Sri Lanka beach vs Maldives
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Sri Lanka vs Maldives beach

If you look at a map of Sri Lanka (earth view) you’ll see the number of beaches it has is pretty spectacular. But, then again, just one hour away by plane is The Maldives – with picture-perfect white-sand shores. You’ve got a dilemma: which one should you experience? Here, I weigh up all your options, and discover that it really depends on what you want from your relaxation time.



MATT

Soneva in The Maldives: beyond the surface of ‘luxury’

Matt recently visited Soneva Fushi and Jani, two luxurious resorts in The Maldives. On returning to the office, we found it interesting to think about the various kinds of ‘luxury’ available, and also what the word actually means.
It’s really tough to capture what ‘luxury’ actually is; we all talk about it quite a lot, especially in the travel sphere and I’ve often wondered how to quantify and explain it, especially when talking to other travellers.
As my experience has grown over the years, and I’ve been lucky enough to stay in many “luxury” hotels, I’ve realised how difficult it is to define a luxury hotel, let alone categorise it. Ultimately it’s all about the individual experience you have and how it fits with you as a person. This is when hotels like Soneva Fushi and Jani come into their element; here, the accommodation and service blend to provide an incredibly personal, relaxing and awe-inspiring experience.
If I can’t get to sleep at night, sometimes I just think of my time in The Maldives. It is one of the most relaxing places I have been on this earth and, for me, no other place can quite compare with it. Everyone in the office knows this all too well, and when I was planning my most recent trip to Sri Lanka I just couldn’t resist adding on 5 nights in The Maldives, only this time I was staying at a particularly special place.
The Maldives has over 250 resorts, nearly all of them on private islands, and it just seems to be an unstoppable force in terms of growth; about 10 resorts have opened this year alone, many of them 5* or above. It’s becoming more difficult to choose between the options and ever more important to be able to discern between the different types of luxury on offer.
I’ve been a fan of the Soneva luxury concept from the beginning. Co-founders Sonu and Eva opened their first hotel in 1995 in The Maldives and have honed their unique philosophy over the past 20 years. They have a brand that values understated touches of luxury, stunning architectural design, barefoot living, making the most of the beautiful natural world surrounding their properties and placing environmental protection at the forefront.
I have to say that I keep my finger on the pulse with travel news and about two years ago I first heard about Soneva Jani being built – this was something on a new scale, even for TMaldives (which is already mind-blowing in what it has to offer): 5 islands with 25 water villas and the biggest overwater structure, plus a 5.8km beyond-imaginable lagoon. Just outrageous even on paper, I dreamed about going.
It all starts with the ‘no shoes, no news’ concept. As soon as you step onto the resort your shoes are taken from you and, for however long you stay, you go around the resort barefoot. Does it sound gimmicky? A little, but all you can do is relax with soft sand between your feet, glorious sunshine and turquoise ocean everywhere on the horizon – with no worldly worries to distract you.
There’s no plastic on the island; a special glass blowing factory recycles glasses and the resort grows as much food on the island as it can to cater for the guests. The retractable rooves in over-water villas are incredible and the slide down into the ocean from your bedroom is the stuff of childhood dreams.
Luxury is so much more than just a picture-postcard image of a stunning resort and Soneva resorts prove this. It’s about attention to detail, personalisation, and providing an experience of dreams. For those looking for a particularly special place to stay, I’d certainly recommend either Soneva Fushi or the newly opened Soneva Jani – both would make for a spectacular experience.



View of the sunset,clouds and airplane wing from the Inside

How to get and spend air miles

Like the elixir of life, air miles always seem out of reach despite so many anecdotal legends told of their power. Understanding how to get them and spend them can feel like embarking on a journey to Mordor, to cast an evil ring into the lava-filled pit of Mount Doom. But if achieved, the bounties reaped are infinite and heavenly. Here, we provide a realistic guide on how to accrue and spend air miles.



passenger plane fly up over take-off runway from airport

How to save money on long haul flights

Far-flung destinations offer awe-inspiring cultural riches, gorgeous golden-sand beaches and tastes and smells you may never have experienced before. It’s a shame that ‘star trek’ style teleportation devices still haven’t been invented as it’s always the journey there and back that moves us to question the meaning of life.

International long haul flights can be a thorn in one’s side when the price tag becomes apparent. The cost doesn’t have to be astronomical though and, with some expert ‘insider’ knowledge, you can get fantastic value for your transport. Here are our top tips:



bagan-vs-angkor
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Bagan vs. Angkor Wat: Which temple experience suits you best?

I’ve been asked many times how the temples in Bagan, Myanmar, and those around Siem Reap, Cambodia compare, and which are better. I’ve been lucky enough to visit both sites over the years and the short answer is that neither one is better than the other. Both have their own charms and unique selling points and are truly awe-inspiring places to visit.



Life on water, settlement on the Inle Lake, Burma (Myanmar)

Top 5 new Myanmar experiences

In 2011 Myanmar (Burma) opened to the world but there was little infrastructure to cope with the influx of tourists and few had had the chance to research experiences beyond the main sites. Five years on, this has all changed. Across the past few years, we’ve sent five of our country experts on reconnaissance missions to explore the best ways to get you under the surface of Myanmar, here travel specialist Matt shares his top 5 new experiences.



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10 dos and don’ts for a multi centre holiday

Multi centre holidays offer an incredible array of cultures and experiences to the inquisitive traveller. The problem lies organising transport, working out how much you can fit in, to balancing costs. To help you in your planning stages, here are our 10 dos and don’ts for anyone thinking of a multi centre holiday.



dera-mandawa-ind-courtyard

The Great Indian Homestay Conondrum

Philippa Kaye, our ‘on the ground’ travel expert in Delhi, says everyone travelling to India should stay in a homestay. I was surprised because for me ‘homestays’ conjure images of quaint local houses, with pretty basic conditions, in remote rural locations – they certainly weren’t for everyone. I went to investigate myself to resolve the great Indian homestay conundrum.