how do you like my island, mr. bond?

speedboat express

Hidden away in my treehouse above the sea, I’ve seen very little of the island of Phuket aside from a brief trip to the market. That changed today in a fit of inspired whimsy: I chartered a speedboat off the eastern side of the island and spent the day freewheeling the Andaman Sea. After dropping anchor for a quick picnic and swim on a stretch of beach at Ko Thanan, we headed north towards Phang-Nga Bay, past dozens of islands created by mainland fault movements. Each island is, in fact, a single, massive limestone monolith, upended vertically and pocked round the base with caves which only reveal themselves during the low tide. (Limestone being soluble, the caves are the result of thousands of years of tidal erosion.) You can take a sea kayak and paddle inside the caves if the tide is right, but my timing was off, so I settled for a pee break masquerading as a swim stop beneath the dramatic cliffs before continuing northwards – in a sudden lashing rain – to Ko Phing Kan, or James Bond Island. Used as the setting for the secret lair of Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun, JBI has become the most famous part of the newly established Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park. In point of fact it’s two islands: the towering Khao Phing Kan, literally “hills leaning against each other,” and Ko Tapu, or “spike island,” where Scaramanga hid the solex laser. If I had to be a super-villain I couldn’t think of a better place to hideaway and plot world domination.

beach at ko thanan

limestone eroding

phang nga bay panorama

james bond island

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brusselicious

Every couple of years the Belgians feel compelled to pronounce it the Year of Something: a few years ago Brussels was the capital of fashion and design, after that it was the year of the comic strip. This time around the government has declared it a year focused on something I have a particular fondness for: gastronomy. Welcome to the appropriately named Brusselicious.  Land of lambics, waffles, and moules frites, the country has a few surprises up its sleeve, too. Like Brusselicious XXL, an exhibition of some 35 monumental sculptures of iconic Belgian foods (sprouts, natch) scattered throughout the city. And the Tram Experience, a two-hour trip aboard a liveried city tram, which takes in the sights as you wine and dine on a menu concocted by a rising chef with a fondness for classic Belgian cuisine. (Carbonnade, anyone?) In the works are chocolate-themed weeks, picnics in the parks, and many a chipstand crawl, but the event that has me licking my lips while looking for the seatbelt is 140-feet up in the air. In a city known for its Surrealist bent, a series of Dinners in the Sky are the ultimate culinary dream. Already successfully staged in Las Vegas, Sao Paolo, and Sydney, 22 guests and one starred-chef will experience “high cuisine” while dangling over the capital.

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