Wednesday, December 30, 2009

the best bit of holidays v's control freak

As you can see from the fact that I'm posting I still haven't finished my conference paper. Not to worry, I have a full 48 hours before it needs to be submitted (working on the basis that time difference gives me a bit of leeway and that the folks accepting my paper in America have better things to do at midnight 31 December than to check whether I've emailed it in).

So instead I'm planning the trip. The conference is being held in Townsville, after which I'm flying to Japan for a week. This has allowed me to indulge in one of life's greatest pleasures - the holiday planning frenzy. I've compared prices of about a million hotels in Townsville. Decided against staying in the nominated conference hotel (bad online reviews, silly prices) and chose another major hotel chain just across the road.

I hate staying in hotels. Really really hate staying in hotels. Travel would be perfect if I could just teleport myself home every evening to drift off into slumber in my own bed, with the cats at my feat. And on my face. And pinning my arms down. And pushing pressure on my bladder. Only to wake the next morning and teleport myself back to my international local. However I do love hotel buffet breakfasts. Little bits and pieces of things I would never normally eat. Not that they're necessarily very nice, and mercy not very good for me. But I love the novelty of it, particularly in Asia. And particularly in Singapore, where you have roti with curry sauce and congee sitting next to the croissant.

So I'm hoping this hotel will have something spectacular for me to choose from at breakfast. At least once, I'm happy to go the take away coffee and muffin on the other days.

Unfortunately my hotel in Japan has already been booked, so I don't have the pleasure of reading reviews, and putting prices in Yen into a converter and tossing up whether the up-market shower fixture is worth the extra twenty bucks a night. However I have spent hours, literally hours, working out individual train prices versus a variety of Japan Rail passes, worked out where you get the ferry to the island of Hiroshima, worked out how to get to Kyoto from Osaka airport. I've even downloaded guides. Yes the clever people at Lonely Planet will now let you download PDFs of individual chapters of their guide books. So if, like me, you've purchased the Kyoto guidebook, but want to go to Hiroshima, which is not included, you just pop online for for about $5 can get the Honshu chapter from Lonely Planet Japan. With all of the maps, and train timetables, local vocabulary and recommended eateries.

oooooo..... overload....... pleasure overload.......

Not that I live and breath the books. In the words of Eleanor Lavish 'I abhor Baedeker. If it were up to me every copy should be flung in the Arno'. I don't always use them, but damn I like reading them. Both before and after.

Before it builds the anticipation - you start to imagine what the cities will look like, how they will smell, how the people look, move and sound. You think about what you might be eating, what the climate will be like, all the wonderful places you might go, and all of the possible discoveries of still mysterious places you will uncover. On the return home you get to read about all the places you planed to go to, find that that mysterious place isn't that mysterious, it was on page 162 all the time, or maybe it's not and you actually did discover something amazing.

I'm also starting to get into the language. I'm a step ahead in that the Japanese use a lot of Chinese characters, so even though they're not pronounced the same I might be able to work out what some of the text is saying. So while I couldn't look at the characters 京都 and work out it's pronounced Koyto (I'd say JingDou) I know it means Double Capital (as in capital city, Beijing is the the Northern Capital, Nanjing the Southern Capital).

Sorry, I got all language freak and boring there for a moment. So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to practice my Japanese, and eat left over ham and aoili sandwiches.

Bon voyage!

1 comment:

A Free Man said...

I like reading the books afterwards as well. Reminds me of the trip.