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The Scotsman – A Different Angle

IF you had said thirty years ago that by 2006 Scotland would be one of Europe’s most vibrantly homosexual-friendly countries, you would probably have been looked at with the kind of incredulity normally reserved for the likes of David Icke. At that time, Scotland’s gay community, like most others in the UK with the exception perhaps of London, was still very much forced to live in the shadows – organising their own discos and evenings in dingy council halls and in their own homes without really being able to break free from the shackles imposed by long-stand- ing prejudice. Added to that, the regressive legislation of the time meant that sexual activity between males (consensual or not) was against the law and could still be punishable, absurd as it may now sound, with life imprisonment. Fast forward to the present, however, and this monochrome half-life has been superseded by a climate that is tolerant and welcoming and in possession of every- thing from effective LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) support networks to cultural events and clubs that celebrate sexual diversity…


The Scotsman – A Sporting Enthusiasm

WITH its riot of colors and atmosphere of evocative mellow beauty, it is no surprise that so many many wax poetic about autumn. And no region in Scotland is more deserving of sonnets inspired by the season’s unique quali-ties than Perthshire. Sitting astride the Highland Bound- ary Fault, the natural phenomena which fused the Highlands and Lowlands together many moons ago, Perthshire possesses a unique variety of terrain that has earned it the undisputed title of Scotland’s adventure capital. The range of activities on offer is mind-boggling. Rivers such as the Tay, the Earn and the Isla are often whispered about in quiet awe by anglers, golf- courses such as Blairgowrie, Crieff,Pitlochry and Murrayshall all present intriguing challenges in breathtaking surrounds, while walkers, mountain climbers and cyclists will all find plenty of routes – from lofty treks high among the peaks, to more sedate waymarked trails through forests and along river valleys – to keep themselves occupied. So far, so run of the mill you might think, but mainstream activities are just one side of Perthshire’s adventure coin. The region…

Real Travel – The other side of the Bay

The school of thought that the process of getting to a destination is almost as enriching as arriving there is one that I have always ascribed to. Family holidays to the south of France were memorable as much for the minutiae of ferry crossings and giant Gallic hypermarkets as they were for the weeks spent in gites across the Dordogne. Likewise, later odysseys across Europe by rail, or around India and Southeast Asia by any means possible (even if that included a suicidal speedboat down the Mekong River in Laos) were replete with cameos that have lodged themselves in the memory with a tenacity that belies their fleeting nature. The same romance is in short supply, however, as I stumble out of bed at 5am and groggily make my way through the near-deserted streets of Hanoi on a sticky July morning to meet my guide Guilhem. We are about to embark on a three-day exploration of one of the most beautiful parts of arguably the most beautiful seascape on the planet, the island of Cat Ba in Vietnam’s Halong Bay….


Real Travel – Resurfacing Sri Lanka

The trip began, as it so often does, with indecision. This time, however, the confusion was not marked by an internal debate over whether to pack one pair of shorts over another, but a far more pressing and fundamental dilemma. Should I really be going to Sri Lanka at a time when the country’s 26-year-long civil war was playing out its final act in a bloody crescendo of violence? There are plenty of compelling arguments for steering well clear of many nations. Apartheid walls. Human rights abuses. Silvio Berlusconi. The world is a pretty messed up place alright. The application of an unflinching ethos to your travel plans would not get you much further than your own doorstep, however. So it was with curiosity, fascination, and not to mention a little trepidation, that I resolved to stick with my long-held intention to explore the giant green teardrop that rolls off the right side of India’s nose. South Asia has been a source of eternal fascination for me since my dilettante backpacking days. I first visited India in 2001 on a…


Real Travel – Into the Cardamoms

There is no shortage of seductive sounds in Cambodia. The soft tinkle of prater bells outside a temple, the sizzle of meat as it barbeque on a streetside stall or the splash of icy-cold Angkor beer as it pours into a frozen glass at the end of another day in this remarkable Southeast Asian country. The list of transcendent aural experiences to be found here is almost as mind-blowing as a first glimpse of Angkor Wat at sunrise. As I rush along a bumpy track in the foothills of the Cardamom Mountains on a bike, however, it is the encroaching tone of water touching down on water that is sending my heart aflutter. Pouring over glistening lichen-covered rocks into a picture-perfect pool, the waterfall would look alluring in any circumstance. The fact that I have spent the past six hours perched on a saddle with the dimensions of a small garden trowel makes the prospect of a cooling dip seem almost unbearably exciting. I dismount, make my way to the water’s edge and dispense with my horrible sweaty clothing. I’m…

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National Geographic – An Arabian Adventure

Astonished shrieks wake me from my post-lunch reverie. Posited on giant cushions, my belly full with grilled fish and my system rocked towards slumber by the gentle motion of the dhow (boat), the urgent excitement seems surreal and slightly hysterical. Reluctantly, I rouse myself and make my way to the side of the boat, arrowing along the coastline towards the Straits of Hormuz, to investigate the source of the fuss. Judging by the ecstatic looks of my companions and the frantic motioning towards starboard by boatmen Omar and Abdullah, it seems we’ve company. The school of dolphins appears to be racing us. Throwing their streamlined silver- blue bodies flamboyantly out of the turquoise ocean alongside us, they just have the edge on our bulkier motorised dhow. “Very beautiful,” says Omar. “They don’t come out every time, sometimes they are being lazy. But there’s usually a good chance something like this will happen. It’s what many of our customers come here for.” Fantastical sights like these are not uncommon in this neck of the Arabian Peninsula. Located in the far north…