Make the leap from sil­ver to gold

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SUSAN KURO­SAWA

Al­ways the brides­maid, never the bride … It’s an ex­pres­sion you don’t hear much th­ese days. More likely, it’s sil­ver ver­sus gold medal. Sec­ond placeget­ters are rarely re­mem­bered, un­less it is a team, such as the Wal­la­bies, for who among us could not ap­plaud the valiant ef­forts of the re­cent RWC run­ners-up. I have such an aunty crush on Izzy Fo­lau, by the way.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, in Myan­mar. This emerg­ing des­ti­na­tion used to be ac­corded sec­ond-place sil­ver sta­tus, and now it’s gold, grab­bing the spot­light from re­gional favourites such as Viet­nam. This is what hap­pens in the fickle world of travel. You are hot and then you’re not. As 2016 looms, al­ready the pun­dits are scratch­ing about, posit­ing what places will be on-trend and to­tally cool. For my travel dol­lars, I reckon it is the turn of those brides­maid des­ti­na­tions to catch the bou­quet.

For ex­am­ple, South Africa, Kenya and Tan­za­nia are the big sa­fari draw­cards but how about lit­tle Botswana? It is my favourite of southern Africa’s game-filled na­tions and the very best place for in­ti­mate and au­then­tic wildlife-watch­ing. In Hawaii, ev­ery­thing fo­cuses on gate­way is­land Oahu and its neigh­bour isle of Maui, thick with celebrity res­i­dents. But head, I urge you, to the Big Is­land of Hawaii and to Kauai for land­scapes so soaring and primeval you’d hardly be sur­prised to find a di­nosaur hitch­ing a ride or a ptero­dactyl dark­en­ing the sky. Kauai has been used as back­drop for movies such as Juras­sic Park. Hol­ly­wood loves it. The lo­cals call it Hu­la­wood.

Many des­ti­na­tions well-known to ex­pe­ri­enced travel- lers are be­ing dis­cov­ered by tourists from emerg­ing na­tions. Paris, for one, is boom­ing with Chi­nese visi­tors and who can blame them for do­ing all the iconic sights, just as we did years ago. But crowds are a pain, so the rush is on to lesser-vis­ited, but ar­guably just as beau­ti­ful, Euro­pean cities, such as Prague, Cra­cow, Hei­del­berg and Bratislava. On and on it goes. Mau­ri­tius v Mada­gas­car? Greece v Croa­tia? Peru v Ecuador? Can­cun v Ha­vana?

If the big Asian cities are too bustling and hard to ne­go­ti­ate (Beijing springs to mind, in­evitably), use such me­trop­o­lises as gate­ways and ex­plore fur­ther and deeper to, say, Yun­nan prov­ince in south­west China; its lovely cap­i­tal, Kun­ming, still has an old quar­ter that’s as pretty as a Zhang Yi­mou film set. If Tokyo bam­boo­zles you, head to the snow coun­try of Ya­sunari Kawa­bata’s so-ti­tled 1948 novel. It is there, to Gokayama and Shi­rakawago, that au­thor Pico Iyer goes in search of “still­ness”; it’s the Ja­pan we’ve seen in old wood­block prints, with thatched-roof houses and wind-chimes.

Costa Rica and Belize get a lot of oxy­gen in the travel press, and film­maker Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola has colonised the lat­ter with luxe lodges, but Nicaragua, with a cul­tural edge, is the up-and-comer to watch. If fa­mous walk­ing trails are too crowded, con­sider sec­ondary al­ter­na­tives. In New Zealand, if the Mil­ford Track is un­avail­able, try the Route­burn or the Ke­pler or even the Dusky Track, which is so hard that surely wannabe All Blacks must train there, al­though the sight of such sturdy men­moun­tains could send me over the edge.

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