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The Travel File: How To Travel Like An Expert

The Travel File: How To Travel Like An Expert

Fancy exploring the farthest reaches of the Indian Subcontinent? Or the tropical paradises of South East Asia’s uncharted regions? James Jayasundera is your man. A seasoned traveller with an appetite for adventure and a penchant for luxury, Jayasundera has been travelling in style since birth. Spurred on by a desire to share his passion with the world, he founded Ampersand Travel in 2003. It’s a tailor-made travel agency specialising in luxe trips with a dose of adventure, and the no. 1 destination for those looking for travel experiences with a difference. Speaking your language? We got chatting to this stylish man of the world to find out more.

James Jayasundera, owner of Ampersands Travel, stood in an elaborate doorway in traditional dress
James Jayasundera, owner of Ampersands Travel, stood in an elaborate doorway in traditional dress


In a nutshell, who are you and what do you do?

I am an incredibly lucky man and have one of the best jobs in the world – to create dream holidays which add joy and enrich people’s lives. My international upbringing has helped enormously as I feel the world is like a giant playground and you are only limited by your imagination and sense of adventure.

What does your perfect holiday look like?

I recently went diving in Raja Ampat in Papua Indonesia – the marine life and coral reefs were out of this world. We stayed on a traditional phinisi boat and went out diving at the crack of dawn every day, with long lazy afternoons snoozing on deck whilst listening to the waves gently lap against the boat. It was absolute heaven.

What makes a great hotel?

There are so many great hotels in the world, but my favourites are the ones that make me feel sexy and excited to be alive. That’s what we all want when we’re on holiday. Chiltern Firehouse in London, Aman Tokyo in Tokyo and RAAS Devigarh, Delwara, near Udaipur, all have this effect on me.

What’s the most adventurous trip you’ve ever taken?

I’ve done some incredible trips. Sailing with an icebreaker through the ice floes in the Sea of Okhotsk off Hokkaido, Japan, and tracking rhino’s on foot in Damaraland, Namibia. But I think the most adventurous was exploring the Himalayas in Bhutan by chopper (we had two!) – we were following each other and flying through 7000 meter peaks - it felt like Mission Impossible – it was so exhilarating – we were truly on the rooftop of the world.

What’s the most incredible dining experience you’ve ever had?

I love food and I love cultures that care about food. I’ve always found that cultures that care deeply about food often also care about life, history and tradition, which are all very important to me.

One of my favourite things to do is hunt for the best version of a local speciality. Sri Lanka has amazing lobsters and on my last visit earlier this year I was with friends on a very small fishing boat not too far from Galle on the south coast. They had a gas burner and pan which they filled with seawater and cooked the lobster within seconds of it coming out of the sea. We ate them with hands whilst bobbing about on the sea, and dived into the warm ocean to clean up once we had finished. It was definitely the freshest lobster and the best way to enjoy them I have experienced to date – not sure how I can top it.

What is your advice for switching off while you’re away?

Switch your phone off. Nobody needs to be reachable 24/7. Even if you think you do, you really don’t

What’s your advice for travelling in style?

It’s not about how much money you spend but how well you spend it. For me travelling in style is about being relaxed, elegant and content both when things go to plan but also when they don’t. That’s why I always recommend using a vetted travel professional to ensure that everything stays on track and is as seamless and enjoyable as humanly possible.

Check in to some of Jayasundera's favourite travel destinations with his top five below.

Snow-capped mountains serve as the background to a wild plain of tall trees with a river running through in India's northern Ladakh region
Snow-capped mountains serve as the background to a wild plain of tall trees with a river running through in India's northern Ladakh region


INDIA

To find real inner calm, the dramatic Buddhist region of Ladakh (in northern India) will rebalance you better than any spa retreat. It’s a part of India which a lot of people haven’t visited, or even know much about. For me, I love the rugged beauty, the spiritual intensity and the supersized landscapes which are otherworldly. For the most authentic experience the Shakti village experiences are out of this world, but for a super luxurious glamping experience, there’s nothing like Champa Camp in Thiksey.

A view of small islands in the sea in Indonesia's Raja Ampat with traditional phinisi boats sailing on the water
A view of small islands in the sea in Indonesia's Raja Ampat with traditional phinisi boats sailing on the water


INDONESIA

For the best diving in the world, it has to be Raja Ampat. There’s a whole other world beneath the waves which is just magical. Raja Ampat is remote and largely unexplored, and you’ll most likely have the pristine coral reefs to yourself. The best way to explore this region is by boat, either luxury yacht or a traditional phinisi boat, diving at the crack of dawn and spending long lazy afternoons snoozing on deck.

Two silhouettes of people practicing yoga at the end of a jetty stretching out to sea at sunset with another island on the horizon in Cambodia
Two silhouettes of people practicing yoga at the end of a jetty stretching out to sea at sunset with another island on the horizon in Cambodia


CAMBODIA

Most people don’t make it down to the Cambodian coast – travellers usually jet into Siem Reap for the World Heritage sites at Angkor, and sometimes continue down to Phnom Penh. But the sleepy coast has really put itself on the map and there are several really sexy hotels which have recently opened. Knai Bang Chatt has been around since 2006 and has always been achingly chic, but joining the portfolio is Six Senses Krabey Island and Alila Villas Koh Russey to attract weary, templed-out travellers, for a slower pace of coastal life.

A birds-eye view of crystal clear blue waves lapping a sandy beach littered with small boats and bordered with tropical trees on the Sri Lankan coast
A birds-eye view of crystal clear blue waves lapping a sandy beach littered with small boats and bordered with tropical trees on the Sri Lankan coast


SRI LANKA

Being half Sri Lankan I have always been mad about this ravishingly beautiful island and encourage everyone to bask in its tropical, laid-back vibe. There is far more to this island than its Insta-worthy unspoiled beaches and sprawling leopard-populated national parks (although these are worth the journey in themselves), from its surprisingly modern architecture and rich cultural sites hidden among the cool colonial Tea Country. Amanwella in Tangalle and Amangalla in Galle are both a joy to return to, time and time again.

A busy street scene in Tokyo, Japan, filled with neon lights, crowds of people and a red taxi
A busy street scene in Tokyo, Japan, filled with neon lights, crowds of people and a red taxi


JAPAN

High on my list of favourite travel destinations is Japan. This special country has an energy about it that is truly unlike any other. With its fascinating cultural idiosyncrasies, contrasting yet complimentary mixture of ancient traditions and hi-tech futuristic design, and incredible cuisine, I’m constantly captivated here. My last trip took me to the northern island of Hokkaido, which was truly extraordinary and has left me longing to go back to explore its other lesser-visited regions.