There are few better ways of understanding a country than jumping on a train. Sri Lanka is no exception and this beautifully compact island nation with its contrasting countryside and coastline is perfect for exploration by rail. Ceylon Government Railways launched its first carriages in 1864 during the colonial period, and today, a century and a half later, Sri Lanka is a patchwork of train routes, operated by government and private companies. We were taking the grandly named Rajadhani Express which we had booked for less than a fiver for a ticket on the Colombo Fort to Matara branch which we were reliably informed would not only be the ‘most comfortable train journey you will ever take in Sri Lanka’ but crucially would drop us just a stone’s throw from where we were staying in the fishing town of Koggala.
I’m not much of a runner. I prefer to take things slow and enjoy the scenery. However, I will be joining 400 proper runners this evening at The North Face Night Rock Run in Ras Al Khaimah home to desert landscapes, such as Wadi Al Shawka.
I do like mountains however, and some of you will remember when I climbed Kilimanjaro and reached Uhuru Peak. I climbed with Exodus and Friends of Conservation for the Tanzania Porter Education Project and you were all very generous in your sponsorship.
A few years ago I visited Nepal with Exodus and fell in love, not just with the landscapes but with the generosity and spirit of the Nepali people.
So if “Life is a Journey, Not a Destination” as highlighted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, then the arrival must surely be an experience to be savoured.
I clearly recall the delicious thrill more than a decade ago of being swept away by a seaplane and being transported magically to a desolate sandbank in the Maldives.
Why visit … because there’s something magical about Oman. Whenever I think of the sultanate, punctuating the images of sunsets, mountains and souks, my head spins with the heady scent of Frankincense.
When … you feel the need to see generous sunsets and sip Bloody Mary’s overlooking a sweeping vistas stretching beyond the horizon a mere 2,000 metres above sea level it’s time to head out past Muscat and upwards to the mountains and beyond.
Why not ...join Alila Jabal Akhdar’s Leisure Concierge on a climb to discover the local ‘mirage’. Sarab, an abandoned village is just a few miles from the resort and is the original home of the local community, many of whom work for Alila or are producers for the resort. Head off after breakfast before it gets too hot, and take a packed lunch.
Most of my friends know I’m not an early riser, but the invitation to get up close and personal with Abu Dhabi’s local residents was an offer I couldn’t resist.
Rolling sand dunes cover more than 85 per cent of the emirate, but today my sunrise expedition is not into the desert. Today there are no thoroughbreds, camels or desert foxes. No journey into the shifting sands of the Rub Al Khali – the Empty Quarter. I am about to discover that Abu Dhabi is not just comprised of the grainy stuff.
Abu Dhabi boasts a beautiful coastline with a rich eco-system, home to a wide variety of species ranging from humpback dolphins, to hawksbill turtles to the Arabian Gulf dugong, whilst a hidden network of mangrove forests and shifting sandbanks provide a safe haven for hundreds of bird species including egrets, heron, white collared kingfisher and flamingo. Continue reading
It’s cold. It’s dark. Here are five excuses to hole up and drink
cocktails especially if it involves the chance to escape to far flung shores.
My personal favourites include ….
The happiness-helping Vitality Boost by Amba Valayten of One&Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius, who’s mixed up a storm for royalty.
The disease-defeating Saffron Sunset by Kritsana K of rooftop bar Vertigo, Banyan Tree Hotel, Bangkok.
Just a couple of hours away from Abu Dhabi, but a million miles away in pace, Banyan Tree Al Wadi is a gorgeous sanctuary hidden away in the vast, dusty Al Wadi Nature Reserve – Ras Al Khaimah’s first managed protected area.
Spanning 100 desert hectares across a wooded valley within Wadi Khadeeja, the reserve is home to a herd of endangered Arabian Oryx often found wandering around the resort, or drinking at the Saffron Watering Hole.
After a magical few days of horse riding, stargazing and a camel caravan across the sandscape exploring the rust coloured sand dunes which seem to drift for miles, my sister and I retreated to the rainforest. A rainforest in the desert? I hear you ask….
Yesterday was Eid al-Adha and my lovely colleague Christina and I went for tea and cake at The Galleria on Maryah Island. The resident master calligrapher was personalising gifts for shoppers and kindly agreed to write peace for Christina and love for myself in his beautiful, cursive Arabic script. Hopefully we shall receive these gifts soon!
Fair trade is rarely sexy. Galvanised metal is never sexy. But these hand-made Mabati necklaces are stunning. Astonishingly the Swahili word for galvanised tin (mabati) even sounds beautiful, delicate and yet strong. I am also obsessed with the Mungu spike necklace. Each and every piece is hand crafted by skilled artisans in Made’s Kenya workshop using recycled materials sourced from the local community in nearby Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums and ethically sourced new materials. For more information please visit http://www.made.uk.com where you can ‘meet your maker ‘ and find out more about the people behind these beautiful and inspirational creations