China: Great Wall

THEY say every journey starts with one step. Sometimes it starts in farce, too. Knowing it is essential to set off early from Beijing to visit the Great Wall before the tourist masses arrived, I arrange with my Chinese friend Qian for an 8am start. She holds out for 10.30am. We haggle and eventually compromise on 9am. Qian turns up at my hotel at 9.30am and then drives to a Starbucks for breakfast. Continue reading “China: Great Wall”

Tokyo: One Moment

WHAT is the secret of Japanese food? Tokyo is a city of restaurants, some 80,000 of the 600,000 in Japan as a whole. But even more impressive is the quality. The Michelin Guide has recognized Japan’s capital as also being the world’s gourmet capital for the best part of a decade. And that was even before the French food bible started to list traditional Japanese “washoku” cuisine. Continue reading “Tokyo: One Moment”

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”

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”