Yes, however short of cash we might be, we still love to travel.
So for years I relied on one of the more popular guidebooks on the market to recommend good places to eat. That was until I followed their recommendation and found myself in a restaurant in Chiang Mai in January 2011. The surroundings were pleasant – nice garden setting. But we kept on waiting for the food we had ordered, and then waiting some more. And then, dammit, I know I’m on holiday and want to take things easy but this is ridiculous. Well, it was only back in my hotel room that I checked out the place on the tripadviser web site.
Ahhh... now I see - “Terrible all round”, “catastrophiques”, “don’t spoil your evening”, “do not go there”, “scandaleux”. My No. 1 travel tip is to always check tripadvisor!
I will leave the name of that restaurant in the dark where it belongs. But I must mention the fabulous hotel where we stayed in Chiang Mai – the Rimping Village. It’s in a quiet location with nice rooms, a salt-water swimming pool, great breakfast, bicycles for getting around.
But what makes it so special is the amazing service, where the focus of every member of staff is the enjoyment and welfare of their guests. Superlative! And found thanks to tripadviser.
Food in Asia isn’t of course just about restaurants. I just love the street food.
Its not only cheap, it’s wonderfully varied. And if you are not keen on the 1st stall you encounter there will be another just around the corner which is likely to tempt you even more.
2012 will be a year of continued austerity for many of us. That means either taking less holidays or looking very carefully at how you chose to travel. For long haul flights it’s worth thinking about not flying direct. In 2011 I flew between London and Japan with KLM/Air France for around £570, saving me around £200 compared to a direct economy flight. But that was nothing compared to a friend who flew with Alitalia via Rome for around £400.
Another useful website for flights is http://www.skyscanner.net. Easy to use and with all the up-to-the-minute available fares, there’s a great feature too. Once you have search results, click on the “Flexible?” button top right on the screen, then on “Change your dates?” Click on the whole month option and you’ll see immediately where the cheap and expensive travel days are.
In September I was in New York and I’d highly recommend the new half price theatre booth in Times Square. The twenty million dollar development offers you red-carpeted steps which you can climb to get fantastic views of Times Square.
However, for rock bottom bargains I’d advise a visit to the theatre box office rather than the half price booth.
“Rush” tickets are available on the day of the performance from individual theatres. In our case we saw “Spiderman, the Musical” for 39 dollars each. Heard about the poor reviews? Well, it received a standing ovation on the night we saw it – much deserved.
But, don’t forget to climb those red stairs...... Such a view!
And where to go in 2012?
London has to be high on many people’s lists with the Olympics and Paralympics. It’s a city where nearly all the major art galleries and museums are free, and I am waiting expectantly for some great theatre in 2012, including Theatre de Complicite, Ninagawa and Juliette Binoche.
If theatre is your thing, go to http://www.lastminute.com/site/entertainment/theatre/. There you’ll find last minute deals and combined theatre ticket and dinner bookings that save averagely 50% of the normal prices.
However my final travel trip has to be to consider Japan. After terrible travails in 2011 there’s a “Japan Big Welcome” campaign launched with offers and promotions and a Visit Japan Card that you can use at thousands of venues. But it’s the warmth of the welcome that will most impress. In 2012 it has to be Yokoso! Japan!
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