WELCOME to Club Wed. Marriage tourism is a boom industry. More and more couples are tying the knot in faraway places, and why would this surprise anyone? Such runaway weddings are discreet and good value, with no duty-invited guests or stonkered uncles thrice-removed making rude jokes and falling headfirst into the tropical punch.
The bridal couples, though, are often forced to be costumed in scratchy get-ups of straw and tapa cloth. What do these couples tell their children years down the track when the photo albums are out and they are asked why they were masquerading as brooms on their wedding day? Such fancy duds are de rigueur for a Fiji island wedding but non-Fijians do not look well in traditional costumes. (The same applies to non-Japanese in kimonos and blondes in saris.) I am also sceptical about the success of getting married Masai style, a new Kenyan bush-wedding option suggested by Maniago Safaris.
‘‘ Imagine donning traditional tribal regalia for a communally celebrated ceremony in one of the small villages near the Masai Mara game reserve, complete with dances and chanting,’’ the company lures. Imagine, indeed. For a start, a goat will be slaughtered and the groom ‘‘ taken off to drink a locally made beer with the men’’. I sense trouble already. Then, apparently, said groom has to pay his father-in-law a bride price of a nominal cow, which raises the vexed question of airline check-in at Nairobi and the displeasure of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.
‘‘ Village women, meanwhile, take the bride to get ready for the ceremony, singing to her all the while. Maniago can arrange to have a lovely white or tan bride’s outfit made with Masai beading, over which the bride wears the beaded marriage necklace and khanga . Joyful singing, chanting and dancing accompany the traditional union, as the guests join in. The groom then has to prove himself a worthy warrior and husband by participating in the jumping competition with other young morans (warriors).’’
Departure Lounge mentioned this to her partner (whom she often refers to, in permanent fixture fashion, as her husband) because we have never got around to a ceremony. And Lounge loves a party and a bit of jumping by energetic warriors. Surprisingly, Lounge’s other half met the idea with a sneering snort and muttered something about a silly old goat. More: www.maniagosafaris.com. ■ LOVEBIRDS bound for Las Vegas wedding chapels (where newlyweds are told to say blackjack, not cheese, for the happy snap) would have no need of a free meeting resource. But a newish online community aimed at matching sole travellers with people in their intended destinations who share similar interests is reporting instant success. Thousands of people in 57 countries have signed up to Friends on Arrival which, according to founder Maurizio Marmotta, offers members ‘‘ the opportunity to make connections online before starting their journey, making for a more welcome arrival and travel experience’’. More: www.friendsonarrival.com. ■ LOUNGE had lunch this week with her old pal Susie Tindall McDonald and, in the course of reminiscing about adventures past, the topic of young and carefree trips arose, specifically Susie’s recall of a holiday on a Greek island during which she laid out her sleeping bag on a particularly soft patch of ground on a perfect starry night. All went well until she awoke to discover she had been snoozing on a peafowls’ nest; the cocks and hens were most displeased and greeted her with rather foul wake-up calls, delivered from an imperious height.
Lounge , who prefers the great indoors and a bit of pampering these days, shuddered at the thought. But this aversion to makeshift sleeping is a minority view, apparently. Caravan stays are the latest hot accommodation option, according to Tourism Research Australia’s most recent national visitor survey, which showed park patronage up by almost 20 per cent. This must be due to a general upgrade of facilities at caravan parks (many of which, Lounge notes, have been softly rebranded as holiday parks) and a rating system of one to five stars based on a 1000-point check of facilities, amenities, maintenance levels and cleanliness. A thousand points? What could they be? The thread count of cafe curtains? The speed of boiling kettles? Such an exhaustive list would have stumped even Macon Leary, the weary travel writer of Anne Tyler’s TheAccidentalTourist , whose life had become defined by counting hotel coathangers and testing mattresses.
In tandem with the survey results, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria’s Neil James has been spruiking the latest edition of the RACV Tourist Park Guide ($16.45 or $11.20 to RACV members), which probably needs little promotion given that it has had an astonishing 82 editions and contains more than 2400 accommodation options (but not a single bird’s nest, suspects Lounge ).
PARALLEL to this holiday park trend, record numbers of Australians — about 307,000 in all, including 81,000 in Brisbane — have attended this year’s recreational vehicle shows in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and the Queensland capital. ‘‘ There has never been a season like 2007. It has been the most successful for all the shows, which have been running for decades,’’ says Tony Bellamy, president of the Recreational Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association of Australia.
FIND of the week: A new company, Air Travel Companion, provides qualified carers to escort young, elderly or infirm travellers on long journeys. Founder Rosaleen Gilovitz is a registered nurse who has had specialised training in aviation health as part of the Qantas medical team. More: www.airtravelcompanion.com.au.
LOUNGE loves: The latest title from the LUXE City Guides series. The snappy, opinionated LUXE crew has taken on New York ($14.95), the 22nd city in the series and part of a push beyond its Asian roots for this miniguidebook empire.
Abercrombie & Kent’s Insider Access program, which takes clients beyond monuments and museums (especially in India) and, in the hands of local experts, into neighbourhood attractions, schools and homes. More: www.abercrombiekent.com.au.
LOUNGE loathes: Hotel staff who do not observe Do Not Disturb signs on guestroom doors. The silliest transgression is to phone a guest’s room and point out that a delivery (in Lounge ’ s case, usually a press kit the size and heft of a tombstone) can’t be made because the sign is activated. Yes, and that would be because the guest, most probably, wants to lie down undisturbed .
DEALS OF THE WEEK
GIVE the kids a free Pacific cruise; all change for the QE2 with a last chance to sail on Cunard’s former flagship; free flights to Argentina; discounts on canal cruising in France; head for the snow with moneysaving deals. These and other discounted specials are featured in Travel& Indulgence ’ s holiday deals, updated daily at: www.theaustralian.com.au/travel.