Large numbers of people are starting to book their summer holidays, I heard from a reader in the travel business.
It’s really true. The guy behind me in the coffee shop queue was looking at brochures. "Look at this one," he said to the woman next to him, who may have been his wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter, mother or granny (she was wearing one of those over-sized sun visors that sloped so far over her face that she could have used it as a protective mask for arc-welding, and probably did). "The hotel is ‘tranquil and secluded, yet close to the beach’," he read out loud.
I felt so sorry for him. How could he have passed puberty without realizing brochures are a particularly imaginative genre of romantic fiction?
I’ll never forget one I received about Sri Lanka. I love that country and visit every chance I get. But I had to roll my eyes to see a brochure which described it as a paradise in which "different ethnic groups live in total peace and harmony". Now who could have written that with a straight face?
Holiday brochure writers are a breed unto themselves. Even the occasional truthful ones are odd. A brochure I saw for the Royal Dokmaideng Hotel in Vientiane, Laos, boasted about the large number of karaoke machines on the premises. "Yell your joyfulness. Seek the spiritual communication," it said.
I remember a brochure for a hotel in Singapore which told folk that it had a karaoke machine in every room. That must have been a peaceful place at 11 pm on a Friday night.
Karaoke kills. I once watched a man sing Unchained Melody in a hotel in Hong Kong. We held our breath as he strained for the high note close to the end of the song: "Are you still mine? I NEEEEEEEEEED your love." He finished. He smiled. He dropped dead. Or to put it another way, he yelled his joyfulness and found spiritual communication.
Tourists heading into Xinjiang, China, are given a brochure which says there are two bodies of water in the world containing aquatic monsters. "One is the Nice Lake in Britain and the other is the beautiful Kanas Lake," it says.
The people most intrigued by this statement are visitors from Britain: this is news to them. Where is "Nice Lake"? Answer: Xinjiang tourism authorities came across the name "Loch Ness", "corrected" the spelling to "Lake Nice" and "fixed" the word-order to Nice Lake.
Here’s a handy guide on how to translate terms on holiday brochures.
"Tranquil" = Boring. "Unspoiled" = Dense, mosquito-ridden jungle. "Bijou" = Tiny rooms. "Cosy" = even tinier rooms. "Popular" = Deserted. "Deserted" = Popular.
"Classic décor" = We haven’t redecorated since 1974. "Old World Charm" = We haven’t decorated since 1934. "Colonial" = We haven’t decorated since 1834.
"Secluded" = Miles from anything interesting. "Beach nearby" = Beach only an hour’s flight away. "Garden view" = dumpster view.
One day, some hotelier will write the first intelligent, honest brochure. It will say: "Our hotel is wildly expensive, but at least pretty much everything works." That one I would trust.
Pity I’d never be able to afford it.
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