My Life In Travel: Frank Gardner

'I dodged pirates and went skinny-dipping in Thailand'


Frank Gardner is the BBC's security correspondent and is speaking today at The Luxury Travel Fair at Kensington Olympia, London. Tickets from 15 (luxurytravelfair.com).

First holiday memory?

Being driven to Switzerland when I was eight. We were living in Holland which is not noted for its mountains, so my first glimpse of the Alps was hugely exciting. The road seemed to wind up and up for ever. When we got to the hotel, it didn't have enough rooms so I had to sleep in a hayloft, which was brilliant. One morning I woke to see a golden eagle gliding past the window.

Best holiday?

The best trips have not really been holidays in the normal sense. Hacking through jungle in Sumatra or Ecuador was not exactly relaxing but it allowed us to get to rarely seen places. The best holiday was probably in Botswana when my wife who was my girlfriend at the time and I went camping and canoeing by dugout in the Okavango and woke up to see lion scat all around our tent!

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Dartmoor. I love its wild, barren lines, its craggy tors and rich, purple colours it's so different from the organised patterns of the surrounding farmland. I went to Exeter University so we often used to go down at weekends and stride over the moors then end up with a cream tea by a fire.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That people often have a distorted view of Britain sometimes overly complimentary, sometimes not. In remoter parts of the world I've found that people tend to have no idea that we are a multi-cultural society.

Ideal travelling companion?

A close male friend of a similar age. Last year I went backpacking in Cambodia (in my wheelchair) with a mate I'd done plenty of travelling with before my injuries. We seemed to pick up where we left off, though he did have to give me a shove up over the kerb a couple of times.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

None! I get bored on a beach after a while but I love exploring underwater reefs, either by snorkel or scuba. I like the visual appeal of places like the Colosseum or Europe's great cathedrals, but there is only so much history I can take. A bit of adrenalin is always fun but I'm not into dangerous sports.

Greatest travel luxury?

A digital or video camera, if you can call those a luxury. I get a lot of pleasure from taking photos and filming but then there's always the risk you can end up seeing the trip through the lens instead of being open to what's out there.

Holiday reading?

Preferably something evocative about the region I'm in. I loved reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez in a hammock halfway up the Sierra Nevada in the Colombian rainforest.

Where has seduced you?

Thailand. I know it's an incredibly well-visited destination these days but when a mate and I first went there in our university holidays in 1981 it was the epitome of the exotic. We arrived at Bangkok airport in the middle of the night, slept on the floor, woke up, drank a bowl of spicy tom yum goong soup then spent the next 12 hours commuting to the loo. Koh Samui had no airport so we had to take a day boat to avoid pirates then stayed in an airless shack on the beach, feeding off coconuts and skinny-dipping with Australian nurses.

Better to travel or arrive?

To travel. That said, pulling into Khartoum railway station at midnight after the 36-hour ride across Sudan on the roof of a train felt good. Unfortunately, all the cheap hotels were locked up so I had to blag my way into a bed in the hospital.

Worst travel experience?

Battering a rabid dog to death in Sumatra. The villagers thought this poor dying animal was a huge joke and we couldn't convince them how serious it was. We went to fetch the village policeman with his pistol but he was drunk, so we had to put it out of its misery ourselves. The experience haunted us.

Worst holiday?

Southern Spain in 2002. We left it until the last minute to book because I was stuck reporting from Guantánamo Bay where there was no mobile signal. The hotel was a plate-glass monstrosity and a howling wind blew through the garden and pool all day. Then our daughter got head lice.

Best hotel?

There's a really lovely hotel whose name escapes me on the island of Capri, with an infinity pool that merges into the deep blue of the Med. It's surrounded by gardens and a 300ft cliff drop to the rocks below. Greta Scacchi was staying in the suite next door but she never once asked for my autograph!

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Sadly, walking is off the menu for me since being shot up in Saudi Arabia five years ago, but I really enjoyed quad biking in Egypt's southern Sinai recently. Unfortunately there were also about 50 other tourists all burning up and down the valley at the same time, which rather killed the effect. One of my favourite drives is along the Interstate 66 west from Washington DC. Within two hours of leaving America's capital you're in the Blue Mountains of Virginia, with nature all around and bears ambling across the road.

Best meal abroad?

Fresh fish on Turkey's Buyukada Island in the Bosphorus, washed down with chilled white local Doluca wine. It's hard to beat stepping off a boat in early summer to be greeted by crisp, white tablecloths and the scent of pine woods and grilling kebabs.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I go off and explore my immediate surroundings. I like to get a sense of the place and where it fits in. I'll perhaps chat to a taxi driver to get the local gossip, which I suppose is the journo in me.

Dream trip?

Papua New Guinea I'm working on it.

Favourite city?

Jeddah. It's Saudi Arabia's main Red Sea port and something of a cultural melting pot for all the nations of the Red Sea. In one street you might find Yemeni craftsmen fashioning elaborate shisha pipes, in another Indian cloth merchants. Turn down another and you hear the language of the Abyssinian hills, walk upstairs to an open-air caf and find Somali pilgrims sprawled out on cushions drinking scalding hot cinnamon tea. It's a place where life is lived out on the street, not behind closed doors as it is in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Where next?

Borneo.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam