Q I’m planning on going to Japan for a couple of weeks in March. I want to spend one week in Tokyo and one week somewhere else in the country. What is Japan’s must-see destination besides Tokyo?
Jenni, via email
A To experience the many faces of Japan, take a route starting at ultra-modern Tokyo, then go north to the stunning scenery of the Japan Alps (pictured), and then west to culturally rich Kyoto for a taste of Japanese history.
In Tokyo, visit top sites such as Tsukiji fish market and the bustling district of Shinjuku to see Tokyo’s famed neon. For a truly Japanese experience, hop on the bullet train to the nearby city of Nagoya. From here you can connect by train to the beautiful restored district of Sanmachi-suji in the city of Takayama, which takes just over two hours. Stroll through the pretty streets lined with traditional restaurants, shops and sake breweries.
If you hire a car, you will be able to explore the Japan Alps, where in March you could consider skiing. Shiga Kõgen is a great resort – one of the largest in the world. From nearby city Kanazawa you can visit the stunning Kenroku-en garden, and from here you can be in Kyoto in a little over two hours by train.
Kyoto is unmissable. With 17 Unesco world heritage sites, it is Japan’s cultural capital. Head here for Shintõ shrines, Buddhist temples and bamboo groves. Then hop back on the bullet train to return to Tokyo for your flight home.
Q I’m contemplating going to Egypt for Christmas and New Year and want to know your thoughts on whether I should book on a tour or do my own thing? I will be travelling with three other females and plan to spend about nine days there.
Bex, via email
A Both options have their merits. If you prefer to be independent and spontaneous but are worried about travelling around by yourself, you don’t need to opt for a tour; Egypt is a reasonably easy country to explore on your own. You can travel through the country by land, air and sea (or river!) with ease.
If you make your own itinerary, I would suggest you try to include Cairo and the Pyramids on your arrival, and then move on to historic Luxor further south. Follow this up with a cruise down the Nile.
Alternatively, after exploring Cairo and the Pyramids, hop on an Egypt Air flight to Sharm El-Sheik and enjoy some sun on the Red Sea Riviera (egyptair.com). A return flight from Cairo is around £80 at this time of year.
If you do want to go for a tour, a good suggestion is On The Go’s Festive King Ramses 13-night tour (starting from £579, departing December 23, onthegotours.com). The tour includes sailing down the Nile for a Christmas Day with a difference, then celebrating the New Year in Dahab – a great place for the festivities as its backpacker vibe is perfect for a party.
Go to Gulangyu
When in China, check out the island of Gulangyu off the coast of Xiamen. When I went, I was the only Western tourist there. It’s a cute, car-free little paradise covered in derelict colonial architecture. There are also speakers all over the island that play piano music (it’s known as ‘piano island’). A word
of warning – the ferry is free on the way to Gulangyu from Xiamen, so don’t be fooled by the dodgy-looking boat captains who try to charge you for a ride (find the real ferry terminal further along the docks). You do have to pay on the way back, though!
James, via email
Immodium: just say no
I am passing on some advice from the nice doctor who hooked me up to a drip when I got salmonella in Peru. If you are suffering ‘unfortunate’ effects from your travellers’ diet, do not take immodium. It blocks you up but doesn’t fight the problem. The bacteria is different in South America to elsewhere, apparently. So it will all come out in the end.
Peter, via email