Saturday 24 November 2012

My ABC of Travel

Travelling is good for the soul, or so I have heard, which is great news for my soul as I have soundly bitten by the travel bug.

My job involves travelling occasionally, although these days I am less keen to jet off to another country with work because I know that when I get there I will get little chance to see the place due to the demands that are thrust upon me.

Sometimes I get lucky and get some time off; others I quite literally arrive, work, eat, sleep and then repeat that monotonous list until I have to leave again, with little or no chance to break the chains and escape for a little adventure.

Holidays are obviously the best way to travel simply because I am not constrained by the chains of employment.

Anyway – to the point of this post. I have discovered an A to Z travel meme I thought might be fun to have a go at.

So without further ado, let’s dive straight in:

A: Age you made your first international trip

I made my first trip abroad when I was 20 years old. I travelled to Holland and Germany but I was totally naïve. Such a lot happened on the trip that I could write several posts on the subject. It all started off in Amsterdam, a city I have been back to more times than I can remember, both with work and travel, and ended up at the Oktoberfest in Munich.

I will reveal all in a future post.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where

There are so many spectacularly good Belgian beers that it is difficult to choose one. I will select De Koninck because it was always my first beer of the night when I was working in Amsterdam, which is the place I first tried it.

C: Cuisine (Favourite)

I love Chinese food, particularly in China itself. On a recent work trip to Kunming in China, every meal time was fantastic, particularly because we dined with local Chinese guys who ordered some of the most amazing dishes I have ever tasted. I had to stipulate that I would not eat insects. I don’t think that I did – but to be honest I wouldn’t have known.

D: Destinations. Favourite. Least Favourite. Why?

My favourite destination is Hong Kong. The whole city is vibrant, colourful and an amazing combination of east and west. It holds a special place in my heart because that is where Mrs PM revealed her feelings for me. With work and travel I have spent well over a year of my life in that wonderful city and I would be tempted to live there if I had the means and opportunity. In fact, next year we are going to another place I have always wanted to visit – Japan – and we are going back to spend three more days in Hong Kong on the way. I can’t wait.

My least favourite destination is probably Chongqing in China. When Mrs PM and I visited the city it was merely as the starting point of a cruise down the Yangtze River, which itself was a total hellish disaster. The city itself was crammed, dirty and polluted as well as having the worst drivers in China (which is quite a spectacular achievement in itself).

E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’

That is easy; Niagara Falls. I have been to Niagara twice and each time I have been lost for words. It is a beautiful, natural phenomenon that really did take my breath away.

F: Favourite mode of transportation

I love travelling but hate getting there. I think the train is probably the least offensive mode of transportation, particularly if you can sleep in the comfort of a bed, as we did on an overnight trip from Beijing to Shanghai. The sound and motion of the train makes it very easy to fall asleep.

G: Greatest feeling while travelling

The greatest feeling is the first day in a new place; leaving the hotel for the first time to explore a new country or city, venturing into the unknown.

H: Hottest place I’ve travelled to

Las Vegas, without a doubt. The temperature outside was 45 °C compared to inside the hotels where the air conditioning bordered on being too cold. Mrs PM and I walked down The Las Vegas Strip, seeking sanctuary in each hotel. It was too hot to walk back and we wilted while waiting for a bus. In the end we got a taxi.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where

It’s tough to find better service than in nice restaurants in the United States. I know that all they want is a tip and they are not really your best friend, but it is nice all the same.

J: Journey that took you the longest

I travelled to Australia but we stopped in Hong Kong on the way there and Singapore on the way back, so I guess that doesn’t count. The longest trip in one go has to be to and from Kunming a year or two ago. I had to fly from Manchester to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Beijing and Beijing to Kunming. The entire journey took almost 24 hours. I was absolutely shattered each time, so much so that on the way back from Amsterdam to Manchester, I only woke up when the plane touched down.

K: Keepsake from your travels

If I keep keepsakes, Mrs PM accuses me of hoarding .However, there are quite a few trinkets lying around the house in places that Mrs PM has yet to discover. I guess, the best keepsakes that will remain untouched are the photos we have.

L: Let down sight. Why and where?

Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I was expecting the glitz and glamour of the Los Angeles film industry and possibly the opportunity to spot a famous face or two. Instead, it is in an area that is not the best and although you can look at the pavement stars and the handprints, it was too busy with tourists and I simply didn’t get the inner reaction I expected.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel

That would have to be that first trip to Holland and Germany. When I arrived home, I was desperate to get away again – and I did the following summer when I went travelling around Europe again.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in

It’s tough to beat the Bishop Lei Hotel in Hong Kong. Mrs PM and I lived there for three months while working in the city. We negotiated a discount on a suite that overlooked Hong Kong harbour and woke up to spectacular views every single day. We got to know the staff too and we are going to stay there again when we visit next year.

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?

I really want to be able to take pictures of the people but I am not very good at doing so, simply because I don’t want to offend anybody. I have managed to take some, but I really need to invest in a camera with a bigger zoom capability.

I do like taking pictures of famous iconic symbols too – but not with my ugly mug in them.

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?

I used to have loads but nowadays we don’t get them when travelling in Europe. However, I do have some pretty good ones like: South Africa, Russia, China, Thailand, Canada, The United States, Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, Singapore, Barbados, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and The United Arab Emirates. There are probably more.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.

There have been some odd things I’ve seen on my travels, changing the Kremlin guards was quite amusing because of the regimented choreography involved. Also, an impromptu Dragon Dance in Beijing where Mrs PM and I captivated almost as much interest from the locals as the dragon itself.

R: Recommended sight, event, or experience

I have several that leap immediately to mind.

Niagara Falls, Sydney Harbour, Eiffel Tower, Pearl Tower in Shanghai, Grand Canyon, visit the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, London (generally), Empire State Building in New York, A traditional jazz bar in New Orleans, a stroll round Boston, Madrid, a stroll around Rome, Pompeii, Positano and the Amalfi Coast, Amsterdam, The Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, a river boat cruise in Bangkok, a stroll on the beach in Port Douglas Australia, a river cruise in Singapore and a meal at Café Deco on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

If I rack my brains I could write an entire post on this.

S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while travelling.

Everything – except Thai food which I just don’t like (making life particularly difficult on holidays to Thailand).

T: Touristy thing you’ve done

I’ve done loads of touristy things. If there is a major tourist attraction where I am I will go and see it if I can, which means that I have a massive list of things I could write about. See R above for some of them.

U: Unforgettable travel memory

A two week trip around China in 1999. If it were made into a film it would be called “Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Boats – Chinese style”. A scary but hugely rewarding backpacking experience. I am hoping that Japan next year surpasses it.

V: Visas. How many of them and for where.

I assume this means Visas I have had to have beforehand. Usually when you travel to a country, if they are friendly with the UK you get a visa on arrival. In some countries you have to get one in advance and be invited by somebody, usually a company. In which case, only two leap to mind – Russia and China. Other visas have been acquired on arrival.

W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where.

The only one that leaps to mind is a glass of Rioja in Madrid. I love Rioja. Having said that, I tasted some delightful wines on wine tasting tour in the Napa Valley, California and a similar one in Hunter Valley in Australia.

X: eXcellent view and from where

I’ll select one that I haven’t mentioned yet – Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower – if I can get over my fear of heights.

Y: Years spent traveling

I guess since the first time I travelled abroad at the age of 20, it has to be 30 years (minus the odd few when the boys were very small).

Z: Zealous sports fans and where

Amsterdam. I was working there on my own and walked out of Centraal Station on my way to the hotel and was confronted by an army of Dutch football fans ready to catch the train to see the national team play against Wales in a World Cup qualifying game. I have never seen so much orange in my life. Flags and banners were everywhere and even the people were orange, having painted their faces. And every single one of them was chanting a Dutch football song – the same song as far as I could tell. It was an absolutely unbelievable and slightly scary sight, even though there was no hint of malice at all.

And finally …

Here’s to the next 30 years of travelling, starting with Tenerife at Christmas, Hong Kong and Japan in May and, to be arranged, Hungary (a country I have never visited) and the South of France.

I can’t wait.


River said...

A-age of first (and only) International trip. 6 months. my dad, mum, sister and me hopped on a ship in Germany and arrived three months later in Australia. I don't remember any of it.

drb said...

Hi Mr PM,

Great blog and share the same view as you of the common places visited.

We've just come back from Jap 3 days ago, spent 17 days there, 5 cities. Absolutely love it! The autumn colour is spectacular, so try to go in Nov if you could. Also, Rob planned the trip studying lonely planet and his choices were fanatastic. We highly recomment besides the obvious choices of Tokyo and Kyoto, you should try to go to Takayama and Nagano. The people there are absolutely lovely, superclean - no rubbish bin and no rubbish!!! Everyone brings their own trash bag to bring the rubbish home.

You will love the Shinkansen, the superfast train,

No tipping (in fact, it is frowned upon) in Japan but you still receive top class services. I wish I live in Japan.

I have never been to Europe besides UK, Paris and Italy. So, I will try to get there soon...

drb said...

Wow Mr PM!
Officially, you are most travelled person I know!!

This is the list of places in mentioned in your blog that I have not been:
Barbados, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany;
St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow;
Empire State Building in New York;
a stroll round Madrid;
a stroll around Pompeii, Positano and the Amalfi Coast, Amsterdam.

I will definitely try to tick out your list of recommended places.

Besides Japan, you have been to all the places I have visited. I think New Zealand was not mentioned, if you've not been there, you should! It is a beautful place, just as seen in te 'Lord of the Rings'.

Pandora Behr said...

Ah, pinching this one. Great blog.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I don;t know whether you will ever get the chance to travel, but if you ever do, grab it with both hands.

I love it.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

Wow - lucky you. And thanks for the tips. Mrs PM is organising it - and we already have the Travel Bible (aka The Lonely Planet) as we usually do.

The train is an absolute must too.

Europe is beautiful and so diverse. I still haven't seen all of it myself but we are crossing Hungary off the list next year too.

Also, that list of recommendations is just the tip of the iceberg - I could write a book on them.

Actually, talking about books, I am going to write my third travelogue for the Japan trip - I simply cannot wait.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Steal away - I look forward to seeing your answers.




DelGal said...

Dearest PM -

Can you believe I took Mark to Niagara and he said he wasn't impressed?!
I wasn't impressed with a few Hollywood sites either, but then again I was only 14 when I visited there.
Happy travels, and don't forget you have to come visit my humble area one day (as a starter to other neater places of course). :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Dearest Lynette,

Knowing Mark, I think he would only have been impressed had he seen Superman flying in to rescue a falling child as in Superman II. Mind you, he might not even have been interested in THAT!

If I ever head Stateside and find myself in Delaware, I shall certainly pop in to see the sights.




Chrissy Brand said...

A riveting read!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Chrissy,

and thanks :-)



MedicatedMoo said...

What a terrific meme - you have certainly covered a lot of the globe and make me ashamed at my paltry passport in comparison.

Then again, I'd still like to still this meme... :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

The one thing I haven't done is lived in a foreign country for an extended period of time - unlike you.

My record is three months in Hong Kong - and I would seriously consider doing something like that again.