Friday, December 18, 2009

Travel - A Commentary On Travel

The Daibutsu at Kamakura.

The place one visits is important but also important is the prepartion for ones trip. For me part of the fun of traveling is researching the places I'm to visit. I begin with Fodor's and Frommer's guides as they give a good over view. A little history, popular and/or important places to visit, best time of year to see x, y & z, etc. Eyewitness and Insight Guides have pictures of places and when you're visiting a place like Kyoto with it's zillions of temples it's helpful to see what temples interest you as you can't possibly visit all of them. Lonely Planet has a good website but in recent years I haven't liked the layout of their guides and one time found their directions inadequate.

I guess I should mention I work in a bookstore so have access to the above guides without having to buy them. However my favorite guides, which I purchased for my recent Japan trip, are the Rough Guide Japan and Rough Guide Tokyo. These guides concentrate on the places with only brief information about where to stay or eat. They also include out of the way and/or places I find interesting. Well, maybe the 'out of the way' isn't so much anymore as it's in their guide book. Their Japan Guide, is heavy and bulky so I leave it with my daughter in Tokyo which allows me to feel okay about purchasing next year's edition...also heavy and bulky. For lodgings I surf the net. For restaurants I like to use the online sites of local English language magazines like Metropolis in Tokyo and newspapers like the Japan Times.

Next and/or simultaneously most of the time is the internet. Anything or place of interest in the above guide books (I jot down notes as I skim guide books) I further research online. If you have the time and patience blogs (young people teaching English in Japan write a lot about where they went on the weekend. Not great prose but sometimes interesting places that aren't in guide books) are a good source of information. I discovered two places we visited on my recent trip by reading blogs. Another tip is to google your interests like hiking Japan or shopping for specific items Japan or for me folk arts Japan. Not everything Japan is in the guide books. Most places have websites which contain lots of information about what they have and how to get there. If the main site isn't in English continue to Google it until you find someone who writes in English about it or look at pictures on flickr.

At this point I have lots of pages ear marked in the Rough Guides, too many print outs and notes .... some even legible. My trip is next week. What to do? I prioritize. If I had one day what would I want to do...oh, I have a second day, what would I want to do....etc. Then I look at my choices and put them in order in relation to where I'm staying and what I can reasonably do on this trip. Day 1. I'm a bit jet lagged....that Japanese movie with English subtitles a train stop away from where I'm staying sounds good.....then the park with the fall chrysanthemum display is a subway stop from there....good. However that abandoned island off Nagasaki, a very long way from Tokyo, will have to wait for another trip.

Chrysanthemums on exhibit at Shinjuku Gyoen (Park).

I usually have a plan A and plan B for each day. Sometime things just don't go the way you expected or you get someplace and well, it sucks, so having other options to fall back on is a comfort. Relax, take some deep breaths then charge onward. Have some fun with your trip planning and then enjoy yourself once you're there.


YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Agree with your comments about the importance of preparation -- and it sounds that, like me, you find planning to be lots of fun as well.

Interesting comments re the guide books. Since I don't work in a bookstore, I don't go through as many books -- but over the years, have found Frommer's guides to my liking (be they for Hong Kong, Beijing or South Korea, etc.). On my most recent visit to Japan, however, couldn't find an up to date Frommers, so went for the Rought Guide instead -- and was quite pleased with it.

It's interesting that you wrote of the Rough Guides that "concentrate on the places with only brief information about where to stay or eat." Personally, I really welcome getting informatin on where to stay but don't care so much re where to eat as I often just like to eat where it's convenient. At the same time, I do want to eat the local food so what I like are guides that tell me what is the culinary specialty in an area so that I can know to look out for it.

Re the internet: some parts of the world are better served than others in this regard, I find. But it's true enough that there are many websites and blogs about Hong Kong that I regularly visit to learn about still more places and things to check out here... :)

sbk said...

Hi ytsl,

Thanks for your comments.

About Rough Guides and places to stay I should have mentioned I had a place to stay in Japan so kind of ignored their choices. On other trips I've found Lonely Planet had really good suggestions about inexpensive accomadations.

I usally have a list of places to eat but in reality, like you, I eat where it's convenient. And I like your looking for "culinary specialty in an area so that I can know to look out for it" as I most often find out after I've been to a place. When I get home I google the places I've been and read even more about them.

Yes, you're right regarding the internet "some parts of the world are better served than others in this regard" and I think many places in Japan and Hong Kong do have a lot of info one can check out.

Now I have three parts to trips: preparation at home, actual being there and afterlooks(checking out more about places I've found while traveling) at home. Now I'm thinking of adding another part: places I would visit again... The Lantau Buddha and the Kamakura Buddha and a few other place in Hong Kong and China.