As a 65-year-old grandmother I have a bucket list, top of which is to share a travel adventure with my 14-year-old granddaughter. I would like her to experience a different culture so I am thinking Asia. My budget is not unlimited but is above the backpacker level. I am reasonably fit and my granddaughter is a very fit, personable young lady. I considered India but I'm a little wary of what it might be like for two females travelling alone. I've also thought about Japan, China or Vietnam but I'm having trouble making up my mind.
China Williams, author of Lonely Planet's Thailand and Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, writes:
Your granddaughter will appreciate this for many years to come.
Now as for where to go, let's follow your thinking about what a 14-year-older might want to do in a strange land and how well she'll process Asia's exoticism (smells, crowds, being stared at and extreme poverty). You want her to savour the culture, sites and food without being overloaded and retreating to the hotel.
Japan has the highest standard of living and will be the least culturally shocking. It has a famous youth culture (shopping malls, video arcades, J-pop music, comic bookstores) that might capture a teen's imagination more than temples. Then there are the brag-able activities - like climbing Mount Fuji and riding a bullet train - that will surely impress her friends back home. The drawback is that Japan is the most expensive destination in your list.
China has the biggest blockbuster appeal: awesome cultural and historical sites, booming cities and an intriguing crossroads position between the old and new era. But your reservations about India could also apply to China. A young, first-time traveller might need a more worldly perspective to appreciate these two powerhouses.
I'm an incurable Southeast Asia enthusiast and would suggest Singapore and Malaysia because they are exotic, friendly, affordable and easy to visit. Singapore has all the excitement of a big city without the intensity of Bangkok or Tokyo.
Malaysia doesn't rank very high in the globe-trekking imagination but it would beat out Vietnam, for the purposes of your trip, because of its easy-going temperament and lack of shocking poverty, and because Malaysia is predominantly Muslim, many of the rowdy beer-swilling travellers go elsewhere in Southeast Asia, leaving more subdued and mature tourists in Malaysia. Travelling as a woman is no hassle at all.
Nature is Malaysia's primary draw. The Cameron Highlands is a former British hill station where walking trails twist through thick highland jungle. Taman Negara is one of the continent's oldest jungles, now preserved as a national park accessible via an amazingly beautiful boat ride. Pulau Perhentian is a pair of tropical islands that are quiet and barely developed. Then there are wilds and wildlife of Borneo, just a short plane ride from Kuala Lumpur.
Time to coast in NSW
My husband and I have 10 days in Australia. We are flying into Sydney for a show and couple of days shopping. We will then either spend a week travelling around the countryside outside of Sydney or travel south along the coast and fly out of Melbourne. Which would be more interesting? We like national parks, towns with a bit of history, beaches and lakes. We will try and camp or backpack, to keep the costs down.
- Shona Addison
Penny Watson, co-author of Lonely Planet Australia, writes:
For national parks, historical towns, laidback beaches, lakes and secluded camp spots it's hard to beat the NSW south coast. What's more, many tourists tend to head north of Sydney leaving this pristine part of the state relatively untouched. Royal National Park, only an hour from Sydney, is the access point to the long and winding coast road that begins with Wollongong's Grand Pacific Drive and spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge.
The beaches and campsites here are just a taste of those that dot the entire journey south. The most natural and remote tend to be run by National Parks and Wildlife Services. One of the best walks is to the top of Pigeon House Mountain in Budawang NP just north of Ulladulla. Other natural highlights include Jervis Bay's Murray's Beach and bountifully bird-filled Wallaga Lake near Bermagui.
The bigger towns along the coast might not be as attractive but they have their home-grown little gems. Eden's fishing wharf has a handful of cafes that serve local seafood fresh off the boat. Just past Eden is the Victorian border where the Princes Highway doesn't quite hug the coast so lovingly.
With time on your side there's plenty to explore here too, otherwise make a beeline to Melbourne and fly home sated.