The Offbeat Road To Expo 70: Paved With Offbeat Pleasures

JAMES MONTAGNES February 1 1970

The Offbeat Road To Expo 70: Paved With Offbeat Pleasures

JAMES MONTAGNES February 1 1970

THERE ARE TWO good reasons why anyone going to Expo 70 at Osaka this year should make a few diversions from the beaten path to Japan. The first is that most people can take only so much of the splendor of world expositions — and the fare’s the same whether you go for three days or three weeks. The second, and most persuasive reason is that for most it will be their first and only trip to the Pacific and the Orient. So if you’re going, splurge a little. Invest more cash and time and go paradise-hopping.

For relatively little extra you could take in Hong Kong, Macao, Formosa and Thailand. You could go there by ship, and fly back. Visit Australia. Wear a lei in Hawaii. Dodge motor scooters in Papeete. Or, for about half as much fare again, fly around the world with Expo 70 as just a stop on the way.

There are two ways to travel — alone, and in groups. Groups are cheaper, but you can travel alone at excursion air fares, and sign up for a few tours along the way, particularly those run by the Japan Tourist Bureau. Any travel agency will tell you about a variety of conducted tours. The cheapest, and chummiest, trip is with an organization that has arranged a jet charter flight. Airline regulations say you must join these organizations six months before the flight.

Expo 70 opens March 15 and ends September 13. Can you afford to go? Let’s look at the fares:

The Vancouver-Tokyo economy return fare is $739, with no time limit on travel. Both Canadian Pacific (CP Air) and Japan Airlines (JAL) operate out of Vancouver. Rates will increase slightly this July, but now a 21-day excursion is $664 — and if you are part of a group booking of 15 or more, that fare goes down to $573. This is just one of 14 different fare-scale combinations.

A fairly typical “simple” Expo-Orient tour is an American Express one from San Francisco. It takes in Tokyo, Hong Kong, two-to-a-room hotel, Expo tickets, sight-seeing in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, and four days in Hong Kong — to buy up the joint on your American Express card. It costs from $890 (U.S.) up.

An alliance of shipping and airlines produces interesting variants. JAL and American President Lines, for instance, have four tours, the shortest being 22 days out of San Francisco. One tour ship calls at Vancouver on June 5.

You sail five days to Hawaii, stop for a day, sail 10 days to Kobe, a port near Expo. You commute to Expo for three days, using the ship as a hotel. After a five-day tour of Japan, you fly home. Cost is $958 or more, depending on your cabin. The Pacific and Orient, the Matson and the Holland-America lines also have Canada-Japan liners.

Most of this involves three-week trips. If you want to do the entire Pacific in that time, you can pay $1,283 for an independent 21-day excursion return fare from Toronto via Tokyo, Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, Darwin, Sydney, New Zealand, Fiji, Honolulu (or skip Honolulu in favor of Tahiti and Mexico City). For an extra $15 Air Canada throws in Indonesia. Without a time limit, the fare from Toronto is $1,358.

Or if you’d rather go round the world, take in Expo while en route from Toronto, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Delhi, Teheran, Paris and a few other exotic places on the way. Air Canada charges $1,349, plus $998 for the land portion of the 33-day jaunt — the price includes two-to-a-room accommodation and some meals. Air Canada offers another world tour of 37 days for the same air fare, calling at Los Angeles, Honolulu, 12 days in Japan, five days in Russia, then on to Budapest, Prague, Paris, London and — phew! — back to Toronto.

You’ll need visas for Formosa, Korea, the Philippines and Thailand. Smallpox vaccinations are a must for everywhere, plus a cholera shot for Hong Kong and typhus, typhoid and paratyphoid shots for the odd spot along the route. Get all these long before the trip: traveling with inoculation fever is hell. Carry six extra passport pictures for on-the-spot visas.

Remember the Orient is hot in the Expo months. Drip-dry clothes are best — you may not be anywhere long enough to get cleaning done. Don’t forget bathing suits. With the exception of Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Japan itself, drink bottled water or tea. And read about the countries before your trip starts. Beginning here:

Hong Kong: Mecca of the 24-hour suit

Hong Kong is not only scenically magnificent; it is also the bargain hunter’s paradise.

Hong Kong will cost $216 extra on your round-trip Vancouver-Tokyo air fare. It is one stop (or about four hours) away from Japan’s capital. A new 21-day Vancouver-Tokyo -Hong Kong return fare is $854.

The island and its mainland adjunct has been a British colony for almost 130 years. Sightseers should make a trip by cable car to 1,805-foot-high Victoria Peak, where the wealthy live, for a breathtaking view of the colony and its busy harbor. There are launch trips past the thousands of sampans and junks that house the floating Chinese population. Tours are available around the island of Hong Kong, by ferry to Kowloon and the New Territories on the mainland.

Hong Kong has golf clubs, horse races, hundreds of good restaurants, train trips to the Communist China border at Lo Wu, Chinese temples and churches for all Christian faiths, a university, the garish Tiger Balm Gardens—and dozens and dozens of nightclubs. It also has slums where refugees from mainland China crowd in with the local Chinese population. In Hong Kong you are three and a half hours by ferry, less by hydrofoil if it operates, from Macao, a Portuguese province since 1557.

But the shopping is the thing. Here you can buy watches, radios and cameras that are cheaper than in the countries where they are made—not from street hawkers, but at reliable stores. Japanese cameras, for instance, are cheaper here than in Tokyo. Bargaining for such items is gradually disappearing, but price what you want in several stores, and you’ll probably have shopkeepers meet the competitive price or do a little bit better. Jade jewelry, pearls, ivory and other hand-crafted items are all reasonable. Make sure you get proof of the non-Communist China origin of the merchandise if you return via the United States.

Best bargains are men’s and women’s clothing made on short notice, even 24 hours. Prices are about half those in Canada. Have drawings of what you want or show the tailor the clothing you are wearing, so you won’t get out-dated outfits. You’ll spend your time coming back for three fittings or more. The shop will keep your measurements and you can order by mail in future. Custom-made shoes are also a good bargain. Reliable stores have Hong Kong Tourist Association signs.

Hotels are $10 a day up. Restaurants and hotels serve every type of cuisine. Try the Chinese provincial dishes, which you’ll get nowhere else outside China.

Hawaii: Orchids for the tourist

Hawaii is free—as far as your air fare is concerned. There is no extra charge whether you fly to Tokyo direct, or go one way via this exotic tropical island. You can also go by ship via Hawaii from the west-coast ports of Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and fly home.

If there is no other way to get a glimpse of the South Pacific, make sure Hawaii is on your itinerary. This is where Polynesians, Melanesians, Caucasians, Japanese, Chinese and Africans have shared an easy life for centuries.

Whether you have a few days or several weeks to spend, you will be kept busy. You’ll be greeted at dockside or airport by beautiful grass-skirted Hawaiian girls who will hang an orchid lei around your neck.

Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach is likely to be your initiation into Hawaiian life. From its modern beachfront hotels you can watch the surf-riders coming in on the big waves. Try this exciting sport, but don’t go out without lessons.

You can more easily go out in outrigger canoes and excursion catamarans for a tour of the beachfront, a view of the Honolulu skyline and Diamond Head. There are sight-seeing bus trips all over the island of Oahu, climbing through lush mountain passes, through tunnels carved in the fortified mountains, and along roads skirting cliffs high above the sea. One itinerary must is Sealife Park, where porpoises are trained to help man in underwater exploration.

In the Polynesian cultural centre, natives of Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, Tonga and New Zealand Maoris demonstrate their native dances and handicrafts. For camera fans, Kodak most weekdays has Hawaiian dance groups perform in front of a grass hut and palm-tree background in Kapiolani Park. A Canadian, Yukon-born Frank L. Jeckell of Ottawa, has built a Hawaiian wax museum on Kalakaua Avenue, and this provides a short but dramatic history of the islands.

Honolulu teems with hotels, motels, restaurants. You might visit the palace of the former royal family of Hawaii, the botanical gardens, the academy of arts, the Ala Moana shopping centre with more than 150 stores, the fine residential areas with gardens filled with blazing tropical flowers, the University of Hawaii, historic Pearl Harbor, pineapple plantations and natural attractions such as majestic Diamond Head.

But don’t leave without visiting other islands in the group. Some can be reached for as little as five dollars extra for each stop on your roundtrip ticket. One-day charter excursion trips provide a tour of most of the islands for about $90. Most out-islands have good resort hotels, magnificent scenery, good beaches, and less of the bustle that marks Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.

Hotel rates vary from eight dollars to $39 a day for single occupancy (you pay half if you share a room) with a four percent state tax added.

Malaysia: Gad, sir! Cricket and snakes?

In Malaysia and the city-state of Singapore, Javanese, Malays, Chinese and Indians mix with British, Portuguese and Dutch. The architecture and the customs reflect the mixture of East and West as perhaps nowhere else in East Asia. Visiting Singapore would add $329 to your economy round-trip air fare from Vancouver to Tokyo, or $290 if you are on a 21-day excursion fare.

Singapore is a free port for almost every type of merchandise and it comes next to Hong Kong for bargains. Here, too, you can have a suit or dress made during your oneor two-day stay much more cheaply than in Canada.

Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, is a fairly modern city with British colonial Victorian-Moorish architecture and customs that date back to the long years of British rule. In midtown you’ll find the cricket field still in use.

Sight-seeing in Kuala Lumpur includes an art gallery with contemporary Malaysian paintings, a national museum, reflecting the various ethnic cultures that have formed the population, a new parliament building, an ultra-modern mosque alongside the 14-story Government Language Institute, Chinese and Hindu temples and an Anglican cathedral.

The Malay Peninsula has good roads, bus transportation, and you can rent a car to drive to the Cameron Highlands, a mountain resort cool enough in the evenings for a blaze in the open fireplace in hotel lobbies.

Include the 110-square-mile island of Penang, off the coast, in your itinerary. You’ll see Malay fishing villages, and a Chinese Buddhist temple where the snakes are soothed with incense. Malacca, where certain walking sticks originate, lives largely in its past—it was capital of a 14th-century Moslem empire, then a Portuguese colony for 130 years from 1511, followed by 183 years of Dutch rule ending in 1824 when the British took over. For wild-life pictures, take in the National Park in the states of Pahang, Kelantan and Trengganu, where there are tigers, honey bears, deer, elephants, tapirs, monkeys, wild boar and a myriad of tropical birds.

The Malay Peninsula includes some recently built air-conditioned hotels, though most date back to colonial days. Rates are from five dollars up, slightly higher in Singapore where the Raffles Hotel is the most famous. Chinese, Malayan, Indian and European-American food is most common, but Malay food specialties include the delicious satay, cubes of meat impaled on skewers, broiled over charcoal, and served on plates of buttered rice.

Thailand: A great place for the snap-happy

Bangkok, the Venice of Asia, has 300 Buddhist temples, floating markets, gentle smiling people, and classical dances by ornately dressed men and beautiful girls. Thailand will add $329 to your round-trip Toronto-Tokyo economy fare of $937.

Thailand has never been occupied by European colonizers. Its name means “land of the free.” But the price of independence was perpetual warfare until 1767, when it became a monarchy — sometimes absolute as In the days of Mongkut of The King And I, sometimes constitutional, as it is today.

At least four days are needed to take in the sights of Bangkok and vicinity, as well as to shop for brocades, silks, antiques, bronzeware, inlaid-silver neilloware, carved teakwood, lacquerware, temple-bell dolls, precious and semiprecious stones. Except in a very few shops in the major hotels, you’ll have to bargain,it is expected.

There are many tour organizations to take you to the many temples, or wats. Be sure to visit the Wat of the Emerald Buddha, where the 31-inchhigh Buddha-figure is carved from emerald-tinted jasper. Here as in other holy places, men must wear coats and ties despite the heat. Women in slacks or shorts are not allowed in the palace grounds. Leave your shoes outside.

A daily boat excursion leaves about 6.30 a.m. to the floating markets on the klongs, or canals, that thread through the city. There is activity everywhere—especially for camera fans—as vendors hawk their wares, postmen deliver mail to floating homes, children play in the water, women in gay sarongs and flat-topped straw helmets paddle their boats or do household chores.

For swimmers there are the fine beaches of Chonburi, Bangsaen and Pathaya, 60 and 90 miles from Bangkok on the Gulf of Siam, where the native population gets away from the heat.

In Bangkok you can see a typical Thai teak residence, the Suan Pakkard Palace, and a traditional Thai house opposite the national stadium. There is a snake farm at Chulalongkorn University, where cobras and other poisonous snakes have their venom extracted for medicinal purposes. And you should not miss a walk or ride through the teeming Chinatown around Yawarad Road, with its hundreds of shops.

Bangkok hotels charge from $10 a day up, plus about six dollars for meals. It will cost about $25 a day per person if you include sightseeing and transportation, staying at first-class air-conditioned hotels.

Bangkok is filled with restaurants, serving European-American, Japanese, Chinese or Indian food. But Thai cuisine is spicy. Watch out for small red or green peppers—they can cause an inferno in your stomach, which can best be quenched with rice. Even the Thais call these peppers “torpedoes.”

The Philippines: Ex-headhunters in G-strings

The Spaniards came to the Philippine Islands 400 years ago, and their style is apparent in the customs and buildings of this first post-World War II Asiatic republic. It remains a bit of old Spain In Asia.

You can visit a few of the 7,000 Philippine Islands on a Vancouver to Japan return ticket for an extra $206. The islands, which lie between Formosa to the north and Borneo to the south, are still new to tourism. A number of international airlines operate to Manila, the capital, and Philippine Airlines covers the islands.

If you’re looking for a place where few of your friends have been, the Philippines is for you—and take your camera. The views and the sunsets in Manila Bay are magnificent.

There are 2,000-year-old rice terraces in the mountains of Banaue in central Luzon, main island of the group. They are a seven-hour drive over mountain roads from Baguio, the 5,000-foot-high resort where « Manilans escape the summer heat. Baguio is six-hour drive or train trip from Manila or an hour’s flight. Native Igorots, one-tjme headhunters, go to market in G-strings or handwoven dresses.

In Manila, the oldest church Is St. Augustine, built in 1599. You can tour presidential Malacanang Palace, visit 350-year-old Santo Tomas University, which was a World War II Japanese concentration camp, and old Fort Santiago, which the Japanese used as a prison. Outside the city there are tours to Corregidor and Bataan, where Philippine and United States forces surrendered to the Japanese in May 1942.

Spanish tradition insists on formality in dress and chaperones for young people. Latin American music is popular in most restaurants, hotels and nightclubs. For gamblers, casinos are hidden away throughout Manila.

Hotels are from six dollars up. Meals in restaurants and hotel dining rooms are also cheaper than in Canada, but nightclubbing can be expensive. Most hotels are airconditioned. Cuisine is largely Filipino, Spanish, Chinese or American. Rice is a staple, and a favorite is lechon, roast suckling pig with a thick liver sauce. The papayas, mangoes and pineapples are bigger and sweeter than elsewhere.

Tahiti: Grass skirts and no cutlery

On your round-trip ticket from Vancouver to Tokyo ($739) it will cost another $312 to take in the French Polynesian Shangri-la of Tahiti and neighboring islands with names so suggestive of South Pacific romance—Moorea, Rangiroa, Borabora. You won’t need a visa if you stay for fewer than 10 days.

Tahiti, once you get away from Papeete’s motorbike traffic, is a peaceful place—no traffic, few people, waterfalls in hidden glades'of lush green forest, empty beaches, hidden villages along the coastal road, and impossibly flamboyant flowers everywhere.

In the past few years there has been a hotel building boom, but there are no skyscrapers. Most new hostelries blend into the scenery, some with palm-thatched roofs or thatched bungalows with screened verandas. Practically all have good dining rooms. Try the Polynesian cooking, particularly lime-marinated raw fish, suckling pig cooked in palm or banana leaves, roast pork done in an open fire pit, baked breadfruit, yams, poi puddings made of bananas, and arrowroot.

On Moorea you’ll likely attend a tamaaraa, or native feast, at one of the hotels, where you’ll see the food cooking in the ground-pit oven, or himaa. Don’t look for cutlery. You eat native food with your fingers. At the regular native-dance exhibition the chief acts as a sergeant-major to boom out the numbers danced by grass-skirted young men and women to the thumping of a hollow-log drum.

Of the islands within easy reach of Tahiti, Borabora is probably the most beautiful with its volcanic mountain peaks thrusting up out of Cook’s Bay—the setting of some of the scenes in the movie South Pacific.

On the coral atoll of Rangiroa, where there are no hotels as yet, you can see how Polynesians used to live and still live on the outlying islands.

Hotels are expensive, most being on a meals-included basis, except on Tahiti where there are also restaurants. Count on $10-$35 single, depending where you stay. But there is no tipping. There is ferry and plane service to Moorea across a choppy sea, and air service to some of the other islands.