Bali: Beyond the beaches

Bali has reputation as an idyllic beach destination - but the island has a whole lot more to offer than just sun, sea and sand!

From cultural performances and cat-poo coffee, to temples and monkey sanctuaries, get off the beaten track and find out what this unique island has to enjoy, when you scratch the surface.

This video was made in partnership with the website Tripfilms.com.
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Exploring Borobudur Buddhist temple

The soaring towered temple of Borobudur, on the Indonesian island of Java, was once the centre of the Buddhist world - until it was mysteriously abandoned, some time before the 15th Century.

Today, however, visitors come from around the world to admire the epic site and ascend the intricately carved levels right to the top: Nirvana.

This video was made in partnership with the website Tripfilms.com.
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What to eat in Indonesia

Indonesia's cuisine is like its people: full of colour, spice and vibrant flavour, with so much more on offer than the internationally renowned Nasi Goreng!

Here's a guide some mouthwatering must-try flavours for visiting foodies.

This video was made in partnership with the website Tripfilms.com.
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Java's City of the Sultan

At the heart of the Javanese city of Yogyakarta sits the Kraton: a complex of royal palaces, temples and gardens that are not only a glorious tourist attraction, but also still function as the private residence of one of Indonesia's last Sultans.

I had a wander around the stunning site to learn more about this unusual self-contained city...

This video was made in partnership with the website Tripfilms.com.
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Top tastes of Oaxaca

Ask any Mexican where to go for good eats, and they will undoubtedly tell you to hot-foot it to Oaxaca.

The country's foodie capital is alive with flair and flavour, from traditional (occasionally pretty unusual) dishes, to a riot of new restaurants offering inventive new fusion dishes.

Check out this video guide for all the must-try munchies - from fried grasshoppers to locally grown chocolate!

This video was made in partnership with the website Tripfilms.com.
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Introducing Hong Kong's latest luxury hotel

Hong Kong is a destination renowned for it's high-end hotels, opulent design and classic service. Now, the famous Langham brand has introduced a new five-star offering: the Cordis Hong Kong.

Explore the first in what's set to be a global brand with this exclusive tour, filmed at the property launch last week!

Exploring Elegant San Cristobal de las Casas

One of our first stops in Mexico, the small but perfectly formed city of San Cristobal was something of a surprise.

Set in a valley surrounded by fertile, farm-dotted hills and rolling coffee plantations, this sedate colonial centre is alive with colour and culture.

And although it's city that has, very savvily, geared itself towards the flourishing tourist trade, it does so with a beautifully classy mix of Mexican tradition and Spanish style.
 

This video was made in partnership with the website Tripfilms.com.
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the link for more fun travel video-guides!

Welcome to Antigua Guatemala

Guatemala is a country rich in history and culture, natural beauty and of course ancient wonders. But when it comes to cities, Antigua Guatemala is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown.

This colourful, colonial hub with its cobbled streets and vibrant arts scene is one of the country's most popular tourism destinations - but don't let that put you off! Thanks to a strong presence of proud local citizens, Antigua retains plenty of Guatemalan charm.

Check out what it has to offer with my latest video tour:


Exploring magical Machu Picchu

Peru has been on my travel wish list for many years now, for one prime reason: the magical, mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu.

Since it came to international prominence in the early 20th Century, this legendary Incan site has been the subject of much speculation: what it was used for, how it was never discovered by the conquistadors, why it was deserted - and how on earth each perfectly shaped stone was crafted so that the buildings hold together without mortar: a feat of engineering lost with the Incans themselves. 

Here, I explore not only the stunning site itself, high up in the Andes Mountains, but also the rich history and uncertain future of this jaw-dropping attraction.

A wine tour of Mendoza

Argentina's Mendoza province has seen tourism numbers rocket over the past decade - as thousands of wine lovers descend on the region made famous by its vineyards.

In recent years, it's Argentine Malbec that has piqued the public's fancy, and which the beautiful, fertile state with its acres of vines has become best known for.

But Mendoza has far more up its sleeve than simply Malbec - as I found out, on a recent tour of the elegant Lujan de Cujo area.

This post is in partnership with tour company Argentina4u.

A blustery day at Torres Del Paine

Chile's Torres Del Paine has to be one of the most breathtaking national park areas in the world.

Encompassing majestic mountain ranges, glittering glaciers, icy lakes and forests of spiky indigenous trees, you can't move a metre in this spectacular setting without discovering another jaw-dropping vista.

As well as being home to some incredible natural wonders, this Patagonian wilderness is also home to some mighty variable weather. The saying goes that you can experience all four seasons within a single day, in this part of the world.

Out hiking one afternoon, we discovered this includes gale-force winds, which got up to around 100km (or 62 miles) an hour. 

This short video of our blustery experience was made on my phone, so it's not perfect - but it does give a good idea of what it felt like walking through the gale: pretty unsteady!


TWO-MINUTE TOUR: The San Telmo Sunday market

A quick video introduction to Buenos Aires' oldest barrio, San Telmo - and its fantastic Sunday market! This weekly shoppers' paradise sees crowds of people strolling the cobbled streets, enjoying diverse stalls of antiques, hand-made goods, tasty treats and artwork; along with some great street-side entertainment.

Making maki!

As a frankly fairly greedy girl, I'm always on the look out for foodie fun - from new restaurants and unusual eating options, to various culinary classes.

The other week, I found out that they're running classes at Chez Sushi - the home-grown Dubai brand that's doing so well here, it's about to franchise the concept across the region.

So, with my mind fixed firmly on maki and ready to roll, I skipped off to the Al Wasl Square branch, to join the Saturday morning class and put my chef skills to the test!

The result: slightly messy but very delicious. And a whole heap of wasabi-fuelled fun! 



A food tour of Old Dubai

People discovering Dubai for the first time can easily assume this is a superficial city, all about the glamour - and with its array of glittering attractions, extravagant hotels, mind-blowing malls and sumptuous dining options, you can see where they get this idea from.

But what is sad - and rather vexing - is how quick many are to then dismiss Dubai as a modern city devoid of culture, that's forgotten its heritage and lost touch with reality in its lust for oil money and record-breaking developments.

This isn't actually the case - you just have to be prepared to go beyond the usual tourist areas.

Take a trip to Al Muraqqabat in Deira, the old side of town along the Dubai Creek, and you'll find a hotchpotch of old, low-rise buildings, streets with actual pavements and trees, and a bustling local community.

Admittedly, many of the people who live and work here are not Emiratis - but you will find families from Iran, Jordan, India, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, many of whom came here years ago and have made the UAE their home. 

And with them, they have brought their familial trades: many of which, most fortunately for Dubai residents, involve delicious traditional foods.

I met up with long-term Dubai resident Arva Ahmed, of Frying Pan Tourism, to learn more about this often-overlooked area's fabulous foodie culture.


A Delhi rickshaw tour

The hustle and bustle of Old Delhi can be overwhelming - with stall owners coming at you from all directions, pressing their wares: fresh sweet mango juice, reams of silk, henna hand painting and bright green parrots. 

The best way to get an overview of these winding old streets, with their tightly-packed alleys of shops and wild webs of electric cable swinging perilously overhead, is to hire a rickshaw.

These traditional, pedal-powered carriages throng the streets, competing or space with motorbikes and the occasional car.

As a passenger, it's pretty toasty as there's obviously no air conditioning (although count yourself lucky you're not the one pedalling!) and it can be slow-going; traffic jams in these one-track lanes are common.

But you get to see around and pick up the vibe much more speedily than walking, and your toes are in less danger from passing motorcyclists. 


Strolling through Souq Waqif, Doha

When considering the Middle East as destination, remember this: not all cities are Baghdad or Homs.

Neither are they all Dubai.

As the capital of Qatar - the world's richest nation per capita, and one of the booming Gulf economies - Doha has of course been touched by the magic wand of international interest and investment. This has prompted skyscrapers to shoot up, hotels to fling open their doors and celebrity chefs to flock to launch restaurants: Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy, to name but a few.

However, Qatar - in contrast to some of its neighbours - has developed slowly and steadily, with an eye to protecting the local heritage and customs.

As such, you can still find beautiful, traditional elements that feel a lot like traditional Arabia - such as Souq Waqif. 

Admittedly, a lot of this authentic market has been restored, following a fire some years ago. But with its wooden-beamed, white-washed store-fronts, narrow alleyways, and vendors selling everything from frankincense to spices, from shawarma to birds, you'd be hard pressed to find a more authentic slice of the 'old Arabic world' in the accessible Gulf countries today.


Sunshine and spirituality: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Regardless of your own religion - or lack of it - it's hard not to feel awed on a visit to Abu Dhabi's magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It's named after the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al  Nahyan, the much-loved ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates, and the man behind the unification of the formerly feudal nation of tribes.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was the late, great leader's big project; but was unfinished when at the time of his death, in 2004.

Today, the vast white marble edifice, with its gold leaf decoration and wild flower mosaics of semi-precious gems, is not only the eighth largest mosque in the world; it is also home to Sheikh Zayed's mausoleum. 

It's well worth signing up for one of the official tours, conducted by pleasant and well-informed young Emiratis, often in training to work in the tourism industry.

Whether you find the majestic, slightly ostentatious design to your taste or not, you will come away slightly breathless at the sheer scale and spirit of this project.



A dim-sum disaster class!

I am a fan of cooking - but more the sort of robust, homely fare that doesn't require precision. Or presentation. Or a particularly fussy diner. So this class at Galeries Lafayette, in the Dubai Mall, was something of a challenge! I can tell you now: making proper, wafer-thin wonton papers is an art. And, clearly, one I need more practice in...