'I really want to go kayaking down the Mekong river in Laos'

First holiday memory?

First holiday memory?

We moved from Norway to Ireland when I was six, and Connemara in the west of Ireland is my first holiday memory. Every summer we went to a remote island where we'd bought an old wreck. We never got round to doing it up, so we'd camp in the field next to it. There were beautiful white-sand beaches with giant crabs that we used to bring home to eat.

Best holiday?

I went to Vietnam five years ago with a group of friends - we had some fantastic adventures and went to some extraordinary places. We also knew people that lived there, so we really felt like we'd experienced the place.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I've just bought a little cottage up in the Ayrshire hills. It's extraordinarily unspoilt and wild with dramatic hills and waterfalls.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Not to expect anything and to be open to surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant.

Ideal travelling companion?

My husband, although he can be a bit whingy, or my friend Penny Smith, who I've done most of my treks with. We don't stand on ceremony, and she makes me laugh.

Greatest travel luxury?

Wherever I go I take a cashmere shawl that I bought in Nepal, which provides great comfort. If I'm backpacking it's my little bit of luxury.

Holiday reading?

I try to buy books that are in some way connected to the place I'm in. I remember trying to read Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow on a Caribbean holiday and it just didn't work. I read Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam while I was in Vietnam, which worked well.

Better to travel or arrive?

I get excited the minute I leave the house, when I'm on the Heathrow Express, at the airport, on the plane, when I arrive and even on the way back.

Worst travel experience?

It was a trip to Zanzibar and Pemba. I was with my boyfriend of the time and as we were leaving we got arrested for illegally entering the country, which we hadn't. We were subjected to justice of a third world variety, which I hope never to experience again.

Worst holiday?

It would be that trip to Zanzibar. I'd had a fantastic time up until that point. We'd been diving off Pemba and then had four days of luxury at a resort on Mnemba island.

Worst hotel?

A hotel in Mozambique called Indigo Bay that promised so much and didn't deliver. There were builders drilling outside our bedroom door at 6.30am; the buffet was inedible - it was really appalling. Thankfully we moved to Benguerra Lodge, which was amazing.

Best hotel?

Benguerra Lodge. It has the barefoot luxury that people pay thousands for, only without costing thousands. You stay in bungalows with shells in the floor and the food is amazing.

Favourite walk?

The Inca Trail. As you walk through the Gates of the Sun at dawn with the clouds rising and no one else about, it's amazing.

Dream trip?

I really want to go kayaking down the Mekong in Laos, ending up in Luang Prabang. It takes six days and you stay in villages along the way.

Favourite City?

It used to be New York. But I had to go there for one night recently and I found it to be a bit scruffy, frantic and aggressive.

Where next?

I'm going to Italy with my husband for my birthday. We're going to eat truffles in Piedmont with some friends who live in Milan.

'Dear Mariella: The Indispensable Guide to Twenty-First-Century Living' by Mariella Frostrup is published by Bloomsbury (£12.99)

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