• Japan’s museum menagerie

    The world’s wackiest museums. Socks, chooks, tiles, fish-cakes and intestinal parasites. Yokohama, Friday: This is a city that really doesn’t have a lot going for it. Its famous harbour is a rich broth of effluent, its history was bombed flat during the war, its scenery is a featureless swathe of concrete stretching to Tokyo, an hour’s train-ride to the north. Read more >

  • Take the plunge

    An unspoilt onsen in the Japanese Alps – the ultimate indulgence. Local people have been bathing here (naked) for hundreds of years, so if you want to wear a swimsuit please go somewhere else. The simple sign sits beside a steaming rock pool of milky-white mineral water in a ravine in the forest above the village of Tsubame, deep in the Japanese alps. Read more >

  • Stories in stone

    The stones of Aran – Europe’s last Celtic redoubt. We have our priorities right here,” chuckles Owen Hernon as he threads our mini-bus between the dry-stone walls bordering the narrow streets of the fishing village of Kilronan. Read more >

  • Take me to the airport – the great taxi rip-off

    Tricked and taken for a ’namba one’ ride. After a while living in Japan, you drop your guard. You get used to leaving your front door open so the deliverymen can drop the groceries inside, to bicycles parked all day at the train stations without a padlock, to waiters chasing you with 10 yen of change you forgot to take. Read more >

  • French bred

    The Paris of small things. Pet cemeteries, bricolage, and Burgundy. Diane yips with joy as she spots a small opening in the densely parked traffic right across the street from my flat. She jolts her little red coupe to a halt in the miraculously convenient space, which turns out, on closer inspection, to be a pedestrian crossing. Read more >

  • Nostalgia trip

    Rainbow country – Byron Bay’s beautiful hinterland. “Awesome, mate, awesome,” says my newfound friend Mario, all 100-plus kilos of him, tattoos bulging out of his leather jerkin, as he surveys the smoky white plume of Protestors Falls plunging down a jagged cliff in the rainforest. Read more >

  • Cold comfort island

    The newlywed and the newly dead – Norfolk Island. “They used to say we get two kinds of tourist here – the newlywed and the nearly dead,” says Lance Poulton, the urbane general manager of the Colonial, one of Norfolk Island’s newest and plushest resorts. “Unfortunately, we haven’t seen too many newlyweds lately.” Read more >

  • Peace and quiet

    Trout fishing and other delights in once war-torn Northern Ireland. I was defrosting in the savoury steam of McNamee’s bakery on a wet and windy Saturday morning, sipping a café latte and munching on a raisin scone, when suddenly a gunman walked backwards past the window. Read more >

  • Pass the hedgehog

    Lan Phetrasy spoons up a mouthful of steaming noodle soup and draws our attention to the restaurant’s décor – scorpions preserved in rice-wine, a pickled pangolin in a large jar, the skulls of deer and badgers nailed to the wooden walls. Read more >

  • L’Arpege – the $639 lunch (for one!)

    We have a device, it is like a laser,” explains the elegant young waiter. Sitting on the table in front of me is the first course of what is destined to be the most expensive lunch of my life. A little brown boiled egg, with its top surgically removed. Read more >

  • Japanese undo ties of tradition

    Kimonos. Japan tries to bring the ancient garment up to date. It is the quintessential fashion statement of traditional Japan – the silken kimono in its luminous colours, with long sleeves almost sweeping the floor, bound around the middle with an intricately knotted sash. Read more >

  • Send out the search party, quickly

    In search of the magical matsutake mushroom. As autumn comes and mists shroud the mountains of Nagano prefecture, Shigeo Furuta begins his stealthy patrols on the slopes of Mt Suzuko, hunting for poachers. Read more >

  • Unearthing the roots of wasabi

    In search of the homeland of wasabi. As pilgrimages go, it has hardly been a harrowing journey. Lanson in club class on the 747, hot towels proffered by the hostesses on the exquisitely punctual Kintetsu train, a stroll through the sleepy meadows of Nagano prefecture on the flanks of the saw-toothed Japanese Alps. Read more >

  • Meals on wheels

    Eki-ben: Japan’s excellent railway cuisine. The passengers begin lining up at the doors before the sleek train pulls into the village of Yokokawa to brace itself for the switchback climb through the pine-clad foothills of the Japan Alps. Read more >

  • Dining with death and a swill of sake

    Dinner to die for – eating deadly fugu fish. The lugubrious waiter carefully arranges the fish and vegetables in a table-top pot. It is a silent, solemn ceremony fit for a last supper. “If you should start to feel numb,” he confides, gesturing to his fingertips and lips, “Then … I apologise if this is rather indelicate … it is said that eating human faeces may help save you.” Read more >

  • Shock of the new

    Bladerunner – living in Tokyo’s most modern highrise. The fireburst in the night sky freezes Tokyo like a flash-camera at a crime scene: the kilometres-long traffic jam on the Shuto Expressway through the heart of the city; the graceful span of the Rainbow Bridge; the hulking skyscrapers of Shinjuku. Read more >

  • O’Cuisine

    Black pudding with beurre blanc? Ireland’s nouvelle cuisine. I first realise the Irish are serious about their gastronomic renaissance when, on the menu of a restaurant in the picturesque seaside village of Carlingford, I spy the following: black pudding with muesli mousse and red onion jam. Read more >

  • Cook’s tour

    Bali after the bombs. First we learn what we are not to eat – the turtles. They are languidly paddling in a moat that surrounds the dining-room at Bumbu Bali, a bustling Nusa Dua restaurant that boasts it is one of the few places where you can get genuine Balinese cuisine. Read more >

  • The Nagas of the Mekong

    Early in the morning, as the big red sun begins to suck steam from the river, the cabin-boy creeps to the bow of the boat, says a silent prayer, and places a ‘monkey banana’ and a handful of sticky rice next to a prickly red-flowered shrub on a makeshift alter. Read more >

Looking for something specific?

A $639 lunch in Paris, a dip in an onsen in the Japan Alps, Bali before the bombing, the martyrs of the Aran Islands, dining on deadly fugu fish, breaking the bank at a Russian casino, and a museum dedicated to internal parasites.