best-books-about-myanmar-burma

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

Interesting-facts-about-Myanmar-feat

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

A break from Buddhism on Inle Lake, Myanmar

The variety of things to do on Inle Lake provides a different look at life in Myanmar.

Burma without Buddhism would be like Rome without religion: a land shorn of identity, bereaved of its most vivid colours. There’s no question that Buddhism with its extraordinary monuments and monasteries makes the country what it is: spiritual, mystical and all those other adjectives western writers apply to eastern exoticism.

Burma, now known as Myanmar, is the East of the brochures: of mists rising on tranquil lakes and berobed monks in echoing chambers. Myanmar does not disappoint. But, much like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it can wear out all but the most avid temple goers. With this in mind, I was pleased to have a day on Inle Lake with plenty of variety. There were stupas and monasteries (naturally), but also extraordinary locals that provided a tiny slice of life on the lake. Continue reading

Yazakyi monastery featured image

Hiking to Yazakyi Monastery in Myanmar

We hiked to Yazakyi Monastery above the Burmese village of Pindaya and found a picturesque settlement straight from the pages of National Geographic.

On my last visit to London, I asked my niece to grab a tenner from my wallet for the pizza fund. (We have a family of eight siblings and 21 nieces and nephews, so ordering pizza requires a basic level of crowdfunding.)

She rifled through my wallet, first pulling out some US dollars, then my tattered entrance card to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, then the business card of a tourism official in Malawi. She smiled cheekily and said, “Ada marayreh?”.

The Bengali phrase – which loosely translates to ‘flouncing about’ or ‘gallivanting’ – is usually used pejoratively by prim auntie-jis to chide young women for venturing outside and being seen in ‘improper’ situations (e.g. walking with a boy, entering a cinema, going on holiday). Continue reading

cycling-tour-of-Myanmar-lead-img

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

best books about sri lanka-lead

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

interesting-facts-about-Sri-Lanka-featimg

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

best passport to have

World’s most powerful passport 2017

Travelling can be a bureaucratic nightmare for those on restricted passports. Here we look at the best passport to have in 2017 based on the freedom it provides.

Ten years ago, in my first job after graduation, I shared an office with a researcher called Munir who I nicknamed Dr2 because he not only had a PhD but was also qualified as a medical doctor. (I recognise it’s not the wittiest name in the world but it was the best I could do at the time.) Continue reading

Calm-amid-the-chaos-in-Colombo-Sri-Lanka-FEATIMG

How to find calm amid the chaos in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo isn’t as frenetic as other Asian capitals, but it’s still a busy working city. Here are five ways to find calm amid the chaos at any time of day.

Home to nearly six million people, Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city of Sri Lanka. There is no metro or tram system so there’s no escape from the rumbling buses, tooting tuk-tuks and tinted cars that clog the wide boulevards.

In stark contrast to the rolling hills, tranquil tea plantations and picturesque beaches that define Sri Lanka, Colombo can feel like an invasive thorn in an otherwise placid landscape. Continue reading

Things-to-do-in-Bergen-Norway bryggen reflections

A long weekend in Norway: 7 things to do in Bergen

Seven fjords, seven hills and an old-world fishing wharf help make Bergen in Norway the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Bergen may be one of the rainiest cities in Europe but it’s also a vibrant cultural center with superb access to the western fjords. The city offers an excellent blend of nature and culture and, despite the damp, we loved it. Here’s what we suggest for a long weekend.  Continue reading

Interesting-facts-about-Norway-featimg

23 interesting facts about Norway

From polar exploits to illustrious penguins, we take a look at the most interesting facts about Norway.

Norway may well be the best country in the world – it’s certainly one of our favourites. It seems to have everything going for it. Not only is it a beautiful country full of stunning wildlife, nature and the northern lights, it’s also home to one of the world’s most progressive and open societies.

Throw in an enthralling history full of vikings, conquest and exploration, and I’m sold. I would move there in a heartbeat if only it weren’t so expensive (and that Kia may have something to say about the cold).

So, in a nutshell, we love the country – which is why we keep going back again and again. With that in mind, we take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Norway that we’ve learnt on the road. Continue reading

best-countries-for-women-feat-img

World’s best countries for women – updated for 2016

The best countries for women in terms of gender equality have been announced by The World Economic Forum in the new edition of its annual Global Gender Gap report.

The 2016 report assesses 144 economies on how well they utilise the female workforce in their country based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators. The report can be used as an objective analysis of women’s quality of life and to thereby rank the world’s best countries for women with regards to business, politics, education and health. Continue reading

interesting-facts-about-cambodia-feat-img-angkor

19 interesting facts about Cambodia

We first visited Cambodia in 2011 and it instantly became one of our favourite countries. Kia returned this year and fell in love all over again. This time, she took a Mekong River cruise and watched the country drift past from a different perspective. She also revisited the iconic sites of Angkor Wat and S21 prison, two destinations that highlight two deeply contrasting pasts: one of glory and opulence, the other of degradation and cruelty. Continue reading

Phnom Penned: 10 great books about Cambodia

Cambodia’s literary canon is comparatively threadbare. There are no old masters like Salman Rushdie or Haruki Murakami nor contemporary voices like Khaled Hosseini or Mohsin Hamid – a fact of little wonder when one considers what happened in the country between 1975 and 1979.

In that short period, nearly all of Cambodia’s artists, writers, and musicians were systematically killed by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime as part of its radical attempt to engineer a classless peasant society. The culling delivered a devastating blow to the county’s artistic heritage – one that still reverberates 40 years later.

In lieu of grand swathes of literary fiction, the reader can turn to an alternative set of books about Cambodia. Start with our list of 10, as shared on the G Adventures blog.

Khmer chameleon: how to blend with locals in Cambodia

It’s become something of a mantra among travel experts, this call to “mix with the locals”. It urges us to learn the local language, to dress in local dress, to “do as the Romans do”.

It’s true that local interaction offers a more authentic experience, but how many of us truly engage beyond haggling at a market or talking to a taxi driver? With western pressures on our time, most travellers are lucky to even leave the tourist hotspots. With a little thought, however, it can be done.

We share on the G Adventures blog five local experiences that offer a slice of real life in Cambodia.

Blue-mosque-dress-code-and-tips-feat-img

The Blue Mosque dress code and tips for entry

The third or maybe fourth time I met Peter’s parents, I spent 10 minutes beforehand fretting that my top was too low.

Peter rolled his eyes. “For God’s sake, my mum wears lower-cut tops than that!”

I laughed, flung on a cardigan and readied to leave. His family are thankfully far more liberal than mine.

My neurosis about modesty – a hangover from my Muslim roots – sees me pinning together anything lower than a vicar’s collar any time I visit my Mum. Knowing this, you’ll understand why I was in a tizz over the Blue Mosque dress code and associated etiquette during our recent trip to Istanbul. Continue reading

travel skills: old Indian man in yellow turban

What is the world’s most diverse country?

When Sadiq Khan was voted in as London Mayor, he announced his city ‘the most diverse and fantastic in the world’. This triggered interest from the BBC which ran a podcast examining his claim. The podcast named the Canadian city of Toronto as the most diverse but in doing so, highlighted a number of methodological problems that also apply when measuring the world’s most diverse country. Continue reading

Clovelly-village-feat-img

Clovelly village: the land that time forgot

Until recently, we hadn’t even heard of Clovelly village, a picturesque cluster of homes on the north coast of Devon. It was during our recent glamping trip that we came across Clovelly on a day trip from camp.

We were utterly charmed by the unique English village defined by the steep, cobbled streets that tumble down past traditional 16th century whitewashed cottages to a tiny harbour below. It is also one of the few car-free places remaining in the UK. Continue reading

interesting-facts-about-jordan-feat-img

18 interesting facts about Jordan

Jordan is one of my favourite destinations in the world. It seems to have everything. 

In places, it’s like an open-air museum with ancient ruins and mythical cities dotting the horizon. There are natural phenomena and arresting vistas that make for a photographer’s dream. The lands are steeped in a history as old as the verses of the bible and have played an important part in the biggest religions in the world. Throw in delicious cuisine and welcoming locals, and you have a wonderful destination full of adventure and intrigue. Continue reading