Must-see places in Japan: travel tips

Q I plan to go to Japan for a few weeks in March. I want to spend a week in Tokyo and a week elsewhere in the country. What is the must-see destination in Japan outside of Tokyo?
Jenni, by e-mail

A To experience the many faces of Japan, take a route starting in state-of-the-art Tokyo, then head north to the breathtaking scenery of the Japanese Alps (pictured), then west to culturally-rich Kyoto for a taste of Japanese history.

In Tokyo, visit top sights such as the Tsukiji Fish Market and bustling Shinjuku district to see Tokyo’s famous neon light. For a truly Japanese experience, hop aboard the bullet train to nearby Nagoya. From there, you can reach the beautiful restored Sanmachi-suji district in Takayama town by train, which takes just over two hours. Stroll the pretty streets lined with traditional restaurants, shops and sake breweries.

If you rent a car, you can explore the Japanese Alps, where in March you can consider skiing. Shiga Kõgen is a superb seaside resort, one of the largest in the world. From nearby Kanazawa, you can visit the beautiful Kenroku-en Garden, and from there you can be in Kyoto in just over two hours by train.

Kyoto is a must. With 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it is the cultural capital of Japan. Head here for Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and bamboo groves. Then board the high-speed train back to Tokyo for your return flight.

Q I’m planning to go to Egypt for Christmas and New Years and want to know if I should book a tour or do my own thing? I will be traveling with three other women and plan to spend around nine days there.
Bex, by e-mail

A Both options have their merits. If you prefer to be independent and spontaneous but are worried about traveling alone, you don’t need to opt for a guided tour; Egypt is a fairly easy country to explore on your own. You can easily travel across the country by land, air and sea (or river!).

If you are making your own itinerary I would suggest trying to include Cairo and the pyramids when you arrive and then move on to historic Luxor further south. Continue with a cruise on the Nile.

Alternatively, after exploring Cairo and the Pyramids, board an Egypt Air flight to Sharm El Sheikh and soak up the sun on the Red Sea Riviera (egyptair.com). A return flight from Cairo costs around £ 80 at this time of year.

If you want to take a tour, a good suggestion is the 13-night King Ramses On The Go tour (from £ 579, departing 23 December onthegotours.com). The tour includes sailing the Nile for a different Christmas day and then celebrating the New Year in Dahab – a great place for the festivities as its backpacker vibe is perfect for a party.

Advice to readers

Go to Gulangyu

In China, visit Gulangyu Island off the coast of Xiamen. When I went there, 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 (this is called “Piano Island”). A word
warning – the ferry is free on the way to Gulangyu from Xiamen, so don’t be fooled by the suspicious-looking boat captains trying to charge you for a ride (find the real ferry terminal further away on the docks). On the other hand, you have to pay on return!
Jacques, by e-mail

Immodium: just say no

I am giving you some advice from the kind doctor who put me on a drip when I had salmonella in Peru. If you are suffering from the “unfortunate” effects of your travelers’ diet, do not take immodium. It blocks you but doesn’t fight the problem. The bacteria are different in South America and elsewhere, apparently. So it will all come out eventually.
Pierre, by e-mail


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