Land roving Sixty years ago today, on March 6, 1956, two very battered Land Rovers carrying six students from Britain's Oxford and Cambridge universities arrived in Singapore to a champagne reception. These enterprising young men had spent the previous six months travelling from England through Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand and Malaya (now Malaysia). With more than 80 sponsors, ranging from Land Rover to whisky and tea companies, the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition was also supported by a young David Attenborough, who provided film stock and edited the team's colour footage into a black-and-white television documentary for the BBC. This was the first time anyone had driven from Europe to Singapore, and while many followed over the years, it's a journey that would be almost impossible to recreate today. It was also a journey that seems to have inspired the opening of the so-called hippie trail, which eventually led, for better or worse, to the mass migration of backpackers and budget tourists from Europe to Asia. In 1957, the Indiaman bus company began selling tickets from London's King's Cross bus station to Calcutta, and by the early 1960s, both Magic Bus and Swagman Tours were taking passengers all the way to Kathmandu.
Watch: BBC Timeshift The Lost Road - Overland to Singapore
A BBC documentary about the Oxford and Cambridge expedition, made for the 50th anniversary of its departure, in 2005, and featuring Attenborough, expedition members and some of their incredible colour film footage, can be found on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k75g0XuF36U). A book about the expedition, First Overland: London-Singapore by Land Rover, written by team member Tim Slessor, has been reprinted several times, most recently last October, and is for sale on amazon.co.uk Rory MacLean's lighthearted and nostalgic Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India (2007) is also worth a read, while a patchy but interesting history of the above-mentioned and long-forgotten Indiaman bus company can be found at www.indiaman.101answers.com.
Family fun The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai (formerly the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi), in northern Thailand, has launched a Family Easter and Songkran Holidays deal that will run from Thursday until April 20. With three nights' suite or villa accommodation, the package includes breakfast and a set dinner for two adults and two children aged up to 11, free dining from the kids' menu and a Thai dance or boxing class for the children, a 60-minute spa treatment for two adults and a rice-planting class for the whole family (top). The package price starts from 75,000 baht (HK$16,300) per family plus 18.7 per cent tax and service charge (so almost 90,000 baht) for three nights. For more information, visit www.dharadhevi.com and click on Room Offers under the Promotions link.
Cruise news Cruise line Royal Caribbean will be putting the third of its new Quantum-class ships, Ovation of the Seas (right), into service next month, and sending her on a 53-day cruise from the English port of Southampton to Tianjin, in northern China, on May 3. The 16-deck, 4,180-passenger ship's voyage will be broken into several shorter trips for those with less time on their hands. The last of these is a 12-night Exotic Asia Cruise, which departs Singapore on June 12, and puts in at Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Xiamen and Seoul before finally dropping anchor in Tianjin on June 24. For further details, go to www.royalcaribbean.com.hk.
Deal of the week Private pools are provided by all the Phuket hotels and resorts on offer with Westminster Travel's two-night Pool Villa Selection package. Prices start from HK$3,580 for a pool villa at The Village Coconut Island, and top out at HK$12,970 for an Ocean View Pool Suite at Trisara Phuket. The Banyan Tree Phuket (from HK$5,230) and its two adjoining sister properties, Spa Sanctuary (from HK$7,760) and Double Pool Villas (below; from HK$8,330), offer a 10 per cent discount on accommodation (not the total package price) for reservations made more than 45 days in advance. This offer will be available until the end of October, but with significant airfare surcharges from March 23 to 27, and from July 8 to August 24. For full details, visit westminstertravel.com/hk.