A colony of merchants, Surat was once known for its silk weaving and brocade fabrics. Even today, you can visit its bazaars and buy silk saris and embroideries. The city is also famous for its diamonds: Surat is the world’s largest diamond processing cluster. A makeover is on the cards for the city to transform it into a smart city with automatic fare collection system, intelligent traffic control, solar street lighting, and a skywalk.
► Get spooked on the haunted Dumas Beach known for its unique black sand.
► Download the Heritage Walk app and discover historic monuments, Hindu and Jain temples, and heritage homes in the city.
► On the banks of Tapti, The Gateway Hotel Athwalines is a great option—the highlights include river-view Gateway Suite, multiple dining options, and a spa.
► Stay in one of the 170 rooms of The Grand Bhagwati which is designed for an urban traveller.
At least 30 per cent of safari-guide training is about learning to evade death and acute suffering, both for I you and your guests. Encounter the Mozambique spitting cobra, for instance, as I did in our camp kitchen one morning, and you risk being hit by a shot of venom that can blind you from eight feet away.
Once you’ve got a grip on how to avoid this and countless other potentially lethal species, the process is exhilarating, and at times extremely challenging— something I discovered during a stint at Eco Training, a professional guide school near South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Over four weeks, the school’s instructors taught me and 18 other aspiring guides to identify 90 bird calls, 12 frog calls, and 60 trees. We learned to locate the constellations, dug around in different types of soil, and squished a whole lot of dung between our fingers.
We were taught a trick called ‘kudu ears,’ which involves cupping your ears to mimic the giant-eared antelope. This allowed us to catch the faint rumble of an elephant in a thicket, and save our guests from being trampled. Within days, we were looking in entirely new ways at the bush, the tracks, the scat, scanning the mall with the beady eye of an African fish eagle. Then we came to the important stuff, like how to keep guests entertained when you’ve seen nothing but impalas for the past hour. “Know your arthropods,” advised David Havemann, our stern South African instructor, who could spin the life cycle of a fig wasp into a drama worthy of Game of Thrones.
But for many of us would-be guides, the biggest challenge was graduating from the obsession with the Big Five most people arrive on safari with. Our goal? To have guests feel as inspired by insects, birds, and grass as by a group of playful lion cubs, and leave the bush, as I did, overcome by the profound, symbiotic beauty of it all.
For a long time, going on safari basically meant one thing: observing wildlife from the inside of a jeep. These days, however, discerning travellers want to go deeper. Instead of being told about the animals, and efforts to conserve them, they want to participate—whether spending the day with an anti-poaching unit or taking part in arhino-relocation mission.
According to Michael Lorentz, of safari specialist Passage to Africa, the itinerary of the future is driven by experience, rather than by creature comforts. “It has become about what you did, the people you met who are making a difference,” Lorentz said, noting many guests want privileged access to one-off conservation missions, such as witnessing African Parks’ translocation of elephants in Malawi. Even first- timers booking safaris to iconic parks in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Zimbabwe are demanding a more meaningful experience, according to Karen Zulauf of safari outfitter Deeper Africa.
A typical Deeper Africa trip to Zimbabwe, for example, would be led by some of the country’s most prominent conservationists, such as Mark Brightman of the Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit, and include an afternoon with the Shangaan people, former hunter-gatherers now at the forefront of community conservation in Gonarezhou National Park. As Zulauf put it, “Connecting our guests with the right people and projects reframes the way they view Africa, and the way they present it to others.”
You won’t know you’re nearing Arijiju until yon have already arrived. The house is built into the Laikipia foothills north of Mount Kenya, its grass-covered roof and rough stone walls making it appear, from afar, like part of the landscape. The effect is one of inevitability—as if the property were always meant to be there.
Most visitors come to Kenya for the wildlife, and the 32,000-acre Borana Conservancy surrounding Arijiju teems with all manner of creatures. But, unlike most safari properties, this lodge feels like a destination in itself. Built as a vacation retreat by a Londoner with African roots, it’s now available for exclusive-use rental. The 14-person staff, which includes butlers, chefs, and a masseuse, is warm and attentive, lighting crackling fires at bedtime and delivering coffee to your room when you wake. That human touch gives the five-bedroom property an intimate, homey feel, like a fabulous friend’s personal retreat.
Beyond the occasional campaign-style piece, Arijiju has none of the typical safari-lodge trappings—no Masai prints or mosquito-netted beds, and the only thatched roofs are those of the outbuildings. Instead, relaxed luxury reigns: rugs are layered on the hardwood floors, and linen sofas are draped with rabbit-fur throws guests can use to ward off the evening chill. The decor takes more inspiration from India and Morocco than from Kenya, yet everything about the house is in keeping with the spirit of Laikipia. That’s in large part because Arijiju puts all eyes on the landscape that surrounds it. Massive glass doors overlook a forest of acacia and African olive trees, and beyond the elevated terrace, the grounds are open to the wilds. Baboons scratch at the earth a few yards from the breakfast table. In dry stretches, giraffes and elephants come to drink from the pool.
There are game drives, of course, and you can see it all—even rarer animals like Grevy’s zebras and both black and white rhinos are flourishing in Borana and neighbouring Lewa. But on the slim chance your favourite animal should elude you, any disappointment will be quelled the moment Arijiju’s flickering lanterns announce your arrival home.
Alvear Art Hotel – At the younger, more casual sister of the famed Alvear Palace—one of Buenos Aires’s most famous hotels—guests can expect a similar level of service in a more relaxed setting. Ask for the sprawling Art Suite on the 15th floor for spectacular views of the Rio de la Plata. If your room doesn’t have river vistas, head to the rooftop swimming pool for some of the best panoramas in town. Artesano, the hotel’s vintage-inspired cocktail bar, has a fantastic drinks list by star mixologist Renato Giovanni.
Faena Hotel – The glamorous Faena hotel set the style benchmark for Buenos Aires when it opened in Puerto Madero in 2004. The Philippe Starck-designed rooms can verge on ostentatious, but guests are guaranteed VIP treatment whether at the hammam or by the pool. Drop by the nearby Faena Art Center to take in impressive rotating exhibits of contemporary art, or book a table for the hotel’s sexy, if pricey, Rojo Tango dinner show. The Library Lounge is a great spot to kick off an evening with cocktails and live music.
Home Hotel – When it opened in 2005, Home Hotel put the Palermo Hollywood neighbourhood on the map, and quickly became the go-to lodging option for cool kids and design aficionados. The carefully curated, Scandinavian-influenced decor includes Florence Knoll furniture and vintage Willi am Morris wallpaper. A small basement spa caters to Long-haul travellers, with jet-lag treatments such as a California massage and hot healing bath. Book the spacious Garden suite for your own splash pool.
Aramburu Restaurant – This bistro, the more relaxed spin-off of chef Gonzalo Aramburu’s celebrated Aram burn restaurant, sits on the cusp of the edgy Constitucion barrio. Starters such as steak tartare with mustard ice-cream are designed for sharing; the succulent lamb chops are a particular highlight. Sommelier Nazareno Gonzalez oversees the wonderful, well-priced wine list. Stick around after dinner for a drink at the new secret basement bar, Under.
Chori – Choripan, the humble sausage sandwich, is an Argentinean staple, but Chori is the first place to come up with a gourmet version. Not only are the chorizos in this Palermo spot made in-house but the soft buns are several notches above the standard baguette, and sauces go well beyond spicy chimichurri. The team also mixes up the protein, experimenting with fish, black sausage, and venison. Try the regional de cordero, a lamb sausage served with yogurt, red onion, cucumber, and mint.
El Baqueano – By sourcing products from small producers around Argentina, Fernando Rivarola, the chef-owner of EL Baqueano (the name translates to “the gatherer”), has created a wholly unique tasting menu. There’s a story behind every ingredient, like the Andean new potatoes grown 9,000 feet above sea level, or the sustainably sourced pacu river fish in the clever dish called “falso bife de chorizo”—or fake steak.
El Preferido – Literary icon Jorge Luis Borges grew up on the same block as this pink-hued bar and store, which was one of his haunts. El Preferido is an old-school neighbourhood bodega, where hanging hams and stacked cans of hearts of palm are integral to the vibe. Come here for a cortado or early-evening tapas such as braised tongue.
BeBop Club – Head to this cool basement club for jazz, blues, funk, soul, and pop. Founded by noted sommelier Aldo Graziani, BeBop is located underneath his restaurant and wine bar, Aldo’s Restoran Vinoteca. Open six days a week, it hosts local and international musicians. Reserve a round table and dance to the rhythms before ordering some tapas or a burger.
Blanca Encalada – Though the original location in Almagro is now closed, the Belgrano outpost upholds its legacy as one of the best spots to hear tango music without the distraction of clicking three-inch heels or flashes of bare skin. The band normally starts around 10:30 p.m., playing to a crowd that can spill onto the sidewalk.
Floreria Atlantico – This storefront is a florist and wine store, but after the sun sets, head into the buzzing speakeasy— the entrance is through a refrigerator door. The cocktails are themed geographically, taking inspiration from Argentina’s European immigrant populations. Try the Principe de los Apostoles, a gin and tonic infused with yerba mate.
La Catedral – This former warehouse in tango barrio Almagro is rough around the edges— mismatched furniture and basic drinks—but the uneven wooden floor is ideal for learning how to dance the tango, because, unlike many other Buenos Aires bars, regulars here often invite visitors and amateurs to dance.
Think you’ve already viewed the best in class? Expand your must- visit list of world-class museums with this selection of spectacular institutions around the globe!
Built as part of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Resort, the world’s first art and science museum features an unusual lotus-shaped structure. While it hosts several leading travelling exhibitions from around the world, its new permanent exhibition Future World showcases 16 incredible art installations and is said to be the country’s largest interactive digital playground, exploring themes including nature, town, park and space.
Japan’s ‘art island’, tiny Naoshima boasts a disproportionate number of world-class installations, unexpected cultural distractions and world-class museums. In the latter category, Chichu Art Museum is built mostly underground – so as not to sully the island’s largely unblemished beauty – and features vast exhibition spaces largely built to complement the artworks by the likes of Monet and Walter De Maria, which they now house.
The contemporary art and design museum in the Swedish city of Umea, the former residence of Stieg Larsson (author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and others from the Millennium book/film trilogy) and European Capital of Culture for 2014, was named as one of the most beautiful university art galleries in the world following a redesign in 2012. The building itself is a thoughtful work of art, made with a facade of Siberian larch wood panelling, which will fade to a silver grey colour in a few years’ time, staggered with randomly-placed windows.
Its stark white interior is warmed by the natural light piercing through its windows, which offer scenic views from the museum’s riverside location.
The Dutch national treasure-house of art has at last re-opened after a decade-long renovation. Golden Age masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and so many more are on show alongside centuries’ worth of fine furniture, Delftware, costume and jewellery. There’s a superb Asian collection, and new acquisitions that bring the display up to the present day.
Croatia and Los Angeles
Described as a “genuinely touching window on the human soul” by Telegraph Travel’s Chris Leadbeater, the brilliant attraction showcases a bizarre collection of objects connected to romances that are no more. Subtly illustrating the tragicomedy that is love, it is now one of Zagreb’s most visited museums.
The museum opened its second branch last year in the City of Broken Dreams – Hollywood. The new collection of items studying failed relationships and their ruins follows in the footsteps of the original one in Zagreb, promising to take visitors on an emotional journey through a showcase of 115 unwanted artefacts from relationships past, exploring the “love, pain, drama, irony, humour and reconciliation” of break ups.
I have barely left the airport and II we’ve already taken the sharp II right turn, down a dusty side II road that we could have nearly II missed seeing. As the wrought II iron gates that lie before me m creak open to reveal a definitively Portuguese edifice, I feel a sense of nostalgia for the future: I’d rather like to own a house like this. Matieu greets me with the effortless charm that only the French can muster. How was my flight? Anything for lunch? How about the Caprese salad? Bon appetite. An air of tranquility sweeps its way through the inner courtyard, welcome as an afternoon zephyr. As I sat out on a breezy terrace, watching the Zuari River ebb and flow away, so too does the babble of modem day life.
This, I realise, is what they mean by susegad. Formerly known as Villa Morgado, Casa da Graca is a passion project between owner and dreamer, Simran Kaur, architectural visionary Alex Von Moltke, and the indispensible contractor Abbas Sheikh. Working tirelessly together, it took almost three years for this inexorable triumvirate to transform the unloved former home of the de Siqueira Nazare family, back to its current splendour. Over a century old, there are hints to the property’s grand past: the family crest greets guests as they enter, traditional blue and white Portuguese murals adorn the walls of the bathroom. An oasis like swimming pool in the courtyard is a welcome modem addition.
Far from the maddening crowds of Goa’s northern beaches, Casa da Graca is located in the fabled ‘real’ Goa. That’s right it’s not lost, it’s just hiding. Just a short drive from colourfully tiled Latin quarter of Fontainhas, with its independent boutiques and local cafes, and the church-lined streets of Old Goa, few travellers bother to visit this comer of India’s smallest state. And that’s exactly why you should go there.
Peace, small but perfectly formed, is the only room with views of the River Zuari, from its own private garden terrace; while Compassion and Devotion overlook the pool. My room, The Creation Suite, was palatial. Not misinformed travel-website ‘palatial.’ No, getting something from the other side is to embark on your very own Camino de Santiago, palatial. While in the bathroom there was a bathtub so enormous it probably warranted an on-duty lifeguard. Goodness, I thought, deciding phone battery was not essential and I’d probably be safer with a shower; they must have had staff for this in those days. And they do. Matieu runs a small team like a family unit.
In fact the property retains the feel of a well-run family home—like you’re staying with that wealthy, eccentric aunt you don’t have. He admits to not being a chef by profession, hut he shouldn’t, because the food is delectable. Kingfish steamed in banana leaf with fragrant jasmine and seafood linguine are their signature dishes. Romancing couples coo across candle-lit tables overlooking the pool while even the most ardent epicure will feast their eyes on the breakfast. Fresh yoghurt set the night before accompanied by homemade granola and crepe Suzettes so delicate they could have been flambeed by Henri Charpentier himself. As much as possible is either made in house or locally sourced, and everything is fresh and of the best possible quality. Mon dieu, I’m glad the French are such snobs about their food.
Casa da Graca’s melange of styles and flavours is an immaculate reflection of the influence of Goa’s colonies over the years; executed with all the attention to detail of a labour of love. Its walls whisper the message susegad where guests are lulled into a sense of blissful indolence, often garnered with proximity to the sea. And is that not, after all, what we are all in search of in the sunshine state?
3 nights starting from USD 1 ,475 per person
Includes: Stay in a Beach Pavillion with private pool, daily breakfast and return speedboat transfers.
Offer: 30% discount on room rate.
Validity: Until 30 September 2017. Escape to this private coral island with all the charm of a Maldivian village, where palm-thatched pavilions and bungalows adorn the white sand and crystal clear waters.
4 nights starting from USD 745 per person
Includes: Stay in a Premier Beach Access Room with daily breakfast and return airport transfers.
Offer: Stay 3 nights with one extra night free; upgrade to next available room type; a free dinner for two; and complimentary stay for two children under 12 years old.
Validity: Until 31 August 2017. Sri Lanka’s hottest new hideaway.
4 nights starting from USD 850 per person
Includes: Stay in a Superior Room with return airport transfers.
Offer: Stay three nights and receive an additional night for free.
Validity: Until 31 August 2017. A Manhattan landmark located on the corner of Central Park and the Upper East Side where prime real estate and architectural heritage meets luxury living.
3 nights starting from USD 567 per person
Includes: Stay in a Superior Room with daily breakfast and return airport transfers.
Offer: 23% discount on room rate.
Validity: Until 31 August 2017. When in Rome, live la dolce vita in this haven of Art Deco inspired decadence where art, culture and refined elegance come together to create a timeless experience matched with superb service.
When we set off on our four-day trek in Ladakh, through the Hemis National Park, our itinerary included night stays in homes in different villages. Little did we know that the homes would spring a series of surprises. During our trek in Uttarakhand, we had stayed in rest houses that offered great views and a mountain of warm but itchy quilts. We slept in candlelit rooms. On one unforgettable trek, we had taken shelter in a shepherd’s stone hut through along, rainy deluge, with smoke pouring in from the kitchen and water rushing in rivulets through the walls.
As we made our way we hoped our homestays would be better. A room in a hut, though dimly lit, would still be homely. But would it be cold? Damp? Noisy? Time would tell. Rumbak village—when we first caught sight of it— gleamed white and brown in the distance. Like an oasis in a desert I thought, for we had been walking through mostly treeless, arid landscape that belied the gurgling ribbon of a river that ran some metres below. These must be the houses of the village chiefs; I wondered where the huts could be.
SURPRISE NO 1 – HOUSES, NOT HUTS – At the village, our guide set out to make enquiries. The villagers offered homestays by rotation, and he needed to know which house would host us. Looking at the village before me, I felt a sense of surprise, tinged with frank admiration. All the houses on the sloping terrain were built of sturdy brick that was plastered over. Large windows ensured ample natural light, and I could see terraces and sloping roofs. Wooden fretwork details, typical of the Ladakh region ran along the exteriors. The impression I got was of a clean village with house-proud inhabitants. We climbed a steep run of stone steps that led into the courtyard of the home which would shelter us for the night.
SURPRISE NO 2 – OUR ROOM – Colourful curtains, on a metal curtain rod, hung at the window, and the floor was covered with a dhurrie, on which four thin single mattresses were arranged along the walls. A pile of synthetic blankets and tables made up the rest of the room’s contents. It was warm, welcoming, and offered a wonderful view. Solar panels ensured ample light. In Rumbak village, as we put down our bags, Sonam Palmo, our smiling hostess, came in with a tray of tea. Her smile made me feel genuinely welcome. Allaying my fears about communication, she spoke in faultless Hindi. One thought, however nagged at my mind. The room had no toilet. And I have the city-dweller’s horror of hole-in-the-ground toilets. But when you have to go, you have to go, and finally the vital question was put forward.
SURPRISE NO 3 – THE TOILET – I looked at the steep stairs that had been pointed out, and climbed hesitantly. A tower revealed itself, with a tiny wooden door, held closed by a twist of rope. I confess my heartbeat faster from the fear of what I would find within than from the exertion of the short climb. The Ladakhis have perhaps the cleanest dry toilets I have ever seen in my travels. The height ensures the pit is far below, and generous additions of hay and mud prevent all unpleasantness.
SURPRISE NO 4 – THE FOOD – Sonam served us large chapattis for dinner, for which the wheat, along with other household requirements, came from Leh, laden on the back of ponies. The village fields only yield peas and barley. Hot dal and a lightly spiced vegetable made the meal the ultimate comfort food. Breakfast was a real winner. Chapattis served marvellously, with jam and processed butter, eggs, and a tin of cheese! Our packed lunch boxes contained a boiled egg, boiled potatoes, a chocolate bar and chapattis.
SURPRISE NO 5 – NO YOUNG MEN! – I was intrigued to see very few young men during our stay in the village. Through our trek, all our hostesses were young women. So, where were all the men? Sonam told us her husband was an army man, posted elsewhere, and her sons were studying in Leh. Her parents lived with her, and her father would leave every morning to graze the donkeys (who had woken us with their braying). Similarly, in Shingo village, our slim, young hostess had two children, both under three, and her husband was away with his donkeys as they carried goods to and from Leh. Her grandparents lived with her, helped in looking after the kids, tend the field, and graze the yak that gave milk. I learnt that most young men prefer to live, study, and earn in the city, coming home occasionally, while women managed the homes and homestays.
SURPRISE NO 6 – HOMESTAYS EMPOWER! – In a unique programme, The J&K Wildlife Protection Department supports the homestays, ensuring the extra money helps make up for livestock losses they may suffer if the snow leopard should carry away their animals. Ten per cent of the money earned is given to the department, which also guides the villagers on service standards to maintain. It is a practical plan, and works as much for trekkers as it does for the villagers. I, for one, can happily forget the rest houses in other places that gifted me itchy bug bites. I also get to keep in memory the smiling faces of the Ladakhi hostesses in their humble homes. Self sufficient women, with few wants, these are housewives who have turned into entrepreneurs tending their home and children as they work.
There are two ways that you could attempt the Cabot Trail—clockwise or anti-clockwise. Both impress with scenic vistas of Cape Breton, the Gulf of St Lawrence, the Atlantic Ocean, and lush landscapes, particularly spectacular in fall. While most people choose to go clockwise, the direction you choose will depend on whether you want to be on the ‘inner’ lane to avoid steep drops, or you enjoy thrilling curves along the coast. Driving anti-clockwise can be a bit daunting for those scared of heights. If you choose to go clockwise, you get to climb Cape Smokey more gradually from Ingonish Ferry.
Hikers will enjoy the Skyline Trail and the Franey Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. You can even jump into the refreshing waters of Black Brook Beach, try fly fishing for Atlantic salmon on the Margaree River, and sail on the lovely Bras d’Or Lake. Eat fresh oysters at Hide Away Campground & Oyster Market, and try delicious butter tarts and cinnamon buns in Cheticamp at the La Boulangerie Aucoin Bakery. Sample beers at the Big Spruce Brewing in Nyanza and stop by Doryman Pub & Grill for great food and Acadian music. End your journey at the little village of Baddeck, in the heart of Cape Breton Island and indulge in delicious crustaceans at Baddeck Lobster Suppers.