One of the most enjoyable experiences I had whilst travelling Sri Lanka was hiking Small Adam’s Peak and visiting the Nine Arches Bridge in Ella. What most tourists don’t tell you is that visiting Sri Lanka can be a disappointing experience. Hiring a driver is the most practical way to get around but the more adventurous traveller will find this arrangement disempowering and might even feel a little ripped off by it. Your driver will want you to follow the itinerary they have set, which will involve a fair share of tourist buffets and dodgy jewellery stores. You may make suggestions about where to go to your driver but trust me, Sri Lankans are very convincing and you will end up doing what your driver says. However during our stopover in Ella we had a chance to get out of the car and exercise our legs against a magnificent backdrop. Make sure you finish your trip here with a cheap massage!
Nuwara Eliya is the stunning highland region of Sri Lanka, remarkable for its green landscape, abundance of natural waterfalls as well as its marked British history that is still very much evident (despite Sri Lankan independence) in the customs, architecture and names of local establishments. Most people visit the region to learn more about tea growing and to try the common brew at one of the many tea plantations. But don’t just stop for tea on your journey! There is so much to see and experience in beautiful Nuwara Eliya.
One of the highlights of my holiday to Sri Lanka was hiking around the legendary Sigiriya Rock. Also known as the Lion Rock, Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress that was built by King Kashyapa during his reign from 477 to 495 AD. However I did not follow the usual tourist path and walk up Sigiriya Rock itself, which is expensive and crowded. Instead I did some other hiking in Sigiriya area during which I appreciated more magnificent views of the rock fortress and surrounding countryside.
I visited Sri Lanka for the first time in July and I wanted to try authentic Sri Lankan food. As an adventurous foodie, whenever I travel the local food experiences are an important part of my holiday experience. Sri Lanka is one of the most difficult countries to sample the local cuisine. Most Sri Lankan people do not dine out at restaurants but prefer to cook at home, which means the majority of restaurants are catered to tourists. Understandably, when Sri Lankan’s do go out to restaurants it is usually to try other types of cuisine like Italian or Chinese. Nonetheless, when travelling in Sri Lanka (even with a tour guide) it is very possible to have some authentic foodie experiences if you have your wits about you.
Malacca is a perfect arty farty weekend getaway if you live in Singapore. It is only a bus ride away and an easy place to get around on foot. You can see all the main sights within 24 hours! Malacca has an amazing foodie scene and the Malacca night market alone is worth the visit. Make sure you go on an empty stomach so you can sample all the local delights. But between eating and drinking, there is also shopping and some artistic things to do. Enjoy my 24 hour guide to Malacca!
One of the allures of Laos is its deeply rooted Buddhist heritage. Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world with over 520 million followers predominately in Asia. However there is no where in the world where the Buddhist monks are as revered and the temples as carefully tended as in Laos. Buddhism is not just a belief system, but it is a way of life and an important part of the Lao people’s daily ritual.
Sai Kung is known as the backyard of Hong Kong and it is remarkable for its sweeping green views, pristine beaches, volcanic rock columns and the floating fishing village that feeds all the busy seafood restaurants along the main pier. During my last visit to Hong Kong I spent a perfect day tackling the notoriously difficult MacLehose hiking trail along the Sai Kung peninsula. My efforts were rewarded with a fresh cooked seafood dinner on the harbour although the price tag was extraordinary.
When I first came across the amazing green visions of Cat Ba archipelago, I knew I just had to visit this most beautiful place on earth. The archipelago consists of 367 islands in the North of Vietnam and if you go at the right time, it offers profound solitude and the perfect place to disconnect from the real world. After three days drifting between islands and houseboats and dining on simple fresh seafood, I felt like a new person.
Muang Ngoy is a remote village in Northern Laos without any modern conveniences to detract from the natural beauty of the Nam Ou river and mountainous landscape. Muang Ngoy is overrated, if you are into Lonely Planet guides. It is a unique combination of a very poor and rural village that is overcome by tourists. The main tourists that flock here are commonly known as the Water Bottle People, which are alternative-type youths in their 20s and 30s who like to carry water bottles around with them and may not shave their armpits. Many of them are also French. For these people, Muang Ngoy is a popular stop on the Banana Pancake Trail.
Luang Prabang is the old capital of Laos and one of the most beloved cities of southeast Asia to spend a long weekend, thanks to its humble charm and well preserved cultural heritage. The city is located at the conflux of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, which gives it a natural beauty that is enhanced by the iconic riverboats always drifting past the peninsula. There are over 34 protected temples that are exquisitely decorated and carefully tended to by monks, which sit alongside French colonial architecture and more rural buildings. This interesting blend of nature and edifice and old versus new is why Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Phosi market is the biggest market in Luang Prabang, where hundreds of merchants setup their stalls daily from 7am until 5pm. I love Asian markets because they are vibrant and colourful places of business, where you can get a glimpse of the way of local life. The Phosi market is no different. Whilst it might be a little poorer compared to its Vietnamese and Thai neighbours, you will not see any white faces here. Instead, you will witness the laughing and happy faces of the Laotian people negotiating and trading produce, meat, fish and other goods, which is a common ritual of daily life in Luang Prabang.
I was strolling through George Town in Penang and seeking refuge from the heat, when I happened upon the Chop Kongsi atelier workshop. This darling little store full of quirks and delights is run by May Lyn Foo. The hour I spent browsing the trifles and trinkets and casually chatting with May Lyn were one of the highlights of visit to Penang.
Visiting Wudalianchi Geopark was my first proper trip to China. When I say proper I mean, going deep inside the borders of mainland China where they don’t speak much English and the culture, nature and food remains unspoilt by the West. I had visited Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau many times before but it was nothing compared to the epic adventure I had at the Wudalianchi Geopark. I went here as part of a photography trip, which started in the city of Harbin and toured the Heilongjiang province and travelling with a group of Chinese speakers. This was an absolute blessing, as my fellow travellers helped me navigate the weird and wonderful food options, avoid tourist traps, stay safe from tricksters and basically see the very best of North East China.
Not many people associate China with the great outdoors however the Heilongjiang province is a nature lovers best kept secret and one of the few places you can witness the endangered red crowned cranes. From free mineral water springs and volcanic walks in the Wudalianchi Park, to the beautiful Zhalong Nature Reserve, there are many unspoilt delights that makes a visit to Heilongjiang very special.
My first visit to China during a tour of the North East province of Heilongjiang was fantastic and surprising. The capital, Harbin is just as beautiful as any European city with its wide avenues, romantic architecture and decorative street lamps. This backdrop is contrasted with the grit and grime of a mainland Chinese city, with the street markets frying up an appetite and people from all walks of the rat race just trying to make a buck. Venture outside of Harbin and there is a world of unexpected beauty, from watching the regal red crowned cranes take flight to reverently washing your face in the spiritual waters of the volcanic temple. Please join me as I recall some of the photographic highlights of my trip.
Bali is not my favourite place to go for a holiday. Too many tourists. Too many Australians. But I am grateful to my last trip there when, on a whim I decided to skip drinking cocktails by the pool and go for a half day Bali cooking class. My previous understanding of Indonesian cooking was limited to peanut satay and fried rice. However, attending the Anika Bali cooking class gave me a true appreciation for the complexity and richness of this cuisine as well as the variety of ingredients used. We prepared a several dishes during the class which all tasted delicious, from creamy beef curry and nasi goreng, to bean salad and boiled bananas with palm syrup.
We drove from London to Surrey one weekend to see the stunning Mayfield Lavender Farm. Waves of vibrant purple lavender stretched out as far as the eye could see however we were disappointed the lavender had very little fragrance. We bought some beautiful lavender products and finished our day with a nature walk around Box Hill and the Happy Valley, enjoying countryside views and fresh British air.
I starting doing the TFL Capital Ring Walk to discover more of London whilst getting fit. The London TFL Capital Ring Walk covers 78 miles of open space and natural reserves circling central London. It is divided into 15 sections that explore some amazing and lesser known areas of the most famous capital in the world. starting in Woolwich.
Relaxing in steaming hot waters whilst appreciating the natural beauty of southwest Iceland is on the wish list of many avid travellers. Iceland has a lot of thermal activity and natural occurring hot springs. It is a way of life for the locals to chill out at their local hot pool and catch up on the local gossip. Some of the hot pools are hidden and very rugged whilst others are more commercial places. However if you are visiting Iceland in the middle of winter, not all of the hot pools are accessible. Harsh weather conditions can make it almost impossible to reach some of the sites and the vast amount of snow and rain can cause the water to be too cool for pleasant swimming. Alternatively, if there is too much thermal activity occurring the water can be boiling hot and not safe to swim in.
Whether you are a visitor to London or you have lived there your entire life, the best way to discover all the interesting nooks and crannies of this amazing city is through the TFL Capital Ring walk. The TFL Capital Ring Walk successfully covers 78 miles of open space and natural reserves circling central London, running through some very pretty as well as industrial London neighbourhoods. The TFL Capital Ring Walk is divided into 15 sections with walks of varying difficulty, starting in Woolwich via areas of historical interest and great natural beauty including Crystal Palace, Richmond, Osterley Lock and Highgate.
Section 14 of the TFL Capital Ring walk is from Hackney Wick to Beckton District Park. When I did this walk, I was already very familiar in and around London Fields and Hackney Central (who hasn’t ended up at the Dolphin on a big night out?) but I had never explored the rest of Hackney.
The walk begins at Hackney Wick station. As soon as I stepped off the tube I felt like I was back in Bethnal Green or Shoreditch, but about 10 years ago. It was great not to see a chainstore in sight! We turned left from the station and walked across the bridge to the furthest bank of the canal, passing a lot of cool street art along the way.
I never realised what an awesome place Hackney Wick is. As we walked along the canal toward Stratford, we passed many canal boats converted into pop-up shops and bars, and funky converted warehouse venues serving interesting food and drinks and playing music. The area was lively with people socialising and rowing rented canoes along the water.
Walking along the canal you can see the infamous Stratford Arcelor Mittal Orbit sculpture as well as the Olympic stadium. We kept walking towards Stratford High Street, stopping at the Print House for a quick coffee break. The coffee here was amazing and the staff were very friendly. Particularly because I spilt my coffee everywhere after only one sip and they helped to clean it up and offered me a new latte on the house!
After a quick rest we continued up Stratford High Street and then crossed the Meridian line and took a turn right to walk along The Greenway. Our walk ended in Beckton District park, a lush and and green handsome area only a short walk from Royal Albert DLR station.
Download the map here.
A long weekend to Ipoh staying at the luxurious Banjaran hot springs retreat proved to be just what the doctor ordered. Ipoh is the capital of the Perak region of Malaysia. In between all the relaxing and indulging at the hotel we found time to explore some of the nearby limestone cave temples, the Old Town centre as well as the Lost World of Tambun. There is a lot you can pack into 3 days in Ipoh!
From Kaohsiung it is easy to make a day trip to the famous Dong Gong fish market and from there hop on a ferry to Little Liuqiu. Both spots are popular attractions for Taiwanese locals and mainland Chinese to visit on holiday. You will see very few Western faces in these parts and so little English will be spoken. The sashimi at Dong Gong fish market is world class and swimming with turtles under Vase Rock at Little Liuqiu was an unforgettable experience!
Taiwan is a wonderful country, it is Taiwanderful and the people are kind and hospitable. My long weekend visiting Tainan and Kaohsiung was a foodie adventure with a little history and plenty of Asian culture, creating a lifetime of Taiwanderful memories.
The opportunity to make hedgehog friends in Harajuku is a unique experience that you can only get in Tokyo. Harry’s Hedgehog cafe is a cosy environment that is home to over 40 miniature hedgehogs! There are several varieties of hedgehog friends from the very pale, albino and apricot coloured babies to darker and larger spiky spunks. The staff are caring of these sweet animals and are welcoming to all visitors, tourists and locals alike.
The Art of Old Town series by Ernest Zacharevic is a key attraction of Malaysia. Ipoh is the capital of the Perak region of Malaysia and the countries third largest city. The town was founded on the tin mining industry, which went into decline from the late 20th century. Today Ipoh attracts many visitors who are drawn by its old-world charm. The town centre is a mesh of colonial-era buildings, rustic doorways, beautiful mosques and a fantastic contrast of local coffee shops and hipster cafes. In 2014 locally founded coffee chain Old Town White Coffee collaborated with Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic in a project dubbed the Art of Old Town to create a series of murals on the streets of Ipoh.
A winter road trip through Iceland is a special way to spend Christmas. We purchased a map of the south and west coasts, rented a four wheel drive and away we went on our winter road trip through Iceland. Admittedly we were cautious about battling extreme weather conditions as well as maximising the four hours of sunlight each day. But the beauty of Iceland is breathtaking. From its mountainous terrain and peaks covered in fluffy white snow, to its violent waterfalls and boiling geysers. Iceland is horrendously expensive but it is a once in a lifetime adventure and winter proved to be an especially magical time to visit.
The beautiful Parkroyal on Pickering is a five star hotel in Singapore. It has become an iconic feature of the Singapore skyline and won numerous sustainability awards due to its unique garden in a building concept. The rooms are modern and comfortable and the food at its signature Lime restaurant has great variety and quality. The beautiful Parkroyal on Pickering is a recommended alternative to the more famous Fullerton Hotel for visitors to Singapore who wish to stay in style.
I love Italian food and it has always been a dream of mine to learn traditional Italian pasta making in Bologna. My dream came true with a unique experience learning three traditional recipes at the Culinary Institution of Bologna in Italy.