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15 best books about Myanmar

We wrap up our series on this extraordinary country by browsing through the best books about Myanmar and the insights offered within their pages.

Before I visit a country, I like to read a book or two about the destination to get a sense of the place and culture. For Myanmar, it had to be George Orwell’s Burmese Days, a dark and fascinating insight into British colonial Burma and the disgust Orwell felt towards the system he was a part of.  Continue reading

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22 interesting facts about Myanmar

We reflect on the interesting facts about Myanmar we learnt during our cycling tour through the country.

As a tourist destination, Myanmar may be young, but it is rich in history and culture. After decades under oppressive military rule, the country is finally opening up. Tourist numbers are beginning to swell, exiles are returning from the wild and a wave of uncensored media is increasingly available to a newly optimistic population. Continue reading

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10 best outdoor magazines

Outdoor magazines are a well-deserved indulgence for those who love hiking, camping, climbing, wildlife and the great outdoors. We list our favourite below.

One thing I dearly miss from my less-nomadic life is magazines. In the age of internet clickbait, printed publications still have an allure that a computer or smartphone screen just can’t replicate. Whether through fascinating features on the latest first ascent, a thru-hiker’s account of a long-distance hiking trail or stunning photography from the world’s protected lands, outdoor magazines have always piqued my imagination. Continue reading

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Cycling Bagan: highlights and route map

We spent our final day in Myanmar cycling around Bagan, the world’s largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins. 

After cycling over 250km (155mi) across Myanmar including a 83km (52mi) slog up to Mount Popa, the final day of our cycling tour of Myanmar – a mere 25km (15mi) around the temples of Bagan – was going to a be cinch.

Despite the short distances, the Burmese sun was shining strongly and with it came the vaporous Burmese heat. Thankfully, with over 2,000 Buddhist structures spread across 104 sq km (40 sq mi) there was regular relief in the cool and airy stone temples. Continue reading

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Map projections: why the same world looks different

We explore the most common map projections in use today, how they work and why they make the same world look so very different.

Kia is usually described as the geek in our relationship. She’s the one with a computer science degree, she’s the one with the editor’s eye and she’s the Star Trek fan who describes herself as Seven of Nine… which is cool apparently? A friend of hers recently described her as “the one who puts the apostrophe in rock ‘n’ roll”.

That said, I have a few streaks of geek in me too. I’m a bit of a history nerd and can talk at great length about photography lenses and filters. But above all, I love maps. One day, perhaps when we win the lottery and can afford a house with more than one bedroom, I will have a cartography room dedicated to my scores of Ordnance Survey maps, my collection of outdated classroom maps featuring names like Rhodesia and Bechuanaland, and my assortment of hulking atlases and creaking globes. Continue reading

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The bizarre Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Myanmar

We visited Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda of Pindaya, one of the most bizarre experiences of our trip to Myanmar

After a long, hot morning in the saddle, our group of nine cyclists arrived in the town of Pindaya. We’d covered around 40km (25mi) through Myanmar’s Shan State and were looking forward to some respite from the intense sun. I knew nothing of the Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda but the idea of descending below ground and escaping the devilish heat sounded very appealing. Continue reading

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Hiking boots: how to choose the right pair

Knowing how to choose the right pair of hiking boots is essential to a long-term trip with plenty of outdoor activities planned. Here’s how to choose the right pair. 

“Do we really need these when we’ve already packed trainers?” asked Kia, holding up her hiking boots. More accustomed to ballet flats and heels on the pavements of London than the Munros of Scotland, she couldn’t quite appreciate their worth.

Decent hiking boots are one of my 10 travel essentials so naturally I insisted that yes, we really need them. Twelve months later, she was extremely grateful we had packed them. While not quite as nimble as trainers, our sturdy boots have been invaluable on a number of excursions, from the rocky plains of Mount Yasur volcano to the multi-day Salkantay trek to Machu PicchuContinue reading

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Bicycle diaries: a cycling tour of Myanmar

Our cycling tour of Myanmar provided the perfect insight into Burmese culture coupled with the kind of outdoor adventure we love.

Readers of this blog will be well aware that I prefer my adventures on two feet rather than two wheels. Given the choice, I will usually opt for hiking instead of biking. However, when we had the chance to spend two weeks cycling Myanmar with G Adventures I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity.

The trip did come with a catch: as with most of my adventures, I would have my trusty partner in crime with me – but Kia could barely ride a bike! She only learned to ride at the age of 28. In the ensuing years, she practised only periodically and fell off frequently, bruising like a peach in the process.  Continue reading

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15 best books about Sri Lanka

We wrap up our series on the tiny tropical island by perusing the best books about Sri Lanka and the insights offered within their pages.

Before I visit a country I like to read a book or two about the destination to get a sense of the place and culture. For Sri Lanka, I chose Roma Tearne’s Brixton Beach. Tearne, a Sri Lankan born novelist living in Britain, provided the perfect introduction to our trip. Continue reading

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20 interesting facts about Sri Lanka

We learnt a host of interesting facts about Sri Lanka through our month-long trip through the country. Here, we share our favourites. 

Sri Lanka is a rich and fascinating country that seems to have everything a traveller could possibly desire. The country is one of the best safari destinations outside of Africa with an abundance of wildlife squeezed into its 26 national parks. There are verdant rainforests, misty hills amid fertile tea plantations and miles upon miles of dazzling beaches. You’ve got a perfect holiday destination squeezed into an island a quarter of the size of the UK!

What’s more, the country is affordable and full of delicious cuisine as well as intriguing history. The people have dealt with war, disaster and all the challenges of a developing south-Asian country – and they have done it with grace and humility. Despite the nation’s recent turmoil, the country and its people are moving quickly forward. Continue reading

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21 best diving movies of all time

We take a look at the best diving movies of all time, from thrilling underwater epics to Hollywood blockbusters featuring incredible subaquatic scenes.

The underwater realm struggles to get a foothold in the glitz, glamour and special effects of the modern Hollywood blockbuster. Whether it’s the latest superhero reboot, science fiction thriller or historical epic drama, the effects-driven juggernaut that powers the modern film industry seems to continually overlook subaquatic cinema.

This may be because diving movies are more costly to film and tend to be more sink than swim. Far too many have been box office bellyflops receiving a rotten green splat as opposed to a fresh red rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Continue reading

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10 things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

We explore the best things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka’s historic port city that is once again beginning to flourish.

Trincomalee, or Trinco as it’s more commonly known, in northeastern Sri Lanka is a perfect spot in which to while away a few days on the beach. We ended our Sri Lankan odyssey in nearby Uppuveli on a powdery stretch by Trinco Blu.

Like us, most tourists will bypass Trincomalee for the neighbouring beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli – and who can blame them? The coast here is golden and palm-fringed with a mellow ambience making for a perfect place to unwind before heading home. Continue reading

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8 controversial mountain names from around the world

Naming mountains is a thorny business. We take a look at some of the most controversial mountain names from around the world and explore just why they’ve inspired so much debate. 

As an avid hiker, climber and would-be mountaineer, I’ve long been fascinated with the mountains of the world and the history behind their names. 

The first real mountain I ever climbed was Ben Nevis in bonnie Scotland. One would be forgiven for wondering who Ben was and why he has a mountain named after him. In fact, ‘Ben Nevis’ is the Anglicized form of the Scottish Beinn Nibheis, which means ‘mountain by the water’. Continue reading

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The best national parks in Sri Lanka for…

We explore the best national parks in Sri Lanka, their finest features, and when and where to see the country’s most celebrated animals.

For a relatively small nation, Sri Lanka has an abundance of wildlife in its 26 national parks. Considering that the UK (which is nearly four times the size) has 15 national parks, this is a huge number for such a small nation. In addition to its parks, Sri Lanka has scores of nature reserves and sanctuaries. Continue reading

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Paul Oakenfold’s Everest party: charity event or PR stunt?

DJ Paul Oakenfold just played a gig at Everest base camp. Was this an innovative way to raise money for charity, or a narcissistic PR stunt?

British DJ Paul Oakenfold, 53, made his name in the 1990s on the UK dance music scene. He has won two Grammys and is credited with sparking the Second Summer of Love in Ibiza in 1997, supposedly the biggest revolution in British youth culture since the original Summer of Love in 1967. Continue reading

EARTH’S MOST REMOTE PLACES AND COMMUNITIES

The most extreme places on Earth

We explore the most extreme places on Earth. Crazy destinations where humans find ways to exist in harsh and hostile environments.

I’ve always been fascinated by tough environments and particularly by the explorers who have braved them. When researching the most remote places on Earth I came across several extreme environments that simply were not designed for human inhabitation or travel. However, we humans are a race of perseverance and often find ways to exist in these harsh and hostile lands. Here are just a few of the most extreme places on Earth. Continue reading

10 things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka

We take a look at the best things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s second city and cultural capital.

History and culture are on tap in the lively city of Kandy. Known as Sri Lanka’s cultural capital, Kandy withstood the Portuguese and Dutch for three centuries and was the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom, which finally fell to the British in 1815.

The city is wedged among mist-laden hills that often leave the skies overcast. The breeze, however, usually parts the mist to reveal Sri Lanka’s famous second city, known for the great Kandy Esala Perahera festival. One of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka, the event is held over 10 days leading up to the Nikini poya (full moon) at the end of the month of Esala (equivalent to the end of July and beginning of August). Continue reading

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Happiest countries in the world 2017

The happiest countries in the world have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. Norway has snatched the title, jumping up from 4th last year and knocking Denmark into second place.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations, has just published this year’s World Happiness Report. The SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing and produce a comprehensive annual list of the happiest countries in the world.

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Galle Fort in Sri Lanka: DIY walking tour

Galle Fort on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka is the unmissable destination of the region. It is easily and best explored on foot. Here’s how.

Built by the Portuguese, fortified by the Dutch, modified by the British and restored by the Sri Lankans after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle Fort marks out Galle as Sri Lanka’s most intriguing city.

The 36-hectare Galle Fort occupies a promontory surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean. It was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese, then extensively fortified by the Dutch from 1649 onwards. When the British arrived at the end of the 18th century, they applied their own touch with the odd lighthouse here and a coat of arms there. Continue reading