Where Travel Writers Vacation - and Where They Don't

By Pincus, Carol R. | Medical Economics, September 12, 1994 | Go to article overview

Where Travel Writers Vacation - and Where They Don't


Pincus, Carol R., Medical Economics


Ah, vacation! A time to break out of the routine, to stretch your mind and feast your senses on new sights, cultures, experiences. Or a time of blissful escapism--exchanging the workaday grind for idyllic scenery and peaceful repose.

Well, that's the theory. But pick the wrong destination and you could come home needing a vacation from your vacation.

You haven't got time to research the best spots? Relax. We talked with four top travel writers who've done that work for you. Here are some of their favorite destinations, as well as places they'd steer clear of.

Affordable Asia

As editor-in-chief of Fodor's Travel Guides for 20 years, Robert Fisher has become professionally acquainted with just about the entire globe. That's a large area to choose from. Nonetheless, he's able to do so easily. His favorite destination: Asia.

For first-time travelers to that vast continent, Fisher recommends two representative destinations--Kyoto, Japan's former capital, and Hong Kong. "These places have ancient and interesting cultures," he says, "and they also have fantastic tourist facilities. In both places, prices are the same as or cheaper than in the U.S. or Europe."

Having escaped bombing during the war, Kyoto remains a place where visitors feel surrounded by history. And this year, Kyoto's history will be celebrated as the city marks its 1,200th anniversary. With some 1.5 million residents, Kyoto is a sizable metropolis. But it's sufficiently spread out that it bears little resemblance to its densely packed neighbor to the east, Tokyo. "There's a feeling of serenity and peace in the area," says Fisher.

One of his favorite spots is a temple district in the eastern part of the city, where ancient temples, with their gardens and Buddhist artwork, line a canal. Elsewhere in the city, Fisher lists four must-see sights. This year in particular, tourists should visit the Heian Jingu Shrine, a Shinto shrine that will play host to Kyoto's anniversary festivities. There's the Kiyomizudera Temple, a reconstruction (built in 1633) of a 1,200-year-old Buddhist temple situated atop a great hill overlooking the city; the Old Imperial Palace, the seat of two Japanese emperors; and the Nijojo Castle, where the shoguns ruled for a time.

Contrary to what most Americans expect, you can stay in Kyoto fairly cheaply. Fisher recommends a group of inns that cater to foreigners and charge only about $80 a night for a double. The rooms are Japanese style--be prepared to sleep on a tatami mat and futon--but even the uninitiated should find them comfortable. Few travel agents handle reservations for the Japanese Inn Group, but you can book rooms through the Japanese National Tourist Organization in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco.

As for Fisher's other favorite destination, he readily concedes that Hong Kong is among the most crowded, traffic-choked spots on the globe. But it's also modern and high in energy. It's a consummate destination for those who prefer their vacation spots to be assertively urban, as well as for those who consider shopping an art form. (Fisher isn't sure whether any bargains remain in electronics. But it's still worthwhile to consider Hong Kon's tremendous variety of Oriental arts and antiques.) Plus, says Fisher, it's the place to go for the best Chinese food in the would."

An there's another Hong Kong few foreigners even know exists. The bustling "Hong Kong" people think of is actually the city of Victoria on Hong Kong Island. But the territory contains 200-plus islands, some of which are home to quiet, rural villages where life is lived much as it has been for generations.

One such spot is Lan Tao Island. "There's a lovely Buddhist temple that serves a vegetarian lunch. After that, you can spend an afternoon wandering the village," he says. Another peaceful spot Fisher enjoys is Repulse Bay, on the opposite side of Hong Kong Island from Victoria. …

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