OTHER PEOPLE’S HOLIDAYS
Last week I played spectator to a China holiday planning session. An old family friend was sprouting travel advice gleaned from years living in Shanghai while my sister – who’s heading that way in October – frantically took notes and started mapping out an itinerary. I’m also taking on China later in the year on a Viking cruise, so my shore excursions will be put together by the experts on board, but I too soaked up the DIY approach with enthusiasm.
The ex-expat’s Shanghai guide included recommendations on the best hotel locations, pros and cons of public transport versus a private driver who doubles as a personal tour guide, and the importance of addresses for pre-booked restaurants written in Chinese to ensure on-time arrival. Further instruction was given on how to navigate the famous fabric markets and organise a master tailor to reproduce your favourite silk or linen shirt/dress/suit, the joys of xiaolongbao – the legendary soupfilled dumplings of the region – and a recommendation on the optimum time of day to jump on the world’s fastest passenger train for the fourand-a-half hour ride to Beijing.
My friend came armed with photocopies of business cards of her favourite bars, restaurants, shops and tourist attractions and strong opinions on how to maximise every second of the holiday.
Then I spent time with a dear friend who’d just returned from a six-week eating and exploring extravaganza in Spain and whose son was in the middle of an epic road trip from Sydney to the NT. Both encounters left me inspired to add new places to my travel wish list and happy with the tales of other people’s travels.
JANA FRAWLEY, NATIONAL TRAVEL EDITOR