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Riding Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh trail

The mountain paths of the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail offer visitors to Vietnam an adventurous alternative to the well-worn coastal route – especially if you travel on the back of a motorbike

It was more like a hamlet than a village. A simple collection of stilted wooden houses perched on the side of a mountain overlooking seemingly-endless rows of rice terraces, but even after a long and tiring day on the back of a motorbike passing through startling terrain it was hard not to be caught breathless by its isolation and beauty in the twilight.

The primitive village of Ban Hieu is inaccessible except by motorbike or on foot – it’s up a long, steep and winding two-metre-wide dirt path flanked on one side by a sheer drop into the paddy fields far below. It was precisely the reason I had set off the previous day along paths once used by the Vietcong to deliver weapons and supplies to the armies fighting in the south during the Vietnam war.

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Secret beaches of the south-west: Nanjizal, Cornwall

The final extract from Secret Beaches: Southwest, which is published today, takes us to a lonely cove close to Land’s End, Cornwall, with no direct road access

Home to the Song of the Sea, a tall, narrow natural arch that winks at the golden sand, Nanjizal is thought by many to be the finest beach on the Penwith peninsula, in Cornwall’s far west. It’s truly secluded, though, and often deserted. This may be down to its distance from any road or car park. But it’s well worth making the effort to walk to, if only to check out its famous slit-like arch and some remarkable natural stone sculptures, including the Diamond Horse – an equine-shaped formation through which sunlight shines with a jewel-like glint. Caves and anenome-studded rockpools emerge when the sea retreats, and there’s even a freshwater waterfall, which is ideal for washing off all that post-swim salt. Our suggested walk is a straightforward stroll through fields and farmland, which takes in a short section of the Coastal Path before emerging onto the beach.

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