WED­DING OVER-PLAN­NER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - DE­PAR­TURE LOUNGE Susan Kuro­sawa

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.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Sturt Krygs­man

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