What do you do when a destination disappoints?

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Have you ever returned to a place and thought, “It’s not what it used to be”? Or travelled to a destination and thought, “I wish I had come here 20 years ago”?

As travellers, we do have this tendency to glorify a certain image of the place in our mind.

I remember travelling to Bali for the first time, only two years ago. In my mind, I had an image of Bali — an image of paradise — which I had held for 15 years. I just hadn’t yet had the opportunity to travel there.

And when I arrived in…

What if you escaped to the Mongolian steppes?

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Silent, endless, epic. Mongolia is a great adventure — one of those vast countries where there isn’t much besides nature.

What type of vehicles do they have in Mongolia? They travel by horse. The Mongolian nomads do anyway. And if they go by motorized vehicle, they travel by old-school, battered, rugged, Soviet-built Jeeps — quite spacious, relatively comfortable and incredibly hardy.

When I was there, each morning the driver would light a fire underneath the Jeep, because it got so cold at night that the car engine would freeze. …

Find out what is unique about each experience.

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I’ve had the fortune to visit Arctic Scandinavia twice — once in Sweden and once in Finland. And each time my trip focussed on something different.

The first time I was all about the huskies.

I was travelling with my girlfriend, and she really wanted to experience the huskies and the ice hotel. This was in Arctic Sweden, and one of the first shocks — other than the temperature, because it really is cold — was that being in winter, there’s not much daylight.

It’s quite strange to be staying in a hotel on holiday, and it’s still dark at…

Discover a whole ancient civilization.

Aerial view of Ankgor Wat temple complex in Cambodia.
Aerial view of Ankgor Wat temple complex in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat is just one of the temples and palaces that cover the jungle near Siem Reap in Cambodia. Because it’s the biggest of the temples here, it’s the one which became the world wonder, the Instagram location, the famous photo, the bucketlist attraction.

And it is spectacular. But it’s not a place to go for an hour. It’s not a place to stand outside and take a selfie.

Let’s go inside. Walk up the steps, down the stone corridors. Let’s follow the stone walls, up some stairs, down some stairs, and find private places where we can gaze across…

Take a trip into France’s famous wine-producing region.

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The region of Champagne is just about two hours from Paris. It’s definitely within reach for a day trip, but you can also stay the night there.

And there are two important places to visit.

The heartbeat of Champagne is a town called Épernay. It’s an old town, surrounded by rows and rows of vines. The fields go on seemingly forever, over and around the hills.

The other place is Reims. It’s a bigger city, and there’s more to see and do there that’s non-champagne related.

You can definitely have amazing champagne in Reims, but Épernay is where you have…

Five ideas for enjoying Dubai’s diversity.

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Before they visit Dubai, people have preconceptions about it — simplified ideas of what it will be like.

I had preconceptions myself. Before I visited Dubai, I really wasn’t interested in it. I saw pictures of big skyscrapers and very flashy over the top opulence, and I thought, “That’s not me, so I’m not interested in going to Dubai.”

But fortunately, I have friends who live there, who said it wasn’t exactly how I thought it was. So I went to visit — and had one of the times of my life. …

Positive change happens. These places are the proof.

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It’s a tautology to say that travel has changed because of COVID. Right now, we can’t go to places because everything’s restricted. It’s a very negative tale.

But this made me think about how destinations change. I wonder if anybody’s got Syria or Iraq on their travel bucketlist. Probably not. But just because a country is at war now, it doesn’t mean it will never cater for tourists.

Vietnam, for example, is seeing a far different type of foreign visitor from the Americans in army fatigues of the 1970s.

And there are some other wonderful countries that have gone from…

Go further south. But do it soon…

Mayan ruins at Tulum in Mexico
Mayan ruins at Tulum in Mexico

I’m happy for anyone to disagree with me in the comments, but I’ve been to Cancun and thought it was possibly the worst place I’ve ever visited.

The beach was actually really nice — if you only looked about 30 centimetres in front and didn’t see how it is completely dominated and overshadowed by huge high rise buildings, and that it is so crowded and noisy that it’s impossible to enjoy its former natural beauty.

Cancun was really not my place.

A bit further south from Cancun, there’s Playa Del Carmen. …

The pros and cons for you and the sharks.

Shark leaping out of the water in Gansbaai South Africa.
Shark leaping out of the water in Gansbaai South Africa.

Shark cage diving is one of those experiences that are either towards the top of your bucket list, or that you think you will never do in a million lifetimes. If you are among the first, maybe you have asked yourself if it’s good for the sharks — and safe for you.

Let me share my experience.

You can dive with different types of sharks in various places in the world. I did it in a town called Gansbaii, which is about two hours south of Cape Town in South Africa, where you dive with great white sharks.

You can…

What I did could have landed me in an Iranian jail.

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The most stupid thing I’ve ever done in my travels is also, logically enough, my biggest travel regret.

Here’s the tale. Ten years ago, I was travelling from Egypt to India. My plan was to travel the old Silk Road overland — from its western point in Egypt, through Persia, up through the -stan countries in central Asia, then down to the very south of India.

The part in question was going from Iran to Turkmenistan. Anybody who’s travelled to Silk Road overland will probably say the same thing — that there are many visas you have to get and…

Stephen Bailey

Realising the one true and noble function of our time — move.

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