If you’re bored with the usual sightseeing holiday — hunting down famous places and buildings and checking them off your “must-see” list — then you could try mixing it up a little. Jump on a local train and stay on it until the end of the line. Find a wandering dog and follow it. Buy an 18th-century guidebook and use it to plan your itinerary. There are a lot of ways to make travel surprising again, and a lot of them are gathered in The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel. This is my kind of travel book.
Articles about travel
Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel
Auckland — New Zealand
We spent Christmas in Auckland. The weather in Auckland is often a bit variable, even in the middle of summer. But even when it rained, our view remained quite lovely.
Luo Hu Commercial City — Shenzhen, China
Next time you’re in Hong Kong, catch the train up to Lo Wu station, go through HK immigration and walk across the border into mainland China. Once you go through Chinese immigration and get though the thicket of taxi touts, the first building you see is Luo Hu Commercial City. Its five floors contain hundreds of tiny shops, mostly selling “brand name” clothing, shoes and accessories. There are also dozens of tailors who can make or copy anything. If you prefer, there are electronics, DVDs, souvenirs, home furnishings, and maybe a few other things I’ve forgotten.
China is so big and varied that a lifetime is probably not long enough to experience it all, much less understand it. I didn’t have a lifetime to spare, but 17 days was long enough to see, do and eat many strange and interesting new things.
First up, we flew from the hustle of Hong Kong to the bustle of Beijing. Like all tourists, we were there to see the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and so on. These we duly saw, and they were wonderful – I would happily have spent a day or two looking around the beautiful and peaceful Summer Palace. We also saw Tiananmen Square in a very unusual state – it was empty. (There was apparently to be some sort of race, related somehow to the 2008 Olympics.) It was funny seeing such a big empty space in the middle of a city – living in Hong Kong, you forget what such things are like.
Coffee, turkish bread, great weather (except for the rain) and fun people. Aaah.
Still green, beautiful and mad-keen on sailing, just as I remembered it.
Blue Mountains — in NSW, Australia
The 11-month drought started to break while we were there. Everybody was a bit confused at all the water that was falling from the sky. Still lots of nice sunshine though.
Fuji is visible from central Tokyo (e.g. from my office building), but only on clear days. In January we went to Hakone, near Fuji, to stay in a Japanese inn and soak in hot pools. Riding a cable car and then a ropeway up a nearby mountin, we got a rare clear view of the mountain.
The photo was taken after riding the ropeway up the nearby mountain. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the wind was so strong it was hard to stand up straight, and freezing cold too. I went through great discomfort getting the photos.
Hakone — near Mount Fuji
Stayed in a ryokan with an onsen (spa), fabulous food and, marvellously, good heating. And the view of Mount Fuji from the aerial cable car was stunning – no fog, no obscuring cloud, just a magnificent white mountain.
We spent the new year in Sasebo, a town outside of Nagasaki. We stayed there with Joanne’s host family from when she was an exchange student here. That was fun, though it severely tested my rudimentary Japanese language skills. I have been learning the Japanese equivalent of BBC English, but Sasebo folks speak some kind of dialect. (It reminded me of when I first moved to Scotland.)