The Future's Bright [Ultra Travel]

22/09/2016

Tourism has flourished in Sri Lanka after the civil war that blighted this island nation. Martin Fletcher travels from north to south after a 34-year hiatus to find a country that’s returned to splendour…

I celebrated Easter morning with my wife this year on an island of sun-warmed rock in a huge lake fringed by forests and mountains in eastern Sri Lanka’s remote, little-known Gal Oya National Park. We were alone except for our guide and a few faraway fishermen in dugouts with makeshift sails. We bathed in clear, warm water. We ate a breakfast of fresh fruits, curd and honey laid out on rush mats sprinkled with flowers. A white-bellied sea eagle circled in the cloudless sky. Lizards scurried away. From neighbouring islands came the cries of peacocks. This was the same serene, sublime Sri Lanka that Katy and I remembered from our honeymoon in 1982 …Read More

On Water [Vanity Fair]

01/09/2016

A guide to deep harbours, for those with deep pockets... by Victoria Mather

Burmese Days

The new boat on the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar is The Strand. She is the sassy riverine sister of the eponymous hotel in Rangoon, which is undergoing a major facelift. The charmingly small boat is English colonial meets the Hamptons: white wicker furniture, Paris-grey linen, panelled library, mahogany bar, small swimming pool and a spa. Everything is gracious to the power of 100, although the food errs on the side of bland. It is best to travel from Bagan (the myriad pagodas; it’s essential to book the balloon trip) to Mandalay, a four-night journey via temples and stupas. Best of all is the river-watching: boats trawling for gold, the burble of children, the slap-slap as laundry is washed and the chatter as geese and pigs are herded home at sundown…

Body & Soul [Conde Nast Traveller]

01/09/2016

From thermal caves to saunas and lake views, you’ll find water, water everywhere in these wet and wonderful resorts. Steam away toxins, shower out tension and let saltwater soothe all cares…

Overlooking Sri Lanka’s largest natural lake is the country’s first contemporary sustainable hotel. At its centre is the water tower. With living roofs, solar-heated water, and local building materials, this hotel seamlessly fits in with its surroundings. Co-founder, Lara Baumann, also the founder of the Quantum Yoga method, focuses on tailoring your practice to balance your doshas, and daily yoga is practiced in an open treetop yogashala – heaven…

Into the light [House & Garden]

01/06/2016

With the dawning of Burmese democracy, Mary Lussiana visits bright and bustling Yangon before heading by boat to the untouched Mergui Archipelago…

As I write this feature, Myanmar, formerly Burma, is celebrating the landslide election victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. The people who live in its largest city, Yangon, including, I am sure, my guide (who whispered to me just two weeks ago ‘we don’t dare to hope’), are flocking to the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda to give thanks for answered prayers. Flowers are strewn and incense burnt in the shadow of its golden spire. On the remote Mergui Archipelago in the far south, the Moken sea gypsies, whose language contains no words for ‘want’ or ‘worry’, will be content that, for now, they have no need for them …Read More

Taking it Izu [How To Spend It]

07/05/2016

The search for ancient Japan takes Stanley Stewart off the beaten path to the Izu Peninsula – a land of hot springs, cloud-shredding peaks, empty coastal headlands and hospitality traditions unchanged for 400 years.

I am not sure what a samurai would make of a heated toilet seat. The idea seems to run a little counter to their ascetic disciplines – to bushido, the way of the warrior. Japanese toilets are the bullet trains of the WC world, an early stop on the thrilling learning curve for the first-time visitor to Japan. They open automatically, light up and rinse themselves the moment you enter the cubicle, a fanfare for your arrival. Wall-mounted control units offer a bewildering array of options: rear cleansing, front cleansing, an exciting oscillation function. There are buttons for water flow, pressure, angle. As for the seat heaters, I’ve never been able to get them any lower than “roast” …Read More

The Pride of India [The Telegraph Magazine]

26/03/2016

One hundred years ago there were only 20 lions left in Asia. But thanks to the efforts of a deeply eccentric nobleman, the villagers of Gujarat, Narendra Modi and London Zoo, all that has changed. Martin Fletcher reports on a stunning conservation success story.

I drove with a guide one recent afternoon along the sandy tracks of the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, a 545-square-mile haven of peace and beauty in a remote corner of south-western Gujarat seven hours by car from the frenetic metropolis of Ahmedabad …Read More

Star of India [Sunday Times]

13/03/2016

The remote Andaman Islands are not where you’d expect to find the planet’s coolest new hotel. Martin Hemming didn’t want to leave.

Obviously, journalists never make mistakes. Least of all travel journalists. But I just made a howler. A week-long trip to the Andaman Islands was all my own idea, and sounded suitably long and luxuriant. What I hadn’t fully factored in was, first, just how flipping long it would take to get to them … Secondly, I wildly – naively, foolishly – underestimated just how perfectly, heart-singingly beautiful and lovely the Andamans were going to be …Read more

Java's Thriving Capital of Culture [The Week]

05/03/2016

Tom Yarwood explores Java's Thriving Capital of Culture, Yogyakarta

Protected during “colonisation, wartime, occupation, revolution and years of authoritarian rule”, the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta is “the heartland of traditional Javanese culture”, says Donald Frazier in The New York Times. All of Java’s courtly arts – shadow puppetry, classical dance, gamelan music – originated from and still flourish here, and lately the city has also emerged as “one of the world’s most vibrant centres of artistic innovation and risk-taking”. Contemporary visual art from Indonesia caused a “sensation” at the last Art Basel fair in Hong Kong, and modern dance, theatre and puppet troupes from Yogyakarta are now staples of the global arts circuit …Read more

The best address books [Vanity Fair]

11/02/2016

Victoria Mather goes through her little black book and rounds up the best contacts to have in the luxury travel world…

James Jayasundera, son of Sri Lankan diplomat and an English mother, is passionate about Sri Lanka, India and, now, Burma. As a child, he swam with crocodiles and was charged by elephants; he started Ampersand Travel after spells at The Savoy and in the City. He has impeccable taste. Trust him. james@ampersandtravel.com

Tea with a maharaja in Rajasthan [Telegraph Magazine]

06/02/2016

In the 1970s Martin Fletcher enjoyed a magical year in Rajasthan, teaching at ‘the Eton of India’. Forty years later he returned to the region to see whether it could live up to his romantic memories – or whether the past is, indeed, a foreign country.

Lord Mayo, a 19th-century viceroy of India, still gazes towards the ruined fort on Taragarh Mountain. Behind his statue, a crown tops the clock tower of the magnificent main building of the school that bears his name – all arches, domes and ornate balustrades, in unpolished white marble. Mayo College continues to flourish 140 years after he founded it in Ajmer – to educate Rajasthan’s young princes and produce ‘hearty supporters of British authority and power’. Rudyard Kipling’s father designed Mayo’s coat of arms, and its first student, Maharaja Mangal Singh of Alwar, arrived on an elephant with 200 retainers and assorted horses, camels and tigers …Read more

The Best Detox Retreats [The Times]

23/01/2016

Caroline Sylger Jones rounds up the 10 best detox retreats...

Vana Wellness Retreat, India
For gentle, high-class detoxing, the world’s newest dedicated wellness retreat a short flight from Delhi is set within 21 acres of mango and lychee orchards. Supported by highly trained and experienced doctors, you can do a full-on detox of 14 or 21 days following the traditional Ayurvedic Panchakarma programme, which includes therapies, supplements, cleansing meals, gentle yoga and meditation and regular consultations.
From £3,700 per person for 14 nights full board with flights and sightseeing

Let's Jet [Hello!]

18/01/2016

Where should you be heading in 2016 if you want to holiday like a celebrity? Whether you want far-flung or short haul we’ve got it covered with our top five A-list spots.

Bhutan

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have Bhutan in their sights for 2016. They will be the latest big hitters to visit the little Himalayan kingdom, a curious place where the national dress is everyday wear and where they measure GNH, Gross National Happiness, as opposed to Gross Domestic Product. The Buddhist nation is firmly on the jet-setters’ circuit – after all, it’s easy to avoid the limelight in this peaceful backwater. The starts have doubtless also fallen for Bhutan’s fairytale dzong architecture, colourful festivals and literally breathtaking trekking amid peaks strung with fluttering prayer flags.

Escapes [Destinations of the World]

01/01/2016

Kick off the New Year with something exceptional – we’ve found getaways for gourmands in Japan and the Italian Alps, a bespoke private-jet tour of Africa and an over-the-top ode to romance in New York City.

Royal Holi-Day

With spring’s blooms comes Holi, India’s vibrant festival of colour – a riotous affair marked by coloured powder, water and flowers being flung at revellers. Often a chaotic, (albeit entertaining) scene, travellers hoping to experience it in more sedate – and majestic – surroundings would do well to try Ampersand Travel’s take on the celebration. While two nights at the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, give you the opportunity to take in the city’s famed sights from a charming old-world base, it’s the three nights at Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur that transform this into a pinch-yourself experience. The dramatic sandstone palace is not simply a luxurious hotel – it’s also the principal residence of the jodhpur royal family – and those staying at the palatial stay are welcomed by the Royal Guards as rose petal are joyfully tossed. During Holi, which takes place March 23-24 this year, guests are invited to mingle on these exclusive grounds as colours are thrown into the air and kalbeliyaI – traditional Rajasthani dancing – and langa music captivate spectators.



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