In India’s little-visited Neora Valley, our writer discovers a new village lodge and gobsmacking Himalayan views without another trekker in sight
At first I wasn’t sure anything was happening; a second later I knew this would be a sight I’d never forget. Within 10 seconds the tiny almost-glow at the top of the mountain had grown to cover the whole face of Kanchenjunga, third-highest mountain in the world. And within two minutes all five white-capped peaks of the range, whose name means “Five Treasure Houses of Snow”, were bathed in rosy light.
It was 5.50am in the north of West Bengal, where India meets Bhutan, Nepal and China. I returned to the piled quilts and hot-water bottle of my bed, marvelling that the vista of India’s highest mountain and the whole south-east wall of the Himalayas was just there, for me to feast my eyes on throughout our stay at Neora Valley Jungle Camp.
Get the most out of Vietnam’s biggest city by choosing a great base: from Graham Greene’s old haunt to a boutique bolthole with views over the Saigon river
A pocket of France in a remote corner of Ho Chi Minh City, Ma Maison is a welcoming place to stay, run by a French-speaking Vietnamese family. The tall, grey-hued guesthouse towers over an alley scattered with banh mi stalls, tailors, food kiosks, and locals crowded around TVs. Behind the guesthouse door, there’s a sense of being transported away from the city, with Provençal furniture, farmhouse tables, vases of blooming flowers, croissants for breakfast, and a soothing, quiet calm. Rooms in muted pastel tones are cosy with super-comfortable beds; the bathrooms, with rain showers, are perfumed by cinnamon sticks, lemongrass and mother of pearl shell. Ma Maison is quite a hike from the centre of town but don’t let that be a deterrent. Just a few minutes’ walk from Ma Maison, and recommended by its staff, is a local bó ba lot restaurant, where the sight of a foreigner is still a rare thing. Feast on a fill of beef wrapped in betel leaf, a stack of rice paper, a huge pile of herbs, noodles and peanuts, and all for just £1. Ma Maison’s filling breakfast pho is also worth the wait.
• 656/52 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street, +84 8 3846 0263, mamaison.vn, doubles from £52 B&B