Meet our Far East travel specialists; together they have lived, worked and travelled extensively in the region. Whether you wanted to uncover the range of fascinating temples, or to discover the best beachside hotels, our travel consultants can advise on what would suit you best. Plus, it’s likely they’ve already been there – so can tell you first-hand what to expect.
Meet the team - Far East
My penchant for travel goes all the way back to my childhood when I journeyed across India with my father, an Indian army officer. However, it wasn’t until I set off on a biking trip in north India with a few college friends that I fell head-over-heels for travel. After obtaining a degree in Economics, I started as a tour manager for European trekking/climbing expeditions to the Himalaya. I originally climbed mountains to get the adrenaline rush, but what caught me by surprise was how much I loved meeting the people in these remote areas. This inspired me later in my career and I decided to move to the UK to pursue an MSc in Responsible Tourism and since then have settled here.
I am a trained mountaineer and have spent many years exploring the Himalaya in India, Nepal & Bhutan. Apart from having extensively travelled in India, I have rafted down most of the rivers in the subcontinent and driven my motorbike to the remote corners in India including the world’s highest road in Ladakh. I also take immense pleasure in meeting the people of the lands I visit and appreciating the customs & traditions they hold. I love the puppets of Rajasthan, food in Kerala, trekking in Nepal, mask dances of Bhutan and the ‘curd & treacle’ in Sri Lanka.
I have years of experience as an Indian Subcontinent specialist designing luxury tailor-made holidays and I won’t be satisfied until my clients are excited about the holiday. Apart from the usual sights I absolutely love to plan behind-the-scenes experiences in the narrow streets of Delhi or Varanasi, have conversations with local experts to learn secrets of traditional cooking methods, meetings with artists or musicians in the rural villages, and special private dinners in stunning settings.
My insider tip
Being open minded on a holiday and trying a few things that one normally wouldn’t do can make the holiday memorable. So surprise yourself by wandering off the usual travel guides. In India, I suggest exploring some of the narrow lanes and hidden streets of big cities by a Tuk-Tuk. These tiny vehicles weave in and out of traffic with much ease and let one get under the skin of the place. Witness sights not often seen by tourists and be part of an immersive experience.
My favourite experience
There are so many to choose from, but I’d pick a safari in Ranthambore with one of the most experienced naturalists. With an impeccable knowledge of the park, he helped me spot the rare and shy leopard (as well as two tigers and a cub), which is my favourite cat! This is in addition to about 70 species of birds we spotted on an afternoon safari. I have been to most of the national parks in the subcontinent and stayed in many lodges but this experience clearly stands out and is etched in my memory forever.
My favourite place
India is one of the most magical destinations and has enough to entice a first-time traveller whilst also keeping repeat visitors engaged in its culture, landscape, history festivals, cuisines, people and much more. It’s difficult to not fall in love with the genuineness and warm smiles of the people and the intriguing village life in every part of the country.
My favourite hotel
Shahpura Bagh, in the heartland of rural Rajasthan, comprises two restored bungalows in 45 acres of gardens with a gorgeous pool and is an ideal stop to unwind after a whirlwind tour of the Golden Triangle in north India. This heritage property is the private residence of the rulers of Shahpura who personally look after the guests. Days are spent taking leisurely walks around the estate and their private lake, visiting the nearby villages, enjoying private meals in stunning locations and bird watching during winter months. The food is the highlight and I can’t say enough about my dinner which consisted of some recipes passed down from one generation to the next one before finally appearing on my table! Shahpura Bagh is not a hotel but a destination and experience in itself.
Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by other countries and travel so once I finished school I saved up for a trip round the world which included my first taste of Asia. After a second gap year, this time to Costa Rica, working in the travel industry seemed a natural fit. During this time my love for Asia has grown and grown and I have been fortunate to visit some amazing places, with favourites being Japan, Thailand and Bali. My wife shares this passion and we have travelled all over Asia together. Four years ago took a six-week trip to Bali and Thailand with our six-month-old son, which will hopefully encourage him to want to travel when he is older.
Eat somewhere small and local as the food in Asia is amazing, and I find that the smaller it is, the more authentic the taste. In Singapore, take the subway a few stops from the centre of the city for some fantastic local eateries – No Signboard Seafood is a local institution and off the typical tourist map. A food tour is a must on a holiday to Asia; you get to explore the area and try some local specialities that you may otherwise miss out on.
There are so many to choose from in Asia, be it the seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise, cruising on Halong Bay in Vietnam or taking in the organised chaos that is Japan. However, what always stands out for me is the feeling when you sit down after a day of travel on the first day of your holiday with a cold drink and feel the warmth of the environment, and realise you have your whole holiday to look forward to.
Thailand. It just has everything you need for a perfect holiday. A big city – Bangkok – offering a mix of modern architecture and technology along with traditional temples and palaces; amazing food ranging from street food to Michelin-starred restaurants; stunning beaches with superb hotels to relax in and the friendliest people in the world who make the holiday so special. I have been lucky enough to visit Thailand on numerous occasions over the last 15 years and it is somewhere I will always go back to.
The Shangri La in Bangkok. It has the perfect location in the city, right on the Chao Phraya River making it easy to visit the Grand Palace, Wat Pho Temple and Chinatown. There is a sky train stop a few minutes away which is a great way to get around. It has a fantastic pool which is the perfect place to relax after a day of sightseeing and bargain hunting; and a range of superb restaurants including one of the best breakfasts I have ever had. The staff provide the typical Thai hospitality and could not be more helpful and friendly. I would recommend booking a river-view room with a balcony and spending some time taking in the sights and sounds of the city.
I come from a small village of about 60 people in the Peak District and with a thirst for travel, headed to Australia at 22. I spent a year travelling the length and breadth of the country by road. My next adventure was supposed to be a week in Bangkok, but quickly turned into a six-month voyage through south-east Asia, sampling all the wonderful sights and sounds of the Far East.
It was inevitable I would find myself in the travel industry on my eventual return and I know how lucky I am to combine my passion with my career. I’ve hired out surfboards to tourists in Bali, rode like a gaucho through the hills of Argentina, busked in Laos, skydived in Queensland and, more recently, proposed on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
My Insiders Tip
Tanzania holds a special place in my heart. It has an amazing diversity of wildlife, epic landscapes, a colourful culture, delicious food and some of the friendliest people in the world. To me, it’s the ‘best of Africa’ condensed into a single country. This special country became even more memorable after I got engaged at the summit of a very cold Kilimanjaro; my reward after a week long trek to the top! My recommendation is to rise early, the Big 5 are liveliest from 5am. The light is perfect for photography and the sunrises over the plains alone are well worth the early mornings.
I met a chap once in Lumphini Park in Bangkok. As usual I was lost and was asking for directions to The Golden Buddha (nowhere near Lumphini Park). He clearly twigged I had recently arrived and asked if he could accompany me for the day to show me some places. He explained he was studying English and would benefit from my conversation. Despite an initial apprehension I decided the very worst case would be I would find myself in his brother’s suit shop and agreed. I was taken to the suburbs where tourists rarely venture and shown the local temples. He explained the Buddhist culture, their rituals and practices. He introduced me to his friends in the monastery. We prayed a little together. And then he took me home to his wife who made the most amazing fish suki while we got drunk on Thai whisky and swapped tales of our homelands. Not once was money ever asked for. For me that gentleman defines Thailand and its people.
My Favourite Place
For most of the year, Calgary is a sleepy city. The annual Calgary Stampede lasts for two weeks and the city comes alive. As a self-appointed British cowboy, I’ve been several times and it’s my favourite time to visit. Streets are lined with live music, a variety of local cuisine and offices are shut so all can celebrate. You can watch some of the best bull-riding, saddle bronc – the rider has to stay on a bucking horse – and nail-biting barrel racing. Each evening local Canadian music and talent acts perform, which is followed by an impressive firework display.
My Favourite Hotel
My hidden gem is La Maison Minervetta in Sorrento. I’ve always had a passion for Sorrento, and the Maison epitomises everything great about the place. It is set high on the cliffs where you can sit in the comfort of your suite, watching the sun set over the bay of Naples. The hotel is small and cosy with 13 bedrooms, and has a wonderful homely feel – particularly at breakfast where owners and guest mingle over what’s to come in the day ahead. The decor is a mish-mash of traditional and modern art which makes it a stand-out option in Sorrento and the attention to detail, particularly in the rooms, is outstanding. Most importantly, however, it has a wonderful courtyard style decking where you can sit with a spritz in the Italian sunshine and watch the fishing trawlers hard at work in the Bay of Naples, possibly catching something for your dinner.