The Louvre Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi takes on the art world
Louvre Abu Dhabi might just be redefining the art world, and here's why.
Costa Rican wilderness
Top 10 Costa Rican wildernesses
With so many world-class natural wonders, it can be hard to know where to begin in Costa Rica. Here’s our pick of its greatest parks. 1. Arenal Volcano National Park This national park, home to its namesake the Arenal Volcano, is a picturesque wilderness of a black stone volcano being overtaken by lush green vegetation.   Emerging from the top of the volcano is a waft of white smoke, bleeding into the clouds above, representative of the fact that this is Costa Rica’s most active volcano. [caption id="attachment_45826" align="alignleft" width="600"] Beautiful Turquoise water of Rio Celeste Waterfall[/caption] Not only known for its volcanic monument, the Arenal Volcano National Park hosts the La Fortuna waterfall and hot springs, which are worth a trek through the jungle for – we promise! 2. Ballena Marine National Park From an aerial perspective, this diverse ecosystem, comprised of jungle and ocean, forms the shape of a whale’s tail as the sand bridge leads to a small curved island off the coast. [caption id="attachment_45832" align="alignleft" width="600"] Uvita Beach, Marino Ballena National Park[/caption] Ironically, this beach is renowned for being on the migration route for the Humpback whale, where they can be spotted off the shore.   With marine iguana’s sunbaking on the sand, a mass of mangrove forests to explore and a plethora of fish to spot, as you snorkel the shallows, there is so much to see and do at the Marino Ballena National Park. 3. Cahuita National Park Where the wilderness meets the ocean, this National Park looks like a beach from Pirates of the Caribbean – white sand, trees meeting the shore and completely deserted.   The perfect spot for a swim, a sunbake or a surf, this is one of Costa Rica’s greatest secrets. Head to the Puerto Vargas for great snorkelling or venture inland to the Jaguar Rescue Centre, where you can take a tour of the facilities and see some sloths, jaguars and toucans up close. 4. Cocos Island National Park 600km off the coast of Costa Rica, Coco’s Island is the largest uninhabited island in the world. Spanning across almost 24 square kilometres, this lush green island was the inspiration for the fictitious Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park, and the Island that marooned Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. [caption id="attachment_45827" align="alignleft" width="600"] The waters of Cocos Island National Park[/caption] Scuba diving on the rim of the island, spotting hammerhead sharks, dolphins and rays in the depths of the ocean and waterfall hopping on land are just two of the many activities on this glorious island.   Consider staying on-board a charter vessel, with many companies offering multiple night stays to allow for proper exploration of the island. 5. Corcovado National Park The pristine waters and lush green jungle of the Corcovado National Park are not even its best features. Boasting one of the world’s most biodiverse landscapes, head over to this marvel for some serious wildlife spotting. Expect to see a few monkeys (including the spider monkey), sea turtles, lizards, a squirrel or two, the two and three toed sloths, toucans, scarlet macaws and anteaters. [caption id="attachment_45828" align="alignleft" width="600"] Corcovado National Park in the Puntarenas Province[/caption] Also, home to the endangered Jaguar, it is wise (and safest) to book a day tour to the island from the neighbouring town of Drake Bay, where you can also set yourself up in a luxury eco lodge for your stay. 6. Irazú Volcanic National Park Irazu, meaning “thunder and earthquake mountain” in the Indigenous dialect, represents the 11360ft volcano that sits perched high within the park. Currently inactive, the volcano can be climbed by visitors, who want to see the moon-like-craters that exist on its surface and to look down on the clouds from atop its peak. [caption id="attachment_45829" align="alignleft" width="600"] Irazú Volcanic National Park is an incredible natural phenomenon[/caption] The main crater, a favourite for tourists, is now home to a bright green lake that spans 300m. 7. Manuel Antonio Park Another park, sporting rainforest, wildlife and pristine beaches, this is one of Costa Rica’s most frequented spots. With easy access to the park, and an array of activities and perfect sunbaking beaches, this is the perfect spot to centre yourself in Costa Rica. [caption id="attachment_45830" align="alignleft" width="600"] Expect white sand and warm water at Manuel Antonio National Park[/caption] A less traditional activity, and certainly a thrilling one, is a tour through the Damas Island estuary. You can reach the estruary via car, boat or, my favourite, Kayak from the main beach. With a guided tour offering travel through the rainforest on intricate waterways, this is the best way to spot wildlife. Expect sloths, snakes, crocodiles and monkeys. 8. Poás Volcano National Park Home to another volcano, this park has a glorious “Hot Lake” poised in a crater, and boasts amazing views from the top of the volcano. [caption id="attachment_45831" align="alignleft" width="600"] Poas Volcano has one of the largest craters in the world[/caption] Within the vicinity of the park is also the famous Laguna Botos cloud forest, that must not be missed. Characterised by a constant cloud cover that settles on the rainforest, the humid and moist environment, creates a lush green oasis – always shrouded in an ominous fog. 9. Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park This national park, while famous for its volcano, is also renowned for its hot springs, mud pots and waterfalls. Hiking is encouraged, with a variety of hiking tracks, of varied difficulty, offered to visitors.   The mud pots, positioned along most of the trails, can be heard bubbling with geothermal energy from meters away and are something reminiscent of an episode of the Land Before Time. Head to the glorious La Cangreja waterfall to cool off along your hike, or to the Rio Negro hot springs to rejuvenate. To enhance your trip to this national park, consider a horseback or zip line tour, or the opportunity to go tubing down the many rivers. And that's a dare... 10. Tortuguero National Park Wildlife central, you can spot a plethora of animals, insects and birds at this thriving Costa Rican wilderness. [caption id="attachment_45833" align="alignleft" width="600"] White Faced Capuchin Monkey Family in Tortuguero National Park[/caption] Visit between July and October to witness the turtle eggs on the beach. Once laid, the eggs incubate in the warm sand for 7-10 weeks, so if you time your trip right, you might be lucky enough to catch the turtles hatching from their eggs and racing to the sea.      
10 most influential travel books, revealed.
10 most influential travel books
Attention bookworms! Here we reveal the 10 best reads for travellers... Let’s get it straight. There is no such thing as the most influential travel book of all time. At best, we can offer up candidates for the most influential books of a particular generation.   And let’s not confuse ‘best-selling’ with being influential. Popularity doesn’t automatically translate into lasting impact. Influence is something best measured over time, whereas being ‘in vogue’ is by definition a transitory state and subject to whim; fifty shades of fame, anyone?   The travel books chosen here by Rob Woodburn have either passed the test of enduring influence or have unquestionably enhanced our appreciation of the joys of travel.   The list is by no means prescriptive. One reader’s elixir may prove to be another reader’s poison.         [caption id="attachment_1080" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The Odyssey - By Homer[/caption] The Odyssey Homer (circa 800 - 700 BC) First printed edition 1488 The Odyssey is generally regarded as the first travel book, and by that assessment alone has since influenced all others. This tale of a soldier returning home from a Trojan war began life as an epic poem, which became oral mythology over centuries before being committed to paper.   Inevitably, the saga has been shaped and altered by countless narrators, yet is one of the western world’s most enduring legends. Its relevance today may well be considered largely academic but no travel writing can completely disengage itself from the historic influence of this ancient wonder.     [caption id="attachment_1092" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The Innocents Abroad - Mark Twain[/caption] The Innocents Abroad Mark Twain (1835 - 1910) Published 1869 Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, is famous for his novels about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, however this was his most popular work during his lifetime. The Innocents Abroad is one of the best-selling travel books of all time and Twain’s droll style has greatly influenced all subsequent comic travel narrative. (viz. Bill Bryson).   The author was hired to file dispatches for a San Francisco paper that sponsored him on a cruise to Europe and the Holy Land. His posts debunked both his fellow travellers and the overwrought travelogues of the time and were an immediate hit with readers. They were later published as a book.   Twain explores the difference between expectations and reality and raises issues that still resonate, including cultural identity, the gap between rich and poor and the innate prejudices of most tourists.     [caption id="attachment_1081" align="aligncenter" width="300"] On The Road - Jack Kerouac[/caption] On the Road Jack Kerouac (1922 - 1969) Published 1957 This largely autobiographical stream-of-consciousness account of impromptu travels across America captured the zeitgeist of the time and became “the bible of the counter-cultural generation”. Kerouac’s style mirrored the restless, non-conformist, ad-lib, jazzy tempo that hallmarked the ‘Beat Generation’ of American writers.   Paradoxically, Kerouac’s bravura performance in avant-garde spontaneity reaffirmed ancient Homer’s adage that “the journey is the thing”; that movement itself is purpose. On the Road fuelled a passion for travel among the post-World War II generation while Kerouac’s prose style probably sparked the later ‘gonzo journalism’ of Hunter S. Thompson. The book’s global influence lingers, evident in the multi-national co-production of the 2012 film adaptation.     [caption id="attachment_1082" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Arabian Sands - Wilfred Thesiger[/caption] Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger (1910 - 2003) Published 1959 If you had to choose one word to sum up this great explorer it would have to be ‘resolute’. Thesiger considered hardship and challenge integral to achieving the goals of true travel writing, equating a capacity for endurance with authentic experience.   Arabian Sands covers his travels in the Empty Quarter between 1945 and 1950 and describes the way of life of the Bedouins. It’s generally thought of as the finest book ever written about Arabia and a matchless account of a world that’s since been lost forever.   Thesiger’s later travels saw him also visit Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan, Pakistan and Kenya. Both his writings and lifestyle have greatly influenced other intrepid-minded travel writers, among them Bruce Chapman and Colin Thubron. Thesiger died in 2003 aged 93.     [caption id="attachment_1085" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Trackes - Robyn Davidson[/caption] Tracks Robyn Davidson (born 1950) Published 1980 Davidson was 27 when, with her dog Diggity and four camels, she made her epic nine-month trek of more than 2700 kilometres through the inhospitable deserts of central Australia.   Her frank revelations of how she was affected by both the vastness of the land and the gruelling conditions grabbed the attention of readers around the world. Tracks won the inaugural Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, an amazing result for a book Davidson never intended writing. It shaped as a possibility only after she’d agreed to an article on her trek for National Geographic.     [caption id="attachment_1086" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A Year In Provence - Peter Mayle[/caption] A Year in Provence Peter Mayle (born 1939) Published 1989 Mayle effectively created a new genre for travel writing with this best-selling memoir of sea change in a foreign country, in his case departing Devon in England to start a new life in the Luberon area in southern France.   The book covers his first year of living in the village of Ménerbes. His engagingly detailed and wry account struck a chord with millions nursing their own dreams of starting anew. It also provoked a succession of similar memoirs that mine the theme of ‘relocation and renewal’, the most notable being Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes.   Mayle wrote two sequels about his life in Provence but subsequently moved to America to escape the sightseers drawn to Ménerbes by his books. He later returned to France and now lives only 20 kilometres from his original Provençal bolthole.     [caption id="attachment_1079" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Venice - Jan Morris[/caption] Venice Jan Morris (born 1926) Published 1960 Morris is best known for marvellous books about cities, which include Oxford (1965), Hong Kong (1988), Trieste (2001) and Sydney (1992). She’s also a renowned historian.   Venice is one of three books Morris wrote about ‘La Serenissima’ and is considered one of the paramount portrayals of the city and a major work of cultural history. Venice won the 1960 RSL Heinemann Award, an achievement that helped prompt the transition of Morris from foreign correspondent to full-time author. The Times hailed it “a classic love letter to Italy’s most iconic city”.   In 2004, Morris received the Thomas Cook Travel Book special award for outstanding contribution to travel writing. Yet she’s on record saying she prefers to be seen as a belletrist, or essayist, rather than a travel writer.     [caption id="attachment_1083" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The Great Travel Bazaar - Paul Theroux[/caption] The Great Railway Bazaar Paul Theroux (born 1941) Published 1975 A classic of its genre and arguably the finest book yet about travel by train. Theroux takes readers on a memorable four-month odyssey that departs from London’s Victoria Station to chuff steadily east, riding the rails along 30 different routes across Europe, through the Middle East, India and south east Asia before returning from Tokyo to Europe on the Trans-Siberian Express.   His book can be viewed as a colourful, energetic ‘bazaar’ of acute observations, entertaining anecdotes and sharp, yet sometime sardonic, commentary on his fellow passengers and places visited. Theroux has since penned four more travelogues of train travel and is also a successful novelist.     [caption id="attachment_1089" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson[/caption] Notes from a Small Island Bill Bryson (born 1951) Published 1995 Pick any Bryson yarn. He’s probably more responsible for spreading the popularity of travel writing than any other contemporary author. Whatever he writes is publishing gold, be it travel, science, memoir or biography. But his anecdotal travelogues, imbued with an infectious, gentle humour, sharp intellect and unrivalled eye for small detail, first won him a devoted global audience.   Bryson has an unrivalled gift for transmitting head-spinning facts and figures without being tedious while his mastery of comedic tone makes him a modern Mark Twain. It’s a very brave (or foolish) travel scribe who dares try quarry a similar vein.   Notes from a Small Island was so influential it was later voted ‘the book that best represents England’. Bryson is now the UK’s biggest selling non-fiction author since official records began, a tally boosted by his multi-million selling science book, A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003).     [caption id="attachment_1091" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert[/caption] Eat Pray Love Published 2006 Elizabeth Gilbert (born 1969) Gilbert’s memoir about her search for personal solace after her divorce covers a journey to Italy, India and Indonesia, with a fairytale denouement in Ubud, Bali.   Weathering some withering criticism amid heated debate about its narcissistic tendencies, the book nevertheless struck a deep chord. And, having got the hallowed thumbs up from Oprah, became not only a best seller but a global cultural phenomenon, selling more than 10 million copies and translated into 30 languages. The 2010 film starring Julia Roberts further boosted its reputation.   A steady parade of tourists inspired by the book and movie follow in Gilbert’s footsteps to Bali where the Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud has a cycling package including a stop at the home of Mangku Ketut Liyer, the aging Balinese balian (mystic) made famous by Gilbert’s runaway success.
Sunda Kelapa Harbour, Jakarta.
How to spend 48 hours in Jakarta
Few cities incite such love-hate feelings as the bustling Indonesian capital. Here's how to get under the skin of this sprawling metropolis with this ultimate 48-hour itinerary. DAY ONE Fans of Jakarta claim that its nickname, the Big Durian, is a nod to NYC (others say it refers to its many and varied aromas). 6am Rise early to experience the frenetic clamour of Jakarta’s oldest traditional market.   Pasar Ikan fish market (at Jalan Pasar Ikan) is the perfect place to get a feel for the hectic, pulsating heartbeat of this city of 10 million. [caption id="attachment_20131" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Fresh fruit at one of Jakarta's many street stalls.[/caption] Later in the day souvenir vendors will turn out to meet the late-rising tourists, but take the opportunity to visit at first-light and you’ll be warmly welcomed by smiling stall-holders. 9am Kick-start your trip in classic style at the spot where modern-day Jakarta itself got started.   VOC Galangan Cafe (Jalan Kakap) stands on the premises of a wonderfully renovated Dutch warehouse. Sip your morning cup of Java in a building that dates back more than 350 years or on the sun-blessed terrace, which doubles as a parking place for a 1926 vintage Ford and a horse-carriage. 10am There can be few places that encapsulate the diversity of the world’s most populous island nation in quite the same way as Sunda Kelapa harbour does.   The sweeping bows of majestic timber schooners throw shadows across the dock as tattooed Dayak wharfies from Borneo and swarthy Bugis deckhands from Sulawesi offload trade-goods from all over the islands. [caption id="attachment_20128" align="alignleft" width="1500"] One of Jakarta's many tuk tuks.[/caption] The ghost of Joseph Conrad seems to drift evocatively through the scent of cloves and timber. 1pm Flag down a bajaj (a motor-rickshaw taxi) and head back past Chicken Market Bridge – the last remaining Dutch drawbridge – to Daoen Sirih.   This large bamboo-roofed food-court near the backpacker ghetto of Jalan Jaksa retains a mostly local clientele and is a good place to chat with locals while you tuck into tasty goat satays or mee goreng (fried noodles).   Meals start at about $2, so don’t hesitate to be extravagant! 2pm If you’re still feeling adventurous go for an aprés-lunch buzz on an ‘ojek’.   These motorcycle taxis are about half the price of a bajaj and their riders blast through traffic jams like crazed horsemen, so it will only take you a few minutes to reach the Museum Nasional (Jalan Merdeka Barat 12). [caption id="attachment_20129" align="alignleft" width="668"] Taman Mini Indonesia (Little Indonesia Park) is a cultural showcase for some of the great diversity of cultures in Jakarta.[/caption] Built in 1862, this is the most extensive museum of its kind in the country. It closes at 4pm, so if time is tight make a beeline for the ethnology section, which has a mind-boggling collection of artefacts from as far afield as Sumatra, Flores and Papua. 6pm Enjoy a traditional sun-downer at one of the many bars that liven up in the late afternoon around Jalan Jaksa.   Melly’s Garden (37–39 Kebon Sirih Timur Dalam), with its atmospheric courtyard, is the most peaceful, but for unbeatable people-watching and live music, head for Memories Cafe on Jalan Jaksa itself. 8pm – late Dine in classic style at Cafe Batavia on Fatahillah Square (a short bajaj ride away from the neon-lights of Jaksa).   This wonderful old mansion of a cafe is Jakarta’s second oldest building (after the Fatahillah Museum just across the road).   The restaurant upstairs offers a good mix of Indonesian, Chinese and Western meals and the atmospheric saloon below will force you into having a last night-cap on the way out.   There’s live music most weekdays. DAY TWO 7.30am If yesterday was all about Jakarta’s rich history then today is about getting an insight into contemporary Indonesia. [caption id="attachment_20135" align="alignleft" width="1169"] Dining among some of the archipelago’s fine art at Lara Djonggrang.[/caption] Start your day with the commuters on a train ride to Jakarta Kota Station (itself a 100-year-old Art Deco gem).   Take the north exit and after a 10-minute walk you’ll find yourself at Petak Sembilan Street Market.   Located in a traditional residential area off Jalan Pancoran, this market is almost 100 per cent local and a great place to grab a table at a roadside kopi stall and watch the city start the day. 9am Flag down a taxi – Bluebird Company is the most reliable – and ask for Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Jalan Raya Jagorawi).   This massive 100-hectare cultural theme park is 18 kilometres from the city centre, but the ride should only set you back about $9.   With attractions representing most of Indonesia’s major tribes and ethnic groups, this is a fantastic way to gain a feeling for the wonderful diversity of the country.   Culinary influences from all over the country also mean that it is a great place for lunch. 2pm Head back to the city centre for an afternoon stroll through Merdeka Square.   The green heart of the city, with its lawns and tree-shaded parklands is one of the biggest squares in the world and is a playground for Jakarta’s inhabitants.   There is a deer enclosure and you can watch locals playing football, badminton, or the dramatic foot-volley game known as sepak takraw. 4pm Walk to the very centre of Merdeka Square to the National Monument (‘Monas’ to locals).   Dubbed as ‘Sukarno’s last erection’ this 132-metre tower took 14 years to build and is topped with a symbolic flame (leafed with gold) that would supposedly shine a metaphoric light that would unify the entire country. [caption id="attachment_20130" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is a massive 100-hectare cultural theme park is 18 kilometres from the city centre, but the ride should only set you back about $9.With attractions representing most of Indonesia’s major tribes and ethnic groups, this is a fantastic way to gain a feeling for the wonderful diversity of the country.Culinary influences from all over the country also mean that it is a great place for lunch.[/caption] It closes at 5pm, so leave enough time to join the queue and take the elevator to the observation deck, which offers phenomenal views from 115 metres up. 6pm From nearby Skye bar (on the 56th floor of Jakarta Menara BCA Tower) you can sip cocktails while you look down on the aforementioned National Monument.   This is the place to be seen with a frosted sun-downer in hand while you schmooze with the nightly gathering of starlets, pop stars and sundry millionaires of modern-day, boomtown Jakarta. 8pm At least a few of the most discerning diners in Jakarta are sure to be heading for Lara Djonggrang (Jl Teuku Cik Ditiro 4), and this lovely restaurant is highly recommended if you want to see how far Jakartan chic has come. [caption id="attachment_20132" align="alignleft" width="668"] Rise early to experience the frenetic clamour of Jakarta’s oldest traditional market.Pasar Ikan fish market (at Jalan Pasar Ikan) is the perfect place to get a feel for the hectic, pulsating heartbeat of this city of 10 million.Later in the day souvenir vendors will turn out to meet the late-rising tourists, but take the opportunity to visit at first-light and you’ll be warmly welcomed by smiling stall-holders.[/caption] Owner Anhar Setjadibrata is a celebrated antiques collector specialising in wonderful works from all over the archipelago. If you ask for a table in the romantic back room, you’ll find that the surroundings are as tasteful as the cuisine and as eclectic as the vibrant city that you might just have fallen in love with. Where to stay Shangri-La Jakarta is in the business district, a short drive from Merdeka Square.   The exclusive Horizon Club on the 26th floor provides afternoon tea with incredible views over the biggest city in Southeast Asia.   Some of the most luxurious suites in Jakarta are available from $287.   DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta is perfectly located in the heart of Jakarta’s CBD.   Facilities are unbeatable with a choice of restaurants, award-winning spa and a 100-metre pool.   Room rates start at $117.   Artotel is a wonderful boutique hotel that was designed through a collaboration of Indonesian artists.   It has some of the most fascinatingly quirky suites, lounges and dining areas in the city.   Rooms start at just $75.
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Your five-minute guide to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)
Get to know Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is still known to its millions of inhabitants, one of South-East Asia’s most frenetic cities. Welcome to Saigon [caption id="attachment_19351" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam[/caption] Ho Chi Minh City’s (HCMC) Tan Son Nhat international airport is just eight kilometres from the city.   The cheapest and most convenient way to get to the city is by taxi; it should cost around $10.   Drivers might try to offer a higher set fare, but always ask to turn the meter on and use the Mai Linh (white and green) or Vinasun (white) taxi companies as they are the most reliable. Getting out and about By foot The sites in HCMC are predominantly located within District 1, which means you can see most of it by foot. You could easily do Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum and Ben Thanh Market in one day. By taxi Getting around the city by taxi is reasonable. It’s around 60 cents for flag fall and 20 cents per kilometre, so a trip from Thien Hau Temple to The Independence Palace (about five kilometres) will cost you around $2. By motorbike Saigon’s traffic is a chaotic sea of bumper to bumper motorbikes. We don’t recommend hiring one on your own, but if you want to see Saigon on two wheels, try a guided tour with XO Tours, an all-female motorbike company whose four tours cover major sites, street food, the city by night or the best shopping spots. By cyclo What better way to get around than by the iconic cyclo? Sadly these three-wheeled bicycles are vanishing from the city, but if you come across a friendly cyclo driver while wandering around District 1, hire one for around $3 to $5 for an hour. Sightseeing We all know about the Cu Chi Tunnels, but you may not have heard of… Archbishop’s Palace Said to be the oldest house in HCMC, the Archbishop’s Palace was built in 1790 and is one of the best examples of French colonial architecture in the city.   Despite being relocated several times since it was first built (it now sits in the French Quarter) the original structure, with its tiled roof, carved wooden doors, beams and pillars, has been around for around 200 years. Tao Dan Park A fantastic place to people-watch, particularly in the early morning between 7am and 9am when groups of elderly gentlemen bring their pet birds in cages to ring out a collective morning symphony.   The park itself is 10 hectares of green space, with benches and pathways under shady trees – an ideal spot to cool off from the midday heat.   You’ll also spot many locals here exercising, or heading to and from the Workers’ Club, home to a clubhouse, tennis courts and an Art Deco pool. Saigon Opera House You haven’t done HCMC until the fat lady sings. You may walk by the Opera House on your travels, but we recommend heading inside the glorious French-style building and seeing a performance.   It hosts a variety of classical and contemporary performances throughout the year, from opera and ballet to rock concerts. Shopping Ben Thành Market This is Ho Chi Minh’s bustling central market. Pick up souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, hardware, sweets, fruit and veggies, spices… you name it, it’s here. Haggle to your heart’s content (except at the stores with ‘Fixed Price’ signage). Vincom Center The city’s biggest mall is divided into two buildings, with everything from Jimmy Choo to Mango, a host of eateries, a huge games centre – bumper cars, air hockey and the like – and a kids’ section called the Fairy Garden. Dong Khoi Street Home to the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office and the Opera House, this street runs for about six blocks and boasts HCMC’s more upscale and boutique shops. But it’s also a great strolling street with plenty of restaurants and cafés to stop at. Eat & drink [caption id="attachment_41055" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Ho Chi Minh City[/caption] Street food You’ll find street vendors everywhere in Saigon. One of the best grab-and-go options is Bánh mì, a fresh baguette usually filled with pork or chicken, with chilli, pâté, cucumber, thin strips of pickled carrots, white radish, fresh coriander and a sprig of spring onion. Delicious! Coffee Since its introduction by French colonists in the 19th century, coffee has become an everyday staple for Vietnamese. In particular iced coffee (‘Ca phe sua da’) – which some liken to melted coffee flavoured ice-cream. Pho Vietnam’s unofficial national dish can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Popular places to try it include Pho 2000 (near Ben Thành Market), Pho 24 (spotted in several locations around the city), Pho Le and Pho Hoa. Or just stop by a street vendor! Dining out Try Hoa Túc in District 1, a modern Vietnamese restaurant in a beautiful Art Nouveau setting – they also do cooking classes; Cuc Gach Quán, a delightful family restaurant in a restored French colonial villa (the Jolie-Pitts have dined here); and the hip riverside restaurant/bar The Deck has a great courtyard, daybeds and a top cocktail and wine list – worth the 20-minute drive for a change of scenery. Where to stay District 1 is the place to be, home to sites such as Reunification Palace, Central Post Office, Ben Thành Market and the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Silverland Sakyo Hotel and Spa This hotel is just a 10-minute walk from the Opera House and even less to Vincom Shopping Center.   It has a funky Japanese-meets-Vietnamese design; each room is vibrantly styled and spacious. There’s a rooftop jacuzzi pool with a bar, a lobby lounge and a Japanese sushi restaurant.   From $101 a night; silverlandhotels.com/silverland-sakyo-hotel-spa New World Saigon This hotel is superbly located, just opposite the famous Ben Thành Market, a fantastic area for walking.   The hotel itself is contemporary and elegant with two restaurants, two bars/lounges, a bakery/café, an outdoor swimming pool, a tennis court, gym and day spa.   From $167 a night; saigon.newworldhotels.com/en Caravelle Hotel Possibly the city’s most iconic hotel, the Caravelle is located on Dong Khoi Street, within walking distance to the Opera House, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.   Built in 1959, the hotel was home to many members of the International Press Corps during the American War (it has bullet-proof glass!), with most of their work taking place at the 10th floor rooftop bar, now known as Saigon Saigon.   There are two other bars, two restaurants, a café, day spa, pool and gym.   From $258 a night; caravellehotel.com InterContinental Saigon Just a short stroll from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the InterContinental is located between Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi streets.   The modern rooms are spacious with floor-to-ceiling windows and fantastic views over the city. The hotel has three restaurants – Asian and Italian cuisine – and two bars/lounges.   From $300 a night; ihg.com Helpful phrases 'Hello' = Xin chao   'Good bye' = Tam biet   'Thank you' = Cam on   'How much?' = Bao nhieu?   'Where’s the… toilet?' = Nha ve sinh… o dau?  
Tyne Cot World War I Cemetery, Belgium.
Through Flanders Fields
IT reader Katie Bourke takes an emotional journey in the footsteps of  fallen soldiers on the Ypres Salient in Belgium.
Honolulu Festival in Hawai‘i.
Five unmissable annual events in Hawai‘i
Pencil down these diary dates before planning your ultimate Hawai‘i getaway.

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