Q&A with Shanghai newspaper

I was asked by the guys in Lonely Planet’s Melbourne office to answer a few questions for a Chinese newspaper. Some of them are slightly unusual questions, and as it’s not going to be published in English I thought I’d post a transcript of some of them here. Alternative answers are more than welcome.

If you won a $5000 air ticket, where would you go and what’s your itinerary?

If money was no object I’d start by filling in some blanks on my map of the Middle East  – Beirut, Damascus and Jerusalem. Then it’s Africa, first to Dakar in Senegal for nightclubbing, then on to Libreville in Gabon to see the surfing hippos of the Loango National Park. Then on to Namibia, somewhere I visited and long to return to for the desert scenery and wildlife. Things get simpler from there – to Hong Kong (probably via Dubai) to visit friends, then New Zealand’s South Island, to be specific trekking and sea kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds. I’d insist on coming home via Easter Island – which means a visit to French Polynesia to change planes, so let’s have a few days on Bora Bora while we’re there – Santiago in Chile, and New York City, because New York is the whole world in a small package.

If you could choose anyone on the earth to be your travel companion, who would it be?

I love reading about Marco Polo and his journeys, so he would be first choice. If it has to be someone living I would choose Mark Beaumont, who holds the world record for fastest journey around the world by bicycle. If I could keep up with him I think we’d have a lot of fun.

Medieval Irish trailblazer Marc O'Polo

Medieval Irish trailblazer Marc O'Polo

If there were no trains, buses, airplanes, cars how would you prefer to travel (besides travel); camel, donkey, horse, spaceship, flying blanket or anything else?

It remains a source of disappointment that no-one tries to invent a flying carpet anymore. This proves society is going backwards. I also like the idea of seeing the world from a hovercraft which can go over land or sea.

Suppose you have a door which can lead you to anywhere you wish, which country would the door open to?

The door would open at dawn in Lalibela in the highlands of Ethiopia, where there some astonishing rock-carved churches. They’re unlike anywhere else on earth and I wish every day that I was there exploring them with only hermits and pilgrims for company.

What’s your favourite destination and why?

Paris, France is my favourite place. It is only two hours from my home by train and I am lucky to go there often, but I always find something new and beautiful to see. Often that beautiful thing is something I’m eating, which makes me even happier.

If you had an eight day vacation in October what would you do and where would you go?

I would go first to the English Lake District for some mountain climbing, then cycle north to visit the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland, then take the sleeper train back home to London.

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