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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Corkboard: what's new this week

The Sri Lankan government is pouring money into Kalpitiya, to turn this coastal area in the Puttalam district into a tourist destination. It's near the border with the old no-go zone, but just two hours' drive from Colombo airport. There is great kite-surfing off sandy beaches, and the Wilpattu national park is close by. A new low-key resort, Divyaa Lagoon, opens on 1 December (doubles from $190, divyaa.com).

Looking for a low-cost island hideaway? Thailand's new Lanta Pole Houses on Koh Lanta are a tuk-tuk ride from the beaches, but in their own quiet spot in Lanta old town. The houses are built on stilts over the bay, with open decks over the water where you can relax in hammocks. The dark fragrant wood interiors include kitchens where you can prepare fish bought from the fishermen's wives a few minutes away. Flights to Bangkok resumed again this week following weeks of flooding, so trips to Thailand are back on – for good, we hope.
• Houses sleeping two-three from £43 a night or £48 for houses sleeping six. The nearest airport is Krabi. i-escape.com/lanta-pole-houses/overview

EasyJet is launching a new route to Iceland next year. From 27 March it will fly from Luton to Reykjavik three times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays). The flights are on sale now and cost from around £100 return.
• easyjet.com

Book now to get a place on a one-off eight-day trip across Britain by steam train with Cathedrals Explorer. Join the luxury vintage train at one of several stations in the south-east and chug up to the Scottish Highlands and back from £1,350pp.
• steamdreams.co.uk, 18-25 May 2012

Puerto Rico (28C)
Get your diary out and write "rum" in it. Puerto Rico is the Caribbean island to be seen on this season. Western and Oriental has launched a new seven-day, fly-drive break, staying at hotels in San Juan, Rincón and Ponce, for £1,419pp including car hire, and flights on a new route from Gatwick.

Motorhome company Cruise America needs to move its new fleet from Chicago, where they're built, to rental locations out west, so is offering discounts if you'll take them there. A flat, all-inclusive rate of $770 per motorhome is applied for trips of 10-14 days next spring, delivering to Seattle (it's doable in four days, so there's plenty of time).
• The Motorhome Experts (0844 910 3271, themotorhomexperts.com)

Is China the capital of romance? Young doe-eyed couples there have adopted a new trend: wearing his'n'hers T-shirts. And some are taking it further with lovey-dovey two-part slogans: the girl's T-shirt might say, "Our love will..." and her boyfriend's completes the phrase with "... last forever". Awhhhh... blurgh...
Siraj Datoo

You might want a puppy for Christmas, but what does your puppy want? To find out, take him to Clifton Nurseries in west London on 4 December to meet Santa Paws – that's right, a traditional grotto, with a dog dressed as Santa (remember, it's just for Christmas, not for life). Warn Rover not to pull on his fur to check if he's real.
• clifton.co.uk, Christmas market on 2-18 December

Worst childhood holiday

Children's club staying in convent in Dungarvan. Fell off pier onto beach and developed septic boil on shoulder

Sliced my knee open on private island, needed stitches but hospital was boat ride + flight away

• Next week: strangest meals

Anyone who's been watching the cute waddling penguins and staggering glacial scenery on the BBC's Frozen Planet series may understandably have a yearning to visit the polar regions, but how much does it cost to go?

Journeys to the ends of the earth obviously don't come cheap, but G Adventures (0844 272 0000, gadventures.com) is offering 10% off trips to both Poles. If you book by 30 November to travel to the Arctic in June, July or August 2012, an eight-day adventure to Svalbard on the small MS Expedition ship will cost £2,269pp, excluding flights. Or head to Antarctica (Ushuaia, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic peninsula) next November or December from £2,839pp for 13 days if booked by 30 November. British Airways (ba.com) flies Heathrow-Ushuaia from £800 return.

And Exodus (0845 863 9601, exodus.co.uk) is running a 12-day Antarctic Explorer trip from £3,270pp (flights extra) departing in December 2011 or January 2012.

The 100th anniversary this January of Robert Scott's ill-fated journey to the South Pole will shine a spotlight on the region even more, and even if you can't afford a trip, there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in subzero fantasies – see scott100.org for events. In London, at the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, an exhibition called The Heart of the Great Alone (royalcollection.org.uk, until 15 April) features amazing photographs from Scott's Terra Nova expedition, and from Ernest Shackleton's polar expedition in 1914-16, when his ship, the Endurance, sank and the stranded explorers had to live on a diet of penguins for months.

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