Named after the Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal (Lumbini), Lumphini Park is central Bangkok’s largest and most popular park. Its 58 hectares are home to an artificial lake surrounded by broad, well-tended lawns, wooded areas, walking paths and startlingly large resident monitor lizards to complement the shuffling citizens. It’s the best outdoor escape from Bangkok without actually leaving town.Continue reading
The Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maharatchawang) is a former royal residence in Bangkok that was consecrated in 1782. Today, it’s only used on ceremonial occasions, but it remains the city’s biggest tourist attraction and a pilgrimage destination for devout Buddhists.Continue reading
Part of Parakramabahu I’s northern monastery, Gal Vihara is a group of beautiful Buddha images that probably marks the high point of Sinhalese rock carving. The giant reclining Buddha statue will be familiar to many travellers, having graced the cover of numerous travel guides to the country (and even more Instagram feeds!), but the complex is actually home to four separate Buddha images, all cut from one long slab of granite. At one time, each was enshrined within a separate enclosure.Continue reading
Fronting a line of low-rise resorts just northwest of Oranjestad, Eagle is a long stretch of white sand that regularly makes lists of the best beaches in the world. There are shade trees in some areas and you can obtain every service you need, from a lounger to a cold drink.
Eagle Beach is a leatherback-turtle nesting area, so parts of it may be closed from March to July.
Dubbed as a "rock n' roll venue, if Karma Sanctum Soho hotel was a person, it would indeed be a rock chick or a cool dud.
Tucked away in Warwick Street in London’s famous Soho region is the Karma Sanctum Hotel. The building has been created out of two Georgeon townhouses and turned into a funky place to stay.
A buxom gorilla meets you at reception, with vast images of Jimmy Hendrix that seem to ooze out of brooding colors.
The Karma Sanctum Hotel is the brainchild of Mark Fuller, a nightclub owner and restaurateur, who opened the hotel with Andy Talor, manager of Fleetwood Mac, and Rod Smallwood, who looks after Iron Maiden. They wanted a place to meet and have a snifter out of hours alongside their members and residents.
So Karma Sanctum has all the credentials of being a rock n’ hotel at its core, and in case there is any doubt, there are several artworks dotted around of rock stars you are bound to recognize.
Bizarrely, there is a full-size Dalek of Dr. Who fame on the second floor.
Based in Soho, the clientele is bound to be an eclectic one. A love of good design, rock and roll music, and an easy vibe helps.
There are 30 rooms over four floors with door handles encrusted with diamante. Room range from Compact to large Delux Loft.
Ours was a Superior Compact room 205, which, though one of the smaller rooms, still has wardrobes and comes with a size bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, bathrobes, slippers, a huge TV, and Temple spa toiletries in the spacious, clean white wet room.
There’s a mini bar, complimentary still water, a Nespresso machine, and plenty of phone charger ports and plug sockets.Food & Drink
Hotelier Mark Fuller and Michelin-starred chef Garry Hollihead have inked a new partnership to open a new restaurant at Karma Soho Hotel in London: Wild Heart Bar & Shokudo. The style is a casual Japanese-inspired sharing concept for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There’s also an afternoon tea with chicken katsu sliders, steamed vegetable gyozas, and sweet treats, including matcha panna-cotta with freeze-dried raspberries, mini yuzu, and red fruit tarts.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to dine there, but if three-times Michellin-starred Garry Hollihead is at the helm, you can be sure of the finest dining.
On the 5th floor, there’s a roof terrace, both inside and al fresco (lorded over by the gorilla), for cocktails or wine and snacks supplied by the Michelin restaurant. There is another party place called the Inner Sanctum in the basement.
Rooms at Karma Sanctum Hotel start from £399 per night.
Cervo Mountain Resort: a feel-good retreat in Switzerland
Carnaby is synonymous with the Swinging Sixties. Get there now and experience a brand new jive.
It watched me from behind wispy clouds, tall, bold, stoic and wearing what seemed to be a white shawl wrapped around its frosty peak. The Matterhorn, the jewel of the Swiss Alps was the majestic view from my terrace of Cervo Mountain Resort my neighbour and backdrop soaring to a breathtaking height of 4.478 metres.
What better symbol of strength and confidence to accompany me as I ventured on my first holistic healing retreat in southern Switzerland?
The Cervo Mountain Healing Holistic Summit
Nestled in the rugged beauty and high altitude of the Alpine landscape, Zermatt proved the appropriate location for 17 strangers to gather together to reset goals, pursue ambitions, to let go of negativity and the emotional scars of the past. Travelling from pockets around the globe – New York to LA, London to Oxford and places in between, this retreat was billed as a Holistic Healing Summit, led by a celebrity specialist and arranged by the retreat company, Travelgems. The group was aged from 17- 79, but there was no age limit, and no fitness level expectation.
For some, this was a first-time experience, for others a reunion. An immersion into a new culture and miles away from that safe personal comfort zone. Each one bringing the determination to add more to their lives in a part of the world new and foreign to them.
The Travelgems Retreat Programme
The common denominator at Cervo Mountain Resort was Eloise Joan, an American celebrity fitness and life coach supremo, prominent on US networks. Each participant knew her courtesy of fitness apps, platforms and magazines. Over the months and years, she has been their online instructor, appearing on their screens and hearing through headphones and speakers but the retreat brought her into real-time.
Over the 6 days, she was the leader, coaching and guiding each individual to conquer fear, strengthen self-esteem and improve fitness levels. And, of course, to perfect the mountain pose.
Each day started with an active body session, a blend of soulful yoga, stretch, “Barre Blend”, and mindfulness. A well-deserved nutritious breakfast presented a time to share experiences and socialise in readiness for the challenges of the day, be it paragliding, a five-hour hike or sustainable wakeboarding. Success stemmed from facing and overcoming physical and emotional obstacles, or not.
No pressure, no guilt. Group support and encouragement were apparent as was positivity, friendship and fun.
It is said that it takes 6 days to transform behaviour. At the end of the Cervo Mountain retreat, it was evident that the investment in time and personal effort resulted in dividends. Gone were the stressed expressions. Instead, there was laughter and joy. Goals had been reset, paths mapped out, friendships forged and a brighter future ahead. Before leaving I stood on the hotel terrace to see the Matterhorn in its full glory, the clouds had blown away and had been replaced with the energy and strength of nature itself. The air is fresh, the scenery breathtaking, and the Matterhorn radiates confidence from a feel-good retreat in Switzerland.
The Village of Zermatt
Group gatherings, individual coaching and leisure time to off-load weighty thoughts and overcome deep-rooted barriers, hidden for a decade, were scheduled as well as time to build friendships and indulge in time alone to rethink and reset. And there was time to soak up the location and culture. Snuggly cradled in the Swiss Alps, the village of Zermatt is quaint and definitely a draw to tourists, come sun and snow.
Car-free, it has preserved its original character. It’s lined with shops selling outdoor leisure wear, posh boutiques and accessorized with displays of expensive Breitling watches.
Traditional restaurants serve rösti and fondues with Swiss cheeses while hand-made Swiss chocolates and Toblerones, of course, are displayed on every corner.
This is a destination popular with explorers, adventurers and pioneers, drawn to the legendary Matterhorn. British mountaineer, Edward Whymper was the first to climb this pyramidal peak back in July 1865 which led to global recognition of this area. The “Matterhorn glacier paradise” is Europe’s largest and highest-lying summer skiing region. Over 400 kilometres of hiking trails lead through and out of the Matter Valley, including the mule traders’ trails, which date back to the 13th century (a part of these paths is paved).
These natural surroundings are postcard portraits of sky-high peaks, mountain lakes, alpine meadows, larch forests dotted with cuddly, black-nosed goats and accessible by bike, rope, foot or four-wheels.
The Retreat Hotel
Perched high is the 5-star Cervo Mountain Resort, trendy, cool and laid back which provided the perfect ambience for the retreat.
A place at one with its environment dotted with contemporary alpine elements using natural materials and food sourced from local farms and fishermen. It offers 54 rooms, suites and lodges and a contemporary spa, a haven for weary explorers.
Why you must visit the Carnaby area in London’s West End.
Carnaby is synonymous with the Swinging Sixties. You can get there now and experience a brand new jive.
As heydays go, Carnaby’s was phenomenal and part of the tapestry of the Swinging 60s. For an entire decade, you could eat, drink, and be merry alongside music stars, including David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and style icons Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor just by hanging out there. And, here’s a fun fact: Paul McCartney met Linda on 15 May at Bag O’ Nails Club, 9 Kingly Street in Carnaby.
Though the Swinging 60s are no longer, the Carnaby area is back in motion with its jive style. Look upwards on Carnaby Street and see the Shimmer Disc Union Flag, the Rainbow Arch, and the Carnaby Street Arch that heralds 14 streets with over 100 shops and 60 restaurants, bars, and cafés.
Shopping in Carnaby
Start at Great Malborough Street, where Liberty looks dapper in its historic Tudor building – six floors made from timbers of two ancient ‘three-decker’ battle ships amounting to 24,000 cubic feet of vessel woods, including their decks now being the shop flooring.
Swatch, Sweaty Betty, Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, The North Face, and Timberland have outlets there. Still, Carnaby’s independent boutique shops shine their light with ingenuity and creativity, making it a must-visit.
Annie’s Ibiza on 3 Newburgh Street could not be more distinct. This is where you shop to find the perfect dress to party in. The rails shimmer with glitz and sparkle. Annie’s wardrobe reflects her shop, including some vintage pieces. I would love to meet her after seeing her flair and the clothes she has curated.
Being far too bashful (and not skinny enough), I could only admire these one-off and sometimes highly revealing pieces.
There’s more creative fashion at 8 Newburgh Street. Hayley Menzies is most famous for her long cardigans and her general use of bold prints and luxurious natural fibers. You will find a highly curated mix of pieces at her beautiful new boutique, which she describes as a contemporary luxury brand creating the vintage of the future.
IKKS Paris has its bright and spacious UK flagship shop on 3 Carnaby Street. The vibe is urban style with a rock and roll attitude. The pieces are stylish, and it would be easy to shop here for a complete capsule wardrobe, not just for you but for all ages, from baby to toddler and teens to adult.
You can almost sense when a tongue is being poked at you. But it would help if you went in when it is a shop RS No.9 Carnaby, and the language is a vast red sculpture of their logo. The flagship store under the famous Spirit of Soho mural is everything Rolling Stones, and every item is exclusive to their rock n’ roll style.
At number 10 is Ksubi. This brand has existed since 1999, and many think it is Australia’s hottest fashion label. It’s best for teens/early 20s, those years when the rebel attitude suits this fashion. I liked their distressed denim and cross logo.
I nipped into a white-washed cavelike Bloobloom boutique at number 24 only to find a lifetime deal. They design and sell specs at £99, including an eye test. On top of that, they donate a pair to someone in need with each team they sell. No brainer. I am returning soon for my eye test.
Shoes can become an obsession; they must be at Kat Maconie shoe store on 29 Carnaby Street. You cannot miss them; they are instantly recognizable with dazzling colors and hardware frames on architectural heels. You cannot be more maximalist. I particularly enjoyed looking at highly colorful tasseled sandals (£330). The Great Frog on Ganton Street’s black exterior is the perfect frame for its skulls and Gothic. It has been there for almost 40 years and has served the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead among its clients. Their black diamond skull is always associated with London’s avant-garde design.
Last but not least, the quality of the local charity store must reflect the area. At 8 Ganton Street is Mind, a permanent store that curates its offerings carefully. You’ll find designer clothes topped up daily—a great place to find a bargain.
Inko Nito offers top-notch unconventional Japanese food served in tapas style. The environment is lively, the room bright and spacious, and perfect for couples and groups. The centerpiece is a robata grill, where meat is perfectly grilled and served directly. The food was flavoursome and delicious. I liked the cocktails, too. Go for the Premium Tasting Menu and taste the best choices.
Drinks and snacks: In Cahoot
Kingly Court has many enticing places, but I went deep underground in a fantasy, disused London train station called Cahoots at 5 Kingly Street. It’s darkish, all very hush hush, invoking 1946. Staff are dressed accordingly, and my Winston Curchill cocktail (a tropical number among ten other signature drinks, beers, and wins) was served in a Winston Churchill lookalike mug. Snacks arrived, sausages, croquettes, and other treats.
Here, patrons are referred to as London Scoundrels. Though I could have stayed in this underground facility, I crossed the road to check out Cahoot premises opposite, where live music was playing to channel my inner scoundrel.
Where to Stay
Karma Sanctum Rock n’ Roll Hotel, with its late-night roof terrace, Michelin-starred restaurant, and members club, puts the fun in funky. Check out our full review of Karma Sanctum Hotel.
The green, spacious park is presided over by the 10-tonne bronze Nagasaki Peace Statue, designed in 1955 by Kitamura Seibō. It also includes the dove-shaped Fountain of Peace (1969) and the Peace Symbol Zone, a sculpture garden with contributions on the theme of peace from around the world.
Practically adjoining the park to the south is the smaller Atomic Bomb Hypocentre Park, with a monument marking the epicentre of the deadly blast.
On 9 August a rowdy antinuclear protest is held within earshot of the more formal official memorial ceremony for those lost to the bomb.