Whenever I get off a long-haul flight I always wish there was some way to make my favorite destinations closer. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could walk from London to Bali, or from San Francisco to New Zealand? Thankfully, some clever people figured out a rather creative way to make this happen. No, it wasn’t the Shanghai Expo. It was the World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry. And it was conveniently located right in London.
I arrived at the World Travel Market this morning to find myself in an ExCeL-centre-turned-global-map packed with pavilions from every country imaginable. From major European nations like Germany to disputed regions like Nagorno-Karabakh to war-torn countries like Iraq, they were all there. And they were all within walking distance of one another. It was a world traveler’s dream come true.
My first stop was at the Malaysia pavilion. It had a booth dedicated to Langkawi, a destination that is rapidly approaching on my travel schedule. There I met an enthusiastic man named Camille who told me all about his luxury boutique resort in Langkawi, Tanjung Sanctuary. He was so good at promoting the rooms, spa, and private beach that I’m temped to cancel my existing hotel reservation and stay at the resort instead.
From Malaysia it was a short walk to Sri Lanka, another country coming up on my travel calendar. Sri Lanka’s pavilion was particularly packed. After waiting a bit for the crowds to clear, I stopped to chat with Luxury Holiday Travels, a company that creates customized itineraries for people visiting Sri Lanka, and the Galadari Hotel, a high-end hotel in Colombo. I also picked up some literature on the regions I plan to visit. This included a brochure for Ceylon Tea Trails, a mountain tea estate where I’ve already booked a few nights. I can’t wait.
After Sri Lanka I visited Vietnam, which was smaller than the previous two pavilions and less crowded. I stopped there to talk with a representative from Saigontourist, which runs Vietnam tours as well as tours of Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. I came away with a big brochure, and I’m excited to find some exciting itineraries to add to my Ho Chi Minh City travel plans.
From Asia I meandered through the Middle East, passing the UAE, Jordan, and Syria. Eventually I came to South America, where I headed straight for the Chile pavilion. This was because I’m itching to visit Chile for my annual Vitamin D quest in February. I had a great talk with explora, which has luxury resorts in Patagonia, the Atacama Desert, and Easter Island. Talking with them about their properties and their wide range of excursions got me even more excited to visit the country.
From Chile it was a short hop to Peru, where I was enthralled by Inca Rail’s description of their train to Machu Picchu. Given my love of train travel and my long-time desire to visit the famous mountain-top land of the Incas, they had me sold when they described the luxury seats and train cars, the locally-sourced gourmet cuisine, and the fact that one of their six trains is the first to arrive at Machu Picchu every morning.
From Peru it was a short walk to New York City, but I was more interested in another part of my home country: California. I was pleased to see that my state had its very own pavilion. There were representatives there from San Francisco, San Diego, Sonoma, and other great cities, and I couldn’t help smiling at all of the adventures my homeland had to offer.
But I couldn’t stay long. There was still a lot of the world to see. I crossed a rather wide hallway of an Atlantic Ocean to get back to Europe, where I wandered through the Britain pavilion, along the Ireland aisle, and over to Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. From there I made quick stops in France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, and passed by Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania.
Suddenly Europe receded behind a minuscule Mediterranean and I found myself in Morocco. And Tunisia. And Egypt. I walked across the Sahara and came face-to-face with Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa, the last of which had the largest pavilion in the region. After drooling over the luxury safari lodges in Kenya and Tanzania, I stopped in Mozambique on my way out of Africa. I couldn’t help letting myself be tempted by the resorts there, as I have a potential May trip in the works.
By the time I finished circling the world I was exhausted. I wandered into the Meridian Club lounge—where I was apparently a member—to get a coffee and rest my world-weary legs. Unfortunately ever other member seemed to have the same idea, but I finally snagged a seat and sat to sip my latte. While doing so I wished that every day could bring me a little piece of so many countries. But for now I’ll have to content myself with only two more days of the World Travel Market. Then it’s back to long-haul.