PASSPORT: ANNA WALKER

The TV presenter takes the tough with the luxurious, from cobras' hearts to bath tub panoramas

The most exotic stamp in my passport is from Papua New Guinea. I went up to a village in the highlands of the interior. It was a place where we look just as exotic to the locals as they do to us - and they are wearing wigs made out of their own hair entwined with bird of paradise feathers. They look quite fiercesome but they treated me well. I was the first white woman to stay there - they dressed me in a grass skirt and painted my face and asked me to join in a local celebration. I regarded that as a privilege.

There is a huge difference between local people suggesting I join some activity and a TV director pushing me into something. I am conscious of the fine line between sampling the local culture and dressing up in silly costumes. I will not do anything that my director and producer are not willing to do themselves.

One of the less pleasant things I did for TV was to dine in a snake restaurant in Vietnam. You had to choose your own snake from a tank - I went for a cobra. The difficult part was being presented with the drained blood of the creature decanted into a glass with alcohol. I was then served the snake's heart, still warm and beating. I had to pick it up with my chop-sticks, drop into the glass of blood and alcohol, and down it in one. My director got the gall-bladder. I was in no position to complain or protest - after all, we were being treated to great luxury.

On filming trips I do everything, from the ridiculously opulent to the extremely tough. My favourite hotel was probably in Vancouver, where one wall of my 20th-floor room was made of glass. I took a bath in the window overlooking the city.

Some people assume that when filming in less comfortable circumstances (a tent in the Andes for example), we get air-lifted off to five-star hotels every night. In fact, it's very important that we do stay in those places, so we know what we are talking about. And so I can be filmed waking up at dawn on some freezing hillside.

I've never lost my passport but a while ago I made the mistake of having my married name put into my passport and forgetting to tell my office about it. They bought all my tickets for a filming trip across America and the Pacific in the wrong name. Travelling with your tickets and passport in different names is no joke: there was a huge panic to get all the tickets changed at the last minute.

Other than that, the only mistake I've made was to travel to Germany on an expired passport. I was in a panic about how I was going to get home, but in the end they didn't even bother to look inside my passport. Strange, because I must have had such a guilty look on my face. I'd never make a criminal.

Having said that, I did once inadvertently carry some coca leaves back into the UK, which could theoretically have been used to make cocaine. We had been shooting in Peru, where I had brewed coca leaves before a trek, in the local custom. It never occurred to me that there would be any harm in bringing a few leaves back with me.

Anna Walker is presenting `Holidaymaker' today at 7pm on ITV.

T

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