Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Saturday 03 September 1994
I bought the booze while stranded in Albania. Guy Perry, from Norwich, begins with some belated advice about how to leave Albania by sea in a hurry: 'Either commandeer a fishing boat with a knife clenched between your teeth, or do as our Albanian chums do - put on a rubber ring and swim.'
Mr Perry's nomination for least-favoured nation status goes to the Caribbean island of Grenada. 'What the brochures fail to mention is the constant pestering by beach traders. The proximity of the United States has created an uncomfortable worship of the dollar, and even miles inland you'll be asked for a buck to photograph the locals.' Another island, Gomera in the Canaries, also comes in for abuse. The village of Valle del Fran Rey, says Mr Perry, is 'populated almost exclusively by malevolent locals, specialising in slow and surly service'.
Since Mr Perry clearly knows Albania well, I am surprised he is keen to win the brandy (I use the term loosely). Luckily, he doesn't.
That honour goes to Anita Jackson of Middlesex. 'Call some place paradise and kiss it goodbye. Bali is the place I wouldn't want to return to. Ever. Don't believe what you read in the glossy travel pieces - these people stay well inside their security-guarded five-star hotels. The reality is overpopulated and polluted, overrun by fat and ugly tourists poking cameras into every sacred place and festival. And it is plagued by the filthiest, scabbiest dogs imaginable, who spend their miserable lives being killed or mutilated by the mad drivers tearing round the island.'
When I visited Bali six years ago, there seemed to be plenty of solitude. But these days, writes Ms Jackson, 'find a remote and beautiful view of the rice paddies and out will pop any number of pedlars trying to sell you wood carvings, postcards, T-shirts, fake Rolexes, baseball caps . . .'
By comparison, Crawley sounds really quite civilised.
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