LETTER OF THE WEEK: MASSES APPEAL
New Delhi has a population of 25 million in a country of more than 1.3 billion people, so it was a surprise when Jet Airways located and returned my humble raffia hat, which I'd inadvertently left under a seat on the plane when I arrived on a flight from Singapore.
India may be chaotic but there is some method in its madness. Take the railway porter with my bag headed for a pre-dawn departure from New Delhi Station to Ajmer. I was stopped by an official-looking man at the bottom of the stairs who asked to see my ticket.
He told me my train had been cancelled and I would need to go to the main entry area to arrange another. Meanwhile, my bag was half way up the stairs, the porter waving at me to follow. Who to believe?
Well, the porter, not so obviously at the time, knew exactly where my carriage would stop on the long and crowded station, and saved me from some sort of scam. He put my bag in the overhead rack above my seat with the train in reality running to schedule.
It was the worth the little extra I paid him for knowing his business and I was so glad that I relented when he first approached me (or, more to the point, hassled me) as I arrived in an auto-rickshaw outside in the early morning confusion.
Mark Baxter, Kingscliff, NSW
ON ANOTHER NOTE
Travellers to the EU will no doubt welcome the announcement from the European Central Bank (ECB) that by the end of April 2019, the €500 note (Traveller letters, January 26) will no longer be issued or distributed by its Eurozone members.
I was hoping the ECB would go the other way and print a much higher denomination note. I was looking forward to emulating Henry Adams in the Mark Twain story The Million Pound Bank Note and travelling around the EU on the strength of a high value bank note that no one would or could change.
Jerrold M. Lichtig, Caulfield North, VIC
Here in Switzerland we have a SFr1000 note (the equivalent of more than $A1400). They used to be known as "Bin Ladens" because everyone knew they existed, but no one had ever seen one.
David Harkness, Switzerland
In her essay about tour guides (Traveller, February 9) Sue Williams bemoans the perpetually late fellow traveller on tour and I have experienced two instances where tour directors fixed the problem pronto.
First, in Spain, where, if a passenger was 15 minutes late, the guide instructed the driver to go around the corner out of sight and he then took up an observer's position near the original rendezvous and watched the looks of horror. Sometimes he invited other passengers to join him to watch the fun.
In Slovenia, our guide had a saying "five minutes late you sing for us on the bus; 10 minutes late you dance for us on the bus and 15 minutes late you sing and dance where the bus used to be".
Sometimes delays are inevitable such as the lady who could not open a faulty room safe to get her passport, but she contacted the guide.
I've also been on a cruise liner where we waved goodbye to passengers running along the wharf although cruise ships will delay for passengers on excursions run by the cruise line (try getting on a plane after the "flight closed" sign goes up).
Gavin Williamson, Narrabeen, NSW
In contrast to Sue Williams' Cambodian tour guide, our guide in Cambodia was an absolute gem.
We experienced all the touristy things; then he announced he would show us "the real Cambodia". These extras remain highlights: a school visit, the Battambang bamboo railway (now closed) and villages off the usual route.
He even stayed relatively calm, but obviously concerned, during my unfortunate anaphylactic reaction to Asian wasps' stings (possibly not covered in his tour guide training manual).
Julie Ward, East Morisset, NSW
On a recent tour to China, we had a different tour guide for each city we travelled to. When our guide in Tai'an was inexperienced, nervous and inflexible, we anticipated the worst.
However, on a free afternoon he took just my partner and I out for lunch to try the local cuisine and the markets, and spoke about his own life and experiences. That afternoon was more memorable than rest of the tour which felt rushed and scripted.
We booked via a third party and I still haven't been able to track down his tour company to thank him.
Carlina Doumtses, Bulleen, VIC
Having just returned from two basic-level Intrepid tours in India I couldn't agree with Sue Williams more on the importance of good tour guides.
In the past six years I have travelled solo and have been fortunate to have good guides but the last two in India – Ankita in the north and Bruno in the south – were exceptional. Both were only in their mid-20s and showed maturity beyond their years.
Their people skills were exceptional, especially when dealing with a group that ranged in age from 27 to 66 and had different personalities, quirks and fitness levels.
Both leaders went beyond what was expected of them. Ankita organising a wonderful Christmas and New Year for us and Bruno's exceptional care for an injured tour member, which enabled her to continue the trip, are just two examples.
At 63 I thought basic level would be too challenging but thanks to them I experienced one of my best trips ever.
Karen McIvor, Caves Beach, NSW
POWER OF ONE
Qantas has just announced another "companion" fare offer where the discounted price is only available for the purchase of two or more tickets.
Why do they do this? Wouldn't they sell more tickets if solo travellers could take advantage of the discounted price also?
Plane seats are not like hotel rooms where there are obvious savings from two people sharing a room.
Carole Campbell, Millers Point, NSW
KNOT QUITE RIGHT
Kylie McLaughlin points out that on Mount Washington in the US (Traveller, February 9) there is a sign that says, "the highest wind ever observed by man was recorded here" at 371 kilometres an hour.
This was true only until 1996, when a cyclone at Australia's Barrow Island registered 408 kilometres an hour. What a cheek. Not only did we steal their America's Cup, we outdo their wind records (and perhaps ours was recorded by a woman).
Graham Meale, Boambee East, NSW
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