Author Shamini Flint on the banana leaf restaurants of Malaysia and the disappointing lack of snow in Singapore
Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?
Would I really embarrass myself by saying it depends on the quality of the nearest spa? Otherwise, probably ocean – the sound of waves rushing to see always makes me sleepy.
First travel experience?
Growing up in Malaysia, our first overseas (well, over a narrow stinking strip of water) trip is always to Singapore. I remember arriving, aged five, after a six hour car journey and being gutted that the place was not blanketed with snow.
I travelled around South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. What an astonishing country – Tropical to temperate, wine country to wild animals, cosmopolitan to challenging. Something for everyone and everything for someone.
Top 5 places worldwide?
Maldives for the whale sharks, Borneo for the orang utan, Kuala Lumpur for the food, Singapore for the absence of traffic and Cape Town for everything.
Special place to stay?
Tanjung Rhu Hotel on Langkawi in Malaysia. My favourite ‘get away from it all’ place.
3 items you always pack?
Toothbrush, manuscript for latest novel and iPhone (I cannot bear to be cut off from the world wherever I am – not very intrepid!)
Passport stamp you're proudest of?
Passport stamp most like to have?
Guilty travel pleasure?
Room service cheese cake
Window or aisle?
Window – I’m afraid of flying so I sit with my nose to the window trying to gauge if we’re getting closer to the ground.
Who is your ideal travelling companion?
My seven year old son, Spencer. He’s enormously enthusiastic about everything from stray dogs to potholes. And after a week, he’s ready to go home (and so am I).
Best meal on the road? Worst?
I’ve tested every banana leaf restaurant the length and breath of Malaysia – had some wonderful meals. The most disappointing? Every time I’ve been desperate enough to try something described as ‘curry sauce’ in a restaurant.
Most surprising place? Most disappointing?
Shanghai and China more generally. I felt there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and aggression despite the Chinese economic miracle we read so much about. Most disappointing? Nowhere really, there’s always something to be found to make a trip worthwhile.
Where do You NOT want to go?
Right now? Anywhere. I’m exhausted after finishing my last book and just want to lock myself in my bedroom. Unfortunately, there’s no room service …
Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?
Gerald Durrell was one of my favourite authors when I was younger and I met him once at university. His insight and gentle humour always made me want to strap on the backpack and head out the door.
What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?
My Dad used to listen to Country and Western music in the car when I was young and we were on a road trip. It still brings back memories of open road, truck stops, picnics and puking in plastic bags.
What do you read?
Whatever the last guest has left behind …
Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?
Can’t say I’ve met too many life affirming people – my fault, too much of a cynic, I think. Lose it? Taxi drivers across the planet?
What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?
‘Where’s the loo?’
What is your worst habit as a traveller?
Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?
Read them my latest manuscript and ask for comments. I guess they’ll all be doing a Scott impression pretty soon!
When and where in your travels have you been happiest?
Somewhere magical with the kids – probably the Maldives. They’re as excited over a crab as a whale shark and you remember what its like to experience life for the first time.
What smell most says 'travel' to you?
That slightly iron smell of fresh foreign currency.
Given a choice, which era would you travel in?
Before we had to worry about our carbon footprints …
If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?
Cape Town, Kuala Lumpur and London
Shamini Flint trained as a lawyer in Cambridge before throwing in the corporate life to become an author. She now runs her own publishing house, campaigns on environmental issues and writes novels and children’s books. Her latest novel, Inspector Singh Investigates: A Curious Indian Cadaver, is available on Amazon now.
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