Category Archives: Travel

Tips To Travel Solo

Ditching your companions and hitting the open road on your own is one of the fastest growing travel trends of the 21st century.

According to one survey by the site BookYogaRetreats.com, more than 50% of respondents will travel alone on their next trip. Fancy trying it yourself? Our six point guide will let you make the most of your trip so one isn’t the loneliest number you’ll ever do.

Tip one: ditch the well-made plans

Wasn’t it Woody Allen who first said if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? Travelling solo is one of the few times in life when you can throw all your plans out the window if you want, or just not make any at all. Unlike going on holiday with friends or – worse still – the family, you don’t need to compromise. Forget lengthy discussions over financial planning, the challenges of badly rehashed route maps and squabbles over who gets the bottom bunk; travelling solo is all about you.

If you’re a people-pleaser to a fault or have a tendency towards OCD then this is the way to go, free from all the obligations and stresses an infuriatingly disorganised friend or selfie-stick addict brings.

Tip two: don’t ditch the friends

Travelling solo doesn’t mean going it wholly alone, though. While the appeal of disconnecting with everything and everyone back at home might be strong, try to keep in touch with family and friends as you go. Sharing over Skype and investing in international call-time credit can really help gain perspective on your adventures and also keeps a much-needed link to life back home. Pre-download the essential apps like Skype, FaceTime, Viber and WhatsApp and you won’t have a hefty phone bill at the end, either.

Another tip is to follow the growing crowd of travellers hiring mobile Wi-Fi devices to keep them connected every second of their trip. Companies like TEP (www.tepwireless.com) and Xcom (www.xcomglobal.com) are changing the face of travel in a digital age.

Top three: make new friends

Far easier said than done, especially in an age where the soft glow of a smartphone screen uplights every sorry drinker, sat lonely at their bar stool with thoughts of their next whiskey on the rocks. This is where an old school charm offensive comes in good use. Hostels, hotel bars, and clubs are still the best place to start – places where like-minded solo travellers can stop, unwind and quench a thirst.

If you don’t fancy your chances mixing ice-breakers with weary old-time travellers why not up your odds? Almost every major city around the world hosts a sightseeing tour of some kind, and you might not be surprised to find out that we recommend a late night guided bar crawl. Another sure-fire way to feel at home in any city is to experience its karaoke culture, even if you find yourself joining in with a particularly bad rendition of ‘All By Myself’.

Tip four: make friends ‘appen

Ignore the traditional stranger-tapping methods and just make sure you have some juice in your phone. Travelling in the 21st century is all about digital connections. Backpackr (www.backpackr.org) and Travel Buddies (www.travel-buddies.com) are the leading apps for making travel companions in this brave new world, while Tinder (www.gotinder.com) is branching out too, giving users a chance to swipe right on their next travel adventure and find a new pal with more than just a night in with Netflix on their mind.

Tip five: you don’t have to talk to strangers

Travelling solo doesn’t necessarily mean coming home with a phone full of names and numbers you’ll never hear from again, either. For many, solo travel is all about escaping the idle chitchat and inanity of the everyday and substituting it with the clarity of me, myself and I. The trend for self-reflective tourism – whether in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment or not – is booming, with monasteries reporting a surge in enquiries for retreats completed in near silence (with exception of the daily chanting, of course).

A stay at the Insight Meditation Society (www.dharma.org) in Massachusetts, for example, starts with 5.30am wake up call, is inclusive of daily chores and meals, and allows guests the use of 240 wooded acres of land, perfect for a meditative stroll on your super-silent Sunday afternoon. No whistling allowed.

Top six: write a blog

It was Socrates who once said the unexamined life was not worth living, now it seems the undocumented life is just as worthless. Clichéd though it may be, writing a travel diary really can help put everything in perspective and gives you a way to share your holiday experiences – even if no one is reading them.

Place family adventure in the wintry Canadian Rockies

There might be no better time than winter to round up the kids and head to the Canadian Rocky Mountains for some unforgettable adventures. Pack plenty of pull-overs, bribe the little ones with hot chocolate, and grab enough outdoor paraphernalia to ensure you remain upright in this vast and powdery playground. That includes skates, skis, snowshoes, cleats, snowboards, and maybe even an off-road fat-bike.

The best downhill skiing in the Canadian Rockies

Many Canadians start skiing as soon as they can walk. As a result, the Rocky Mountain area has plenty of facilities for children on its slopes. For a full-on downhill experience, the local national parks (Banff and Jasper) are particularly well-endowed offering four major ski resorts with several others perched temptingly on the periphery.

Top of the pile in more ways than one is Banff’s Sunshine Villagewedged high up on the Continental Divide and famed for its heavy snowfalls and ski-in hotel. Next comes diminutive Mt Norquay, an under-the-radar day-use area located just outside Banff town.

However, the prize for the most family-friendly ski resort in the Rockies has to go to Lake Louise. Named for the robin-egg blue lake that enamours hikers and honeymooners in the summer, Lake Louise is the second-largest ski area in Canada (after Whistler) and offers an impressive web of 145 varied runs including lots of beginner terrain. Adding to its kudos are a tube park, bags of ski schools, guided wildlife tours (on snowshoes), and the finest snow-encrusted mountain views you could ever wish to see. In the unlikely event that your kids get bored or knackered, stick them on the Lake Louise gondola, a spectacular 14-minute cable-car ride worthy of a National Geographic documentary. If they’re really young, there’s a reputable childcare facility at the mountain base that offers kinderski classes for three- to four-year-olds. The resort’s only real drawback is that, despite its size, it gets pretty busy (read: long lift lines), especially at weekends. Crowd-haters might want to head to smaller, quieter Nakiska in Kananaskis Country just outside the national park, a favourite among in-the-know families from the nearby city of Calgary.

Cross-country skiing in Canmore and beyond

People with kids often dismiss cross-country skiing as too difficult, the lofty preserve of ridiculously fit Norwegian Olympians with hearts the size of elephants. But, while it might not have the rollercoaster appeal of downhill, cross-country skiing has a long Canadian heritage and it’s the only effective way to explore the Rockies’ rugged trails in winter.

A good initiation to the sport’s energy-efficient push-and-glide technique is the Canmore Nordic Centre. Nestled in the crock of the mountains to the west of town, this huge trail centre was originally developed for the 1988 Winter Olympics. In summer it’s one of the most comprehensive mountain-bike parks in western Canada, with over 65km of trails. In winter, many of the trails are specially groomed for cross-country. With its well-mapped network of terrain graded for different skill levels and anchored by a warm clubhouse that plies refreshments and offers equipment rental and lessons, this is one of the safest, family-friendly ski resources in Canada. The national Olympic team regularly use it for training.

With your confidence cemented at Canmore, the whole cornucopia of the Rockies is at your disposal. The real beauty of cross-country skiing is that it allows you to venture out and explore less crowded corners such as Yoho National Park in BC or the Great Divide trail at Lake Louise. Think of it as a faster, more fitness-enhancing version of hiking. Kids with their low centre of gravity and innate sense of balance will master it as readily as adults.

Skating

Skating is a national obsession in Canada and one of the most sociable ways for families to keep warm. Forget traditional rinks. Indoor skating is considered anathema in the Rocky Mountains, where ponds and lakes etched against a backdrop of heavenly scenery regularly freeze over for months at a time. You’ll never want to skate inside again once you’ve experienced the beauty of the world’s most spectacular ice rink, aka Lake Louise, framed by an amphitheatre of glacier-covered mountains.

Further north in Jasper, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge sweeps a large floodlit area for skating on Lac Beauvert, as well as another Zamboni-cleared oval on nearby Mildred Lake. Enterprising locals set up benches for sunny relaxation, while spontaneous hockey games erupt and free hot chocolate reinvigorates shivering youngsters.

Fat-biking

Fat-bikes are sturdy off-road bicycles with over-sized, low-pressure tires that are ideal for riding through snow. They’re perfect for Jasper National Park, Banff’s wilder, steelier northern neighbour. Jasper is revered by insiders for its extensive network of multipurpose trails. In contrast to stricter US parks, cyclists experience few limitations here and, over the years, the park has developed some of the most varied and technically challenging bike rides in North America. These trails have recently experienced a winter renaissance thanks to the relatively new sport of fat-biking. Jasper has plenty of fat-bike options from easy ambles through the Athabasca Valley to bracing workouts that will stretch, challenge and entertain teenagers and young adults. Numerous local operators rent bikes.

Ice walks

In winter, many of the Rockies’ iconic waterfalls freeze solid. Equipped with rappels and ice axes, fearless climbers can be seen tackling the slippery behemoths with breath-taking agility. Those with more modest ambitions (and who may have kids to entertain) can study the trippy ice formations, including ice caves, on a guided ice walk while observing the climbers vicariously. Wildlife sightings, an oft-forgotten winter attraction in the Rockies, will keep children happy along the way. Excursions to Banff’s Grotto Canyon and Jasper’s Maligne Canyon are organized by local tour operators. Warm boots and cleats are provided.

Hit the hot springs

Up here, the ultimate post-adventure winter indulgence is a hot bath, preferably taken in a steaming outdoor pool where you can still feel part of your frosty surroundings. The Canadian Rockies has three hot springs, two of which remain open during the winter. First is the family pool at Banff Upper Hot Springs, which sits at the base of the Sulphur Mountain and looks out at the giant geology lesson that is Mt Rundle. Quieter and less famous is Radium Hot Springs in BC, where, unlike Banff, the pools are odourless. Radium’s westerly location also provides a good excuse to explore the snowy wilderness of Kootenay National Park.

A base to stay

The quintessential base for most Rocky Mountain adventures is the town of Banff, the hub of Canada’s oldest and most popular national park. Banff’s appeal is legendary. It’s close to a ton of snowy activities including three major ski areas; there’s a wide variety of shops and restaurants; plus there are plenty of travel agencies and rental shops splayed around town to sort you out with gear, guides and gizmos.

Banff’s popularity means it’s relatively expensive, gets booked up months in advance, and is not everybody’s idea of an away-from-it-all Canadian wilderness experience. Purists in search of more tranquillity can head north to Jasper, which gets less than half the visitors of Banff. Jasper offers guards plenty of affordable hotels and B&Bs and – for ultimate adventurers – keeps one of its campgrounds open year-round. If budget is a major consideration, it’s also worth looking at accommodation further south in the sports-mad town of Canmore, which has good deals for families in apartments and apart-hotels.

Highlight Destination In New York

What’s left to say about The Big City? The famed sidewalks bellow smoke, and prisms of light scatter through the myriad towers and skyscrapers, casting long shadows over the millions of souls hurrying about below. New York is a global city with very few comparisons.

New York City can only truly be understood through its five historic boroughs, as each distinct area has a character and charm all its own. Central to them all is Manhattan, the island city with a population of more than 1.5 million. On weekdays, Manhattan sees an influx of workers and tourists that more than doubles that number to nearly 4 million people – that’s over 170,000 per square mile.

When you can get a millimetre of pavement to yourself, treading New York’s sidewalks is an endlessly fascinating exercise. One minute you’re in a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the next you’re Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, or walking down Jones Street feeling like The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan darting for Greenwich Village.

Built by migrants, New York has always been a meeting place for world cultures, a port city welcoming arrivals to the shining beacon of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a place where you can still experience the frenetic buzz of Chinatown, a wealth of black culture in Harlem and the aromatic flavours of Little Italy along Mulberry Street, all in the one afternoon.

Bewildered and wondering where to start? Our New York Travel Guide is the perfect companion for a trip to the city that famously never sleeps.

When it comes to travelling to New York City, it might be one of the best connected metropolises in the world, served by not one but three international airports: JFK, La Guardia and Newark Liberty. Getting around New York is a breeze too, with help from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and its well-connected system of buses, trains, bridges, tunnels and 24-hour subway service which, all together, claim more than 11 million passenger journeys on an average weekday. Otherwise an iconic yellow taxi can whisk you downtown in a sea of horns and flashing lights – elbows out if you want to catch a ride at rush hour though.

A hotbed of bohemianism that gave birth to the American folk music revival and built the legendary Café Society, New York City has been inspiration for everyone from The Sugarhill Gang to The Ramones, Paul Simon to Gloria Gaynor. New York’s legendary nightlife has recently ballooned beyond its old epicentres in Soho, East Village and Manhattan’s Meatpacking District to trendy Brooklyn neighbourhoods Williamsburg and Greenpoint. TheBowery Ballroom is still the city’s most buzzworthy music venue, an art deco house of worship that delivers the faithful a stream of the latest artists emerging from the worlds of indie and alternative music. Pre-booking tickets is recommended.

New York City has contributed more than its fair share of dishes to our menus over the years – it even lays claim to being birthplace of eggs benedict, the humble hamburger and of course its eponymous classic, the New York cheesecake. For a traditional taste of Big Apple cuisine, try the hand-rolled bagels at Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway), the homegrown hamburger phenomenon Shake Shack (Madison Ave) and the legendary deep pies at Bleecker Street Pizza (7th Ave South). If you still have an appetite after all of that, see our New York restaurant guide.

New York is the city that never sleeps but you’ll be out like a light when you check in to one of the city’s many exemplary hotels. Legendary names, like the Waldorf Astoria and Roosevelt Hotel, abound in Manhattan but a growing number of boutique establishments, aparthotels and homestay options have signalled a revolution in New York accomodation.

Part-owned by famous Manhattanite Robert de Niro, The Greenwich Hotel in the Tribeca neighbourhood is one the newer additions to the Lower West Side and offers a rich combination of exotic style and decadence. Just avoid the toxicity of Trump Towers and check out our top New York hotel recommendations for an unforgettable stay in the city.

Info Indonesia Travel Guide

Draped languidly across the equator, Indonesia is a series of emerald jewels scattered across a broad expanse of tropical sea. This is one of the world’s great adventures in waiting – hidden away in dense jungles on secret islands are tribes almost untouched by the outside world and animals hardly known to science.

The third most populous nation on earth has an incredible legacy of peoples, cultures and geography just waiting to be explored. The archipelago boasts more than 18,000 islands, from tiny islets not much bigger than a palm tree to the mighty expanse of Borneo, shared with the Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak and the kingdom ofBrunei.

Many come specifically to discover their own island paradise, complete with white-sand beaches, swaying palms and emerald waters. Offshore are some of the world’s best dive sites, swarming with huge sunfish, giant rays, sharks, porpoises, turtles and a blindingly colourful array of tropical fish.

For others, the attraction is cultural. A fascinating range of civilisations have grown up on these tropical islands, from animist tribes in remote jungle villages to the elaborate Hindu kingdoms of Bali and Java. In Indonesia, timeless temples jostle for space with golden-domed mosques and beach resorts crowded with sun-seekers and surfers. The surf resort of Kuta has become one of the world’s favourite tropical escapes, and the beach party raves through till dawn every day of the week.

For some, Kuta is the very vision of Asia. For others, the true escapes lie elsewhere, on the volcanic islands that drift eastwards towardsAustralia. Here are towering volcanoes to be climbed, national parks to be explored and tropical rainforests to be trekked. You might even get lucky and meet an orang-utan on Sumatra or the world’s largest living reptile on the island of Komodo, home to the eponymous Komodo dragon.

Best of all, flights and ferries link all of the islands, so you can island-hop right across the archipelago, stopping only when you find your own perfect piece of Southeast Asia.

Travel Advice

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visitwww.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Crime

Be aware of the risk of street crime and pick-pocketing, particularly in busy tourist areas in Bali, where there have been reports of bag-snatching. Take sensible measures to protect yourself and your belongings. Avoid having bags obviously on show and carry only essential items. Take particular care of your passport and bank cards and avoid travelling around alone.

Credit card fraud is common. Don’t lose sight of your card during transactions. Criminals sometimes place a fake telephone number on ATMs advising customers to report problems. Customers dialling the number are asked for their PIN and their card is then retained within the machine.

Beware of thieves on public transport. If you’re travelling by car keep doors locked at all times. Only book taxis with a reputable firm. You can ask your hotel to book one for you, or use taxis from Bluebird, Silverbird or Express groups. These are widely available at hotels and shopping malls in central Jakarta and at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Take care to distinguish Bluebird and Silverbird vehicles from ‘lookalike’ competitors. Don’t use unlicensed taxi drivers at the airport or anywhere else. Their vehicles are usually in poor condition, unmetered and don’t have a dashboard identity licence. They have been known to charge extortionate fares and to rob passengers.

Alcohol and Drugs

Drinks served in bars can be stronger than those in the UK. In some cases, over drinking and taking drugs has resulted in accidents, injuries, robbery, assaults and lost travel documents and some British nationals have suffered psychiatric problems caused by alcohol, drugs and a lack of sleep. You should drink responsibly and be aware of your limits.

Drink spiking

There have been reports of sexual assaults and drink spiking in Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands. Make sure drinks are prepared in your sight and be careful about accepting drinks from strangers at clubs and parties, or leaving drinks unattended. Tourists have also been robbed after taking visitors to their hotel rooms, and in some cases have found that their drinks were drugged.

Methanol Poisoning

There have been a number of deaths and cases of serious illness of locals and foreigners in Indonesia caused by drinking alcoholic drinks contaminated with methanol. These cases have occurred in bars, shops and hotels in popular tourist areas like Bali, Lombok, the Gili Islands and Sumatra. Criminal gangs have been reported to manufacture counterfeit replicas of well-known brands of alcohol containing high amounts of methanol. Take extreme care when buying spirit-based drinks, as bottles may appear to be genuine when they’re not.

There have also been cases of methanol poisoning from drinking adulterated arak/arrack, a local rice or palm liquor.

If you or someone you’re travelling with show signs of alcohol induced methanol poisoning or drink-spiking, seek immediate medical attention.

Local travel

Use a reliable and reputable guide for any adventure trips, otherwise you may have difficulties with local authorities if you need their help. For longer journeys, notify friends of your travel plans, contact them on arrival and where possible travel in convoy/with others. Always carry a reliable means of communication with you.

Central Sulawesi Province

The political situation in Central Sulawesi Province is unsettled. Take particular care in Palu, Poso and Tentena and be alert to the potential for politically-motivated violence.

Maluku Province

Maluku Province has experienced unrest and violence between different religious and tribal groups. Take particular care in Ambon, including Haruku Island (Pulau Haruku).

Aceh

Aceh has emerged from a long period of internal conflict. Although violence against foreigners is rare, a British national was abducted in June 2013 and there were three separate incidents in November 2009 targeting foreigners. There have been reports of Shari’a (religious) police harassing foreigners.

Be alert to the risk of politically-motivated violence and take particular care in remote areas. Sharia law is in force, visitors should be particularly careful not to offend local religious sensitivities (eg not drinking alcohol, not gambling, avoid wearing tight fitting or revealing clothing). Keep up to date with local developments and avoid large crowds, especially political rallies.

Papua and West Papua

Political tensions in Papua province have given rise to occasional violence and armed attacks between Free Papua Movement (OPM) and the Indonesian authorities, particularly in the Central Highlands area around Puncak Jaya (including Wamena), but also including in Jayapura, Abepura, and Sentani on the north coast, and Timika town on the south coast.

Clashes in previous years have at times resulted in civilian deaths. If you’re travelling in the region, you should exercise extreme caution. Papuan separatists have kidnapped foreigners in the past. There is a heavy security presence in some areas, especially along the border with Papua New Guinea.

Political tensions have also given rise to occasional mass demonstrations in cities in Papua.

Should you need medical attention, there are limited hospital facilities in Papua and West Papua provinces and the likely destination for a medical emergency is Darwin, Australia.

The situation in West Papua province is calmer although there remains the possibility of unrest. Monitor the situation and be alert to changing circumstances.

Road travel

You can’t drive in Indonesia using a UK driving licence. You can drive using an International Driving Permit issued in Indonesia. International Driving Permits issued in the UK may need to be endorsed by the Indonesian licensing office in Jakarta. Before driving, riding or hiring any type of vehicle, ensure that you have the appropriate licence to do so, and check with your travel insurance company to confirm that you’re covered.

Traffic discipline is very poor. Foreigners involved in even minor traffic violations or accidents may be vulnerable to exploitation. Consider employing a private driver or hiring a car with a driver. Some multinational companies don’t allow their expatriate staff to drive in Indonesia. Make sure you wear a helmet if you’re riding a motorbike or moped.

If you’re involved in an accident or breakdown, make sure someone remains with your vehicle. If you have any concerns for your security, move to another location safely. You should make yourself available for questioning by the police if requested to do so.

Air travel

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

With the exception of Garuda Indonesia, Mandala Airlines (not currently operating), Airfast Indonesia, Ekspres Transportasi Antarbenua (operating as PremiAir), Indonesia Air Asia, Batik Air, Citilink and Lion Air, all other Indonesian passenger airlines are refused permission to operate services to the EU due to safety concerns.

British government employees are advised to use carriers which are not subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the EU unless this is unavoidable.

Sea travel

Inter-island travel by boat or ferry can be dangerous as storms can appear quickly, vessels can be crowded and safety standards vary between providers. In 2015, the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency recorded 633 boat accidents (of which 24 were in Bali and Lombok), resulting in injuries and deaths. Make sure you are satisfied with safety standards before travelling, including safety equipment and life-jackets. Life-jackets suitable for children aren’t always available and you should consider bringing your own.

There have been attacks against ships in and around the waters of Indonesia. Mariners should be vigilant, reduce opportunities for theft, establish secure areas on board and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.

Political situation

The overall political situation is stable, but external as well as internal developments, including the Middle East, can trigger public protests or unrest. You should avoid all protests, demonstrations and political rallies as they could turn violent with little notice.

Highlight Destination In Kolkata

India’s second biggest city and the former capital of British India, Kolkata is perhaps unfairly associated with the extreme poverty and suffering that Mother Teresa sought to alleviate. Although today the city may boast crumbling Raj architecture, crazy traffic and sprawling slums, it is also considered India’s literary, cultural and spiritual centre and more sophisticated and modern than you’d expect.

That being said, on first impressions the city can appear overwhelming so make sure you consult our guide to Getting Around Kolkata before you even leave the airport. Don’t think about driving, and buses are also hopelessly overcrowded; instead, hop onto an auto-rickshaw, or one of the lumbering trams that circle the city. Taxis are also cheap and plentiful and work on a meter system.

Once you’re out and about, there are several not-to-be-missed sights. The Indian Museum, set in a building dating from 1875, offers an insight into the city during the colonial era as well as rare collections of historical importance that include art, archaeology, zoology and botany.

Another landmark you can’t help but notice is Victoria Memorial, a domed colonial-era marble building set on the edge of the Maidan, which happens to be one of the world’s largest urban parks.

The city also has a number of notable Hindu temples, a cathedral and a cemetery; for information and further inspiration see our guide on Things To See in Kolkata.

The majestic Raj-era Victoria Memorial
Hung_chung_chih/ Thinkstock

Boat tours of the Hoogly River, a distributary of the Ganges, are a great way to see the city, and usually include a stop at the Botanical Gardens and Belur Math, a complex founded by the 19th century sage, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who desired a unity of all religions. Sights here include a museum, a ghat and various temples – Ramakrishna Mandir is fittingly a fascinating fusion of Hindu, Christian and Islamic motifs.

Sustenance is easy to come by as Kolkata abounds in street food vendors offering delicious fare – try one of the Kathi rolls (Indian flatbreads served with various fillings) that the city is famous for.

You’ll also find Jewish bakeries, Chinese bazaars and international fare, but best of all is traditional Bengali cuisine, usually made from recipes passed through generations. Bengalis also love their desserts, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. We’ve selected some of the best restaurants in the city for our guide to Restaurants in Kolkata.

Kathi rolls are a popular roadside snack
Paul_Brighton/ Thinkstock

Kolkata is one of the best places in India to hear traditional music, so catch a performance at the Academy of Fine Arts. Those of a more hedonistic bent will find clubs catering to most tastes, from rock and dance to jazz, and a highlight of Nightlife in Kolkata has to be a visit to the Tollygunge, a private members country club with fading Raj-era décor and a bar. Temporary memberships are available; make sure you dress smartly for the occasion.

The weather in Kolkata really will impact your stay, so it’s advisable to visit during the months of October to April. In summer, temperatures are stifling, and the monsoon brings heavy rainfall from June-September.

The city is also a gateway to further delights, as covered in our section on What To Do in Kolkata. Sunderbans National Park, set 127km (79 miles) from the city, has a number of endangered species, including royal Bengal tigers, saltwater crocodiles and Ganges River dolphins.

Relaxation Destination

When relaxation is the name of the game, we’ve got just the thing for you – think beaches, wine, sun-kissed isles and a healthy dose of cool culture.

From Antigua to Australia, settle into your slice of paradise where whale watching, snorkelling, beach-bumming and vineyard-hopping will be the only things on your to-do list.

Enjoy a spring coastal break in San Diego, USA

‘America’s Finest City’ – or so the local claim boasts – is deceptively laid-back despite its size. And though summer is hotter and drier, March is still plenty warm, and also offers better value and shorter queues at its big attractions, of which there are many.

There are the beaches, of course: Mission has its wooden roller coaster, surfers head to Pacific Beach; Moonlight’s a family favourite; La Jolla’s the place for kayaking and snorkelling; hit Del Mar for peace and sweeping ocean views; and Coronado… well, it’s just beautiful. Balboa Park, with its museums and zoo, is uncrowded in March, while the bars and restaurants of the Gaslamp Quarter are as lively as ever. Go north towards Carlsbad to be dazzled by the ranunculus flowers at the Flower Fields, or to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to hike clifftop trails – watch for dolphins and migrating grey whales between December and March.

  • Trip plan: San Diego’s airport is absurdly (but conveniently) close to downtown – just a couple of miles from the Gaslamp Quarter, as the crow flies.
  • Need to know: Check dates for Spring Break, when school and college kids flood town.
  • Other months: Mar-May & Sep-Nov – warm weather, not too crowded; Jun-Aug – very hot; Dec-Feb – cool.

Wind among Australia’s wineries and beaches at grape-harvest time

Come March, the grape-pickers are busy plucking bunches from the vines – and it’s the perfect time to roam the rolling hills south ofAdelaide. While the Barossa, northeast of the state capital, gets the bulk of the wine tourists, the Fleurieu Peninsula offers a diverse menu of fine vineyards – some 70-plus cellar doors, dominated by hearty Shiraz vintages – plus artsy towns such as Willunga, kitsch Victor Harbour, and a gorgeous coastline, with sandy shores along Gulf St Vincent and surf breaks such as those at Middleton and Christies Beach.

  • Trip plan: You could base yourself in Adelaide and explore from there, but better to noodle south and spend the night in McLaren Vale or at one of the beaches, roaming the wineries by day.
  • Need to know: If you’re feeling active, the 750-mile (1200 km) Heysen Trail winds from Cape Jervis at the tip of the peninsula to the Flinders Ranges – tackle a short stretch to justify another gourmet dinner.
  • Other months: Sep-May – spring to autumn most pleasant; Jun-Aug – winter.

For bright Caribbean sunshine and cool breezes head to Antigua

Antigua has a beach for every day of the year – or so the legend goes. Whether or not there are 365 separate stretches of sand on the island, it’s true that you won’t want for a patch of soft, golden-tinted shoreline on which to lounge.

March sees a lull in tourist arrivals after the midwinter peak and before Easter, but the weather is still dry and hurricane-free. Antigua is a family-friendly paradise, too, with activities galore and a piratical air – venture to Nelson’s Dockyard or the atmospheric, 18th-century Fort James for a bit of maritime history, snorkel the colourful reefs or try a bit of bodysurfing.

  • Trip plan: International flights serve VC Bird Airport in Antigua’s north, near the capital, St John’s; the other significant centre is around the dual coves and historic sites of Falmouth Harbour and English Harbour in the south. But with its compact 13-mile (21 km) length and beaches all around the island, it’s easy to access all parts of the island.
  • Need to know: March is towards the end of the mating season for frigate birds – look for the throat sacs of courting males at Codrington on neighbouring Barbuda, one of the world’s largest breeding colonies.
  • Other months: Dec-Apr – driest; May-Jun – hot; Jul-Nov – showers; Jul – Carnival.

Visit Sri Lanka for chilling, culture, cetaceans and carnivores in the dry season

Sri Lanka is complicated – not least the weather: much of it gets hit by monsoons around May and October, while the north and east get soaked November and December. Come in March, when weather’s good all over, wildlife at parks such as Yala and Uda Walawe – home to leopards, elephants, monkeys and more – comes out to drink at waterholes, blue and sperm whales cruise the coast, and hiking Adam’s Peak is most pleasant.

Hit the beaches of the west for gorgeous sweeps of sand, and the south for peace and surf, but be sure to explore inland – sacred city Kandy, with its Buddha tooth relic; the ‘Lion Rock’ topped with an ancient palace at Sigiriya; and the ruins of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the ‘Cultural Triangle’. Make time to sample the glorious food, a blend of South Indian, Arab, Malay and Portuguese flavours.

  • Trip plan: Fly to capital Colombo and head south to the beaches around Galle for a few days’ relaxation, then hire a car and driver or catch trains and local buses east to the wildlife reserves then north to the cultural attractions of the centre.
  • Need to know: Visitors require a visa; obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) online at eta.gov.lk/slvisa.
  • Other months: Jan-Mar & Jul-Aug – dry most places; Dec-mid-Jan – busiest; Apr-Jun & Sep-Nov – wet in southwest and centre.

Here Romantic Destination in Europe

Romance is a deeply personal expression of love. It means different things to different couples.

While some define a stroll on the local beach as romantic, others may turn to having a glamorous city break in a foreign land. With this in mind, we have selected the 10 most romantic destinations in Europe – every place in our list is perfect for loved-up couples. If you are a hopeless romantic who is keen to surprise your significant other with a magical holiday, this is the list for you.

10) Bled, Slovenia

Set in the foothills of the mighty Julian Alps, the resort town of Bled is heart-meltingly beautiful. Like a pearl resting on a glazed surface, the island that sits in the middle of the emerald-green Bled Lake is a must-see. Hire a pletna (traditional wooden boat) to the island and climb up the 99 stone steps to reach the Assumption of Mary Church and its “wishing bell”. Legend has it, listening to the church bell and ringing it yourself will make your wish come true. Next to the church is a bell tower which houses a beautifully restored pendulum clock. For an even better view of the lake, stop by the 12th century clifftop Bled Castle and enjoy a fantastic meal by the large windows. The view, the food and the service are all first-class.

9) Prague, Czech Republic

Away from the stag strips and basement bars, the “City of a Hundred Spires” exudes an irresistible charm for romantics. Its winding cobbled streets, statue-studded Charles Bridge and magnificent buildings from the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque era are primed for loved-up couples to visit, arm in arm. There is also a popular poem in Czech which starts “Late evening, on the first of May, the twilit May, the time of love…”, so on 1 May kissing your significant other under the blossoming cherry trees on Petrín Hill will guarantee your love to bloom forever.

8) Toledo, Spain

On first impression, Toledo can appear chaotic with its houses stacked closely together nonchalantly, but as you walk deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of cobbled streets, you will discover unrivalled cultural wealth in this old walled city. This is a place where Arabs, Jewish and Christians lived together for centuries. They left behind stunning monuments as well as a whimsical atmosphere which crosses time and space. Past, present and future all rolls into a singularity – this is a romantic experience you’ll never forget.

7) Dordogne, France

The winding river, the soft-green rolling hills, medieval châteauxs, and postcard-perfect villages of the Dordogne valley have long been a favourite destination for couples who have mellow souls. Head to the charming Beynac-et-Cazenac and enjoy spectacular French food and wine in one of the straw-colour stone cottages. Buy truffle and foie gras from the market in Sarlat. Rest in a magnificent château. Or simply find a quiet spot by the Dordogne river, let the sun kiss your skin and together watch the world float by. Dordogne is as blissful as love itself.

6) Copenhagen, Denmark

The capital of the happiest country on Earth, Copenhagen is effortlessly romantic and very ‘lagom’ (pronounced ‘lar-gohm’) which means to say it’s ‘just the right amount of everything’. Pay a visit to Cupid at the Thorvaldsen Museum. Enjoy a quiet stroll along the waterfront. Experience the city’s sophisticated café culture with a cup of hot coffee and some mouth-watering pastries. Take it all in, one step at a time, and you will soon realise the perfect dosage of romance has already synchronised with your pace.

5) Isle of Skye, Scotland

A land of Norse legend, the Isle of Skye impresses all who visit her with otherworldly scenes that appear almost straight from a Tolkien epic. The jagged mountain ranges, vast lochs and dramatic waterfalls make this unspoilt terrain a romantic destination without any glamour or pretense. Put on your hiking shoes and head to the Old Man of Storr. Go for a wild swim at the Fairy Pools. After experiencing the magic of Skye, you will realise romance has a supernatural facet too.

4) Fussen, Germany

At the end of the 400km (249 miles) theme-route Romantic Road (Romantische Straße), you will arrive in Füssen and be spellbound by the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle, half expecting Prince Charming to arrive on horseback at any second. If this castle looks familiar to you, that’s because Disney based the designs for its Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, California on the Neuschwanstein. Visit the castle and create your own chapter of a fairy-tale story here amidst the magnificent Bavarian Alps.

3) Lapland, Finland

If your utopia is riding a snowmobile into the wild and watching the aurora borealis (northern lights) dance across the night sky, then Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, is the place for you and your loved one. Once you have enough of luminous green and blue hues flowing above you, you can retreat back to a cosy and intimate log cabin complete with sauna and crackling log fire. The outside world is a distant memory and you only have eyes for each other.

2) Cinque Terre, Italy

The Cinque Terre region is arguably the most charming destination in the Italian Riviera; its five colourful fishing villages boast cute terrace buildings that seemingly defy gravity, bravely clinging to the rugged cliff-faces. Head to Manarola, perhaps the oldest town in the Cinque Terre, for a photo that will make your friends envy. Don’t forget to take a stroll on The Way of Love (Via dell’Amore) with your loved one. If the perfect setting doesn’t put you in the mood, the local wine Sciacchetrà certainly will.

1) Santorini, Greece

Your heart will likely skip a beat when you stand before these classy white-washed buildings with blue domed roofs in Santorini, with Aegean Sea below you and the glare of the sun flickering above you. This is the place of romance for countless couples. While most people unwind at Fira, head to Oia for a lovely beach retreat. You’ll need to take over 200 steps to reach the Ammoudi bay – but expect soft sands, warm blue waters and plenty of sunshine. With one of the world’s most romantic destinations as your backdrop, you’ll feel loved, contented, and incredibly happy. Such is the magic of romance!

Strangest Museum In The World

Our selection ranges from the bizarre to the macabre to the silly – are you brave enough to set foot in any of them?

1. Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, Hólmavík, Iceland

Set in a small town on the Westfjords peninsula, this tiny museum explores a chilling period in the 17th century when over 100 convicted witches – the vast majority men – were burned at the stake. The big draw is a pair of necropants – a replica of magic pants made of human skin – and artefacts include runes, spells and skulls. On a serious note, this museum has important things to say about the human inclination, as seen throughout history, to persecute those they see as ‘other’.

2. The Museum of Bad Art, Massachusetts, USA

Located in a ramshackle basement under a theatre, this glorious museum celebrates bad art – and the sincerity and enthusiasm of those who ‘persevered despite things going horribly wrong’. Starting with an artwork found in the trash, the museum has gained international renown to the point where there have been two thefts. The founders say that most applicants don’t get in because their work isn’t bad enough; a lack of skill isn’t enough – the work needs to be compelling too. Even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

3. Siriraj Medical Museum, Bangkok, Thailand

Nicknamed “The Museum of Death”, this macabre collection of five small museums is not for the faint-hearted –being greeted by the skeleton of the founder may clue you in for what’s ahead, but nothing prepares you for the displays. These include babies with genetic disorders, various parasites (including a metre-long tapeworm), the bodies of people who have had violent deaths, and, to top it all off, the startlingly mummified remains of a serial killer who ate children in the 1950s. On the plus side, the museums have a serious purpose, providing a valuable learning resource for medical professionals and students.

4. Avanos Hair Museum, Avanos, Turkey

 It sounds weird – a cave in rural Turkey adorned with the locks of hair of over 16,000 women, along with their names and addresses – and it is, but apparently this museum began as a stunt by a potter wanting to promote his workshops, and visitors are still invited to leave their own clippings. However, twice a year a ‘winning’ entrant is invited for an all-expenses paid stay at the attached guesthouse, along with a pottery course – so far so creepy – but the winner is chosen at random by a visitor – so maybe not. You decide.

5. KunstKamera, St Petersburg, Russia

Founded by Peter The Great in 1714, this is the oldest museum in the world as well as one of the oddest. Although Peter’s extensive collection of malformed children and dissected body parts in formaldehyde was intended to educate people that abnormalities were cased by quirks of nature, not demons, modern-day viewers may find it all a bit ghastly. If so, head for the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, in the same building; displays of clothing and artefacts chart the history of different cultures from around the world.

6. The Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia

Started by two artists, this museum displays the sentimental objects left over from broken relationships, and the accompanying stories of betrayal or loss lift these often everyday objects from the mundane to heart-rending. Exhibits range from the tragic to the bizarre, ranging from a single sock and a prosthetic leg to a diamond ring with the simple inscription “S(he) be(lie)ve(d)”. A second branch has just opened in Los Angeles- fittingly in Hollywood, the very place of broken dreams.

7. The Bunny Museum, Pasadena, USA

Yes, you’re invited to ‘hop on over’ to the Bunny Museum, home to over 30,000 collectibles, as well as live pet rabbits. Run by a couple who gift each other bunnies – and presumably ran out of space at home at some point – this museum is definitely run out of love and not a desire for profit. Incidentally, there are probably more rabbits in popular culture than you’d think – Bugs Bunny, Peter Rabbit, the March Hare, Thumper… It’s the ‘hoppiest place in the world’.

8. Cancun Underwater Museum, Cancun, Mexico

Dive into an eerie underworld where 500 algae-covered statues – ranging from statues modelled on locals from a nearby fishing village to cars and furniture – are slowly forming the largest artificial reef in the world. Devised as a way to attract divers from existing coral reefs that were being damaged, the statues have mostly been created by the celebrated British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, and provide a commentary on man’s relationship with nature, good and bad.

9. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi, India

Grab a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a guided tour through a room filled with some of the most unusual commodes, chamber pots and flush toilets found around the world… as well as a replica of Louis XIV’s throne (which had a dual function) and loos disguised as a stack of books or a treasure chest. Interestingly, the first toilets were probably used by the Indus Valley people (now Pakistan) around 2500 BC. The museum is run by a charity promoting clean sanitation, still a pressing issue in India.

10. Clown Hall of Fame and Research Centre, Baraboo, Wisconsin

If you have a fear of clowns (a.k.a coulrophobia) you probably won’t ever set foot into the town of Baraboo, Wisconsin, as it’s known as the circus capital of the world. The winter home of the famous Ringling Circus, the highlight here has to be the Clown Hall of Fame and Research Centre. This a great resource for clowns, with research, performances, seminars and workshops, as well as a Clown Hall of Fame, but visitors will find the memorabilia fascinating – this includes shelves of clown costumes, props, posters and musical instruments, as well as a clown car.

Info Bangkok city guide and what to do plus the best hotels, restaurants and bars

Bangkok Skyline at dusk

Floods, protests, power struggles, a military takeover – Krungthep, known to the rest of the world as Bangkok, has endured more than its share of hardships recently. The loss of the country’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who remained remarkably popular throughout his 70-year reign, hit particularly hard last year. Thailand’s populace is nothing if not resilient, though: after a dozen coups d’état in less than a century, they have to be – and, in spite of it all, the capital continues to flourish and, in the process, reshape its identity.

For decades, this was a city that imported everything, to which strings of glitzy megamalls attests. But somewhere along the way, Thailand began to foster its own considerable creative pool. Look closely and you’ll notice that generic luxury brands are ceding shelf space to funkier fashions by Thai designers; local chefs proudly flaunt family recipes on the hottest tables in town; and even north-eastern Thai folk music is in the midst of a revival.

 

Bangkok’s historic heart may rest on temple-studded Rattanakosin Island, but its contemporary pulse is scattered throughout smaller, splintered neighbourhoods in Sukhumvit, Sathorn and Silom and can be harder to pinpoint. Travellers looking to tap into the zeitgeist should venture past the backpacker cocoon of Khao San Road and make their way towards nearby Phra Athit Road, a boho hangout with live music venues and restaurants near the Chao Phraya river, then make a beeline for Chinatown. On Soi Nana, off Charoen Krung Road, minutes from Cantonese holes-in-the-wall and stores selling traditional herbal remedies, shophouses are being refurbished into galleries and unpretentious bars.

Booming, chaotic, at times overwhelming, but never, ever boring, Bangkok is more culturally diverse, complex and compelling than ever.

After stopping by celeb chef Ian Kittichai’s signature restaurant for updated Thai classics, such as massaman-braised lamb shanks and jasmine-infused panna cotta, you’ll want to learn how to cook like the maestro. Classes at Issaya

Art gallery crawl

Bangkok’s art movement has blossomed in recent years. Artha Gallery keeps the emphasis on regional talent from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. Over in Sathorn, head to Sathorn 11 Art Space, which features exhibitions on the ground floor and four resident artist studios above, and H Gallery, with edgy works by Asian artists in a converted mansion. Closer to the riverside, be sure to visit Bridge and The Jam Factory, housed in a sprawling multipurpose complex designed by starchitect Duangrit Bunnag.

An industrial space with eclectic collections, Speedy Grandma fills up with creative types at weekends. Treading the line between gallery and bar, Cho Why is one of several revamped shophouses injecting new energy into Chinatown. Events range from a street-art fest to a rooftop paella party. Across the street at 23 Bar and Gallery, the artsy incarnation of one of the city’s legendary dives, expect indie tunes and no-nonsense drinks.

Market hop

 

 

With more than 8,000 stalls selling everything from parakeets to pottery, Chatuchak Weekend Market, up by the Mo Chit BTS Skytrain station, remains the one to beat. Go early or late, when the tropical temperatures are more forgiving, as navigating the 27 sections can prove a dizzying experience. Plan for a post-shopping sundowner at Viva 8, a ramshackle bar with excellent mojitos where DJs spin house. Many up-and-coming Thai designers try to make it here first, so keep an eye out for next season’s labels before they hit the big time.

Head to Talad Rod Fai (Sri Nakarin Soi 51) and Talad Rod Fai 2 (Esplanade Complex) for all sorts of vintage bric-a-brac. At the Rot Boran Market (The Walk, Kaset-Nawamin road), known as the “Classic Car Market”, VW bugs and other old-school autos find new life as pop-ups selling just about everything.

Baan Silapin (The Artist’s House)

 

 

After visiting the requisite temples – Wat Saket for the view, Wat Phra Kaew for the glittering, gilded everything, and Wat Pho for a massage – and seeing all manner of standing, sitting and reclining Buddhas – head to the Thonburi side of the river for this lesser-known cultural gem: a teak house decorated with quirky sculptures. Shadow puppet performances, a traditional art that is becoming increasingly scarce, are worth seeing, but be sure to call ahead, as showtimes are irregular.
315 Wat Tong Salangam, Phet Kasem Road, +66 2 868 5279

Green escape

 

 

If the concrete jungle becomes a bit wearing, consider a cycling trip over to Phra Pradaeng, a mangrove-covered peninsula on the western side of the Chao Phraya.
ABC Amazing Bangkok Cyclist offers half-day tours for £29pp, including longtail boat transfers and mountain bike rentals, realasia.net

WHERE TO EAT

Street food

Salty, sweet and screaming hot, Bangkok’s street food is adored by all strata of society. Hygiene is sometimes questionable and MSG rampant, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from dining like a king on a shoestring budget. Keep your eyes peeled for rib-sticking jook (rice porridge with pork crackling and raw egg), comforting khao mun gai (chicken and rice) or its rarer, biryani-inspired cousin khao mok gai, crispy hoi tod (eggy mussel or oyster pancakes), fatty khao kha moo (meltingly tender braised pork leg with gravy), Isaan-style jim jum (hot pot), and the ubiquitous trio of gai yaang, som tom and khao niew (grilled chicken with spicy papaya salad and sticky rice). Noodles, including yen ta fo (neon-red glass noodles with tofu), ban mee (thin egg noodles often served with wontons), suki (bean thread noodles, egg, cabbage and seafood or meat) and richly flavoured kuai tiao ruea (“boat noodles” in a spiced, blood-enriched broth with offal), are served around the clock and can be ordered haeng (“dry” or stir-fried) or nam (“wet” with soup broth). For sugar fiends, khao niew mamuang (mango sticky rice) is a dependable go-to, but consider branching out to khanom krok (custardy coconut confections) and the dangerously craveable kluay kaek (deep-fried bananas in a coconut batter).

Gentrification has edged out many of Sukhumvit’s street eats, which means travelling a bit further to find larger pockets. Victory Monument and the surrounding area has an abundance, as do Silom and the historic areas of the city. Chinatown, especially Yaowarat and Charoen Krung roads, is packed with stalls that have been serving the same dishes for generations.

It might have started out as an artisanal pickle cannery in a hostel, but this eatery is currently whipping up some of the most interesting fare in town. As the name references, 80% of ingredients are local, while the remaining 20% allow for creative wiggle room. Chef Napol Jantraget delights in genre-bending plates like charcoal-grilled squid with fingeroot glaze, black garlic paste, popped rice berries, roasted peanuts and local sour greens that are rooted in Thai traditions, but also draw on his time at a brasserie in Toronto.
1052-1054 Charoen Krung Road, +66 2 639 1135, on Facebook

Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava and Dylan Jones, a Thai-Australian chef duo who cut their teeth at London’s Nahm, are best-known for their uncompromising Thai fine-dining eatery Bo.lan. The pair’s second offering ditches the fancier trappings in favour of gutsy countryside bites, best washed down with a Chang beer or a whisky-soda. Order a couple of rounds and nibble on sai ouwa (coconut-smoked northern sausage, £4) and kor moo yang (grilled pork neck with tamarind sauce, £5), while deciding which mains to share.
394/35 Maharaj Road,+66 2 622 2291, errbkk.com

Supanniga Eating Room

Rare Khon Kaen and Trat recipes from the owner’s grandmother help explain this cosy place’s enduring popularity. It’s hard to order wrong, but steer away from the usual pad thai and opt for khai jiew pu (omelette stuffed with crabmeat, £3) or ka lum tod nam pla (stir-fried Chinese cabbage, £2), an umami bomb anointed with pungent fermented fish sauce.
160/11 Soi 55 Sukhumvit road, +66 2 714 7508, supannigaeatingroom.com

Charcoal

 

Bangkok’s sizable Indian diaspora has given rise to some excellent eateries, including this number, which steers clear of cliched curries and peppers in subtler nods to the subcontinent, such as the decorative latticework derived from mosques and cheeky broken-English signs in the bathroom. Order the gently spiced lamb sheekh kebab (£9) or the house-made paneer tikka (£8), which is as silky as cheesecake and just as rich. After dinner, walk down the street to a darkened alley where, behind a door by an abandoned phone booth, salsa dancers shimmy to live bands at Havana Social, the owner’s hidden Cuban-inspired speakeasy.
38/8 Soi 11 Sukhumvit Road, Fraser Suites Hotel, +66 89 307 1111, charcoalbkk.com

WHERE TO DRINK

Iron Balls Distillery

Ash Sutton, the genius behind bars including Iron Fairies and Maggie Choo’s, outdid himself with this hideaway’s stripped-down, brooding aesthetic and succinct Prohibition-era cocktail list. A gleaming copper distillery serves as the centrepiece and produces the place’s namesake elixir, a south-east Asian spin on gin, fermented with a heady mix of fresh pineapple, coconut, lemongrass, ginger and juniper.
Park Lane, Sukhumvit 63, on Facebook
SoulBar

Follow the sounds of soul and funk four nights a week to one of Bangkok’s best live music spots. The lack of a cover charge and the rollicking house party vibe help explain why the crowds keep coming, even when the tiny joint is past capacity. Bigger bands often see the party spill out onto the street, which doesn’t seem to bother anybody one bit.
945 Charoen Krung road, on Facebook

Rabbit Hole

 

Slide open an unmarked wooden door in Thonglor and step into this dimly lit drinking den housed in a three-story shophouse. A long marble bar and gleaming, ceiling-high shelves displaying a formidable liquor collection make this one of the sexiest speakeasies in town, while the craft cocktails by legendary local mixologists Suwincha “Chacha” Singsuwan and Naphat “Yod” Natchachon mean the narrow space is packed on weekends.
125 Sukhumvit Soi 55, +66 98 969 1335, on Facebook

72 Courtyard

Drop whatever preconceptions the term “lifestyle mall” calls to mind, because this industrial complex buried in Thonglor houses some of Bangkok’s best bars and eateries. A crawl should start with a craft brew and greasy grub like laab fries at Beer Belly, then go for something stiffer at Evil Man Blues, a lounge with tipples such at salad days, a riff on a negroni infused with sous-vide cherry tomatoes, and live jazz Wednesday through Saturday. Touché Hombre has the best selection of mezcals and tequilas in the city, not to mention authentic bites like elotes callejeros (grilled corn with cotija cheese, chipotle-spiked mayonnaise and lime). Finish your night with a trip to Beam, a warehouse-style club where techno pounds till late.
72 Soi Sukhumvit 55, on Facebook

Teens of Thailand

A G&T here might well carry a lingering, savoury aroma of peppered pork jerky or Thai tea. Housed in an 80-year-old shophouse, cluttered with vintage Thai furniture, this watering hole has earned a cult following for its gin infusions made from whatever the owners find from neighbouring Chinatown stores. On a weekend, be prepared to queue for one of the coveted 16 seats.
76 Soi Nana, Charoen Krung road, on Facebook

Sing Sing Theater

An opium-den fever dream of paper lanterns, Chinese dragons and slinky qipao-clad ladies, Sing Sing Theater’s retro-glam, over-the-top vision of 1930s Shanghai packs the dance floor on weekends.
Sukhumvit Soi 45, on Facebook

WHERE TO STAY
The Siam

OK, so it’s expensive, but for a luxe stay, this is the place. Six years in the making, this Bill Bensley-designed passion project of local celebrity, actor and former indie rocker Krissada Sukosol Clapp is chockablock with antiques. The resulting property is remarkably atmospheric, especially on the serene verandah overlooking the Chao Phraya. Guests can learn to fight like a champion with an Olympic Muay Thai trainer or even pick up a sacred sak yant tattoo from Ajarn Boo, a master of this ancient art.
Doubles from £295 room only, thesiamhotel.com

Cabochon Hotel & Residence

 

A night at this colonial mansion might evoke memories of a stay at an eccentric uncle’s, if said uncle were the swashbuckling, well-travelled type and a bit of a hoarder. The place is crammed with curios, ranging from the intriguing (retro typewriters) to the downright kooky (cheetah skulls). It’s got character to burn, not to mention a rooftop pool, a restaurant serving Isaan and Lao cuisine, and prime location just off of Sukhumvit Road.
Doubles from £93 B&B, cabochonhotel.com

Inn A Day

Signs of this riverside boutique’s previous existence as a coconut sugar factory are everywhere, from the original storage tins in the walls to the oversized wheels of jaggery that serve as tables in the restaurant. Each of the rooms is named and colour-coded to different times of day, starting with 7:00 AM in early-morning hues and ending with the crepuscular-tinted 5:00 PM. If the budget allows, spring for one of the “later” suites, which feature lovely views of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) at sunset.
Doubles from £80 room only, innaday.com,

Riva Arun

With floor-to-ceiling windows in its 25 rooms and a lively rooftop restaurant with river views, the new Riva Arun makes for a great spot to soak in the scenery.
Doubles from £72 room only, snhotels.com

Budget bunks

Travellers needn’t spend a fortune to sleep comfortably in this town, thanks to a spate of design-forward hostels opening in trendy neighbourhoods. Decked out in warm wood tones and sporting a craft beer bar, co-working space and third-wave coffee shop, ONEDAY (dorms from £9) is as hip as they come. In Ari, a lively residential area with tons of street food, The Yard Hostel (dorms from £13), made of upcycled shipping containers, quickly established itself as a neighbourhood haunt, as well as a social stop for wayfarers. Considerate extras – bicycles for rent, two-month luggage storage, barbecue equipment for impromptu grill parties – and a friendly staff add to the experience. In Chinatown, Loftell 22 (dorms from £7) offers comfy dorms and private rooms in two previously abandoned historic buildings in Talad Noi.

Reasons You Must Visit Kyiv

Due to the political turmoil in Ukraine, Kyiv has lost some of its tourist appeal in recent years. But the ancient Ukrainian capital – and the host of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest – is completely safe to visit and awaits curious travellers to unveil its rich and colourful history. Among the most important cultural centres of eastern Europe, offering superb architecture and a cool foodie scene, Kyiv remains one of the most underrated cities on the continent.

Legends of Andriyivsky Uzviz

Nicknamed ‘the Montmartre of Kyiv’, this street is one of the cultural gems of the Ukrainian capital. Every house here can tell a story, every corner hides a legend. With numerous galleries and workshops,Andriyivsky Uzviz has always been the melting pot of Kyiv’s artists, luring them with its bohemian atmosphere and attractive hilly setting. Here you can admire the gracious architecture of St Andrew’s Church and buy handmade souvenirs from one of the local artisans.

Delicious Ukrainian cuisine

Ukrainian food is not only very tasty, but also quite affordable. When in Kyiv, you simply can’t refrain from trying traditional Ukrainian varenyky (filled dumplings) and the legendary borshch (red beetroot soup). For a genuine Kyiv urban snack, try the perepichka (sausage in a fried bun) at Kyivska Perepichka near Teatralna metro station, and taste a magnificent cinnamon roll atBulochnaya Yaroslavna bakery on busy Yaroslaviv Val street.

City of Golden Domes

This proud nickname reflects the architectural splendour of Kyiv’s churches, as well as the prominence of the Ukrainian capital for Orthodox Christians. Visitors are easily amazed by the beauty of the Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra monastery complex and the grandeur of St Sophia’s Cathedral, both Unesco World Heritage sites. You can spend days admiring the medieval frescoes and baroque facades, descending into holy dungeons and watching stunning panoramas from the bell towers.

Outdoors fun along the Dnipro

Kyiv spreads along the wide Dnipro river, which divides the city into the right and left banks. Numerous islands in between offer a great range of outdoor activities. Truhaniv island is the perfect spot for relaxing walks or cycling with beautiful river views. During the summer, Hydropark becomes leisure central with sandy beaches, water activities and fancy bars. You can also take a boat cruise from the River Port (rpea.com.ua) for spectacular views of Kyiv hills.

Gigantic Soviet monuments

Kyiv was the third-largest city of the Soviet Union, so it’s no wonder that Soviet heritage in the form of colossal apartment blocks, socialist-realist frescoes and bizarre modernist buildings is found pretty much everywhere in the Ukrainian capital. But there’s one structure you simply can’t miss: the enormous Rodina Mat (meaning ‘Motherland’) memorial, part of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. With a height of 102m, it’s a distinctive element of Kyiv’s skyline.

Rich entertainment scene

Kyiv is a vibrant capital with a wide array of events taking place daily. Fans of classical music can enjoy heavenly notes in the unique House of Organ and Chamber Music inside the St Nicholas Cathedral, which was designed by Wladyslaw Horodecki. Ballet enthusiasts will be enthralled by performances of the world-renowned National Ballet of Ukraine at the Taras Shevchenko National Opera Theatre. Kyiv nightlife is a microcosm of its own, with choices ranging from hipster Closer (facebook.com/closerkiev) to dynamic Carribean Club (caribbean.com.ua).

One of Europe’s largest open-air museums

The Pyrohovo Museum of Folk Architecture is a perfect place to explore how Ukrainians lived over the centuries. Exhibiting 300 examples of folk architecture from all parts of Ukraine and more than 40,000 household items and objects of traditional culture, Pyrohovo is a one-of-a-kind outdoor museum experience. It also regularly hosts open-air festivals to showcase the old Ukrainian rural lifestyle.

Ukrainian Art Nouveau

Kyiv’s eclectic cityscape makes it a perfect destination for architecture lovers. On a single street, you can find baroque buildings next to Soviet-style apartment blocks, or elegant Art Nouveau palaces overlooking newly built skyscrapers. Kyiv’s so-called Modern architectural style is the equivalent of European Art Nouveau; its pioneer was Wladislaw Horodecki, sometimes referred to as ‘the Gaudí of Kyiv’. His architectural genius gave birth to the stunning Neo-Moorish Actor’s House and one of the most enigmatic Kyiv landmarks, the splendid House of Chimeras.

Monumental Kyiv metro

From colourful frescoes depicting medieval Kiev Rus heritage at Zoloti Vorota station to white marble busts of scientists and poets at Universytet station – not to mention the labyrinth of Soviet underground transfer passages – Kyiv metro is truly impressive. It’s also record-breaking, with Arsenalna station considered the world’s deepest. Both the immense heritage of Ukraine’s Soviet past and the main transport of city dwellers today, Kyiv metro is a curious attraction and a true highlight of the Ukrainian capital.

Affordability

Kyiv often tops the lists of the most affordable European destinations, particularly in recent years – and for good reason. For example, one metro ride will cost you about 0,15 euros, while opera tickets start from just 1 euro. Food and accommodation costs are also much lower than in central and western Europe especially since the devaluation of the hryvnya, which makes the Ukrainian capital a very tempting budget-friendly destination.