A couple of years ago, I found myself on the Vava’u archipelago, in Tonga, ready to jump into the water with a whale.
With that gigantic dark shape moving around in the water below, I confess I was pretty nervous! No, we did not cavort, the humpback mum and her humpback calf decided they weren’t in a playful move, and, in the blink of an eye, one of the world’s largest animals simply sank down to the watery depths and disappeared.
Recently, I chatted with Carmen Ellis of Majestic Whale Encounters, for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers. She says that if they don’t want to play, whales just don’t hang around. Drawing on her experience running whale swimming tours in Tonga, French Polynesia and Norway Carmen says, “If they don’t want to be there, they just turn their pectoral fin and, within seconds, they can be gone.”
However, every experience is amazing, she has had bumbling calves simply bump into her (the calves totally ignoring each country’s exclusion rule that applies about swimming with wild animals), and says that even sub-adults and dolphins are such curious creatures, they will interact with swimmers.
She has swum with orcas in Norway and pilot and humpback whales in Tahiti, where she’s also seen the unusual Reeso dolphins, while in Tonga, she has spotted the false killer whales (which are the same dark grey as an orca, but without the white patches), and lots of stingrays, sharks and turtles all round.
Her company’s next tour destination is Sri Lanka, swimming with blue whales. “We’re not the first, years ago, there was an industry shut down because it wasn’t being respectful to whales, but a new industry is developing in the country’s north, in Trincomalee.”
To read my story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on swimming with orcas, humpbacks, pilot and other whales, click here
|Dried red chilies are a signature ingredient of
Sri Lankan food.
Photo: Kevin Clogstou
Not for the faint-hearted or the waistline obsessed, Sri
Lankan food is chili and spice-laden taste sensation and there is always
enough to feed a small army. Belinda Jackson goes to the front line to
taste the best of the best.
After a lifetime of putting (almost) everything in my mouth – dog,
toad, rotten fish and cheese so old it qualifies for the pension – Sri
Lanka, the game is on.
Let’s not muck around, let’s go straight
to the source: Sri-Lankan born chef Peter Kuruvita is Australia’s go-to
man fzor everything edible on the Tasmania-sized island.
top suggestion is also possibly Sri Lanka’s top restaurant, the
officious-sounding Ministry of Crab (Old Dutch Hospital, Colombo).
was always going to be a hit with the locals: in cricket-mad Lanka, the
restaurant is owned by test cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar
Sangakkara, along with chef Dharshan Munidasa, Sri Lanka’s answer to Our
Tetsuya. The half-Sri Lankan, half-Japanese celebrity chef is also
owner of the polished benchmark of Japanese cuisine, Nihonbashi (1 Galle
Face Tce, Colombo).
|A lone stilt fisherman, Sri lanka.
Photo: Eye Ubiquitous
Ministry is set in the Old Dutch Hospital complex, which
should be the first stop on the first-time tourist’s list for its
excellent cafe and shopping scene, a hit with locals and out-of-towners
Thank goodness Kuruvita advises me to book ahead.
Midweek, and Ministry is pumping on the signature cocktail, Small Island
iced tea, made with Sri Lankan tea and Old Arrack, a traditional spirit
made from the sap of coconut palm flowers. The signature dish, chilli
crab, comes out in a flurry of waiter’s whites and torturous cutlery
while the open kitchen rattles and howls, with the occasional spurt of
Driving around the island, fruit stands offer an unashamed abundance including Sri Lanka’s 18 types of banana.
“I went to Singapore and I ate their chilli crab,” chef Dharshan
tells me. “But Singapore has no crab, no chilli and no pepper. It’s all
from Sri Lanka. So why do they think they own it?”
He’s a man on a mission to prove Sri Lanka has its own
cuisine. “We’re not sitting in a rice paddy, smashing spices with
rocks,” he says. “We’re as sophisticated as anyone else.”
if you asked any traveller for their take on the local food, the first
thing that comes to mind is also its most humble.
It’s the hopper.
A hand-sized crepe made with rice flour and coconut milk and cooked in a
cupped pan, we’re not talking haute cuisine here. String hoppers are
made with rice noodles that, despite all the gaps, are ideal for soaking
up curry sauces. Early in the morning, hopper stands line the roadsides
and laneways: little carts that fuel a nation for the day ahead.
“Ask for an egg hopper and seeni sambal,” Kuruvita has recommended.
first place I taste hoppers probably isn’t where Kuruvita had in mind.
Forget street sellers, I’m in Galle’s top digs, the Amangalla hotel.
Specifically, I’m in the pool and breakfast is being delivered to my
poolside ambalamba (cabana) early one fine morning. Three hoppers are
beautifully presented on china, an egg baked into the well of the fine
Red, yellow and green bananas hanging for
There’s a pot of bright Sri Lankan tea and an array of
condiments including seeni sambal – a sweet onion and chilli relish –
and pol sambal, which Ministry chef Dharshan names his quintessential
Sri Lankan dish.
“Pol sambal’s not the most expensive, it’s not the most interesting, but it’s the most important on the table,” he says.
sambal is a dish of fresh grated coconut (pol means coconut in
Sinhalese) spiced with lime, red onion, cured tuna flakes and a
blistering amount of fresh chilli. The locals ladle chilli onto hoppers
for a morning eye-opener, at lunch as a pick-me-up then at dinner, as a
tasty side to round out their chilli intake for the day.
between, Sri Lankans are incorrigible snackers. If you find yourself in
someone’s house at 3.30pm, chances are you’re in time for tea and butter
cake, a super-simple Madeira-style cake that kicks the country over the
Otherwise, they’re queuing at their favourite short-eats
stand. Short eats are not for the weight conscious: savoury little
calorie bombs such as deep-fried fish rolls, sausage pastries, creamy
chicken pastries or spicy vege samosa. There’s fierce competition as to
the best short-eats shop on this island, the epi-centre appearing to be
in the Colombo 3 district, home to old-timer The Fab (474 Galle Rd),
upmarket contender Sponge (347 Galle Rd) and the undying institution
that is Green Cabin (453 Galle Rd).
If you’re leery of eating on
the street, follow the trail of foreigners to one of the many, many
branches of the 100-year-old Perera & Sons, who’ve lifted the game
with sparkling shops and, let’s be practical, nice loos (pereraandsons.com).
Trucking kids with you? While you’re in there, make like a local and
grab a pack of rulang cookies, crunchy semolina and coconut biscuits
spiced with cumin seeds as a good travel snack.
neighbourhood, travelling and eating are indistinguishable: at the
Hatton train station, up in the tea-growing district, men lift baskets
of steaming wadi, fried savoury snacks with chilli chutney, up to my
window, hot, deep fried lentil patties wrapped in the leaves of a
child’s old schoolbook, soaking up the tasty oils.
Market vendors selling produce in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Photo: PhuongPhoto
On the drive
from Galle to Yala National Park, we stop to photograph the famed stilt
fishermen of Tangalle Lake, where a retired fisherman sells us king
coconuts. He slices the top off with a machete and we sit beneath a
shade of woven leaves, drinking fresh coconut water while his sons
teeter on poles, one eye on the fish, one eye on our coin.
Tangalle, at the insanely luxurious Amanwella hotel, I dine on seafood
caught by local fishermen that morning. Move over, deep-fried seafood
basket, this is the real deal: prawns, mahi mahi, red mullet, seer fish
(Spanish mackerel) and calamari are served with steamed rice, mango and
papaya salad and gotukola salad.
and helps you lose weight,” the waiter tells me helpfully. Bring me two,
please. So great are its claims, gotukola is known for its miracle
properties in the West and is also in Ayurvedic medicine, so I joyfully
wolf down the salad, which looks like chopped spinach, dressed with the
omnipresent chilli, coconut and fresh lime juice.
Amangalla breakfast with hoppers. Photo: Belinda Jackson
the island, fruit stands offer an unashamed abundance including Sri
Lanka’s 18 types of banana, and tiny villages on the highways sell just
one food, be it Kadjugama (literally ‘cashew village’) on the
Colombo-Kandy road, Thihariya for mandarins the colour of a Buddhist
monk’s robes or buffalo curd (meekiri), served roadside in Andalla, deep
in the Southern Province, drizzled with kitul syrup, or palm-sugar
treacle. An ancient lady in a white chola, held together Liz-Hurley
style with three gigantic safety pins, carefully packs a traveller’s
picnic of curd, which is traditionally set in rough hand-thrown clay
pots that you smash back into the earth once finished. It’s a probiotic,
it’s a passive-aggression outlet.
Back in Colombo, it’s time to
try the famed black pork curry of the Gallery Cafe, contender to
Ministry of Crab for best restaurant (2 Alfred House Rd, Kollupitiya).
Cruising the menu, I’ve gone past the seer fish served with coconut
risotto, past the fish-head soup and even said no to the baked crab.
black pork dish is owner and entrepreneur Shanth Fernando’s baby. “I
taste it every morning,” he says, sipping espresso in his chic hotel,
Tintagel. “That’s why I’m the size I am.” He leans in to spill its
secrets: belly pork with fenugreek, curry leaves, bitter gourd, sweet
spices and the signature (chilli-free) black-roasted curry powder, which
adventurous traveller-cooks can buy at any supermarket. The curry is
served with another classic, brinjal pahl (eggplant relish), cucumber
raita and more gotukola sambal, presumably its anti-obesity properties
balancing the extravagance of the belly pork. It is divine, but also
calls for a nice lie-down afterwards. Or maybe a tart, cleansing
cocktail. Either way, the Gallery Cafe will oblige.
Gallery Cafe. Photo: Belinda Jackson
Some of the
best food of this journey is served in the most unexpected location. In
the leopard-rich Yala National Park, the under-canvas kitchen of my
luxury Leopard Safari camp, fuelled only by solar energy, turns out
spectacular plantain curry and bitter gourd curry, tuned down to sate
the western palette, but not so much that it offends us: and
vegetarianism is easy in this isle.
Pre-dinner snacks are hot,
deep-fried leaves called elephant ears, tossed in salt and chilli
powder, and the all-male kitchen serves the toddler on my hip gentle
baby potato curries, as well as two classic street foods, coconut roti
and her favourite, egg roti, the sweet coconut and egg cooked into rich,
buttery fried flatbread.
At the Kandy Muslim Hotel,
fierce-looking old men in white robes serenely serve us the staple meal
of kottu roti – chopped roti fried with strips of egg, cabbage, carrot
and whatever else comes to hand (70 Dalada Vidiya, Kandy) – and I taste
the classic Dutch Burgher dish, lamprais, in a Colombo home kitchen,
from the generous hands of my Burgher friend Andrea.
rice and mixed meat curry are baked in a banana leaf with a prawn paste,
fried cutlet and eggplant in the mix. If you don’t have a Burgher chef
to hand, trust Colombo city guide yamu.com
and head to the colonial mansion that is the Dutch Burgher Union
(that’s DBU for those in the know) (114, Reid Avenue, Colombo 4).
is called a curry, but not everything is pungent,” explains Andrea.
“And everything that floats in a gravy is curry.” She also notes that
Sri Lankan curries are quite dry, compared with their Indian
counterparts. “It preserves the fresh tastes, instead of drowning them,”
she adds, with a sly dig at her gargantuan neighbour.
I make the
rookie mistake of ordering ‘just a curry’ at boutique hotel The Wallawwa
and end up with a 10-plate extravaganza by the time all the
accompanying curries, sambals, salads, rice and deep-fried fillers are
laden on the table. Delicious, though slightly unfair to any dining
companions wishing to sit near me.
Asking around for the best meal
turns up some unlikely answers: “I’ve found chicken parts curry,”
confides a local artist. “It’s so good, I’ve had it twice in the past
two weeks.” I ask for the cafe’s address but he won’t tell me. “I’ve had
training,” he says delicately, then abandons all tact. “Pack the
It’s on the last day, just before we dash to
the airport, that my bubbly driver, the fabulously named Lucky
Lokubalasuriya, teaches me how to eat a classic lunch packet of curry
and rice – perhaps the Sri Lankan equivalent of a sandwich. I buy a
couple of packets from a man on the street and we sit in the back of our
van. Unwrapping the decorative newspaper reveals a train smash of rice,
chicken curry, dhal, deep-fried crisps and a few blackened chillis that
I don’t believe are just a garnish. There’s no cutlery, just a handful
After a fortnight of fending off Western wannabe
cafes (what’s with the bruschetta obsession?) and toned-down cuisine,
this is the real deal. The packet packs a punch of big spices, hot oil,
curry leaves and a hellish amount of chilli. My nose runs, my ears roar
and I admit defeat. Respect for the spice island.
MORE INFORMATION srilanka.travel
GETTING THERE There
are no direct flights between Australia and Sri Lanka. The best
connections are with Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Thai
GETTING AROUND Banyan Tours runs five-night tours including private car, guide and accommodation, from $3500 for two people, banyanlanka.com.
STAYING THERE For luxe hotels, stay at Amangalla, Galle or Amanwella, Tangalle (from $585, amanresorts.com), opt for boutique hotels Maya Villa or The Wallawwa (from $205, mrandmrssmith.com)
or go budget at the Olde Empire Hotel, with an extra-early wake-up call
from the nearby Temple of Lord Buddha’s Tooth (from $20, oldeempirehotel.com).The sustainably-run Leopard Safari costs from $380 a night, all-inclusive, leopardsafaris.com.
|Mesmerising Myanmar: Ancient temples and an increasingly
modern infrastructure are the drawcards. Photo: Getty Images.
reveal their tips for the coming year.
eye on the hip pocket, we’re looking at hometown holidays in 2015, say travel
industry’s chiefs. And while Asia is back on top as our favourite playground,
Myanmar continues its stellar orbit as the region’s shining star.
everyone going in 2015? Gallipoli for the centenary, on unusual train journeys, South America,
Antarctica and our new Australian tours by private plane.
should everyone be going in 2015? Iran and Myanmar. For safe and trusted, a British
Isles cruise or a train journey through Switzerland.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? An unsettled world and the weakening
you packing your bags for? Chichen Itza in Mexico, Rio, Easter Island, Tahiti, Angkor Wat,
the Taj Mahal and the Serenas, well as the UK and Europe.
travelling, so people across cultures, religions and countries can connect
peacefully. See captainschoice.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? Myanmar: infrastructure is improving and there’s a sense it’ll all
should everyone be going in 2015? Bhutan: because it’s not going to change fast. A
purer and more controlled experience awaits.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Travel safety: the perceived threat of increased
terrorism and infectious diseases.
you packing your bags for? London, Florence, Marrakech, Taipei, Tokyo and the USA.
Wifi flights will become the norm. See luxecityguides.com.
everyone going in 2015? Japan, now great value for money, and India.
should everyone be going in 2015? Sri Lanka, which is rapidly healing after its
terrible civil war, the idyllic Maldives, and Myanmar for quaint, rustic
biggest issue in travel in 2015? The potential spread of terrorism to our region, health
issues such as Ebola and the value of the Australian dollar.
you packing your bags for? Vietnam, Japan and Mongolia.
Self-drive three-wheeled tuk-tuk tours in India! See wendywutours.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? Philippines: budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air has just kicked off a
service departing Sydney four times weekly.
should everyone be going in 2015? London, for the Rugby World Cup!
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Airfares have never been more affordable and
unless the US dollar drops significantly, the only issue is choosing where to
you packing your bags for? Whistler: snowboarding is my passion. We will thaw out on Hamilton
Island. Fearless prediction? Aussies are in a golden era of travel with more
accessible prices, services and routes. See flightcentre.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? Hiking and biking Cambodia, trekking the Patagonia Ice Cap, Arctic
cruising to see the Northern Lights, Nepal’s Manaslu Circuit, walking Spain’s
should everyone be going in 2015? Trekking the Altai mountains in Mongolia, hiking
and biking in China, cycling Puglia, Italy.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Flight availability in peak seasons, more freak
storms and volatility in weather patterns due to global warming.
you packing your bags for? Italy’s Gran Paradiso Trek plus a self-guided cycling holiday from
Slovenia to Croatia!
prediction for 2015? The Great
Himalayan Trail – a five-month trek traversing Nepal’s high passes. See worldexpeditions.com.
everyone going in 2015? Cruising Europe, Alaska, and the Baltics.
should everyone be going in 2015? Asia, cruising from Japan and Singapore, visiting
Vietnam and Cambodia, and even Indonesia’s Komodo Island.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? The falling dollar, sharpening travellers’ focus
you packing your bags for? Stradbroke Island, maybe an African safari and a PNG and Solomon
Islands cruise to test new destinations.
at sea with Australia’s best food and wine. See carnival.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? Italy and Greece for the food, wine, history and sites and Norway for
the Northern Lights.
should everyone be going in 2015? ANZAC centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, with
or without ballot tickets.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Global safety issues and natural disasters.
you packing your bags for? I would like to do The Ultimate Travelling Camp in India.
Experiencing destinations in 3D, such as enjoying the view from your
(prospective) hotel’s balcony. See coxandkings.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? The Gold Coast, Darwin and fringe CBD; homeowners are realising the
viability of short-term rentals while travellers can immerse themselves in the
should everyone be going in 2015? Dunsborough, Western Australia. Definitely a new
you packing your bags for? A holiday rental in Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, near golf courses,
vineyards and beaches.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Low-cost air carriers continuing to open up new
markets, particularly in Asia.
rentals becoming bookable online, like hotels. See stayz.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? South-east Asia and the Asia Pacific, for snorkelling safaris, stunning
should everyone be going in 2015? On ‘staycation,’ exploring your own city. Sydney’s
Double Bay has new eateries, bars, shops and the new InterContinental Sydney
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Truly personalised and local experiences.
you packing your bags for? Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, a diving holiday to Fiji and skiing in
marketing aimed at locals through social media, and brands rewarding guests for
publicising their trips via social media. See ihg.com.
everyone going in 2015? Safe, affordable Nicaragua, Central America and Mykonos, Greece.
should everyone be going in 2015? Colombo, Sri Lanka is reinventing itself as a cool
foodie paradise. Flight searches to Bhutan are also on the rise.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Online travel companies becoming mobile savvy, as
travellers use mobile phones to research, plan and book holidays.
you packing your bags for? The coolest little capital, Wellington, and Tasmania.
Meta-search websites – websites that aggregate information from all over the
web into one site – being an essential planning tool. See skyscanner.com.au.
The new pocket-friendly
second edition of its Little LUXE Bali tours the island with
ankle-biters in tow, and is summed up in its tagline, “How to go glam
with the fam”.
Little LUXE has also got junior Singapore and Hong Kong
covered. Costs $US10 each. See luxecityguides.com.
|Ambassador House, Galle|
Elegant villas dot Sri Lanka’s jungle and coast.
Petite and chic, the true gem of Sri Lanka is its rising wave
of beautiful boutique hotels and villas peppered throughout its wild,
lush interior and sublime coastal strips. The tiny island has performed a
staggering comeback – just three years after its 26-year civil war
ended in 2009, more than a million tourists came to soak up its sun, sip
its tea and savour its culture.
Sri Lanka and Bali are emerging rivals, sharing similar
climates, a guaranteed warm welcome and an innate sense of style and
the vast hotel lobby.
attempted to check out of the hotel. Happily, the general manager was within
earshot (it wasn’t hard). At least
someone was smiling in the room.
Sheraton Kuta, in southern Bali. Traditionally the bastion of Bintang t-shirts
and bad cornrow braids, the hotel has carved out a chic niche within the most
maligned of Australians’ tourist destinations.
nannies for very young babies (excellent, especially for new mothers who
haven’t slept in five months) and private nannies in the countries we’ve
travelled together, including Vietnam (where, in Hanoi, I came back to the room
to find the entire housekeeping division dancing to the cartoon channel along
with an ecstatic baby) and Sri Lanka (my older driver and de facto nanny would
have his afternoon nap along with Yasmine while I interviewed hoteliers and
swimming pool and sandy beach and little playground at the front, separated by
the interior of the Play centre, with its computer terminals loaded with games,
books, babies’ wooden toys, farmhouse animal sets and the pinkest palace to
house all the Barbies. Upstairs, the playstation den is also a crash pad for
children, united by a love of a pink world, pausing reluctantly only to eat
with her guilt-ridden mama (now sporting extremely beautiful orange nails). The
kids’ club is free to all guests (and anyone spending more than A$35 in the
hotel spa – clever marketing, eh?)
amusement arcades, but I’m more than happy to become part of this club. Quite
frankly, both Mme Three and I were both upset to be leaving the hotel: I guess
we’ve just got to learn to say goodbye.
Winter is happily settling in to Melbourne: it’s got its squalls, sharp winds and drizzle and is setting up shop quite nicely, thank you very much.
If I could trade places, my choice (today, anyway) would be Sri Lanka, specifically on the banks of the gracious Tissa wewa (tank, or man-made reservoir), said to have been constructed in 250-210 BC as part of a network of reservoirs across the country. Tissa wewa is beside the town of Tissamaharama, the gateway to the leopard-rich Yala National Park.
The town pumps with a frontier vibe, as sticky touts peddle jeep safari tours, but the serenity of the tanks nearby give no indication of the hustling and hard sell going on behind your back.
Herons fish, lily pads float languidly and spectacular rain trees (Albizia?) curve in perfect formation.
|Sri Lanka masks|
Happy New Year!
By now, most of you in the northern hemisphere should be scrounging around for the asprin or box sets of Dr Who – or, judging from Facebook, run a marathon or some other such oxygen-sucking activity. Here in the southern hemisphere, there are thoughts of work tomorrow. Ugh. Let’s not go there.
It’s raining here, the Christmas pudding is back on the boil and it’s time for tea and reflection. The tea is Russian Earl Grey, from Harrods, which seems a good way to kick off a year in the world…
…I’m not going to win points for originality, but I fell in love with London again: the cheesy, the touristy, the lot, from Harrods to London Bridge.
The city’s on a high, with energy levels up there with the London Eye. The Tate Britain has
just opened after a £45-million renovation, the Shard glimmers over
Southbank, the grungy quarters have reinvented themselves as edgy design
destinations, cashing in on their bad old days, when the High Street
might be known as the Murder Mile… it was all fabulous (except the serious cold snap, but hey, that’s London in November).
For sheer sell-your-pants-off stories, Sri Lanka left all other destinations in the shade. It didn’t hurt that the Lonely Planet named it one of 2014’s must-visit countries.The food, the fabulously quirky fantastic shopping, the leopard spotting and the warmth and security of the country all stitch together for a great holiday destination, without overwhelming the sub-continental novice.
This was also the year I learned to make gnocchi, rekindling a post-Aitkin love of pasta.
The destination: the King Valley, in northern Victoria, just a shade
under our modest little Alps. The teachers: the Pizzini and the Simone
families. Forget milk and honey, this is the land of pork and prosecco.
The year 2013 also finally brought a return to Egypt, this time
to bring the Small Girl to her other spiritual (and ethnic) home. I saw
how a population can survive when all the news reports we see tell us
they are being gassed in the streets and chased by tanks. They just keep
going on: going to work, to school, to the market. And they just keep
hoping the generals and the politicians – the big men – treat them
better than pawns on a chessboard.
|Fashion parade in Thimphu, Bhutan|
I know Egypt will recover, hopefully
soon after the next presidential elections. But in the meantime, Tahrir
Square, the scene of the revolutions, is lush and green, well maintained
and clean. I have never seen it look better. So there is some good come
out of this whole, messy Arab Spring.
The most unexpected experience was attending Bhutan‘s first indigenous fashion parade, beneath the stars in the mountain kingdom. Visiting two tiny countries at either end of India – Sri Lanka and Bhutan – was an eye-opener as to the powerhouse of the sub-continent, and how these tiny nations fight to maintain their identities in the face of ‘a billion shouting Indians’ (their words, not mine).
This year and next mark a flurry of solar activity, resulting in the best showings of the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis.
|Deck 9, Midnatsol,|
About the same time as I was teetering on a rolling deck of the Hurtigruten, somewhere in northern Norway,
trying to take a photo that wasn’t just a series of squiggles, the
Southern Lights, the Aurora Australis, were reportedly putting on a
great show in Tasmania, about an hour’s flight from home. With another winter of high solar activity ahead, maybe that’s next year’s goal?
Here’s wishing you peace and happiness for 2014 (with the Year of the Horse promising prosperity, to complete the trifecta).
|A wooden horse, salvaged from the ruins of a temple,
rears up in its new home, the chic Colombo boutique
hotel, Tintagel. Photo: Belinda Jackson
Colombo, Kandy, Galle: discover the triumvirate that encapsulate Sri Lanka’s essence of life.
From modern capital to ancient seat of power and colonial maritime enclave, they form the classic touring route that crosses mountains, soaks up mystical tales and touches the ocean’s shores.
Click here to read more.
This photo essay was first published in Sundowner (Abercrombie & Kent magazine, November 2013)
|Stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka. Photo: Alamy|
industry experts agree.
Baltics. The Latvian capital is a twin to Prague, minus the fleets of tour
buses and crowds, and is the 2014 European Capital of Culture.Next year is all
about indulgence for me: I’ll be travelling to stunning Waiheke Island off
Auckland to celebrate my birthday.
Cup. We’ve seen increased interest in Myanmar and Cambodia and Sri Lanka is a
rising star: visit the fort town of Galle. Mount Kinabalu (4095 metres) is the
highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea: let’s see if I am up for
tea plantations and hill stations vying for attention alongside amazing
wildlife, temples and golden beaches, while Myanmar is a truly spiritual
destination. In 2014, you will be able to travel along the Ayeyarwady River on
the boutique river cruiser, Sanctuary Ananda, through stunning landscapes.
off the beaten track and set sail around the 800 islands of the blissful Myeik
Archipelago. Sri Lanka is rising in popularity, and with all eyes on South
America for the World Cup, my tip is to escape the crowds in Colombia.
Outdoor dining in Istanbul. Photo: Getty Images
are receiving strong booking inquiries for 2014, while domestic mainstays are
Gold Coast, Byron Bay and Sydney. Rising stars include Seminyak, Boracay and
Goa and the holiday rental market is becoming more popular in South-East Asia.
I will be hitting the slopes of Queenstown, sunning on a Bali beach and catching
some weekend respite on Phillip Island.
Lanterns in Kyoto. Photo: Getty Images
connection to the destination, such as smaller, locally owned boutique hotels
like Brody House in Budapest or Claska in Tokyo. We’re seeing a surge in
interest in Japan, prompted by its distinctive pop culture and increased
flights. I’m going to Costa Rica and Belize for their beautiful beaches,
incredible diving, and unspoilt rainforest. I hope to stay at six-suite hotel Kura.
excellent range of accommodation and offers both beaches and culture. In many
respects, it’s the new Bali. Myanmar is another one on my list. It still lacks
beds, so prices are unreasonably high, but it’s seen as Asia’s last frontier.
Cuba is in the same category – go before it changes forever! My left-field
prediction is Iran. The new government is clearly trying to build bridges with
transfer leisurely and luxuriously via riverboat? We like Heritage Line’s
(heritage-line.com) vintage-inspired fleet for South-East Asian jaunts. For gastro-travel, Copenhagen, Lima, Bangkok and Tokyo are
emerging as envelope-pushing culinary destinations. Pack your elastic-waist slacks! There’s very good bang for
your buck. Quaint boutique hotels and delicious street foods keep it cheap,
cheery and culture-savvy. South America is booming but we also intend to escape the
crowds in Mongolia and Myanmar.
The delights of Noma in Copenhagen. Photo: NY Times
Australians. Our top picks are Sydney for its great 2014 events line-up,
Tropical North Queensland for beach and adventure travel and Adelaide, just
named in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 roundup, with a focus on culture
and the arts. With an increase in low-cost airlines flying into Adelaide and
Cairns, accessibility has never been easier. I’m heading to Terrigal, NSW,
close to home, for a great Australian beach holiday.