Guest Post

Travel journal entries and postcards from our roving reporters

  • Deep, plunging valleys and looming mountain ranges that are breathtaking and heart-stopping all the same, Himachal Pradesh is a heavenly abode that none can forget once visited. Treacherous trekking routes and magical rivers along with quiet monasteries and relaxing resorts, there is so much to explore in Himachal Pradesh that you just can’t get enough of it. Whether it’s exploring quaint hill stations of attempting the impossible through paragliding, here’s a handy guide to take you through the roller coaster that is Himachal Pradesh.

  • When the definitive moment of booking your holiday arrives, do hang on a moment. It’s important to consider a few questions regarding the finer details of your trip. Here’s our top 10 things to ask before putting down your deposit and committing.

  • Last month, Alice Bayly, aged 9, visited Laos with her family, parents Alice & Roger and younger brother Felix. Anna offered to keep a diary for us in order to show other children (and their parents) what might happen on one of our family holidays in Laos.

  • Our visit to northern Thailand was rather short and fleeting. We arrived in Chiang Rai from Laos and were pretty knackered after the Gibbon Experience and so did not do anything too energetic. Chiang Rai is a fairly sizeable Thai city and although a fair amount of tourists pass through, it retains its ‘Thainess’ more than Chiang Mai. We spent a couple of hours at the White Temple just outside town and this is well worth a look. Ben, who is a little on the temple averse side, really enjoyed it. Strangely enough, it is white and in the sun the mirrors that have all been painstakingly hand cut and stuck on shine brilliantly.

  • After spending a day and a night in the fairly depressing border town (Laos:Thailand) of Houay Xai we were really keen to start our 3 day “Gibbon Experience” trip. It had been recommended to us throughout Laos so we were keen to see what all the fuss was about. The trip involved spending 3 days in the dense northern Laos jungle, living in tree houses high in the forest canopy. The tree houses are connected to the jungle by large zip wires! Apart from having a lot of fun, one of the objectives is to try and see one of the black Gibbons which were up to a few years ago thought to be extinct in this part of Laos. The people that run the company put some of their money back into the local village and pay for the only park rangers in Laos.

  • The journey from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang was a painful one. The air conditioning on the bus decided to break down and the wheel sprung a puncture. Not unusual occurrences in Laos, but it did make for a long, extremely hot and sweaty day. The pain was, however, alleviated by the extraordinarily beautiful views surrounding us as we wound our way through central Laos. They were simply breathtaking!

  • Now Vang Vieng is pretty much all about tubing as the numerous tee shirts you see worn in South East Asia advertise. But Vang Vieng does offer some other great excursions. The town itself has been shaped with a young western audience in mind and has numerous bars playing Friends on loop. However its surroundings are quite amazing. There are rolling hills carpeted with lush jungle dissected by the Nam Song river and a few spectacular caves.

  • One of the aims of the trip down to the islands was to try and spot the illusive and rare Irrawaddi Dolphins. They are a fresh water species of Dolphins that was once common to the Mekong delta throughout Cambodia and Laos.

  • Hidden away in the south eastern corner of Cambodia are these two coastal getaways. Their charm is unique and definately a little rough around the edges – though it is in this that lies their charm. Originally built by the French in the 1920s as plush colonial getaways and then used by rich Cambodians in the 1960s and 1970s, they both fell into disrepair and were pretty much abandoned with the arrival of the Khmer Rouge. Although going through a revival (especially Kep) the earlier desertion is still evident in the derelict buildings and run down buildings.

  • As we walked through Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), or Saigon as the locals still determinately call it, we realised that it is a very different city to Hanoi. While the traffic remains as insane the feel of the city and the set up for tourists is very different.

  • Arriving in Nha Trang was quite a strange experience as it is so different from all the places we have visited so far in Vietnam. It is a real ‘holiday’ destination (for Vietnamese as well as westerners) and has a Vietnamese feeling of a spanish holiday resort! If you want peace and quiet then this is not the place for you, but we had a lot of fun there nonetheless.

  • The Victoria Hotel takes these influences and cleverly combines them into its design. The elegant reception has an open, colonial feel and all the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming on arrival.

  • Like, Sapa, our visit to Hue was short and was more a passing through in order to see some of its impressive sights, rather than a chance to soak up the atmosphere of the ancient city. This was a shame. It is a pretty city set on the Perfume river and the tombs and citadel of the Nguyen dynasty comprise a Unesco World Heritage site.

  • We left the busyness of Hanoi for a couple of days in Sapa. This mountainside retreat was originally built for the French as a cool getaway in 1922 and after some years of neglect has in recent years undergone a real revival and is now a key tourist destination in Northern Vietnam – and with good reason. You feel as though you have arrived in a different country, so alien is the climate. It was a welcome relief to actually feel chilly and to need to wrap up warm after the heat of Hanoi and Halong Bay. The town is a pretty place and with lots of nice restaurants and cafes, as well as its legendary Sunday market, it is a great place to wander around and spend a few hours.

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