Romance, Hong Kong and Central Java: What's the connection?Soapbox
These are the three themes we are pursuing in this issue, so what possible connection can there be between these
astonishingly different subjects?
Actually the connection is in the first word: romance, which we are featuring here in its inter-personal form; the
couple coziness, lovie-dovie, coochie-coo, kissy-wissy stuff that we roll out to celebrate Valentines Day, but when
we refer it to destinations, the word takes on a whole new meaning: the romance of travel!
Fifty years ago both Hong Kong and Central Java, including Yogyakarta and Solo, were considered to be
absolutely top, romantic, exotic, dreamy, almost unattainable destinations, but today like so many of yesterday’s
travel icons, they have become not only attainable but so overwhelmed by their success that perhaps the romance
In our minds, well mine certainly, I associate the romance of travel with the thrill of discovery, the serendipity of
the moment when you turn a corner, open a gate or reach a hilltop and discover something wonderful, charming,
undisturbed, unblemished, beautiful.
I had that moment nearly forty years ago when I first went to the top of the Borobudur Temple at dawn and saw
that peaceful vista of Java unfold from the darkness. I had it again crossing Hong Kong harbor for the first time
on a Star Ferry, which felt like a moment from a Somerset Maugham novel, and in the splendour of the Pousada
de Santiago in Macau, a fortress turned into a beautiful hotel, which was a truly magical discovery.
These moments are so special and remain with us all our lives but in our efforts to gain as much economic
advantage as they can, tourism authorities so often push for increased numbers at the expense of the eternal
Who can blame them? Perhaps the new generation of travelers will revel in the thrill of the MTR connecting
Kowloon to Central? Maybe the new thrill is the astonishing mall in the Venetian in Macau? And for sure
more people than ever take their ‘selfies’ at the stupa on the top of Borobudur, reveling in the togetherness of a
thousand people enjoying history, rather than my solitary joy.
Are the days of romance in travel over? With four million people a year visiting Machu Picchu, maybe. We
certainly have to work much harder to find that magical moment alone in paradise. So get your roses and
chocolates ready instead and make sure you get your romance closer to home!