If I mention the Thai island of Phuket, what does it conjure up in your mind? For some it will be white sandy beaches backed by swaying palms and azure waters. For others it will be touristy resorts, boozy bars and lady boys! Yes, Phuket has certainly had its fair share of bad press thanks (mainly) to the seedy antics at its largest beach resort, Patong. And, to be honest, having travelled to the island on numerous occasions since the early 90s, I’ve certainly seen it change from an idyllic island retreat to one pandering to the “needs” of the tourist masses.
So, when I was invited to visit a new hotel on the largely undeveloped north east coast of the island, I jumped at the chance to see if I could discover a quieter Phuket, away from the crowds and the party atmosphere; one that resembled the Thai paradise I first stepped foot on 25 years ago. The question is, did I succeed? Read more
Two hours after setting off from the wonderful Titilaka (read about it here), our very comfortable base on the shores of the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, we were at the border. Here, all that separated Peru from Bolivia was an archway and after a few stamps in our passports from surly looking men, we were in. Immediately the feeling was like we’d stepped back in time as a local peanut seller set up her stall next to me on the roadside.
Twice the size of France but with a sixth of the population, landlocked Bolivia is a fascinating and exciting country with an astonishing range of natural beauty that runs from the peaks of the Andes to the Amazonian low lands. It has a largely indigenous population that has preserved native languages and much of the traditional way of life – men tend the land growing potatoes and quinoa and herding llamas, whilst the ladies, as wide as they are tall, dress traditionally with bowler hats, long plaits, voluminous skirts and carry children on their backs swaddled in multi-coloured shawls.
Peru stretches from the Colombian/Ecuadorian boarder in the north, to the Chilean border in the south. To the east you have the magnificent peaks of the Andes, to the west over 2,400km of coastline bordering the Pacific Ocean and in the middle, the Amazon snaking its way through. As you can imagine, in this vast country there’s so much to see and do and the problem is often trying to fit everything in: hiking to Machu Picchu; flying over the mysterious Nazca Lines (beware of kamikaze pilots), watching Condors soar over Colca Canyon; surfing at the hip beach area of Mancora; or sailing the waterways of the Amazon in luxurious vessels.
Julian and I decided to split our recent trip to South America with 2 weeks in Peru and a week in Bolivia. However, 6 of those days in Peru were spent trekking to Machu Picchu (read about that here) so we had to be very selective about what else we saw and did in Peru, plumping for Lima, Cusco (and the Sacred Valley) and then out to Lake Titicaca.
Here are the highlights of our trip: Read more
When you say you’re going trekking in Peru people immediately assume you’re doing the Inca Trail. But, with conveyor-belt overcrowding – 500 permitted trekkers embark on the Trail each day – Julian and I decided for a path less travelled to the Incan Citadel. Instead we took the gloriously scenic Salkantay trail which, over 6 days, saw us trek from flower filled meadows up to the chilly heights of the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountain range and then down through sub-tropical cloud forest to the steamy jungle; all with hardly another person in sight. We also shied away from ending each night in a freezing cold tent, opting instead for bricks and mortar in the form of four comfy lodges complete with huge squidgy beds (down quilts and hot water bottles as standard), scorching showers and good food.
Each day brought something new and exciting to experience and here’s our story:
Like most people, my trips to South Africa have been limited to the usual suspects: Cape Town, Winelands, the Garden Route and on safari in Kruger and Madikwe. I’d never contemplated a holiday to KwaZulu Natal. I think in my mind I’d written if off as place just for history and war buffs and I’m not sure a very, very long film with Michael Caine depicting the Anglo-Zulu war did it any favours – I’ve never yet got to the end of it! But, I have to admit, on a recent visit to the area I was more than pleasantly surprised by what I found. Read more