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INDIE TRAVEL GUIDE - FEELGOOD HOLIDAYS

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Tom Teamlaverne Tom Teamlaverne | 10:12 UK time, Thursday, 20 January 2011

 

Every year, a Monday in January is declared to be 'Blue Monday' the most depressing day of the year. This year there's a bit of controversy about whether it was this Monday, 17th, or next Monday, 24th. Either way, it's fair to say that with cold weather, rain, 6 months till summer and 11 months to Christmas, this is a pretty depressing time of year. So dancing into vision wearing cheerful orange pants and a funny hat comes the Indie Travel Guide to 'Feelgood Holidays' - places you can go to cheer you up, either now, or as something to book ahead and look forward to.

 

Vietnam

 

First off, we're going to the most optimistic country in the world. In a survey that was published in a French newspaper this month, Vietnam was given that ranking. France was apparently voted the most pessimistic...

 

So, why not visit and let some of the Vietnamese optimism rub off on you. Great food, cheap prices, friendly people and beautiful sights - all sounds pretty good, huh? Of course, the Vietnamese have been through a lot - you'd have to be an optimist to have got through years of wars, colonialism and communism.

 

You'll probably fly into the capital, Hanoi, where you should definitely make time for the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. For anyone who doesn't know their history, 'Uncle Ho', as the locals call him, was the Marxist revolutionary who became President - Vietnam's Castro.

 

Leaving Hanoi, there's so much you can explore - you can go trekking in the mountains or find beautiful beaches like those on Phu Quoc Island (beautiful white sand and fishing villages) - and Mui Ne Beach on the east coast.

 

It's what travel agents call an 'emerging destination'. It has a lot of the things you'd go to Thailand for - beaches, food, weather, Buddhist temples, but, whilst tourism is on the increase, it's definitely less commercialised.

 

It's a nation of a lot of motorbikes (1 to every 5 people) and a lot of fish sauce (200million litres produced a year). They have a beer called Ba Ba Ba (it means 333) and their currency is, amusingly, called the Dong.

 

And of course, you can go on from Vietnam to explore its neighbouring countries, Cambodia, Laos and even China.

 

Canada

 

How about a skiing holiday to cheer yourself up? Rushing down the slopes? Using adrenaline to conquer the winter blues? Well, what about doing it in Canada?

 

Canadians are always cheerful, right? Canadians cities always score really highly in global quality of living surveys, and also in any polls of which are the world's greenest cities. The world's second largest country generally seems to be a pretty well balanced place.

 

It's darn cold in Canada in Winter and there are loads of great locations to ski in. Perhaps the most famous is Whistler. Looking forward to April, they have the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival with music, films and sports events. They normally have some pretty decent bands, not many confirmed yet, but Gogol Bordello are definitely playing.

 

If you don't like skiing and don't fancy the cold, you could book ahead for the summer. Canada's great then, so beautiful, and Toronto is one of the world's indiest cities I reckon, having given birth to a whole load of bands.

 

Oh, and if you're feeling really in need of cheering up at the moment, there's a great new Canadian phone service. A company in Montreal called 'Flatter Me' will ring up you or anyone you know and give them a flattering phone call. It cost $5 or $10 internationally - so they can even get one here in the UK before you go to Canada.

 

You're looking at between £450 and £550 for flights to Vancouver. Calgary's about the same price. A lot cheaper to Toronto where it can drop to almost as low as £300 and Ottawa and Montreal can both be sub-£400 too and give you access to lots of skiing areas.

 

Get Seaweedy

 

For something a bit closer to home how about having a bath full of seaweed? The Blythswood Square Hotel is a 'boutique' hotel in Glasgow. It's a funky hotel in a funky city.

 

They have a very nice spa there - just what you need to get rid of the January blues and they now proudly offer Scotland's first 'seaweed bath treatment'. You get to sit in a bath 'infused with mineral salts and freshly harvested seaweed from the Hebridean coast'. How do you like the idea of bobbing around with seaweed draped all over you? Bit of a room splitter? Well the person doing it in the photo on the website looks very chilled. Either that or she's been knocked out by the fumes from the aromatic candle.

 

You can use the spa on a day basis or spend a bit more and stay overnight. It's 15% off accommodation until 28th February. Just checked out the prices, looks like it won't break the bank for a special treat.

 

Of course, Glasgow is one hell of a city for music lovers, so you could use the hotel as a base whilst you head off to check out gigs at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut or Barrowlands - voted best venue in the UK in a poll of bands.

 

And did you know... Glasgow Prestwick Airport (the one Ryanair fly to) is supposed to be the only place in the UK where Elvis ever set foot; his army plane stopped there to refuel in 1960 and he got out to sign autographs.

 

Feelgood Festivals

 

And finally, let me offer you a few festivals around the UK and Europe that just might put a spring in your step and a smile on your face.

 

First off, Leicester - not the most obvious holiday destination I know, but the Leicester Comedy Festival is on next month, from 4th-20th February. This festival seems to grow and grow. Their line up is impressive this year with Mark Thomas, Jimmy Carr, Lenny Henry, John Shuttleworth, Chris Addison, Arabella Weir and me, doing my DJ Danny show.

 

From comedians to comics.... The Festival Del Fumetto, or Festival of Comic Books, is taking place in Milan from 5-6 February. Comic book fans from around the world will be descending on the Exposition Park Novegro to buy comic, dress up as characters from comics, role play and take part in video game tournaments. And you're in Milan -fashion capital of the world. Will the nerds have gone glam? Whatever, you can be sure there'll be great food around.

 

Or how about some therapeutic headbanging? Head to Oslo in Norway, a cracking city to visit, for the Metal Merchants Festival a celebration of how 'metal as it used to be'. It's next weekend (28th and 29th Jan). Those Scandinavians do love their hard rock. Dig out my Indie Travel Guide Oslo tips if you go.

 

And how about beer? That always makes you feel better, right? The National Winter Ales Festival is going on in Manchester this Week. Organised by the Campaign for Real Ale. There are over 200 cask ales, bottle ales and ciders. It started on Wednesday and runs to Saturday at The Venue on Oldham Road.

 

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