronze statues led by a gargantuan General MacArthur. This powerful tribute, located in a small pool 5 kilometers away from the capital of Tacloban, freezes a moment in time significant to three countries. It commemorates the beginning of the United States' attempt to oust Japan from the Philippines almost 70 years ago.
Back in Tacloban, nestled among palm trees, another treasure awaits you, the Shrine of Santa Nino, a chapel surrounded by 13 guest rooms, which served as Imelda Marcos' former summer palace. Stuffed with international antiques, tapestries, paintings and drawings from the 19th and 20th centuries that spill out onto a crumbling Olympic-sized swimming pool, this Filipino Versailles is not to be missed. Besides serving as a necessary refuge from the political turmoil of the 1980s, it marks specific time in Filipino history, when heads were chopped and Marcos' reeled, who was pushed from power in the 1980s by the Filipino people.
Another option is to rest your legs in a kayak or canoe in Lake Danao National Park, a two-hour ride from Tacloban, the use them later as you hike up the nearby mountain of Alto Peak, 1332 meters high. If you prefer going down under, beautiful corals await you, the snorkeler, in Southern Leyte at Tangkaan Point.
Now that you've decided to go, you've already accomplished the first leg of the journey. Now comes the hard part - picking which place to visit.
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Tucky Fussell has been an international educator for the last twenty years. She has taught foreign language and art in private schools around the world, including Pakistan, India, Kuwait, and the Philippines. Currently, she is teaching art in Paraguay. Her book, The Gulf: A Story Of Art, Mystery, And Deception Through Images, is available for purchase on Amazon: The Gulf: A story of art, mystery, and deception through images and wherever books are sold. Learn more at TuckyFussell.