Smart Traveller: Other-worldly Angkor

Cambodia's Angkor Wat captured the attention of American photographer John McDermott in 1995, when he shot the ancient site during a total eclipse of the sun.

Using infrared black-and-white film for a dreamlike effect, McDermott's subsequent photos, taken before the arrival of mass tourism to the temple site when it was still possible to walk alone among the ruins, are contained in the book Elegy: Reflections On Angkor.

"The light in Angkor is very malleable in that it brings out beauty in the subject no matter what time of day or weather," McDermott says.

His recently opened third gallery in Siem Reap, at Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor, has about 20 prints, some up to two metres wide, on display. The photographer also has his lens pointing at other heritage sites. "Angkor, of course, is the biggest portfolio in my stock, but I am also truly enamoured by Bagan [the ancient city in the Mandalay region] in Burma and now Petra in Jordan. They are all other-worldly entities whose construction boggles the mind."

See raffles.com/siem-reap

Cruise to the rescue

Parents seeking to combine a cruise, dining with children, and time to themselves afterwards, might find it on an MSC cruise. Children dine from the kids' menu and are then whisked away by kids' club staff so parents can finish dinner in a leisurely fashion. Equally, for children who wish to eat without parents, there is a kids-only buffet restaurant. MSC ships sail Mediterranean, northern European, Caribbean and South American waters. Happy Dinners is available for children aged three to 11. See msccruises.com.au.

On the trail of triceratops

With fossil fields, ghost towns and journeys in covered wagons, Canada's "Badlands", in the south-west corner of Alberta, about 90 minutes' drive from Calgary, have the makings of a boy's or girl's-own adventure.

The remains of what is believed to be a massive triceratops were unearthed near Drumheller, Alberta, just weeks ago. The renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller says the remains of the 65 million-year-old herbivore were exposed by erosion.

The museum's curator of dinosaur palaeoecology, Francois Therrien, and his staff have subsequently uncovered a "logjam" of bones.

The museum already houses one of the world's largest displays of dinosaurs, and draws visitors from around the world keen to explore the collection and the World Heritage-listed Dinosaur Provincial Park.

See tyrrellmuseum.com; travelalberta.com.

Step into Irish life

A "purposeful wander" around Ireland delving into literature, writers and history is on the itinerary of a trip being hosted by Australian-based Irishman James Clarke. Born in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, Clarke lived in both the north and south for 35 years and says the tour will be more than "ticking the boxes" - authentic experiences, not always available to the independent traveller, are on the agenda. "As we leave Dublin, through Belfast, north-west Donegal, Mayo and County Tipperary, we will see many iconic sights," Clarke says.

"However, it's the opportunity to be instructed in local history and other cultural aspects of the area that really tells Ireland's story. We will also step into Irish life ... with local experts showing us how to tie a trout fly, bake traditional bread, work a sheepdog and fly a falcon."

The 11-night October journey, which costs from $8000 a person, coincides with the Peadar O'Donnell festival in Dungloe, County Donegal, celebrating the life of the Irish Republican politician, IRA commander and writer born in 1893. See irelandjourneys.com.au.

Connections to Kolkata

Cathay Pacific's sister airline, Dragonair, will fly four times weekly from Hong Kong to Kolkata from November. Return fares from Sydney cost from $1140.24. See cathaypacific.com.au. See 24 hours in Kolkata.

High altar of fashion

A concentration of hedonists in kaftans is heading to Bali for next month's inaugural Fashion Goddess Island Retreat. Australian fashion label Camilla (Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce are fans of the brand's loose-fitting garments) will feature in a poolside parade and cocktail party at the cliff-top resort, Karma Kandara. The three-day event, taking place from October 19, costs from $1754 a person. See karmakandara.com.

Send news items to smarttraveller@fairfax.com.au.

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