Travel Tales: Shawn Low, Lonely Planet’s Travel Editor (Asia Pacific)

shawn-low-lonely-planet’s-travel-editor-asia-pacificName: Shawn Low

Age: Early 30’s

Occupation: Lonely Planet’s Travel Editor (Asia Pacific)

Favourite travel destination?: China. It has a long history, deep and vibrant culture, and sheer variety when it comes to sights. You have modern cities (Beijing and Shanghai) and rural countryside (Xishuangbanna) and everything in-between. It’s frustrating to get round at times but that adds to the overall experience.

Best tips for beating jetlag?: Hydration: drink lots of water and stay off the alcohol. If you do want a tipple, keep it to a one drink … there will be plenty of opportunities to drink at your destination!

What is the one thing you don’t leave home without?: iPhone, iPod and Etymotic ER-4P earphones.

Do you stay in touch with people while you’re travelling?: Yes. If I’m in a modern city, I tend to email (iPhone), skype (iPhone or netbook). My skype account gives me unlimited calls to most countries. All I need is a reliable internet connection. If I’m somewhere more rural, I’ll email something longer once every couple of days.

Best meal you’ve ever had while travelling?: Sitting on a low wooden stool in remote Dulong Village (Southwest China) and tucking into sliced pig heart. It’s served cold and topped with soy sauce, sesame seeds and some secret sauce I can’t identify.

The Katong Laksa on East Coast Road comes a close second: the broth is rich, creamy and tangy. The noodles are cooked to perfection and the entire dish is topped with chopped coriander and some chilli paste.

Best kiss?: While travelling? Sadly, not yet. I’m shy.

Best/scariest/funniest drive?: Driving in rural China. Drivers are constantly honking at your while driving in the middle of the road. But the topping on the cake is the painful drive into the Dulong valley in Yunnan. The path into the valley is treacherous; the path is strewn with sharp rocks and in a 4WD, you have to take the 100km journey at a torturous 10 to 20km/h. It took over 7 hours to get there. I shan’t tell you about the state of my bump, post drive.

What has been the big wow moment of your travelling life?:
This is a hard one. There have been so many ‘wow’ moments. One from last year: after the climb up Mt Kinabalu (Sabah, Malaysia), my travel buddy, fellow LP author Brandon Presser, and I descended the side of the mountain via ‘Via Ferrata’.

The start of this descent was a vertical drop down a sheer side of the mountain. Sure, we were tethered to safety ropes but there was a definite tingling sensation running through my body as I stepped off the side and onto the first rung leading downl.

Image caption: I was featured in National Geographic Adventure and Lonely Planet’s TV show: Roads Less Travelled. This was taken when I was out harvesting cicadas with the local Lisu people. The Lisu put some paste from a local fruit at the tip of bamboo poles. This pole is then used to ‘stick’ cicadas. There was lots of ‘Shhhh, I see one!’ and then, ‘Ugh! I missed it’ (after lunging at the cicadas with the sticky-ended pole). Caught cicadas are kept in plastic drink bottles and sold at the market (50 cents for the females and 30 cents for the males). The male cicadas have an empty carapace and are worth less … go on, make a joke about that.

Oh, the cicadas taste wonderful after they are fried in some fat. If you want to see me eat some cicadas and do fun stuff, check out the show on cable TV or the trailer here: www.lonelyplanet.com/roadslesstravelled/china.cfm

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