Travel writer Colin Thubron talks about his adventures, from eating a cat in a Chinese restaurant to sailing to the USA on the RMS Mauretania
Colin Thubron signs up for our travel questions and answers
This week, writer Colin Thubron signs up for our travel Q&A.
He talks about his first Christmas memories, his first trip abroad, his weirdest food, and more.
EARLY VACATION MEMORY?
Seeing the sea for the first time at the age of five. The beach was lined for miles with barbed wire to defend against the German invasion near the end of the war.
FIRST TRIP ABROAD?
Sailing to the USA as a child on the RMS Mauretania. I was dizzy the whole way. Chicken sandwiches, which were all I could eat, still make me nauseous 75 years later.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR NEW BOOK?
An old obsession with Russia and China. Away from the western gaze, the Amur River is their mutual border for more than a thousand miles.
WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE TRIP?
The shock of finding, on the Chinese coast, a state museum that held a bitter grudge against Russia for usurping Chinese lands. It was a test of true Chinese sentiment.
AND THE HAIREST MOMENT?
Being thrown from my horse in the Mongolian marshes. I still had one foot stuck in the stirrup and I had already broken an ankle and two ribs.
ARE YOU A GOOD FLYER?
As a child, he often flew across the Atlantic from school in England to vacations in Canada. This meant ecstasy flying west, tear-stained misery returning east. So flying still carries mixed emotions.
THE WEIRDEST FOOD?
Eating cat in a Chinese restaurant. It was some kind of wild tree cat, and I shared it with a house cat under the table.
DID YOU HAVE ANY ENTRIES WITH THE LAW?
The most terrifying thing was that I was arrested in Damascus four years ago, as I had no diplomatic protection in Syria. The most recent arrests in Russia and China were likely due to police bafflement by an elderly man (I am 82 years old) who was wandering through remote parts of his country.
One change of clothes at most; I just wash them.
Final border: the Amur River forms the border between Russia and China
Do you miss the comforts of home?
Hardly ever. Sometimes I crave an Indian meal when I’m in China or Russia, and eventually I’d like a bath instead of a shower.
MUST HAVE AN ESSENTIAL TRIP?
A compass. I have a strong sense of direction, but it is usually wrong.
YOU PREFER TO TRAVEL ALONE – ARE YOU NOT ALONE?
No. Traveling alone, you attract the attention and companionship of those around you. In Russia, this usually ends in hangovers!
FAVORITE TRAVEL WRITERS?
Robert Byron, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Freya Stark. All the old classics now, but in different ways they have contagious delight in the place they go.
ISN’T IT TIME TO DROP DOWN?
No. I don’t have many years left. Time to accelerate.
Colin’s dream destination is the abandoned town of Pagan on the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar
OTHER MEMORABLE TRIPS?
Following the Silk Road through northern Afghanistan, memorable for its wild beauty and danger.
WHAT IS YOUR HOLIDAY IDEA FROM HELL?
Go on a cruise.
- The amur river by Colin Thubron, published by Chatto & Windus, is out now (£ 20).