Destination: Sri Lanka

Official Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Established: 4 February 1948 (Independence from the United Kingdom),  22 May 1972 (Republic)
Population: 21,803,000 (2019 estimate)
Religion: 70.2% Buddhism, 12.6% Hinduism, 9.7% Islam, 7.4% Christianity
Language(s): Sinhala, Tamil, English
Capital: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (legislative), Colombo (executive and judicial)
Order of Visit: Fifty Sixth 
First Visit: 26 July 2016
Last Visit: 12 August 2016 
Duration: 18 Days
Visit Highlights: 
 Anuradhapura: The Anuradhapura Stupas, The sights from the top of Mihintale. 
 Colombo: Exploring a working gem mine, visiting Independence Square, the beautiful Gangaramaya Temple, walking around the Galle Face.
 Dambadeniya: Views from the former rock fortress of Yapahuwa, the school children ceremony at Dalada Maligawa Temple. 
 Galle: Exploring the Galle Fort, the beautiful cricket ground. 
 Giritale: Polonnaruwa Ruins, Dambulla Rock Temple, Kayanwala village (including canoe trip), and Herbs and Spices Garden (including back massage), exploring the Sigiriya ‘Lion Rock’ Fortress. 
 Hikkaduwa: Relaxing and exploring the Hikkaduwa Beach, undertaking a Mangrove Safari, visiting a Turtle Sanctuary, learning at the Tsunami Museum, surviving and later benefiting from a Sri Lankan Full Body Massage.  
Kandy: Watching Elephants enjoy themselves at Pinnawala, learning about tea at the Geragama Tea Factory, visiting the famous Temple of the Tooth, enjoying the Cultural Show seeing different dance styles of Sri Lanka and fire eaters and fire walkers. 
 Mirissa: Whale and Turtle Watching. 
 Negombro: Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara better known as the Kelaniya Temple), Dehiwala Zoological Gardens, Hamilton Canal Tour. 
 Nuwara Eliya: Scenic Train Trip, enjoying the ‘Little England’ feel.  
 Udawalawe: supporting the Baby Elephant Sanctuary, enjoying a Udawalawe National Park Safari.
Places Visited:
Anuradhapura, Colombo, Dambadeniya, Galle, Giritale, Hikkaduwa, Kandy, Mirissa, Negombro, Nuwara Eliya, Udawalawe
Sri Lanka Journal Entries  

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Destination: Japan

Official Name: Japan
Established: 710 (National Imperial Court), 29 November 1890 (First Constitution)
Population: 127,094,745 (2015 census)
Religion: 69% Shintoism, 66.7% Buddhism, 1.5% Christian, 6.2% other (Note: Most Japanese follow both Shintoism and Buddhism)
Language(s): Japanese
Capital: Tokyo
Order of Visit: Fifty Second 
First Visit: 03 May 2015
Last Visit: 16 May 2015 
Duration: 14 Days
Visit Highlights:
 Kamakura: Seeing the Great Buddha at the Kotoku-in Temple, exploring the Hasedera Temple in particular the beautiful gardens.
 Koyasan: Experiencing the spiritual side of Japan, staying at the Karukayado Monastery, exploring Oku-no-in Cemetery during the day and especially at night, the Zen Garden at Kongobuji Temple, undertaking meditation, attending morning prayers and cleansing the soul.
 Kyoto: The stunning Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine Gates, visiting the tranquil Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, The Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji, the Shogun’s castle (Nijo Castle), participating in a Traditional Tea Ceremony, the outrageous Ninja Show
 Hakone: Viewing the impressive Mt Fuji, sailing over Lake Ashino-Ko, watching a traditional lock box being created, exploring Hakone Gore Park, embarrassing myself at a karaoke night
 Hiroshima: The very moving and emotionally tough Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the peaceful Shukkeien Garden, an Okonomiyaki dinner (cooked in front of me).
 Yokohama: exploring traditional Japanese houses at Sankeien Garden, visiting and learning history of the local China Town.
 Miyajima Island: The floating Torii Gate, the spiritual Toyokuni Shrine, rebirth at the Daishion Temple.
 Osaka: Enjoying the super-efficient Shinkansen Bullet Train, visiting Osaka Castle and surrounding area.
 Tokyo: Observing a Shintoism wedding ceremony, visiting Asakusa Kannon Temple, exploring Meiji Shinto Shine, Harbour boat cruise, riveted by the astonishing Robot Show, witnessing the Imperial Palace grounds, captivated by the very weird fashion district in Harajuku, visiting nerd heaven AKA the Akihabara electronic district.
Places Visited
: Kamakura, Koyasan, Kyoto, Hakone, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Miyajima Island, Osaka, Tokyo  
Japan Journal Entries  

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Destination: Indonesia

 

Official Name: Republic of Indonesia
Established: 17 August 1945 (Independence from the Netherlands)
Population: 267,670,543 (2018 estimate)
Religion: 86.7% Islam, 10.7% Christian, 1.7% Hinduism
Language(s): Indonesian
Capital: Jakarta
Order of Visit: Fifty-Seventh
First Visit: 08 June 2017
Last Visit: 14 June 2017 
Duration: 7 Days
Visit Highlights: Waterbom Park, Street shopping, Asoka Full Body Massage, exploring the Hindu Batuan Temple, visiting the Uluwatu Pura (temple), the stunning Blangsinga waterfall, Elephant Safari Park and Lodge, Ubud Rice Paddy Terraces, the beautiful Tanah Lot Temple, surviving Quad bike riding  
Places Visited: Kuta, Ubud 
Indonesia Journal Entries  

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Destination: Panama

Official Name: Republic of Panama
Established: 3 November 1903 (Independence from Republic of Colombia)
Population: 4,176,869 (2018 estimate)
Religion: 63.2% Catholic, 25% Protestant, 3.3% Other Christian, 7.6% No religion
Language(s): Spanish (English is also commonly spoken)
Capital: Panama City
Order of Visit: Fiftieth 
First Visit: 01 February 2013
Last Visit: 10 February 2013 
Duration: 10 Days
Visit Highlights:
 Bocas del Toro: Festival partying, swimming in the Caribbean sea.
 Boquete: Hiking, waterfalls, hot springs and smart monkeys 
 Panama City: Panama Canal engineering marvel, beautiful Panama City ‘Old Town’
 Santa Catalina: Magnificent beach, snorkelling in the Pacific Ocean
Places Visited
: Bocas del Toro, Boquete, Panama City, Santa Catalina
Panama Journal Entries  

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Destination: Costa Rica

Official Name: Republic of Costa Rica
Established: 
– 15 September 1821 (Independence from Spain)
– 01 July 1823 (Independence from Mexico) 
– 14 November 1838 (Independence from Federal Republic of Central America)
Population: 4,999,441 (2018 estimate)
Religion: 52% Catholic, 25% Protestant, 17% No religion
Language(s): Spanish (English is also commonly spoken)
Capital: San José
Order of Visit: Forty-Ninth 
First Visit: 24 January 2013
Last Visit: 01 February 2013 
Duration: 9 Days
Visit Highlights:
 La Fortuna: Boat ride across Lake Arenal, diverse and amazing wildlife or Costa Rica (lizards, various monkeys, sloths, caimans and birds), surviving Grade 4 white water rafting
 Monteverde: Toucan sighting, stunning sunset, zip-lining though the trees, exploring a forest at night, stunning mountain scenery
 Puerto Viejo: the beaches, Caribbean sea food, visiting the Animal Rescue centre, tasty organic ice cream
Places Visited: La Fortuna, Monteverde, Puerto Viejo, San Jose 
Costa Rica Journal Entries  

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Destination: Nicaragua

Official Name: Republic of Nicaragua
Established:
– 15 September 1821 (Independence from Spain)
– 01 July 1823 (Independence from Mexico)
– 31 May 1838 (Independence from Federal Republic of Central America)
Population: 6,486,201 (2019 estimate)
Religion: 55% Catholic, 27.2% Protestant, 14.7% No religion
Language(s): Spanish
Capital: Managua
Order of Visit: Forty-Eighth 
First Visit: 20 January 2013
Last Visit: 25 January 2013 
Duration: 5 Days
Visit Highlights:
 Granada:  Swimming in Laguna de Apoyo, exploring stone walled local market at Masaya, surviving the active Volcano National Park including exploring a bat cave, horse carriage ride, exploring the old Central Train Station, the enormous Lake Nicaragua
 Ometepe: Spellbinding sunset, homestay experience with locals, exploring the island, howler monkeys, fantastic views, relaxing in thermal springs.
Places Visited: Granada, Ometepe 
Nicaragua Journal Entries  

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