...The first year I was able to use my staff travel concessions. On the very first day of my new-found perk, I went on a day trip to Paris, and the next day went on a weekend trip to Dallas, Texas, to visit friends. I had no idea what to pack or wear, so I packed virtually nothing. I remember playing tennis wearing black shoes...
After a few months break, March saw my first real holiday in an exotic location. Four of us travelled to the Seychelles (right) for a week of sun, snorkelling, sight-seeing and getting bitten by mosquitoes. It was the rainy season, but we didn't care. We stayed on Mahé, but paid a visit to Moyenne Island, the home of former journalist Brendon Grimshaw.
After a day-trip to Amsterdam, and a weekend in Munich to visit a friend, I was really bitten by the travel bug. In July, myself and a friend visited New Orleans, having taken a Greyhound bus from Houston (I'd always wanted to ride the 'Hound, but it wasn't half as glamorous as I'd imagined... just a big coach!). Then in October, I spent a week in Tobago with some friends from work. The year was rounded off by a day trip to Düsseldorf.
January saw me and a friend, Guy, spending a weekend in Venice (left), closely followed in February by a major holiday... Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Phuket. We got bumped from the direct flight from Bangkok to London, so had to return via Hong Kong, after spending a restless night in Bangkok airport. Such are the perils of standby travel...
After a quick trip to Paris, the next holiday was a weekend in Albufeira in the Portuguese Algarve. A few months later, a weekend in Helsinki coincided (quite by chance) with an early-morning solar eclipse. This was really lucky, as myself and my friend Rob had only decided the evening before that we were going to go there!
An expensive time was had in August/September... I bought a load of tickets to tour the Hawaiian islands, and spent a fantastic couple of weeks on The Big Island, Maui, Molokai, Oahu, and Kauai. My plan to meet Rob when he flew into Honolulu airport worked, too, and we visited his cousin in Honolulu before going to Kauai. I think the highlight was visiting the Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. The picture to the right shows an unusual driving hazard (although this is still not as bad as the roadhumps on our street...)
The year was rounded off with an overnight stop in Dublin and a weekend in Amsterdam.
First stop was a weekend's sightseeing in New York... Statue of Liberty (right), Empire State Building, Macy's, bagels, smog, and rude people. You got a problem with that?
After a couple of short breaks, to Luzern, Switzerland, and Nice in the South of France, I flew out to Nairobi to stay with the sister of my girlfriend at that time. It was quite a culture shock to be the only white face in sight while wandering around the city. I finished the holiday off with a tour down to the Masai Mara (left), coming back with numerous photos of zebras, lions, elephants and the like. I also developed a third nipple when a mosquito bite became enflamed.
Later, an unhappy trip to Oporto in Portugal ended even more unhappily when I split up with my girlfriend as we returned on April Fools day! The only cure was a trip to Seoul to see my friend Saul, who was working out there at the time. The city was experiencing student riots at the time, and Saul delighted in driving us around the busy traffic at high speed, attempting to find tear gas and troop carriers! The most interesting part of the trip was a visit to Panmunjom in the "DMZ" on the North Korean / South Korean border. The photo (right) shows a US Marine trying to out-stare North Korea. The blue buildings straddle the border, and are used for holding meetings between the two countries.
July saw me and a work colleague, Duncan, flying out to Los Angeles, where we visited Universal Studios, The Queen Mary, and Venice Beach. We then set off to drive up Highway 1, stopping at Santa Monica and San Simeon, and ending up in San Francisco (left). Here, we then paid lots of money to keep the hire car in valet parking because we hardly used it. One learns by one's mistakes. We were impressed with Alcatraz, the cable cars, and Lombard Street, but not with the way they serve Guinness.
The rest of this busy year was spent in Cyprus (beer, sun, and an air conditioned open-top jeep, as I recall), Albufeira (again... but just to spend a weekend with my parents who were spending a couple of weeks there), and Galway in Ireland.
An interesting trip to Istanbul in Turkey started the year, followed by an exhausting holiday in Malaysia. We flew to Kuala Lumpur, and then took a long-distance taxi to the Cameron Highlands, where, as you can see, they are fond of Guinness! Later, we got another taxi down to Ipoh, and flew from there to the island of Langkawi, where we stayed in a beach hut at a place called The Last Resort. On the way back, we flew to Singapore, but couldn't get on the flight from there to London, so stayed overnight. This enabled us to do some sight-seeing the next day, so we looked round the old china town district, and sipped Singapore Slings in the Raffles Hotel.
Next trip was a weekend in Malta, which I didn't enjoy much, followed by a tour round the South of Italy. Myself and an old school-friend, Mark, flew to Naples (dirty, lots of noise and traffic, but fantastic pizza), took a train to Pompeii, and then trains & buses to Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi, Salerno, and back to Naples. This is a beautiful route which I would recommend.
August saw me travelling to Caracas in Venezuela, and on to Margarita. It was here that we decided to book a tour to Canaima to see Angel Falls. The dodgy travel agent, who painted an idyllic picture of life in the jungle, got us to Canaima via a town called Puerto Ordaz, where we had to stay overnight in a seedy hotel. We arrived in Canaima in style, in an old DC3, but the agents there didn't seem to be expecting us, so we had to wait for the next plane to arrive, which luckily brought a fax suggesting that two people might turn up!
We were shown to our accommodation, which consisted of two hammocks strung under a wooden shelter, shared with about a dozen other people, and with the most disgusting toilet facilities I've ever seen. This wasn't helped by the fact I now had terrible diarrhoea! Anyway, once the excursions into the jungle started, we saw some beautiful scenery, especially the waterfalls (left). We also flew on a light aircraft to Kavac and from there flew up into the clouds to catch a glimpse of Angel Falls before returning to our hammocks. Next day, we flew back to Caracas via Puerto Ordaz, where boarding our flight required a certain amount of guesswork, as all the announcements were in Spanish!
Later in the year, I took my parents to Disney World, then flew home, leaving them to enjoy the rest of Florida. My next flight, to Israel, was spent in the jump seat of a Boeing 767. After arriving at Tel Aviv airport, we travelled to Jerusalem, Eilat, and Bethlehem. If you hire a car in Israel, make sure you have the right insurance, as the local children delight in throwing stones at shiny new cars, as we soon found out! Back in Jerusalem, we visited the walled city, with its famous wailing wall (right), and the police station, to make a report on all the small dents in our hire car.
First off this year was a trip to see some drag racing in Phoenix, which necessitated transitting through Dallas. Then there was a quick weekend in Madrid before my first visit to Japan, for a wedding. I flew out to Tokyo, met two of the other guests, and then we all flew to Fukuoka to meet the rest of the party, who had travelled out earlier. After the wedding, all the guests from England went by train to Nagasaki to see the atom bomb museum and peace park. The photo (left) shows the monument pointing to where the bomb exploded 500 metres above the city, killing 74,000 people and injuring another 75,000.
Next month, I went to Dallas for the third time, to meet up with a friend, Jon, who was on a training course out there. Next came two trips with my parents: to Dublin as a birthday present for my mum, and a month later to Jersey. Later in the month I set off on two day trips by myself. First was Berlin, and two days later Paris. A month later I was off again, this time to Amsterdam with my new girlfriend, and Saul, the friend who had introduced us.
Not long after, I was off to Bangkok with Saul and Guy again. This time, we went on a tour of the River Kwai, and the photo (right) shows me perched in the doorway of a train as we travelled over the "dangerous looking wooded viaduct" on the "Death Railway" train to Nam Tok. After a night in Hong Kong, we flew to Fukuoka, and then attempted to fly home. Unfortunately, our aircraft had other ideas, and made an emergency landing in Osaka, where we had to spend an extra night in a hotel.
Unpeterbed, a month later saw me and my girlfriend flying to Greece for a few days on the island of Aigina. Finally, the year ended with an expensive shopping trip to New York. If you've ever tried to book a hotel room in New York during the Christmas period, you'll know why it was expensive!
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© Andy Holten 2000