The Old Quarter of Porto, Northern Portugal

In this short visit to Porto, I take a stroll from the modern port-wine Gaia area of Porto and cross the Douro river, via the Luis I Bridge. This brings me to Ribeira, the old quarter of Porto, with buildings from the 15th century, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here facades covered with azulejos tiles (introduced by the Moors in the 8th century) look spectacular in late afternoon light. Looking a bit decrepit, but notable nevertheless. (May 2014)

Labuanbajo in Flores, and Denpasar Airport

Labuanbajo is a small town located at the western tip of Flores island at the centre of the huge Indonesian archipelago. Its claim to fame is being the gateway to the islands of Komodo and Rinca, where the famous Komodo National Park is located, home of the Komodo Dragons. Anyway, the area around Labuanbajo also boasts of pristine islands and beaches, plus spectacular snorkeling and diving sites. (September 2014)

The Home of the Komodo Dragons

We finally make it to the home of the awesome Komodo Dragons. We fly from Denpasar DPS to Labuanbajo LBJ, located at the western tip of Flores island in central Indonesia. The 90-min flight from Bali is memorable with the sights of menacing, but enchanting, active volcanoes along the way. (September 2014)

Bali, Island of the Gods

We do a quick one-day tour of northern Bali, while en route to Komodo National Park (500km to the east, near Flores island). Renting a car, we make quick stops at the icons of Bali — Pura Besakih or Mother Temple of Besakih, Kintamani with its picturesque (but dangerous) volcano Batur and lake, and finally sunset at the ever-romantic Pura Tanah Lot. (September 2014)

The Cultural Landscape of Sintra, Portugal

Just 30km west of Lisbon, lies the amazing cultural landscape of Sintra, with structures dating back to the Moors of the 8th century. This area is located right inside the verdant forest of a large national park which stretches all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It has a long history of Portuguese architecture and culture, first occupied by the Romans, then the Arab Moors, who built a precipituous castle atop a mountain overlooking the plains all the way to the Atlantic. It used to be the playground for the Portuguese royals of the 12th-20th century, and many aristocrats owned and built properties here. The outcome is, the place is littered with palaces, stately homes, beautiful buildings, gardens, monuments and houses of worship. As such it plays host to thousands of visitors who drop by every year to savour the essence of Portugal. Spectacular Sintra earned the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, so we decide not to miss it. (May 2014)

The Historical City of Evora, Portugal

Just 130km east of Lisbon, along the main expressway to Madrid, lies the historical city of Evora, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Evora is famous for its well-preserved Roman, Gothic and Baroque buildings, thus compressing 2000 years of history in a compact place. It is late evening as we drive into town, on the way back from Elvas to Lisbon. Its quaint narrow cobblestone lanes and whitewashed buildings are relics of its Moorish past, and always a pleasure to saunter along, as we bump into one spectacular building after another. (May 2014)

Adelaide, Capital of South Australia

Adelaide is possibly one of the best cities I have ever visited in all my travels, but then I could be handsomely biased. I spent 1978-85 here, in this beautiful place – did my matriculation, bachelor’s degree and doctorate, all in one swoop, and I also got married and had our first child. Needless to say, this Adelaide sojourn influenced my life thereupon and shaped my weltanschauung immensely, but short of migrating here, I have returned many times for quick visits. This is our latest outing, to touch base with the ever-sprightly Prof Les Berry, my supervisor, and the venerable Dr Andy Coyle, my fellow PhD-mate. All looking hale and hearty! (February 2014)

Victor Harbor in South Australia

From Adelaide it’s a pleasant 80km drive south to Victor Harbor, a resort town (very popular with retirees) which faces the tempestuous Great Southern Ocean. There we spend time at the famous Coorong National Park, where the mighty River Murray empties itself into the ocean, but in a rather odd way via a huge lagoon. This area is also famous for its fish and chips, and that’s a must. Not to be missed are heritage buildings from the 19th century, and its flora and fauna. If you reach Adelaide, do consider spending a couple of days here. (February 2014)