At the Wa­ter’s Edge

All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by

Business Traveler (USA) - - TALKING POINT - — Dan Booth Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor

Sci­en­tists tell us that life on Earth emerged from the pri­mor­dial seas thou­sands of mil­len­nia ago, and it seems we hu­man be­ings are re­luc­tant to stray too far from the old neigh­bor­hood. It’s no won­der then that so many of the world’s lead­ing cities have planted their roots along ocean coasts and great rivers. Ac­cord­ing to some sta­tis­tics, about half the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives within 60 miles or so of some body of wa­ter. Af­ter ev­ery ma­jor flood, hur­ri­cane or tsunami, there are those who ques­tion the wis­dom of al­low­ing con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment in such high-risk places. Le­git­i­mate con­cerns, to be sure.

But at least in part, it strikes me that the rea­son we don’t move is be­cause want­ing to be near the wa­ter is hard-wired in us, some­thing peo­ple – and civ­i­liza­tions – have al­ways done. Af­ter all, wa­ter is es­sen­tial for life, and we don’t want to ven­ture too far away from it. So we pitched our crude tents, built our mud huts and even­tu­ally erected our most im­pos­ing cities, most of them right on some ma­jor river or sea­coast.

As these thoughts come to me, I’m look­ing out my ho­tel room win­dow on Vic­to­ria Har­bor in Hong Kong, one of the busiest sea­ports in the world. The scene makes me think back to other great cities and other great wa­ter­ways. The Thames in Lon­don, the Huangpu in Shang­hai, Ta­ble Bay in Cape Town, Chicago’s lakeshore, NewYork’s har­bor.

What they all have in com­mon is, be­fore there were planes, trains or au­to­mo­biles, there was the wa­ter. The wa­ter is what brought the first peo­ple to these lands, and the wa­ter is what made them want to stay, and ex­plore, and build. And the re­sults have been as­tound­ing – on these shores, we have planted cul­tures and built cities with bril­liant ar­chi­tec­ture, great ports, end­less mar­ket­places and homes for mil­lions.

In­creas­ingly trav­el­ers are re­dis­cov­er­ing the joys of ex­plor­ing cities and coast­lines and coun­try­side by wa­ter. In this month’s Gath­er­ing Places, we find that The Rivers Run Deep (page 38) with real pos­si­bil­i­ties for dis­cov­ery and cul­tural en­rich­ment. As a bonus, we talk One on One (page 8) with Richard Mar­nell, se­nior VP of mar­ket­ing with Vik­ing River Cruises, who of­fers some deeper in­sights into the art of the river cruise.

China’s Pearl River is the wa­ter­way that feeds the story of our in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tion, as we con­sider Guangzhou’s Glory Days (page 12). The sparkling wa­ters of Bur­rard In­let form the pic­turesque frame around A Van­cou­ver Point of View (page 42). And in Rise Above (page 48) prac­ti­cally ev­ery vista from ev­ery ho­tel rooftop we men­tion – from Sin­ga­pore to Athens to Vi­enna – takes in some leg­endary body of wa­ter.

The view out my ho­tel win­dow is mes­mer­iz­ing. As the boat traf­fic builds cross­ing Vic­to­ria Har­bor, in from the sea a cruise ship ar­rives. I watch as she docks; even­tu­ally she will dis­charge her pas­sen­gers, and they will go ex­plor­ing around the streets of Hong Kong, as those ar­riv­ing by ship have done in this fas­ci­nat­ing city for cen­turies past.

In this mod­ern day when mil­lions of trav­el­ers are car­ried on cur­rents of air high over­head, or con­fine their jour­neys to rivers of con­crete and steel on earth, some­times it’s easy to for­get what brought us here in the first place – the mighty rivers and vast oceans. From an­cient times, our world has been built upon the work of‘ they that go down to the sea in ships and oc­cupy their busi­ness in great wa­ters.’

So this month, let’s go on a voy­age of dis­cov­ery, wher­ever the tides may take us. BT

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