Oops, I’m late with this. Anyway, here goes. (Click photos to zoom.)
I have to say that the timing of my Kashmir/North India trip wasn’t great. On the day I arrived in Srinagar, five Indian soldiers were shot dead on the disputed border with Pakistan about 60km away. So the place was under curfew, armies were mobilising, tourists were advised to avoid going anywhere near the Old City, and everyone seemed a bit … jumpy. Everyone except the farmers on Dal Lake, that is. They just wanted to sell their pumpkins and smoke a few early-morning cigs.
I made my first visit to the Laotian capital in 2013, and while it doesn’t have the same soporific charm of Luang Prabang, it’s still got a great vibe: beautiful Buddhist wats like the one where this picture was taken, French-style cafes selling baguettes and espressos, interesting colonial architecture, and bars with cold Beerlao and great sunset views over the Mekong. You couldn’t ask for much more, really. (You could if you were my wife; you could ask for great shops. And it has those too, apparently.)
I did an 8-day hike along the Portuguese coast west of Lisbon, staying in old forts and monasteries. It’s a rugged place, with beaches and headlands thrashed by Atlantic winds. The conditions mean that walking can be tough going, so I’m doubly proud of the efforts of my septuagenarian parents who did the trip with me. (G’day Mum and Dad!) I reckon this particular 22km day wasn’t the easiest thing they’ve done in their lives, but they raised my brother so it also wasn’t the hardest. (G’day Ferg!)
I’ve visited the island of Langkawi a few times, and I reckon it’s one of the underrated gems of Southeast Asia. If you’re looking for a place to stay, try Temple Tree near the airport or – if you can splash the cash or blag a media invite (guess which one I did!) – the two resorts in the north of the island, the Datai or the Four Seasons. This photo is taken at the latter: lunch at Kelapa Grill, right on the beach, including a Caprese salad with mozzarella made from local Langkawi buffalo.
Public access to Borobudur, the famous 9th-century Buddhist temple on the island of Java, starts from 6am in the morning, but a couple of the hotels in the vicinity can arrange for 4.30am early-bird passes, with a guide who leads you to the top of the temple by torchlight. Highly recommended. It’s a stunning spot for watching dawn break, as the valley fills with golden light and the call to prayer crackles out of distant loudspeakers. Follow it with a bowl of soto ayam for breakfast and you’ve pretty much nailed your day already.
More to come.