Extras

Whether you’re trekking to Machu Picchu or taking in the sun - and football – in Rio, take your pick from these inspirational and useful reads, chosen by Stanfords, the travel information specialists

Losing it in Laos: An adventure in Vang Vieng that almost went down the tubes

It's tough to recall after almost 10 years what posed the greatest risk in the flooded cave in which I'd become hopelessly lost: the darkness or the snake that patrolled black pools of frigid water. I was in Laos and a place I would later regret visiting. Vang Vieng used to be a sleepy river village in country known for its calm and natural beauty. Then came tubing. Every day, scores of feckless backpackers in bikinis and boardshorts float down the Nam Song on tractor inner tubes, turning pink as they guzzle cheap beer and leap off rocks. As the activity boomed, so did the number of 'happy' pizzas and vomiting teenagers, helping to turn the town into an ugly scar on the southeast Asia traveller trail.

Jubilation in Jordan: The top of the peak felt like the end-of-the-world - but what a view

The sign said, 'The end of the world'; as did the look on my three-year-old's face. Below us, the dusky pink desert canyons and dimpled, rocky mountains of the Jordan Valley stretched west towards Jerusalem. And somewhere, far, far below the precipice we'd scaled to 'Sacrifice View', a bright blue cap was now swirling away, whisked off my son's head by the sharp wind that greeted us at the summit.

Nicole cooke of Britain kisses her gold medal after winning the woman's road race in Beijing

Cycling: Nicole Cooke bows out with attack on Lance Armstrong

Britain’s former Olympic road race champion has retired

Burnt-out cars at the jetty on the Tasman Peninsula in Boomer Bay

Island fires are a stark warning on how lives can suddenly be at risk

As we swam in the pool of a log cabin resort in the Tasmanian coastal town of Bicheno over the weekend, my family and I relished the 35C temperatures - an uncommon occurrence in this usually mild climate.

<p>1. Reboot Five days from £495, rebootdorset.com</p>
<p>This boot camp serves nutritious food as a core part of the fitness plan. A week's stay includes plenty of exercise and healthy living workshops.</p>

The 10 Best fitness boot camps

Whether you want gentle instruction or need a sergeant-major shouting to get you going, try an exercise break

Ronnie Wood enjoys the show

London menswear shows: These boots were made for walking – the catwalk that is

Fashion finds inspiration from the great explorers, discovers Harriet Walker

Topman Design AW13

Topman Design: eminently wearable

The optical white first stage of Topman Design, the high street brand's premium collection, was almost enough to induce snow blindness.

El Gouna Watersports Complex

Travel in 2013: Holidays for families

The Egyptian Red Sea resort of El Gouna (elgouna.com) will open a “cable water park” in July.

Together again: Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue

IoS pop review 2: The Hit Factory Live, O2, London

All hail chart royalty and one-hit wonders

Homes, G4S style: Rubbish, rising damp... and 'roaches'

Another shambles as security giant leaves asylum seeker living in squalor

Egyptian Army tanks deploy near the presidential palace to secure the site of overnight clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo

Egyptian military halts Cairo clashes after seven are killed

Egypt's Republican Guard restored order around the presidential palace after fierce overnight clashes killed seven people, but passions ran high in a struggle over the country's future.

Wainwright says: 'My greatest regret is not being nicer to my mother. I could have been a better daughter.'

My Secret Life: Martha Wainwright, 36, singer-songwriter

'We were the odd ones on the block'

Page 3 Profile: Angela Knight, 'Big Six' energy spokeswoman

Defending the indefensible once more?

New Zealand volcano erupts

A New Zealand volcano erupted with a brief blast of dark ash today, forcing the cancellation of flights but causing no significant damage. Schoolchildren and dozens of other hikers who were walking on trails along the mountain's base were safe.

Padgett Powell, author of Edisto

Edisto, By Padgett Powell

Paperback reviews of the week

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick