Trees, wells, candles, coins and notes—wishing has been a part of almost every culture. Whether celebrated by writing wishes on notes, tying them to trees, tossing in a coin in a well, the customs have carried on till day, and there are several locations you can visit if you have a wish to make too. Worth taking a vacation for, or at least a look?
Throw a coin in Trevi Fountain, Italy
A plot device for several Hollywood films, both classic and cheesy, the Trevi Fountain is the first on this list for a reason. This 17th-century fountain is much more than your regular Italian watering hole. After all, it does attract more than 16 million tourists every year. As local lore goes, if you throw a coin into the Fontana di Trevi (with your back towards it, nonetheless), you are likely to come back to the city again. The coins collected—all of about $1.5 million in change annually—are donated to charity.
Buddha park of Ravangla, Sikkim, India
It’s possible you haven’t been to the Buddha Park of Ravangla in Sikkim. And it’s even more likely you haven’t heard of its lotus well at all. This eco-park at the foothills of the Himalayan ranges is home to a 130-foot-tall statue of Buddha. Over here, you will also come across a beautiful lotus-shaped wish pond, which is based on the concept of wishing wells all over Europe. Breathe in some clean fresh air, throw a coin, and one, two, three… make a wish.
Love lock bridges in Paris, Slovenia
Bridges all over the world, famous, forgettable, wide, toothpick-narrow, and heavy, definitely heavy, have been turned into symbols of love, sealed with a kiss key. We’re talking about love padlocks that have been locked on to bridges as a wishful (and tangible) expression by lovers. The concept involves writing the initials of the couple on a lock, putting it on the designated “love bridge” and throwing they key away from arm’s (and second doubt’s) reach into the river. The most famous of these is the Pont Des Arts bridge in Paris, whose locks were removed in 2016 in the name of safety) but there are several others—the ironically named Butcher’s Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and in Prague, Moscow, Seoul and even China.
UK’s well-hammered trees
Isle Maree, a small island on Scotland’s shore is awash with tall oak trees. One of these, however, is more popular than the others and comes with a distinct identifying feature. It is studded with metal coins that were once hammered into its trunk, presumably as a way to make a wish. Legend claims that this tree was used since the Victorian times and Queen Victoria herself would visit it. This isn’t the only such tree in the UK however. England is full of them, including some seaside towns in Wales, Yorkshire, Cumbria, and in Ireland as well.
Lam Tseun Wishing Tree in Hong Kong
Lam Tseun in Tai Po, Hong Kong has not one, but two wishing trees. Previously, during the Lunar New Year, the two banyan trees would be visited by locals and tourists, who would burn joss sticks, scribble wishes on joss paper (a traditional Chinese ‘ghost paper’ burnt) tied to an orange and threw it up to the trees. If the paper successfully hung on to the branches, it was said that the wish would come true. While the two trees stand tall, today, in order to preserve the original trees, people are encouraged to hang their wishes on to a plastic imitation tree nearby.
When in Bangkok, a visit to Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is insisted upon. Whether you go of your own free will or are tricked into it, you will find that it was worth it all along. Apart from stunning Buddhist padogas and architecture, and the reclining Buddha gilded in gold itself, you can also make wishes here—108 of them, in fact. Encircling the statue of Buddha are 108 little bronze pots, and visitors can put a couple of coins in each as they go around the room, and make a wish per pot. Don’t worry, each coin doesn’t have to be one baht. You can purchase a set full of small golden-coloured coins for about 20 Baht inside the temple itself. The act itself is almost meditative as it requires a fast pace and concentration.
P.S. Wat Pho is also the traditional school for learning Thai massage, and today they also have a centre for tourists. Tired from all the walking? You now know where to go.
Tanabata tree in Japan
The Tanbata tree in Japan too is often visited by people during the festival of Tanabata (on July 7) and the days before it. Here, they write down their wishes on tanzaku (colourful strips of paper) and tie it to the bamboo tree. These bamboo trees are not in one particular place, instead are part of many celebrations across Japan, the most famous of which is said to be held in the Kanto region.