If you read any other travel blogs, you may have seen this ABC elsewhere. In any case I thought I'd make my own contribution!
Not sure that the Channel Islands or a day trip to France counts (!), so Switzerland for a month when I was 15, staying with a family.
I don't like beer, but my husband tells me Belgian beer is the best. I've also sampled some good locally-grown wine in India, and local tea in Borneo, Laos, Korea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia.
C: Cuisine (favourite):
It has to be my Mum's, when I go home to Edinburgh!
Favourites: Tibet because it felt so different from anywhere else I've ever been to; South Korea because the people are so kind; and the Maldives, because it's one of the few places I keep wanting to go back to.
Least favourites: Vietnam was rather a disappointment, as the people we met were not very friendly. And while I know Seychelles is a dream destination for many people I find that it's expensive, the locals are not welcoming, and while it's beautiful when the sun shines, the weather is very unreliable.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
I do like trains - getting onboard is generally not too much hassle (unlike planes!), room to move around and stretch your legs, gives you time to appreciate the countryside you're passing through. I've taken trains all over Europe, and in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan, Mongolia, India, China/Tibet and of course across Russia (see J below).
|in a train, Sri Lanka|
G: Greatest feeling while travelling:
When I'm diving somewhere new, for example Pulau Weh, Sipadan, Saipan, Cambodia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka or the Philippines.
I live on a tropical island so heat is not really an issue for me, but Bangkok in June was hot (38°C) and felt it. It's one thing to be hot in the countryside or on a beach, but I hate feeling hot in a city. The coldest I've ever been was while living in South Korea, where -18°C is fairly common in January.
I remember in particular one occasion in Taiwan when we'd taken a short taxi journey during which it started to rain. We don't speak Chinese and the driver didn't speak English but he opened the boot of his car and gave us an umbrella even though we would never see him again!
Without a doubt the Trans-siberian railway across Russia from Vladivostok to Moscow. Without getting off the train the journey takes almost a week, but as we made stops in Irkutsk, Novosibirsk and Ekaterinburg the journey took us two weeks.
I like bringing back empty plastic water bottles which I use for a few weeks as a souvenir! If it's a country where tea is grown I generally bring back some of that too. And if there's room in my luggage - a nice coffee-table book. Jewellery is good too as it doesn't take up much room in your luggage.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:
Not so much one sight as several dive outings we couldn't do - the Langkawi dive operator who never turned up, the 3-day dive safari to the Similan Islands that was cancelled due to bad weather, the lack of water to dive the underwater part of the Great Wall of China, and the Hainan dive outing that was cancelled as they didn't have any English speaking dive guides that day. But if I had to choose one land-based sight, possibly Tam Coc in Viet Nam, mainly due to the attitude of the locals.
I can't remember not ever having loved to travel. While I don't always like the more physical aspects of it - airports, and heaving around luggage - I love the rest!
I've been lucky enough to stay in many beautiful hotels, but in cities it's probably been the Park Hyatts in Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai, and resort-wise the Soneva Gili and Soneva Fushi hotels in the Maldives are in a class of their own.
|view from the Park Hyatt hotel, Beijing|
Not really an obsession, but I don't like people in my photos of landscapes or monuments. I'm capable of waiting quite a long time for there to be nobody in the photo. I've been told there aren't enough portraits or photos of food in my photos, so I try and make a conscious effort to take more of those.
Too many to count! My last passport was a 10 year passport with 32 pages but I filled it up in only 4 years!
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: Probably 'Penis Park' in Samchoek, South Korea. The legend says that a virgin bride was drowned here before her wedding night, and that afterwards the catches of fish dried up until one day a fisherman relieved himself into the ocean. The next day the fish were plentiful again, and the fishermen regularly started exposing themselves to the ocean, until finally they built this park with all sorts of replicas to pacify the virgin ghost. Also in Korea I've visited the toilet house and a hotel shaped like a boat.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful natural sites I've ever seen. Visiting Hiroshima in Japan was very thought-provoking too, and it's an interesting city to visit in its own right. The Tsingy of Bemaraha in western Madagascar is quite remote and difficult to get to, but well worth it when you get there. Not too sure if I should recommend Angkor Wat, as they say it's falling apart due to too many visitors.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while travelling:
If I'm in a city which has a good hotel with good afternoon teas I can't resist. I did this most recently in Delhi.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
U: Unforgettable travel memory:
Scuba-diving in Lake Baikal, living with the nomads and riding horses in Mongolia, (attempting to) climb(ing) Mt Kinabalu in Borneo, seeing a sun-fish (mola mola) while diving in Bali...
V: Visas, how many and for where:
Again - lots! The most recent is India. Surprisingly one of the easiest to get was the visa to North Korea, but I wasn't allowed to keep it. The most difficult/annoying to get was for Russia. Most numerous - Madagascar as I've been there three times. Oldest - Hungary, in 1991. The longest-lasting was my South Korean residency visa. Others are China (twice, both double entry), Laos, Mongolia, and Viet Nam. Visas on arrival include Hong Kong, Indonesia (twice), and Cambodia. (Follow this link for my tip on getting a Cambodian visa the easy way).
W: Wine, best glass of wine while travelling and where?
It's not wine, but you can't go to Singapore without having a Singapore Sling in the Raffles hotel bar!
X: eXcellent view and from where?:
For natural landscape views Tibet was amazing - especially Mount Everest, but some of the views in Réunion are great too!
Y: Years spent travelling?
Weeks and months put altogether I don't know, but when we were living for 3 years in South Korea we spent the equivalent of one year travelling around Asia! I once spent two months working in a summer camp in Vermont, and then 6 weeks travelling through 26 U.S. states - if that counts as travelling, it was my longest trip.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
Probably in Scotland, where if you go to a national rugby or football match, a sizeable proportion of the supporters will be wearing kilts. The football supporters are known as the Tartan Army.