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The Boat to Mandalay

The Boat to Mandalay

Rudyard Kipling’s road to Mandalay, the mighty route memorialised in poem and song, that ancient byway conjuring images of Empire and the Orient, is not, in fact, a road. Instead it is a river, the humongous Irrawaddy (or Ayeyarwady) which leads from Himalayan glaciers, deep in the heart of northern..
Surviving the Rickshaw Challenge

Surviving the Rickshaw Challenge

The BMW that picks me up from Mumbai Airport to take me to the JW Marriott is an absurdly, unnecessarily luxurious machine. Little bottles of water gently perspire in its perfect air-conditioning; it has televisions in the backs of the seats, and a power-assisted boot, negating the need for manual..
On The Road

On The Road

Never let anyone tell you otherwise: when it comes to road trips, the US is the best country in the world. People often talk of the size of the country, leaning back on the cliché “everything’s bigger in America”, but you only get a sense of how true that is..
The Air Down There

The Air Down There

Granddad was a deep-sea diver – that’s the first thing I knew about him. Come to think of it, that’s one of the first things I knew about anything. That, and being in the water. I don’t remember the trauma of swimming for the first time because I’ve been doing..
Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure

Jim Melville didn’t leave Britain until he was 17 years old, and even then, stuck on a ship that he wasn’t allowed to disembark, he wasn’t doing so to visit a new country. Serving on the HMS London as part of the notorious Arctic Convoys in the Second World War,..
Man and Beast Alike

Man and Beast Alike

“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest…” Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1899. The grey-cheeked mangabey makes a big noise for..
The Train to Spain

The Train to Spain

I’m sitting in the Velasquez Bar in Madrid’s Ritz, listlessly twiddling an olive inside my cocktail. It’s not just the eye-watering price of my drink that’s disappointing but the length of time it took to get here, too. I’m the best-part of 24 hours late, having spent a night in..
A Big Bang Theory

A Big Bang Theory

Staying at the Oberoi Grand Hotel then walking out onto the streets of Kolkata is like witnessing the creation of the universe. You are inside and there is silence, a void. Then you walk out, just a few strides, and there is everything, all at once. A mammalian flight reaction..
The End of All Things

The End of All Things

I have a memory of a mountain so clear I can see it with my waking eyes. The mountain is wide and solid and nameless. Snow tops its rocky slopes. Beneath it lie pastoral foothills in shades of green I have seen nowhere else. Cows shamble around doing what cows..
The Mother Road

The Mother Road

For many people, Route 66 is the drive of a lifetime and initially, when I set out from California I believe it’s only right that I attempt it in the car of a lifetime.  At over US$400,000, the Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is one of the most expensive, ostentatious..