Africa, Asia

Your Year’s Day around the world

We’re probably all nursing sore heads today but the good news is that this isn’t the only New Year’s Day celebration, we’ve got Wu Year’s Day to look forward to now… or Your Year’s Day around the world.

And a bunch of other New Year’s Days for those who love a good oul’ firework.

Which is where the Wu comes in with Wendy Wu all over the Chinese version.

And us all over her annual legendary get-together.

Which believe me keeps us fed and watered for an entire week.

Happy New Hare

Wu to go: Wendy Wu and her people

Well, we don’t have to wait long for Chinese New Year which is on January 23 and is the year of the Water Rabbit.

Rabbits are said to be vigilant, witty, quick-minded, and ingenious.

I’m a snake (behave)!

More of rabbits and snakes later in the month.

Feast of the senses: Wendy Wu fare

But what of the other new years around the world.

Because not everyone looks at the world through Western eyes.

Jewel of India

Shake it: Indian dancing

Or the skies with those on the Indian subcontinent disagreeing.

On the place of the sun and the moon in setting their calendar.

And so in India, West Bengal celebrates their New Year, or Pohela Boishakh, on April 14 or 15.

Whereas Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and few other southern states celebrate Ugadi and Puthandu on April 6.

In Maharashtra state, New Year, or Gudi Padwa, is celebrated on April 14.

We’ve always been a little jealous of those who live in the Southern Hemisphere who get to enjoy their January 1 in the sun.

Forever young

Queen of Ethiopia: Meseret and me

Across the Islamic world the big dates are in July or August.

And this year it ranges from July 19-21 depending on which country you’re in.

The calendar is a lunar one and so is only 354 days long.

Islamic New Year is celebrated on the first day of Muharram, the first Islamic month.

And compared to Western calendars the Islamic year goes backwards by about 11 days every year.

All of which sounds great as you get time back.

Just like they do in Ethiopia and Eritrea where you can become seven years younger.

And which I saw first hand in the company of Ethiopian Airlinesevergreen Meseret Tekalign who would lay out a feast for us every year in Ireland.

So whether you’ve had your New Year or it’s still to come then we hope you enjoy Your Year’s Day around the world.



America, Asia, South America, UK

Baby, you’re a firework

Baby, you’re a firework, come on let your colours burst… as they might have sung back in 1605 to mark Guy Fawkes Day.

Well because we’re fortunate enough that Katy Perry lives in our age.

Then that’s what we all do when the sparklers, rockets, Catherine Wheels and Roman Candles fizz through the air.

In the UK in those areas where people don’t celebrate the burning of Catholic traitors or have got past 17th century history.

And just like a light show then today, Guy Fawkes Day, is a national fireworks spectacular.

Of course, not everybody, the passing of a queen apart, is obsessed with British history.

So we’re taking a look at where and when the world lets their colours burst.

Fire Eid

Sparkling: Eid

Eid, the Muslim world: And as you would expect in the land of the world’s biggest building, Burj Khalifa, Dubai reachest highest in the Muslim world for Eid.

There are also numerous shows and music concerts and the amusement parks go into overdrive.

Jewel of India

Light up: Diwali

Diwali, India: Now if we in Britain think that our skies are spectacular at this time of year.

Then it is nothing compared to India.

Diwali, the festival of light, has just been dimmed for another year.

But not before India lit up the heavens in style.

And the Indian diaspora around the world did the same as we’ve touched upon.

But we’re advised again that Amritsar and its golden temple shines brightest.

Disney lights

Da Mouse games: Disney

Disney (Orlando and Anaheim and around the world): Now while the cow is sacred in India, its Da Mouse who is the holiest of holy in Disney.

Fireworks are a staple at Disney where you can enjoy their nightly shows Four Seasons of the year…

Or whichever hotel you stay in.

Or when you stroll down Main Street USA you can sit on a grassy bank.

And take in Mickey in Da House or Potter magic.

And Christmas lights

Let there be light: Rio

South America: Now the party-loving Latin Americans aren’t the types prepared to wait for the new year to set off their fireworks.

It’s probably down to the weather which allows them to set off ‘little volcanoes’ firecrackers or sparklers known as ‘little stars’.

Fountains of light are also created in villages made of large collections of these ‘little stars’.

With Roman candles favourites over turkey sandwiches and pineapple juice in the evening.

Be a part of it

Let the ball drop: Times Square

New York’s New Year: And while we all have our traditions and claim ours is best.

And the Scots have their own name for New Year’s Eve.

Times Square, New York is the place to be for their famous Times Square Ball Drop.

We all have Adolph Ochs, owner of the New York Times, to thank.

And designer Artkraft Strauss (no, really).

Held annually on December 31 since 1907, and across a bunch of feelgood seasonal movies.

So, I think we can all agree, baby you’re a firework… all year around.



Diwali fireworks

And there will be Diwali fireworks tomorrow around the world following the damp squib of the Covid years.

Granted that India put on a party last year as they moved out of restrictions but this year will feel like a normal Diwali again.

Diwali marks a special point in the Hindu cycle and also in my lifespan as a paid scribbler, a Diwali festival being the first story I covered for a newspaper.

A five-day festival starting, it takes place on the night of the new moon and so corresponds with the end of the harvest around mid-October or early November.

And it being darker earlier then Diwali focuses on lights or deeps/lamps and fireworks.

Diwali is just a box of chocolates

Dance away: Diwali

Diwali crosses the cultures and religions of the Subcontinent with different derivations depending on the region you visit.

And so for those of us who aren’t Indian what we want to know is how to party like an Indian.

Go local and if you are invited, deffo join a family’s festivities in Delhi, Mumbai, or Jaipur to see first-hand how they celebrate.

And the form is to take a box of Indian sweets or chocolates as a thank you gesture.

The magic lamps

Light up, light up: The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple in Amritsar in Punjab is on the itinerary of most travellers to India.

And Diwali is a glorious time to visit, for the brilliant fireworks display and innumerable lamps.

Varanasi too is right up there for Diwali watchers and the the ghats (steps down to the bathing waters) and diyas (lamps).

You want to see a community puja (worship), then visit Kolkata to see the goddess Kali in neighborhood pandals (cloth and bamboo structures) across the city.

Mumbai mix

Get on your bike: To Mumbai

There’s a real Mumbai mix in that city’s air with the night sky aglow with paper lanterns called kandeels.

While if you like scary effigies then Goa-goers can enjoy the sight of giant effigies paraded on the street.

India, of course, still remains on the radar after my largesse got the better of me when I was editing in Ireland.

And I sent a couple of very different colleagues there in my place as guests of Incredible India.

Indian treat

Candle in the India: And a message of hope

One for World Yoga Day… and she tied me up in knots with the organisation, while playing the diva along the way.

And a more deserving candidate whose professionalism saw him manage to extricate himself through the idiosyncracies of Indian bureaucracy to deliver a sumptuous review.

I wouldn’t though like to bring either up as this is a time of peace and Diwali fireworks.

Where, of course, I travel I usually find my peripatetic parents have gone before, latterly with Saga travel.

And my Dear Old Mum has strode forth to take on whichever local activity is before her, while alas my Dad was grumbly in his tummy, here with Delhi belly.





Asia, Countries, Deals

Holy Cow India’s back

My Dear Old Dad loved to tell the story of the driver getting out of his bus to dump on the street… Holy Cow India’s back.

When a moo-moo had decided to stop in the busy thoroughfare, presumably for its own business.

And the Holy Lower could not be disturbed and all the traffic had to drive around it.

So India is famously chaotic but it’s that hustle and bustle and colour and life which marks it out as one of the great bucket list trips.

Wu, Wu

Wendy crew: Our old friends Wendy Wu

And our friends at Wendy Wu have marked the occasion of India’s travel regulations having been lifted for the fully vaccinated.

They have just released their new India & Central Asia brochure.

And yes, it’s true… we don’t go to India for the cows, we get plenty of them at home.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

We’ve got it licked: The tigers

Our pal Wendy offers us Taj, Temples & Tigers, ten days from £2,040pp which is a saving of £400pp.

And they precis their longer spiel by saying:

‘You will have the chance to experience different sides of Indian culture; from the contrasts of Old and New Delhi to the historic city of Agra.

‘You’ll be trying to spot the tigers in Ranthambore and exploring the beautiful palaces and architecture of Jaipur.’

What’s that you say? Tigers? 

Well, seeing a big cat in its natural environs is one of the great Travel experiences.

Just don’t get too close which we guarded against with our Ranger in South Africa when we tracked a cheetah with her new cub.

Wendy’s treats

Love conquers all: At the Taj Mahal

Yes, you’ll see the old faves of Delhi and the Taj Mahal. 

But Wendy goes further than that and you can look forward to…

You can learn astronomy the ancient way too at Jaipur’s fascinating Jantar Mantar.

It’s an 18th-century observatory full of old instruments used to measure the distance and positions of celestial objects.

I can even offer some expertise if you need someone to tag along, having learned where the stars and Uranus (behave) are on my Walk through the Ages in Tenerife.

Rickshaw is a sure thing

Spice it up: Old Delhi spice market

And if you’ve ever wanted to take a rickshaw ride then here’s one through Asia’s largest spice market in Old Delhi.

And you’ll absorb the heady scents and colourful sights of some of the world’s most exotic powders, leaves, roots and seeds.

It’s easier too to get around that moo-moo on a ricksack.

And for the driver to get off to have a No.2.

Yes, Holy Cow India’s back.






Asia, Countries, Culture

Yoga-dabba-do – International Yoga Day

I’ve come out of my Downward Dog to fulfil my promise to bring you my Part II of Yoga around the World – its homeland, Asia.

The theme of this year’s Yoga Day is Yoga at home and it helps, of course, when your home is an embassy.

And word reaches us that they’re all Zen-ed out from China to Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Yogi are urging us to use it to cope with the stress of COVID-19.

And who are we to disagree.

Addressing an event to mark the International Day of Yoga in India Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said:

‘Yoga is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving health and its full potential must be harnessed.

And here’s where we want to go when we can get the mat back out out there.

Tahiti treatie

Practise under the palm trees in Tahiti: Oh, go on then. It’s a pretty secluded island so there won’t be anybody there who knows you.

Yogis can enjoy a coconut after you’ve gone through your stretches straight from the tree.

And perhaps a dip then in the South Pacific.

Try the Ohana Yoga School Tahiti who offer both classes and full courses. And visit

Buddha, can you lend me a mat?

Practise yoga in a Buddhist temple: If you want something a little bit different from traditional yoga to hot yoga then this one is made in Japan.

It’s shin-shin-toitsu-do.

Which I know you know is the way of mind and body unification.

This yoga dates back to the 20s and is still pretty much confined to Japan.

Go the whole hog and take a retreat in a Buddhist temple.

Where you can also dabble in meditation sessions and other Japanese ceremonies.

Many are offered with English-language instruction.

See and

Countries, Deals, Europe, Flying, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – booze brothers

The news that they will pour away 70m pints of spoiled beer down the drain would merely have been an invitation to The Sesh.

Our drinking fraternity at Aberdeen University have scattered to the four corners of the world – funny when many couldn’t be raised from their scratchers.

My Best Man Andy is in Singapore, Jevan is back home in the West Indies, My kiss with Rihanna, Let’s rumba in Barbados and Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago/.

While some of my English pals, Wee Jon and Micky, and Gaelic emigrees Alan and Anna went to the bright lights of London and The London life.


And those flatmates that were foisted on us such as Grumpy Vangelis (no, seriously) My Greek odyssey and the cheery Ibohal Singh (song) are doubtless back where they belong.

It’ll be 40 years in a couple of years since we first bowled up in Aberdeen so I feel a reunion in the making.

And we’ll need more than 70m beers for that… and Aberdeen – a light in the north.



Aberdeen University’s other great gift to the world, after me, is of course Blair Bowman.

Blair Whoman? Yes, Blair Bowman, who only gave us World Whisky Day.

Surprisingly this celebration of uisce beatha has only been running since 2012.

The organisers say that 250,000 people participated in registered events in 2014.

I don’t know the figures for the last few years – I guess they’d overdone the golden liquid!


To the pantheon of greats who graduated from Aberdeen Uni, Alex Kapranos, Alistair Darling and Nicky Campbell add Jevan Jutagir.

A proud half-Scots, half-West Indian who is one-third of the Barbados Whisky Mafia.

And who if you’ve got an in will crack out the good stuff before Foreday Morning at Crop Over in Barbados, My kiss with Rihanna and Turtle recall.

Free Ireland

Kudos to Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar whose example some across on this side of the Irish Sea would do well to emulate.

You don’t have to be a doctor like Leo to have known that testing and tracing is key but it doesn’t do any harm.

Leo has been outlining how the nation will come out of lockdown.

Which means that the Office of Public Works has opened up certain outdoor sites within social distancing rules.

And that oft-forgotten section of our society, the Cocooners, are being prioritised;

10am to 1pm

Emo Court, Co. Laois



10am to 1pm

Fota Arboretum, Co. Cork

Pleasure Garden & Walled Garden

10am to 1pm

Irish National War Memorial Gardens, Islandbridge, Dublin

Rose Garden.

10am to 1pm

Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

Full Garden


10am to 1pm

Kilkenny Castle, Co. Kilkenny

Rose Garden

10am to 1pm

Nenagh Castle, Co. Tipperary


10am to 1pm

Portumna Castle, Co. Galway

Walled Garden.


10am to 1pm

Phoenix Park, Dublin

Visitor Centre Walled Garden

10am to 1pm

Roscrea Heritage, Co. Tipperary

Grounds & Walled garden

And Ryanair are flying high

Few things say summer quite like a fleet of blue and yellow Ryanair planes taking to the skies.

Which is why the news coming out from Michael O’Leary Towers that July 1 is the start-up date for us to get flying again.

With 1,000 flights across Europe from €23.99. And new health measures.

Faro, the gateway to the Algarve comes in at that starting price… and

London The London life and Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam comes in at the same price.

For the full range visit