Asia, Countries, Deals

Stand up for the Stans

As the eyes of the world, the ones that aren’t on Novak Djokavic and Australia, are focused on Kazakhstan today we’d like to stand up for the Stans.

I don’t have to tell you that there are seven in Central Asia…

Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Some we know better than others.. I was schooled in a Pakistani area of Glasgow.

Afghanistan instantly conjures up war but boasts history and culture galore and Kazakhstan is more than the land of Borat.

And some know the Stans better than others.

Such as my cousin’s husband, a health administration professional who is only the Aga Khan’s go-to-man when it comes to managing hospitals in the Stans.

And so when the news feeds told us Kazakhstan was the size of Western Europe I was able to impress my circle.

Silky smooth

You dancer: And you can learn what it means too

It also helps to be on speaking terms with Wendy Wu and her team who know Asia like the back of their hands.

And maybe to have done your homework,. although Joanna Lumley’s The Silk Road is the sort of assignment I would have loved at school.

So if you’re a fan of turquoise domes, yurts and the Silk Road read on…

Wendy is offering a 12-day tour of Uzbekistan from £2,885pp Classic Group Tour which is a saving of £405pp going out on either Friday, April 5th.

Uzbeki the uzbest

It’s not all traditional: East meets West

Our old friends at Turkish Airlines fly to Tashkent from London (from £452), Birmingham (£496), Manchester (£524) and Edinburgh (£511).

So what makes Uzbeki the uzbest?

You’ll kick off in Tashkent, where you’ll remember from Joanna’s show the magnificent Metro station.

And, yes, it knocks the Tube and Glasgow’s Magic Roundabout into the ha’penny place.

Above ground you will marvel at the Khast Imam Complex, home to the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre.

With Turkish Airlines’ Onur in Istanbul

And the Chorsu Bazaar, a vast open-air market found in the heart of the old city.

Khiva is one of the country’s oldest cities so if you’re into old monuments (Mrs M clearly is) and historical Islamic universities you’ll get your money’s worth.

Joanna sought out a man who’s been making sheepskin chugirma hats for centuries, if you’re looking for a souvenir to go along with your fridge magnet.

Talking of which, you’ll want to earn your bread when you’re there…

So why not seek out a traditional Uzbek bread-making class.

Alexander… it’s great

Greek is the word: Alexander loved it here

Like Joanna, you’ll get to check out Samarkand.

It’s only one of the world’s oldest still-inhabited cities, and its centrepiece is Registan square.

And it has the recommendation of none less than Alexander the Great.

Samarkand’s architect Tamerlane is buried in the Gur Emir Mausoleum which you’ll tick off your list.

As well as the necropolis Shah-i-Zinda and the magnificent Bibi-Khanym Mosque, hailed as one of the most impressive in the Islamic world.

Any trip to a Muslim country wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a Bazaar.

And having taken in the Grand Bazaar with Turkish Airlines in Istanbul, I’d be onto you if you missed out.

Try the bustling Siyob Bazaar in Samarkand… a trip to a traditional factory to learn about silk paper making.

And the wines that have been enjoyed here for centuries.

All the more reason to Stand up for the Stans.

Although after all that shopping and drinking you’ll need to lie down.





China and the US and the future of Travel

It takes your Travel Editor of the Year to get China and the US into the same room.

That’ll. be my office then.

From where I bring you the latest news from Chinai2i Travel specialists and IPW, the American Travel Fair.

The sight of people mingling on the streets of Shanghai is uplifting and is down to the model we are struggling with in the West.

That’s the vaccine app which will give your Covid history and act as a contact tracing tool.

China though is setting the template for how we interact again and projecting next year to welcome back us Westerners.

Ying and Yangtze

Plain sailing

All of which will give the Son and Heir more time to save (no, seriously) for his teaching assignment, and us too for our trip.

As ever Wendy Wu is giving us a little local knowledge for us after we visit him in Chongxing after Shanghai.

China light

Wendy offers tailor-made tours and a little local knowledge… who knew, for example, that it was China’s ade facto capital in WWII.

The Yangtze River Cruise is how to get about and The Three Gorges its highlight.

At last Vegas

Whip it up: The Whip-Its at Harrah’s.

And we’re back, and I’ll be back too with IPW, America’s travel fair driving on for its resumption in the Fall.

It’ll be a return to Neon City where I partied with the party people at The Palazzo at The Venetian Resort.

Viva Las Vegas

And The Venetian (yes you’ll see gondolas and the Bridge of Sighs) is the hottest ticket in town.

Which is the Atomic Saloon Show which they describe as ‘a riotous and raunchy romp through the wild, Wild West.’

And Cami from Utah is a regular visitor

And ‘drop-dead sexy acrobats and ridiculous comedy mayhem from a cavalcade of cowboys, showgirls, nuns (come again), lawmen and layabouts.

All (well, nearly) of which I’ve indulged in in Colorado and Knotts Farm, Buena Park, California which climaxed the last IPW in Anaheim

The Murt Pack

Boozy proprietress Boozy Skunkton is your hostess with the mostest at the Grand Canal Shoppes inside the Venetian Resort.

The fun begins on May 5 at 7 and 9pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

Happy ‘VJ’ Day

Happy VJ Day… that’s Vaccine for Jimmy Day.

Not to be confused with VJ Day, Victory in Japan Day.

So to mark these momentous dates I’m highlighting something Japanese again, in this year of the Olympics.

Rings of gold

In the swim: And you can train for the Olympics

When we’ll be hoping there will be many victories, and not just for us but for the hosts.

Because the Games always light up when the home country succeeds.

Plush fittings

And I’m ready, steady, go.

Vaccinated and available to travel, either to compete (long-distance running) or to report.

Cherry baby

It’s Cherry Blossom season too and my old pal Wendy Wu will be giving me a briefing this week on what she has planned.

While remember it’s Olympic year, delayed from 2020, in the Land of the Rising Sun too.

Leading Hotels

Dining style

As you all know I only stay in the leading hotels in the world.

And they obviously only deal with the leading Travel writers in the world too.

Gold medal

Views of Tokyo

So it’s no surprise to find the Okura Tokyo giving me a blind invite out to see them!

There is an Olympic link to this one too.

Yoshiro Taniguchi’s team built the original modernist Okura in 1962 ahead of the first Tokyo Olympics two years later.

Yo, yo Yoshiro

Reflected glory

It’s timely then that we are celebrating a reincarnation of the hotel for the coming Olympics.

And it still has those Taginuchi touches from Yoshiro’s son, also Yoshiro.

Favourite Lobby

Food for thought

We are, of course, passing over the ill-fated couple of years when the main building, with its beloved lobby, was pulled down.

And, as can happen, an inferior replacement was erected.

OK Okura

Japanese harmony

Not so the Okura Hotel of today which boasts two distinctly branded wings.

There’s the restrained and elegant the Okura Heritage and the Okura Prestige, a modern, urban hotel. And all for £250 per night.

A work of art

Wide open spaces

The essence of the original Okura has still been preserved.

Either relocated from the original building, replicated, or adorned through its artworks and carpeting.

Blink and you might imagine  that it was the original lobby with its hexagonal pendant lamps and hemp leaf motif screens of hinoki wood.






Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe

Holiday Snaps – The Blowout

The Blowout was a fixture of my university days at the end of every term in the Students’ Union… in truth every weekend was a blowout.

And with us cooped up in our houses, and saving every penny or cent, the prospect of international travel opening up again in mid-May is all that’s keeping us going.

Our friends, the travel providers, have furnished us with the inside track on what’s moving… and that is the blowout holiday.


Choose your water… and wine

It may come as a surprise to some, for whom living 24/7 with their family this past year has grated, but Abercrombie & Kent are seeing a spike in multi-generational holidays.

With the Maldives in the Indian Ocean a particular favourite.

There’s a JOALI fun time to be had at any of the 73 elegant beach and over-water villas.

Now there’s a big swimming pool outside where you can breastroke all the way to Sri Lanka.

But if you prefer shorter dips then you get your own private pool, indoor and outdoors showers, an indoor and outdoor living area, a dressing room and sun loungers.

Then you can enjoy too a sunset yacht cruise, turtle snorkelling trips, scuba diving, dolphin spotting and private destination dining… and a treasure hunt and picnic to a nearby uninhabited island.

Sarong but so right

And seeing you want to pack it all in then there is a new JOY in Family Time wellness programme with your favourite yoga, meditatioon and BoxFit or group spin classes.

The rooms come in at from $1924 (approximately £1520) per night based on two sharing a beach villa with pool on a B&B basis.

Me? I’ll give my family a treat by leaving them in peace and reprising my own Atoll adventure.

The Greek Corridor

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

It seems like for ever that we’ve been promised a Greek Corridor… and let’s face it with 6,000 there’s one for every one in the audience.

The Villa Collection are tempting us with our honeymoon island Corfu, Santorini, Crete, the Mainland et al.

All because it’s only ever cool to smash plates in Greece and it just annoys the Scary One when I do because I’m stir craz

Cherry aid

I didn’t pay much attention to it growing up in Glasgow but for the fact that the tennis ball I banged up against the garage wall would sometimes land in the cherry blossom tree.

But looking back from this long-off vantage point it was a rare treat to see the candy pink blossom.

The Japanese never take such natural beauty for granted, nor of course our go-to operators Wendy Wu who will be giving us the lowdown on all things cherry blossom later this month.

And, of course, I’ll share with all you Bandinis and Bandanettes out there… and might even rock my pink bandana for my friend Wendy.

Travel aid

So we just need to get back out on the road and we must all play out part.

The ECTAA, the group of National Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations within the EU, are calling European and national decision-makers to plan the way for a safe return of travel this summer.

All the prerequisites are there to be able to travel safely this summer. Industry stands ready to set and implement a plan for return to travel this summer.

Pawel Niewiadomski, President of ECTAA said: ‘All we need to do is put the dots together and determine a common European roadmap for return to travel. Travellers and industry need a perspective when and under which conditions travel can resume.’

As often is the case we take our lead from European leaders Germany. The German agency responsible for disease control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute, has worked out from which countries most foreign infections originated last summer.

The result: the classic organised holiday trip only made a small contribution to the incidence of infections in Germany.

Pawel added: ‘This is proof that organised travelling is safe. But we need the right framework conditions to start up travel based on testing and the use of health certificates to facilitate travel.’

Of course whatever happens the UK will go their own way.




Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Wendy Wu Ar Ay!

And this torturous pun is to entice you into the latest from Wendy Wu for 2021 with, eh, Cornish scones, jam and clotted cream.

No me either, but I’ll never turn my nose up at what Wendy and the gang send, with their Chinese New Year lunch in Dublin the stuff of legend.

So before we savour what Wendy Wu Tours have to offer in Asia, which will be the go-to destination in 2021, let’s try and explain Cornish scones.

Because this is a thing, with the English West Country counties of Cornwall and Devon taking very different stances on how they spread jam and cream on a scone.

The cats that got the cream

Jam today: The Cornish way.

Cornwall: Our friends in England’s most westerly county where they even boast their own Cornish Celtic language swear by jam first and then cream.

Wham jam: And the way the Devonians like it.

Devon: The Devonians, in contrast, go the other way, cream on the bottom with a topping of cream.

Me, I don’t take cream, which meant more for the Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl.

Twenty-Wendy One

A golden sun over Asia

But I digress, Wendy Wu Tours held a webinar today and showed again why they are the cream of the crop when it comes to Asian travel.

Wendy is all about the giving and to mark 26 years in business, which isn’t even a special milestone although still, kudos, she has this for us, her friends she invited here.

Free return flights on 26 of their best tours worldwide for 2021 and 2022 which will give you savings of £800.

And you must get one of those hats

Including Japan Uncovered, a 17-day Classic group tour, Angkpr to the Bay, a 17-day Vietnam tour from £2890pp, Wonders of China, a £2880pp 16-dayer.and Road to Samarkand, a 20 days Road to Samarkand tour of Central Asia which will cost you £4310pp.

Plenty to chew on with your Cornish scones and tea.

Asia, Countries, Europe, Flying

WTM Holiday Snaps – China in our hands

Now we have skin in this game with the Son and Heir planning to decamp to Chongqing next month for a year.

So I dragged myself out of my scratcher, and in the dark of a November Scottish morning, for the Chinese Tourism Market Recovery at World Travel Market Virtual.

Wall, what is it good for?

Now every country has its own different approach and the Chinese meeting was more like what I would imagine the National Congress might be.

In short, China leads the world in tourism recovery (I read that off a slide) but judging by the scenes of people enjoying themselves now.

And their projection that the back end of next year will be when we will see a bounce back for international travellers.

They were also optimistic for small group travel which our friend Wendy Wu knows already.

Everything makes sense in black and white

Wendy is running a Black November offer with free worldwide flights for travel through 2021 and 2022 saving £800pp.

Taking the Michael

Fun and air: Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary

The Chinese could certainly do with Michael O’Leary’s presentation skills.

The redoubtable Ryanair CEO waxed lyrical on the failings of politicians to deal with the pandemic.

And the wisdom of Ryanair keeping its planes up in the air throughout it all.

Michael also gave us hope by predicting that next year will see airline companies and hotels dangle discounts at us.

Best of all, of course, is Michael’s unparalleled Irish humour and he had me smiling from the off.

When he reflected on how he brought down the turnaround times on the runway.

And that prior to his intervention pilots needed ‘to have an hour and a half for a smoke and a shag’.

Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

What the world really looks like… Africa and South America

Empiricists love to boast about how the sun never went down on the British Empire which is probably why our little island is on steroids on atlases.

But not just us… the US obviously but also China and randomly Greenland.

So who loses out here? Well Africa and South America mostly.

Well this site is nothing if not a vehicle to change the world so let’s do just that and flag up to why these two continents should be on our radar.

Wendy Wu Tours have been telling us for years.

They have just released their 2020-2021 Treasures of South America brochure.

And they have put in some incentives just for us.

Their Essence of Argentina & Brazil is a 12-day tour from £4,090pp with flights which, of course, includes Rio, Buenos Aires and Iguazu. Pure redemption!

Hit the peaks in South America

Twelve days, of course, is never long enough, 28 is a bit more like it.

That’ll give you more than enough time to see…

Lima, Urubamba, Agues Caliente, Cusco, Puno, Huatajata, La Paz, Uyuni, San Pedro de Atacama, Santiago, Mendoza, Buenos Aires, Iguazu and Rio.

Fancy a waterfall?

And if some of those names are new to you it’s because they reduce the size of those countries on your map.

Ultimate South America, 28 days from £8,690pp, including flights.

Who hasn’t whiled away a coffeetime looking at our atlas, and picking out African names, say?

G Adventures will take you there… they laid me on my back in Jordan and came back for me.

And I promised to come back for them!

Now having dipped my toe into the Muddle East, and North Africa on a memorable trip to Morocco.

The pride of Africa

And realised a dream by visiting South Africa, I just have to do the bit in between.

So picking out Tanzania here which as you can see would dwarf Germany if we would only let it…

The sun also shines: Kilimanjaro

It’s all about the safari, the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro but there are beaches too, and exotic Zanzibar.

They have 19 days Kilimanjaro, Serengati & Zanzibar from £3356.65.

Tanzania was calling me in South Africa when my hotel in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape played Toto’s Africa on a constant loop.

Wild beasts of South Africa

I know that I must do what’s right. As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.

Famously, writer David Paich had never visited Africa when he penned the song….

Perhaps he too had been looking at his atlas with a magnifying glass, of course, to pick out the names!