Monday, 13 July 2009

A Tuesday Post

“In winter Hammerfest is a thirty-hour ride by bus from Oslo, though why anyone would want to go there in winter is a question worth considering.” So begins Neither Here Nor There, my second most favourite travel book in the world. Bill Bryson, fluent in at least one language, backpacks through Europe without a semblance of a plan. In Trouble Again: A Journey Between Orinoco and the Amazon hails from a similar but even more extreme school of travel writing – Redmond O’Hanlon travels uncharted rivers in a dugout canoe on a four-month journey to Venezuelan Amazonia to “party” with the Yanomami tribe, reputedly the most violent people on earth. “O’Hanlon’s approach to travel borders on the lunatic,” wrote a reviewer.

The polar opposite of this style of travel is the Conducted Tour. Since I have done most of my travelling with my parents who share my dislike for organized travel, I speak from limited experience. School excursions were, of necessity, conducted tours. So was a trip from Delhi to Agra with a busload of American law students, where tour guides first really started to get on my nerves. “Look to your left. Cowdung. All cowdung. Lots and lots of cowdung in India.” Tour guides hurry you all the time, reinforce stereotypes, mollycoddle you, force you into souvenir shops which give them kickbacks, and generally do their best to spoil your experience.

There are people who sign up for one-week conducted tours of South-East Asia, who “do” Europe in a fortnight. Nothing would induce me to spend that kind of money (assuming I had that kind of money) on such a trip, but I have to admit that the idea holds a strange fascination for me. Maybe this is because, deep in my guilty heart, I sometimes enjoy kitsch and the whole idea of naked consumerism. At 13,000 feet in the lap of breathtaking Himalayan scenery, I have been known to pine for Coke, and I would get a lawn flamingo for my room if only I knew where I could buy one.

That is why I thoroughly enjoyed If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (though the fact that this is the first movie I watched since March might also have something to do with it). The film is a 1969 comedy which follows a colourful group of American tourists on a whirlwind conducted tour of Europe: “Nine countries in eighteen days. Four hundred and forty-eight dollars and fifty cents. No refunds.”

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Before I watched the film, I had a sort of idea that it features a snatch of dialogue like this:

“Where are we?”
“I don’t know. What day is it?”
“If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.”

But it turns out there is no such passage in the movie. I am not sure about the day and the country, so maybe I heard or read it somewhere else. I am even beginning to wonder if I made it up in my head. If so, the phenomenon would be the opposite of cryptomnesia (I am sure they have a word for it). If anyone knows where the dialogue appears, please tell me. Extra credit to anyone who also tells me the opposite of cryptomnesia.


Misha said...

Just because my parents hate travelling without a plan and the comforts offered by these conducted tours, I have travelled with those "Kundu Travels" "Jatrik Travels" "Srishti Travels" etc.
Sometimes we had to give some sight-seeing a miss to fit in some shopping(#$%^@*), boating or such nonsensical activity.
But I also got to eat Ilish Bhaja sitting in the snow-covered landscape of Gulmarg! May be sometimes these conducted tours do throw up pleasant surprises :-)

But the best way to travel is to wander alone and sample the local cuisine and culture.

Priyanka said...

There was this guided tour we went on during the Second Sikkim Trip which didn't feel like a guided tour at all owing to two families, a rickety jeep, a rather cute guide, and a generally messed-up itinerary.

You're right, I do want to go on an organised tour sometime. But only if there's an escape route.

Rahul Saha said...

I was thinking of the movie halfway through the post when it appeared. I can proudly say that I have never been on a guided to tour and shall never be on one no matter how many times I get lost and have to refer to the sun to figure out direction.

Indecision Personified said...

I have had the good fortune of travelling on a few 'organised tours' but not guded tours, which means that they organise the trip for you, tell you which day you will be where, (So if it's tuesday, it will be Belgium)...but after they have allotted a spefici number of days for one city / place, putting you up in a wonderful hotel, aranging for transport, they will let you free to decide what all you want to do in that place / city. f course they make suggestions, but they are just that - suggestions. These trips therefore capture the best of bth worlds. They are organised enough to go on with your parents, and not so organised so as to kill the tourist in you!!!

Indecision Personified said...

Also: all that teaching in LST and IMS and 'Law teaching' of course - seems to have messed with your head... you seem to have begun to treat your readers like your pupils - extra credits for this and that and what not!! :-p

get a hold of your teacher insticts sir!!! :-p

Pratiti said...

"At 13,000 feet in the lap of breathtaking Himalayan scenery, I have been known to pine for Coke, and I would get a lawn flamingo for my room if only I knew where I could buy one."
I drank Limca at Gomukh and it felt COOL. Tell Sujaan about this enjoying naked consumerism deep inside thing, though, and make sure I'm around when you do it. I'd looove to see his reaction. :D

Tommy said...

Confabulation isn't the exact opposite, but it's a fun word.