INSPIRATION • July 2020
When this is all over, we’ll need some serious time off, says travel writer Mike MacEacheran. Plan your escape now with ideas to satisfy every post-lockdown travel desire
Where to go: Bangkok
Think of Thailand and you’ll likely picture holiday brochure beaches framed by karst landforms and long-tail boats. But there’s another soul-stirring side to the country and it begins deep in the jungles of the Golden Triangle, where rewards include sightings of chattering monkeys and bathing elephants. For the real deal – and jungle activities, such as river rafting, trekking and ethical elephant walks – head to Chiang Saen on the upper part of the Mekong River.
Where to stay: Right in the thick of the action in a transparent Jungle Bubble dome at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort.
Where to go: Marrakech
On first glance, you’re drawn instinctively to the Jemaa el-Fnaa, a street food market meets circus show buzzing with music, dancing, tattooing, astrology and – somewhat surprisingly – dentistry. But Morocco’s pink city offers so much more. There’s dazzling art, architecture, design, theatre, fashion and dance and this year’s role as African Capital of Culture 2020 underlines its obsession with multiculturalism and expression.
Where to stay: Overseen by the King of Morocco and built by more than 1,200 craftspeople, the Royal Mansour is the ultimate in Moroccan luxury. Private rooftop pool and butlers complete the VIP vibe.
Where to go: Malé
Ripples of excitement are the norm when flying into the Maldives. Sugar-soft beaches, uncompromisingly-blue waters and oceanfronts fringed with breezy palms have that kind of effect. But while the clichés ring true, nothing beats the pleasure combo of a beach and a book. Watch spinner dolphins and surfers from shore at Six Senses Laamu, hop in a hammock at Anantara Dhigu, or gaze out at one of the Indian Ocean’s largest lagoons at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa. Tough choice.
Where to stay: Money can’t buy time on holiday, or can it? Super-luxe resort Soneva Fushi exists in its own time zone – one hour ahead of the rest of the Maldives. It amps up the thrill factor with a jungle cinema, stargazing observatory and ice-cream parlour touting 60-odd flavours.
Where to go: Innsbruck
With a post-Covid wellness boom on the horizon, how about pulling a Maria von Trapp and making a beeline for Austria’s fresh mountain air? Here you can indulge in the ancient Tyrolean tradition of ‘heubad’, otherwise known as a hay bath. Beyond the gimmick, phytothermotherapy involves being tightly cocooned in fresh, fermenting grasses and it’s supposedly fabulous for drawing out toxins and stimulating circulation.
Where to stay: A corker of a hotel, book in at five-star luxury and wellness resort, Stanglwirt. Family-run since 1722 and wrapped by views of the majestic Kaiser mountain range, it was also the first hotel in Austria to be included in the Condé Nast Traveller hotel Gold List.
Where to go: Phoenix
A Grand Canyon insight: most visitors spend no more than an hour at the South Rim lookout. Instead, nail on a white-water rafting expedition on the upper or lower sections of the Colorado River deep within the canyon. Start at Lee’s Ferry or Phantom Ranch, then hold on for your life as you see the Grand Canyon from a whole new perspective. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that life’s too short to just dip your toe into the shallow end.
Where to stay: Warm up or wind down from the Colorado River’s rapids at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, one of Phoenix’s most historic berths. It’s where the Tequila Sunrise is said to have been invented.
Where to go: Osaka
To venture into the highland nirvana of Kōya-san, one of Japan’s most spiritual places, located south of Osaka, is to see the country at its purest. Here it exists as if stopped in time – trails through wooded mountainside connect bucolic temples and shrines to mausoleums, memorial halls and monasteries. You’ll gaze dumbstruck as light breaks through the tree canopy, lighting up forgotten pagodas, then meditate on grand temples that look as careworn as the most humble.
Where to stay: Culinary enlightenment follows spiritual awakening in Osaka, particularly along the Dōtonbori River. Only here, they say, can you find all of Japan on a plate. Nearby, the St Regis Osaka is a feast in itself: count three top-drawer restaurants, including Teppanyaki Restaurant Wajo.