Saturday, October 26, 2013

Things I've noticed while travelling

a) People tend to fly the national airline. For me, the appeal of travelling on an airline other than Qantas is the prospect of a stop-over in a city I haven't been to previously. Fly Korean Airlines and you will stop in Incheon (serving Seoul), board Vietnam Airlines and you will end up disembarking in (or is it around?) Ho Chi Minh City. There are also great discounts to be found for those willing to try something new. It's usually cheaper to fly with China Southern than Singapore, for example. Flying through Tokyo (JAL) and Hong Kong (Cathay) is pricey, while the Southeast Asian airlines are less expensive and offer good food. Meanwhile, the majority of people flying Etihad Airlines are, predictably, from the UAE.

b) Sometimes it's best to ditch the Lonely Planet. I usually travel with a guidebook, unless I'm going back to Thailand or another place I know well, but the problem with the meticulously researched, lovingly produced Lonely Planet is that most savvy travellers are bringing their own version into the country (except the French, who have Michelin). Unless the point of your trip was to meet other travellers (and sometimes it's a nice bonus), you're better off following your instincts and letting the LP sit quietly in the back of your suitcase for a bit. You'll find people indulge their curiosity about you more often when you're the only visitor for miles, increasing your chances of making friends. I learned that there is a lovely karaoke facility in Jiali, which was an hour outside Tainan, and I never would have known what to expect in an ordinary, rural township, if I hadn't taken the chance on an offbeat location.

c) Talking to the person next to you on the plane is always a good idea. Sure, the Japanese guy I chatted up gave me a subtle hint that 'Australians are too friendly' but not before I learned that Hanoi was more polluted than Ho Chi Minh city, the extent of anti-Japanese sentiment, and that he was one of a trend of young singles currently being picked up on by the Guardian. My hour-long chat also delivered me from the anxiety I normally experience upon take-off. It was only when dinner was served that my companion and I turned to worlds interior.

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