Travel: Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts

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The Independent Travel
I want something crazy, childish, different...

I want some stupid and silly recreation for adults. Children are well catered for but what about adults? Activity breaks are all very well except that they are too earnest. Can you suggest any that are the opposite?

T Wyer


Jill Crawshaw replies: Anglian Activity Breaks (01603 700 706) offer an extraordinary list of activities and courses - from big boys' toys such as tank driving, laser clay shooting, skid pan cars, bulldozer and digger driving and raft building, to hearty outdoor pursuits which include scrambling over nets, abseiling a 35-foot tower and zipping across a lake on an aerial runway.

Not enough? OK then, how about joining a circus skills group and tackling stilt-walking, juggling, plate-spinning, diabolo and unicycling, learning cowboy riding, military circuit training or a mix-and-match, multi-activity package where you can tackle a variety of crazy ideas? Accommodation is in tents, the centre's own house or nearby hotels from pounds 37 per room per night.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

Should I head east for Chinese New Year?

I have always fancied going to see Chinese New Year as I imagine it must be one of the world's most fantastic spectacles. How should I set about it?

Amanda Ellis


The travel editor replies: The Chinese New Year will be celebrated on 1 February, but there are good reasons for avoiding China at this time of year. One is that air fares shoot up, especially to Hong Kong. Another is that public transport becomes horrifically congested as a billion people take to the road. What's more, many shops and businesses close down for up to 10 days. On top of all this there is very little to see. Even more than Christmas in the West, Chinese New Year is a private family affair.

If you go anywhere for Chinese New Year, make it Hong Kong (rather than the mainland). At least the old colony does have public events and celebrations, though you'll need to book very soon. Call the Hong Kong Tourist Association on 0181-846 9000.

Does 'Delhi-belly' do any long-term damage?

Is there any long-term damage done to the body by repeatedly exposing oneself to "Delhi-belly" style stomach problems? I travel in the developing countries each year and frequently get sick. It seems to me that each year it takes a bit longer to get back to normal afterwards.

Dave Green


Dr Larry Goodyer replies: A traveller's diarrhoea is by far the most likely health problem that will be encountered when abroad; around 30 per cent of all travellers will have some form of diarrhoeal illness, and the chances are even higher when visiting certain destinations where sanitation is poor.

In most cases it will be due to infection by strains of E.Coli bacteria. Such infections produce a watery diarrhoea which usually lasts two or three days, and clears up without any specific treatment. There is some evidence that after a bout of such diarrhoea it will tend not to reoccur during the holiday, as the body becomes used to the bacteria.

More rarely it may turn out to be something more serious such as a dysentery. Here the diarrhoea would certainly last longer than 10 days and blood might be found in the stools. Long term these can have serious consequences and require specific antibiotics.

In your case it will depend upon how long the diarrhoea lasts. If it only occurs during an annual holiday and goes within a week there is no need to worry, although I would examine closely your eating and drinking habits and your personal hygiene measures, for instance avoiding directly handling the food you eat unless your hands are scrupulously clean (not always easy when roughing it on a back-packing holiday). If it does appear to last longer, or for some time on returning home, then it is worth a visit to the doctor especially if you pass any blood. However, in some cases when the bowel has been upset by infection the diarrhoea can continue for quite a while despite the absence of an infective organism, a condition called post-infective diarrhoeal syndrome.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.

Where are the best gardens in Britain?

My mother is coming from New York to visit London this spring. She is passionate about gardens and flowering plants and I'd like to take her on a 4 to 7 day trip outside London to see some British gardens. Could you recommend some sites of interest? Ms. A Morse Kentish Town, London

The travel editor replies: One fairly independent approach would be to obtain a copy of the accommodation brochure, "Bed and Breakfast for Garden Lovers 1998", which is obtainable by writing to BBGL, Handywater Farm, Sibford Gower, Banbury, Oxon OX15 5AE (with your request, please enclose a self-addressed 22cm x11cm envelope with four loose first class stamps). Listed within are dozens of B&Bs throughout the country, including London and the southeast, which themselves happen to be sited within notable gardens. Simply make your own bookings (there is no central booking agency), and find out from the people concerned which are the nearest train stations. The owners of these B&Bs are likely to be able to offer further information on local gardens and nurseries when you get there.

Beyond this, the British Tourist Authority issues a large colourful map, giving details of the whereabouts and entrance details of Britain's finest gardens, as does the National Trust (0171 2274810).

If you are looking for some kind of accompanied tour, two operators who have in the past offered occasional garden tours are Chiltern Trains (Tel: 01844 213661) and Manor Garden Parties (Tel: 01225 782289)