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How to open a hostel or guesthouse in China

Pancakes and retrievers will set you on the right course, says Mark Andrews Step 1: This is by far the most important step and cannot be skipped. I recommend you allocate in the region of half your overall budget for this. You equally should put most of your time and effort in finding the right…

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Three generations take a trip to Denmark

How do whales breathe? (Through a blowhole). How did Bluetooth get its name? (From a rune stone). What does the word ‘lego’ mean? (Play well). These are just some of the unusual facts that we learned on an action-packed family trip to Denmark. With me, two daughters and two grandchildren under 10, making an age…

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A brush with the Russian military

We had been hoping to meet ‘real’ Russians, but had not bargained on Dimitry. I guess no one really bargains on guys like Dimitry, but there he was, all six feet of him, lurching around in his army fatigues, a half-empty bottle of vodka swishing like a cutlass in one hand and a pistol threatening…

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Spirited away on the Isle of Jersey

I broke my phone. As in I actively, with intent, broke my phone. Never one to do things by halves, in a fit of hormonal rage (yoga is not working), as ten consecutive very bad things had happened in a few days,  I smashed the mobile to the floor and then picked it up, realising…

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Silent reverence in Laos

In the cloak of fading darkness, shadows appear in the delicate hues of a new dawn. An apparition of tangerine-robed figures takes shape from the soft glow oozing from the temple before me. One by one, in silent reverence, a procession of figures tread the morning journey, respecting social distancing, sombre, eerily quiet. Barefooted, young,…

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Around the world in two kilometres

This is not a journey to a far flung corner of the world such as the Chilean port of Valparaiso, among the many favourite destinations I have visited over the years. Now I meander through my adopted home of Kinsale, Co Cork, Ireland taking me along streets whose intensely colourful facades are similar to those…

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Paradise with stilts on

The atoll of islands the Maldives bashes every travel writing cliché into touch. Talcum powder sand, azure bath warm waters, one of the best (if not the best) diving and snorkelling experiences in the world (extra cudos I am told if you take your PADI here). Resorts with beach villas with open air bathrooms, showering…

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Grand tour of Imperial cities

The ticket collector looks very young; his uniform is too big and swamps him. He seems happy working on the train which, he says, is what he would like to do when he grows up. His name is Levi and if I had to guess I’d put him at maybe twelve years old – which…

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Guernica, 80 years later: An anniversary of a tragedy

‘Celebrate’ would be an inappropriate word to choose, but on 26th April every year the Basque town of Guernica marks the anniversary of a shocking event that thrust it unwillingly onto the world stage – and subsequently inspired one of history’s most famous artworks. Now, more than eighty years later, Guernica and its surroundings offer…

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Sake, dogs and community

With a sudden tug, Henry sends a slug of sake over my hand. Blame it on the toy poodle in the distance. Or me for trying to hold a one-cup sake with his lead wrapped around my drinking hand. In fairness, it wouldn’t be a one-cup if I didn’t spill a bit. The pull-tab lids…

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The best New Year fireworks in the world: Vivid Sydney

Sarah Tucker takes a trip down under to Sydney’s winter and the annual drama that is the Vivid Festival. Sydney becomes a living firework for three weeks during the Vivid Festival (vividfestival.com) due to celebrate its 12th anniversary in 2020. Known for the best New Year fireworks in the world over Sydney bridge, the festival…

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Fire blessing in Bhutan

Draped in silk and hand-woven gowns shimmering like rainbows, town folk and farmers come from every direction; women with babies bobbing on their back, old people leaning on bamboo staffs, men in knee-length chequered ‘ghos‘ with sweeping white cuffs and sashes, and garlands of children whose dark eyes sparkle with excitement. They walk up the…

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On target for a lucky break in Shillong

Every now and then I’m tempted to waste anything from 5 to 10 euros on lottery tickets, for which the numbers are chosen automatically, sold at the check-out at my local Helsinki supermarket. I gave up choosing my own numbers ages ago. The street number of my house, my birthday, my mum’s birthday, the date…

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A journey of reinvention in Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, or ‘Jozi’ to the locals, with its three million inhabitants (10 million if you include the broader metropolitan area) still has a mountain to climb in distancing itself from a long-established reputation of violence, fear and gang culture if it wants to compete as a must-visit tourism destination. Perhaps with a little help through…

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Wrong turns and tobacco: Hiking the Tanzawa, Japan

As dawn approaches atop Tonodake (Mount To), a chill wind whips over the exposed peak. Off to the west, Mount Fuji begins to emerge as the darkness that cups the peaks of the Tanzawa range fades to a fleeting purple hue before the rising sun changes the sky to a more familiar hazy orange. The…