Well, it's that time of year again - World Travel Market, one of the world's big travel trade fairs. It runs for 4 days and I usually go on at least two of them, because it's always fun. I went yesterday and today. Today, the Docklands Light Railway wasn't running to the exhibition centre, so I took a different route. The Emirates Air Line - the Thames' cable car crossing - is not expensive but it usually costs something. however, today it was free as a result of the strike. And what a good idea it was. So much better than reaching the exhibition via that revolting utilitarian light railway. Here is the view as your car is about to launch out over the Thames.
The scene below is being furiously redeveloped, so it changes every time I cross. Poor old London has been covered in fog for several days and that has now lifted to leave greyness.
The big building on the left in the picture above is The Crystal. It's a little known exhibition by Siemens. the highly innovative German engineering firm. It's one of the world's most sustainable buildings, and the ground floor is mostly given up to interactive and imaginatively presented information about creating sustainable cities. It is much better than it sounds - and they have never publicised it properly, which is strange. I went round it once, but today I was heading for the EXCEL exhibition centre..
I had a couple of useful meetings, but a lot of what I like about World Travel Market is the surreal effect of lots of different countries doing their best to market themselves in eye catching ways. I love to just wander around and look at what is going on.
The Falkland Islands, for instance, is now trying to sell itself as a bird watching destination and they have come up with this rather depressed looking penguin as a mascot. From all accounts, that woolly hat he is wearing will be essential in the windy Falklands. There was a free trip going there so I applied for it. I'm unlikely to get it but it will be an interesting experience if I do!
Sorry for the quality of some of the shots. My camera battery ran out and so I had to use my phone. Its lens is not in good shape as the twins are fascinated by the phone and always grab it with their sticky little hands whenever they can. (One of them also likes sucking it )
I was very taken by this young man with bowler hat and umbrella, walking soberly and silently around the show. When I photographed him he solemnly gave me a card about various attractions in Belgium. Do you see the reference to Magritte? It is the cloud covered face that gives the game away.
Belgium was also publicising The Herge Museum, a mecca for all fans of Tintin the Boy Detective. I think is much bigger than it was when I last visited Brussels and I would like to revisit one day. Which is your favourite Tintin character? The Thompson Twins are mine, (since we were talking of bowler hats....)
I was so impressed by this fierce looking character below that I didn't note the name of the country he was representing, but it might have been Indonesia.
And could these characters below have been from Costa Rica? If so, I would dearly like to know the people they represent. They remind me a bit of the "giants" which are paraded around in parts of France and Spain at festival time, but they definitely weren't in the European part of the show.
Oh dear, I'm not informing you very well, am I? But I can tell you for sure that this guy in the red outfit was on Costa Rica's stand, which was a very good one. He was sculpturing things out of some very tasty pineapples (which I presume are grown in CR) and also giving away free samples.
This gent comes from Sibu Chocolate, also in Costa Rica. He was giving away samples of the chocolate, (which certainly is superb), and also making and giving out the kind of drinking chocolate that people originally made in that part of the world. It is flavoured with the various spices shown on the plate in front of him. That includes a fair helping of chilli and I have to say it makes a delicious drink. Perhaps one day it will become popular in fashionable cafes - it's miles away from the sickly sweetness of commercial hot chocolate.
It is very exhausting at the show. You always end up with loads of leaflets, carriers and free gifts and so in the past I have found the press centre to be a welcome haven. This time, it wasn't restful at all, a bit like a railway station waiting room. I think this reflects the lessening importance of the press to the travel trade, (although that's only my guess.) It was even less restful when I happened to visit, since it was packed with dancers, singers and musicians. They were wearing such sensational costumes that I didn't mind giving up the peace and quiet, though.
I was also given a free gift of this charming proboscis monkey from the Malaysian Tourist Board. I am not a fan of soft toys as a rule but I fell in love with him. I'm now trying to think of a name - any suggestions?
I specially like seeing the the smaller and less well known places and companies which exhibit at the show. I'd certainly like to go to the Soviet Lifestyle Museum,in Kazan, in Tatarstan, Russia. Kazan had a beautifully laid out stall that included this garrment-with-a-story.
A father wanted to create a fashionable jacket for his daughter, but, as was common in the days of the Soviet Union, he couldn't acquire enough materials to do the job. So he patiently assembled 120 identity card holders - which were easily available - and created the jacket out of them.
Mongolia had a delightfully pretty and well arranged stand full of artistic displays of felting in the most wonderful colours. (This link describes Mongolian felting, and I specially like the song accompaniment.). Also check out this site for some wonderful pictures.
Apart from the monkey, my favourite free gift from the show was a DVD from Kazakhstan, entitled
If you read Russian, please tell me what it says! [** PS, Nadezda has now kindly translated in her comment on this post, below. Thank you , Nadezda!] I was of course baffled but the photo intrigued me so I took it and played it in the evening, after getting home. (I returned via the Emirates Air Line, of course - I do recommend this trip).
The five films on the DVD have English subtitles, and although the translation wasn't good, I could understand enough to know what they were about, and I was gripped. They are made by an outfit called +362. They explore the Mangistau region of Kazakhstan, which is largely wolf-ridden steppes by the look of it, and they take photos and make films, and , guide "extreme tourists" on enormously challenging expeditions. They also run slightly less fearsome projects with local young people, camping by the shores of the freezing sea, horsing around, and generally having a great and uncomplicated time.
They don't try to glamorize or sugar coat their trips, or make them look cool, but simply tell the experience like it is, and this gives a feeling of great authenticity. I now feel I know a bit of how grim, austere and hard it is even if you have a car and modern communications - but also why it is fun, how good it is to work together, take risks, be resourceful and brave and push yourself to the limits. Your reward is the chance to see and explore wonderful sights that few other people ever get to see. Because believe me even if you go by car it is no picnic, since even roads are in fairly short supply in the region.
There was a lot more to see but as ever I don't want to go on for too long. Here to finish here are the explosives sniffer dogs which now roam the exhibition halls. They look a bit fierce but they are lovely dogs and their owners seem devoted to them.