Nicki Chapman - My Life In Travel: 'Hoi An is a beautiful Vietnamese town on a river. I would highly recommend it'

 

First holiday memory?

A hotel in Mallorca, when I was about three. I was brought up in Kent, beside the seaside, so it was a huge deal for my parents to take us away to Spain. I can't remember anything more than the hotel swimming pool.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I have a soft spot for Herne Bay, because my mother still lives there. It's got the traditional shingle seafront and it makes me very proud whenever I go home.

Other than that, I would say the south coast near Poole and Mudeford. It has a mild climate and, if you go out of season, you can really appreciate its beauty.

Best holiday?

I used to film the Holiday programme for the BBC, so although they weren't "holidays", I've had some wonderful experiences. The highlights were staying on a floating hotel on the Amazon and seeing the confluence of the black Rio Negro and the yellow Amazon meet.

Also, in Botswana - the Makgadikgadi Pan and the Okavango Delta. The Makgadikgadi Pan is a huge saltpan where you can actually see the curvature of the Earth and you've got all these migrating zebras. Then you've got the Okavango Delta that's very green and lush with abundant wildlife.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Don't look for the British-ness in everything. Sometimes when people go abroad, they want what's on their doorstep. They want a little bit of the UK. For me, that's the last thing I want. I don't want to be able to buy a UK paper at the end of the road. I want the full experience.

I've just come back from Vietnam and Cambodia, two wonderful countries, with really up-and-coming, flourishing economies. We went to Ho Chi Minh which is a very cosmopolitan, dynamic city and Hanoi, the capital, which is still very traditional and communist. It was a very different experience.

Nicki Chapman presents Escape to the Continent, a new 20-part series for BBC2, on weekdays at 6.30pm. Nicki Chapman presents Escape to the Continent, a new 20-part series for BBC2, on weekdays at 6.30pm. Ideal travelling companion?

My husband and our friends. We very rarely go away just the two of us, because we like to share our experiences. He loves to travel, too. It's our one big indulgence. If we have any savings, it goes on travel.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I love being by the beach and being out in the sunshine, but wherever we go, we always do excursions. If there's a boat to be had or hired, I'll be there. My idea of hell would be two weeks of doing absolutely nothing. But equally, I don't want to spend two weeks sightseeing either.

Where has seduced you?

Dubrovnik in Croatia. I hadn't been until last summer, when I went with work. Go out of season, in early April, before it gets over-crowded with tourists. It has something very special and very spiritual about it. Despite being damaged by war, it has been beautifully restored. As a weekend retreat, I'd like to go back.

Worst travel experience?

Losing my luggage en route to Botswana. I was filming for the Holiday programme and we were flying in a very small plane. They were worried about the weight, because of all the crew and the cameras, so I handed over my luggage and it all disappeared.

We were filming in this wonderful old-fashioned camp called Jack's, so I went around to all the tourists and asked if anyone could lend me a comb or some socks. My clothes eventually turned up, but I filmed for three days with not a scrap of make-up on or a change of clothes.

Best hotel?

The Nam Hai in Hoi An was beautiful and very much in keeping with the area. Hoi An is a beautiful Vietnamese town on a river. We used to go into town every night to eat at the local restaurants, take in the nightlife and go shopping. I would definitely recommend it.

Favourite ride?

I went to the Estancia Los Porteros in the Cordoba hills of Argentina, where they taught me to play polo and muster cattle. It's one of the most breathtaking rides I've ever done. Even people that can't ride, would get so much out of it.

Best meal abroad?

Street food in Cambodia. My husband was doing a charity bike ride, so I went to Siem Reap with a girlfriend. We got off the flight and went straight to the see the temples, because we only had a day there, before we flew on to Vietnam. Afterwards, we went to the night market and did not go to bed. We found a café were all the locals were eating, where they gave you raw ingredients to cook for yourself at the side of the road. We had beers, squid and prawns, chicken and beef - and it came to about £4.

Where next?

Somerset for Escape to the Country, then out to Australia to film Wanted Down Under.

Nicki Chapman presents Escape to the Continent, a new 20-part series for BBC2, on weekdays at 6.30pm.

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