Around the world in 30 ways

Where does the man who has spent the past three decades on the road rate the
best? Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler chooses his favourite in today's The Guardian. Small wonder, he still remembers us in Bali:) Not only for Poppies in Kuta, the Four Seasons and the Kecak dance of Ubud, but surely also as the place, where it all started for him. Here his recommendations...

Tony Wheeler wrote the very first Lonely Planet guidebook 30 years ago.
Photo: Lonely Planet

... beach

In the 1970s, Hikkaduwa on the west coast of Sri Lanka was the perfect
beach: sand, palm trees, clear water, beautiful girls, it was all
there. Runner up: Bondi Beach in Sydney - everything a city beach
should be.

... hotel

The Four Seasons Sayan near Ubud in Bali, outrageously expensive, amazingly
designed and ridiculously romantic. Much cheaper - Poppies Cottages 1
has the same aesthetics and, amazingly, it's right in the heart of Kuta.

· Four Seasons Sayan (, from US$450 per night). Poppies Cottages 1, Kuta Beach (0062 361 751059,, from $US59).

... campsite

It was in 1971, in Rovinj on the Istrian peninsula - now Croatia but still
Yugoslavia in those days. None of the campers had anything on. We had
very good sun tans and, 30 years ago, looked better in them. Croatia is
still renowned for its clothes-free coastline. Runner up - a great
campsite overlooking Florence, everything Europe-on-a-shoestring should

... bar

The Ice Bar in Stockholm saves heading all the way north to Lapland to stay
in the Ice Hotel. The £9 charge for a drink (in an ice glass) also
includes the loan of a faux fur-lined cape and mittens. The bar in the
Royalton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, New York, for people watching and
its great toilets. Au Petit Fer à Cheval in the Marais in Paris also
has a great toilet, probably to a design by Jules Verne.

Ice Bar, Nordic Sea Hotel, Vasaplan, Stockholm (+8 50 56 30 00);
Royalton Hotel, 44 West 44th Street, New York NY 10039 (+210 869 4400,

... restaurant

It's your last restaurant meal, where do you want it? My answer would be
Mecca, on the south bank of the Yarra River in Melbourne, a great blend
of Pacific rim cuisine with a touch of the Middle East. But if the meal
has to cost less than two quid? Then Komala Vilas in Singapore for
superb south Indian vegetarian food.

· Mecca, MR3 Midlevel Southgate, Southbank, Victoria 3006 (+9682 2999, Komala Vilas, 76-78 Serangoon Road, Little India, Singapore.

... national park

Uluru in central Australia is so much more than the home of Ayers Rock and
assorted other monoliths. Others: Yosemite in California (those howling
coyotes at night) and the Lake District (still beautiful despite the

... mountain

Mount Fuji, a picture postcard extinct volcano with a Japanese warning that
you're a wise man if you climb it, a fool if you climb it more than
once. Runner up: Machhapuchhare in Nepal's Annapurna region, as perfect
a mountain as the Matterhorn, only bigger.

... island

Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Seen from the air or from the mountain top,
it's everything a Polynesian island should be - blue lagoon,
sand-fringed motus, soaring peaks. At ground level, it's expensive and
often a bit tatty. At the other temperature extreme, Carcass island in
the Falklands - don't be put off by the name.

... walk

Four days around Mount Kailash in western Tibet in 1998 not only took me
higher than the Everest base camp, it also, according to Tibetan
Buddhists, cleaned out all my sins. For this lifetime anyway. In
Europe, the GR20 running down the spine of Corsica, is a reminder that
even in France you can be a day's walk from the nearest restaurant.

... scuba dive

The sunken Japanese fleet in Micronesia's Truk lagoon, coming down to land
on the deck of the San Francisco Maru, with three tanks still sitting
there, 165ft below the surface, was eerily mysterious. Runner up - the
lagoon entrance to Rangiroa atoll in French Polynesia: shark city.

... fun run

A toss up between the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco and the City to
Surf in Sydney. As much community theatre as athletic event. Marathons
are too long to be enjoyable but if I was going to do one more, it
would have to be London.

... ruins

We almost got there in the early 1970s but then had to wait 20 years until
Cambodia's amazing Angkor Wat reopened for business. The Tomb Raider
film has made it a hot destination. Runner up: the amazing Pacific
island ruins of Nan Madol in Micronesia.

... building

The Sydney Opera House, partly because I was there at the opening (so
was the Queen) and a few months later caught a great Fairport
Convention concert there; Old: 537AD Aghia Sofia in Istanbul - first a
church, then a mosque, now a museum. It's seen everything.

... city

New York, the most "city" of all cities has to be the winner, but there are
a host of runner ups: Sydney, because it's just so beautiful; Venice,
because it's such a delight to simply get lost; and San Francisco,
because I did leave my heart there.

... shopping country

Mexico - we bought so much stuff that the first car I rented when we continued
to San Francisco had to be exchanged for something with a bigger boot.
Italy - all those designer labels and the best boy's toys including
Ferraris, the best pointless toy of them all.

... airport

Has to be Singapore's Changi: everything works, and you can even get away
from it quickly. Airport hotel: the Amari in Bangkok - comfortable, a
nice swimming pool, an excellent bookshop, and so close to the terminal
that you can check in for your flight and then return for a terrific

· Amari Airport Hotel in Bangkok (+66 2566 1020, doubles from US$146.

... flight

In the early 1980s, I flew from Mount Isa to Cairns in Australia on an
elderly DC-3, a six-hour flight stopping at half a dozen remote fishing
ports and Aboriginal out-stations on the way. The same flight on a jet
would have taken 1-1 hours with less than 1% of the thrill. Runner up:
London-Edinburgh on a crystal clear day when I could pick out many of
the landmarks along the Pennine Way, which I walked earlier in the

... ship

The Akademik Shuleykin, a Finnish-built Russian-crewed icebreaker which, by
weird coincidence rather than active planning, I've travelled on three
separate trips, including visits to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands,
South Georgia and Pitcairn Islands. It has now been renamed the Polar

·,, and

... train trip

The toy train to Darjeeling in India, slow-slow-slow. The Shinkansen bullet
train, in Japan: more frequent than a Tube, slightly faster, with that
seductive voice making the announcements that could convince you that
you really should "mind the gap".

... road

Highway 1, making its snake-like slither down the Pacific coast from San
Francisco to Los Angeles. Closely followed by the Antrim Coast Road in
Northern Ireland.

... subway

The Paris Metro, those romantic station names, the often imaginative
design, the short distances, the frequent services, the crazy grèves
(strikes) that periodically shut the whole thing down. Runner up:
Singapore's MRT. So this is what a subway should be like.

... wildlife experience

Watching baby green turtles erupt from the sand on Heron Island, on the Great
Barrier Reef, and start that first desperate dash to the sea. Runner
up: tens of thousands of king penguins on the beach at Salisbury Plains
on sub-Antarctic South Georgia Island.

... museum and art gallery

The Pergamon Museum in Berlin - it sent me to Pergamon in Turkey but I've
still got to visit Iraq to see where the Ishtar Gate originally stood.
Art Gallery - MOMA, either the New York one (currently closed for
rebuilding) or the San Francisco one.

... sporting event

The Monaco Grand Prix -motor racing at its romantic best in a setting that
just drips glamour. Runner up: an archery contest in Bhutan, where the
national sport is contested with bows and arrows and ribald humour.


... music

Anything at the Verona Opera Festival, the setting (a 2,000- year-old Roman
amphitheatre) is unbeatable but it's the Italian crowds who bring
soccer fan enthusiasm to Aida or Turandot. Rock - a Neil Young concert
in the Paris-Bercy in the mid-90s with the amps turned up to 11.


... dance

The Balinese kecak , or monkey dance, with its hypnotic circle of chanting
villagers, is tropical enchantment with a story line that even children
love. Runner up: anything in the Pacific, whether it's hip-shimmying in
Tahiti or a thumping "fatele" in Tuvalu.

... bottlenecks

Those places where everyone passes through at some point are still topped by
the Pudding Shop in Istanbul; in the late 1960s and early 70s it was
the place that every overlander passed through on their way east. End
point on that trip? The Kathmandu Guest House, the landmark in the
Thamel area since the early 1970s.

· Pudding Shop, 6 Divan Yolu, Sultanahmet ( The Kathmandu Guest House, PO BOX 21218, Thamel, Kathmandu (, rooms from US$2-US$60).

... explorer

Joseph Banks: young, rich, hugely enthusiastic and hard working, his visit to
the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia with Captain Cook was like
a close encounter of the third kind. Runner up: Sir Richard Burton.
Anybody who could do all that exploring and still find time to
translate the Kama Sutra had to be remarkable.

... travel book

A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush by Eric Newby, the very epitome of "just
go, worry about it afterwards" travel. Afghanistan clearly brings out
the best in travel writers. Recently: An Unexpected Light by Jason
Elliot. Afghanistan again, see what I mean?

... film

Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini's Arabian Nights of 1974 is unbeatable,
hopping from Ethiopia to Iran to Nepal to the Yemen without a moment's
thought of the geographic improbabilities.

Free souvenir edition

It was 30 years ago on a kitchen table in a Sydney basement flat that Tony
and Maureen Wheeler wrote and stapled together the very first Lonely
Planet guidebook, Across Asia On The Cheap. The Wheelers had bought a
£65 mini-van and driven it to Kabul, continuing to Australia by any
means of travel possible. The book was the answer to the many questions
people asked about their adventures and became a local bestseller,
selling 8,000 copies in three months at the grand price of $A1.80 (70p)

· For more information on the Lonely Planet series, visit