Long-distance traveller finds no cure for his itchy feet

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 12:00am

Eighteen days on trains, buses and tuk tuks failed to satisfy Tony Wheeler's wanderlust.

After travelling overland from Singapore across five countries to arrive in Macau, the founder of the Lonely Planet travel guides will continue his trip later this week, travelling from Hong Kong to Shanghai by land.

'Maybe I will write a book about it, and call it Changes, said Mr Wheeler, who is staying in Macau for four nights to attend the Pacific Asia Travel Association conference.

The 58-year-old recounted his daily adventures on a personal website, describing how trains running from Singapore to Malaysia were 'blatant rip-offs' and how Kunming looked to him like a modern city rather than third world.

'The train fare from Singapore to any station in Malaysia is set at exactly the same number of Singapore dollars as it is in Malaysian ringgit if you were travelling in the opposite direction,' he wrote.

Each Singapore dollar is worth 2.3 times the Malaysian currency's value.

Mr Wheeler, who also took notes in a journal throughout the trip, said the development of the tourism industry had taken huge strides in all six countries he visited on his latest journey - Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China. 'Fifteen years ago, Hanoi had only four or five hotels. Now they have dozens of everything,' he said.

'Kunming is a first-world city, like Frankfurt or Boston or Seattle. The traffic is actually well behaved.'

Mr Wheeler, who started Lonely Planet in 1972 when he travelled overland with his wife, Maureen, across Asia to Australia, said that as an occupational habit he thought constantly about how the travel sector could make life easier for tourists.

'I could suggest the government does something about the taxi queues at the border,' he said, referring to Macau's northern border gate where tourists cross through from Zhuhai.

'The border from Zhuhai to Macau was one of the slowest I've seen.'