Tasmania: Sympathy for the Devil

I’M face to face with a bunch of Tasmanian Devils but I am keeping my nerve. Partly because I’m just a tough hombre, of course. And partly because they look very cute frolicking over a guide in Bonorong Wildlife Centre and nuzzling gently at her fingers. Continue reading “Tasmania: Sympathy for the Devil”

New Zealand: Coromandel characters

IN 1820, HMS Coromandel, a British Admiralty supply ship moored off a remote peninsular in New Zealand. Its crew had the job of cutting down kauri trees, whose thick trunks and lack of branches made them perfect for ship’s masts and spars. After a year, the ship sailed for England, leaving her name behind for this remote corner of the British Empire. Continue reading “New Zealand: Coromandel characters”

Kagoshima: History in the air

AS A hairy 6ft 2in foreigner, you stand out anywhere you go in Japan – but perhaps nowhere more so than walking around the Chiran Peace Museum. Dedicated to the memory of some of the 1,400 kamikaze pilots who gave their lives for the Emperor at the end of World War II, the site is the former airbase from which Japanese army pilots flew most of the suicide sorties against the US fleet off Okinawa in 1944 and 1945.

Continue reading “Kagoshima: History in the air”

Sri Lanka: Going eco

I’M NEARING the end of my second day at Vil Uyana – one of Sri Lanka’s premier new eco-lodges and close to the famous Sigiriya ‘Lion Rock’ in the heart of the country – when it finally clicks.

Thatched wooden houses on stilts, set among tropical lagoons – where does it remind me of? It has to be Barnes, in West London, which lies under the Heathrow flightpath. Indeed, explains manager Tissa Wickramasvriya, that was where inspiration was found. Continue reading “Sri Lanka: Going eco”

China: The road to Shangri-La

HAVE you noticed you never quite get to Shangri-La? I arrived in the pretty town of Lijiang at night and, although it is a Unesco World Heritage site, I was totally unprepared for its charms.

Red lanterns lit up narrow cobbled streets lined with traditional Chinese wooden buildings and small stone bridges spanned an intricate canal system. Off the main square, a row of picturesque drinking dens were brimming with young Chinese revellers. Continue reading “China: The road to Shangri-La”

China: A Kunming plan

PERHAPS, if I could read it, the graffiti etched into the rocks of Kunming’s Stone Forest might seem less picturesque. For all I know, the beautiful calligraphy is the equivalent of ‘Kilroy was here’.

However, for me, the Chinese script merely adds to the charm of this 400sq km ‘forest’ – actually an ancient seabed of limestone, weathered into ethereal karst formations. It turns out I am not the only one. My guide explains that some of the carvings are now tourist attractions in their own right because of their age.

Continue reading “China: A Kunming plan”

Beijing: Thronging to see Zedong

THE QUEUE is four wide and stretches endlessly into the distance. We shuffle along at an efficient, if not quick, pace.

I’m the only foreigner among the thousands of tourists around me – curious glances are sneaked, the odd stare.

We’re waiting to see the embalmed body of China’s most famous son, Mao Zedong, the man who brought communism to China. Continue reading “Beijing: Thronging to see Zedong”

Australia: Reef madness

THEY promised me millions of stars, here, on the Great Barrier Reef, many miles and an ecosystem away from the light pollution of land.

They promised me the experience of a lifetime, spending the night on Reef Sleep, a pontoon moored on the edge of Earth’s biggest living organism. And they weren’t lying. Continue reading “Australia: Reef madness”

Osaka: Yen for life

WHAT struck me during my first visit to Japan was our similarities rather than our differences.

A small island, lying off the coast of a large continent which it has alternatively threatened or been threatened by during its history; a population that has developed an elaborate set of manners, much of it a legacy of feudalism, to cope with living cheek by jowl with the neighbours; a love of tweed and Argyle socks; and, of course, a universal adoration of David Beckham. Continue reading “Osaka: Yen for life”