Travel writer Colin Thubron talks about his adventures, from eating cat in a Chinese restaurant to sailing to the U.S on the RMS Mauretania
Colin Thubron checks in to our travel Q&A
This week writer Colin Thubron checks in to our travel Q&A.
He talks about his earliest holiday memory, his first trip abroad, his strangest meal – and more.
EARLIEST HOLIDAY MEMORY?
Seeing the sea for the first time aged five. The beach was lined for miles with barbed wire to defend against German invasion near the end of the war.
FIRST TRIP ABROAD?
Sailing as a child to the U.S. on the RMS Mauretania. I was seasick all the way. Chicken sandwiches, which were all I could eat, still fill me with nausea 75 years later.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR NEW BOOK?
An old obsession with Russia and China. Far from the Western gaze, the Amur river is their mutual frontier for more than a 1,000 miles.
WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE TRIP?
The shock of finding, on the Chinese shore, a state museum that flaunted a bitter grudge against Russia for usurping Chinese lands. It was proof of real Chinese feeling.
AND THE HAIRIEST MOMENT?
Being thrown from my horse in the Mongolian marshlands. One foot was still stuck in the stirrup, and I’d already broken an ankle and two ribs.
ARE YOU A GOOD FLYER?
As a child, I often flew across the Atlantic from school in England to holidays in Canada. This meant ecstasy at flying west, tear-stained misery at returning east. So flying still comes with mixed emotions.
Eating cat in a Chinese restaurant. It was some kind of wild tree-cat, and I shared it with a domestic cat under the table.
HAD ANY RUN-INS WITH THE LAW?
The most frightening was being arrested in Damascus four years ago, since I had no diplomatic protection in Syria. More recent arrests in Russia and China were probably owing to police bewilderment at an old man (I’m 82) wandering around remote parts of their country.
WHAT DO YOU PACK?
One change of clothing max; I just wash them.
Final frontier: The Amur river forms the border between Russia and China
DO YOU MISS HOME COMFORTS?
Rarely. I sometimes pine for an Indian meal when I’m in China or Russia, and eventually I would like a bath instead of a shower.
MUST-HAVE TRAVEL ESSENTIAL?
A compass. I have a strong sense of direction, but it’s usually wrong.
YOU PREFER TO TRAVEL SOLO – DON’T YOU GET LONELY?
No. Travelling alone, you attract the attention and companionship of those around you. In Russia, this usually ends in hangovers!
FAVOURITE TRAVEL WRITERS?
Robert Byron, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Freya Stark. All old classics now, but in different ways they have an infectious delight in where they’re going.
ISN’T IT TIME TO SLOW DOWN?
No. I haven’t many years left. It’s time to speed up.
Colin’s dream destination is the abandoned city of Pagan on the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar
OTHER MEMORABLE TRIPS?
Following the Silk Road across northern Afghanistan — memorable for its wild beauty as well as its danger.
WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF HOLIDAY HELL?
Going on a cruise liner.
The abandoned city of Pagan on the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar. Some 2,000 temples and pagodas lift their spires for miles through the jungle. Alas, it’s now unreachable.
- The Amur River by Colin Thubron, published by Chatto & Windus, is out now (£20).