Claire had her first taste of Asia when a school project took her off to Tokyo at the age of 16. Her interest in travel grew from watching every travel and wildlife documentary she could, and she set off on her first round the world journey aged 21.
The plan was to travel in India, Thailand and on to Australia for a year's working holiday, but the desire to see more of Asia took over and after only a month in Australia, she headed back to Thailand… the travel bug had well and truly bitten.
This made the move into the travel industry on her return the obvious choice. She has always loved helping others to discover the delights that are 'across the sea'. Working as a flight specialist before heading into student travel and planning complex round the world itineraries, Claire eventually moved into the luxury travel market. As a result, her travel experience has been varied and broad… think bamboo hut to a 5* spa resort, local eatery sat on a plastic stool to fine dining! Beyond truly scratching the surface of South-East Asia, her wider travel highlights include taking a train across Russia into Mongolia and China, and the undeniably crazy undertaking of driving a 3-wheeled auto rickshaw the length of India!
Claire has been lucky enough to visit many places in the world, and although Africa, South America, Australasia and USA all have a place in her heart, she feels that there is nothing like the exotic beauty of Asia. One of her favourite pastimes in any new Asian destination is to find a quiet place to sit with a coffee (or a beer), watch the world go by and the locals going about their daily lives.
Countries of expertise: Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Borneo and Malaysia
Other Asian destinations visited: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, China, Japan, Mongolia, Philippines, India, Nepal, Brunei
Something I always try to do in a new city is leave the map and guide book and just wander. Some of my most memorable interactions with the local people have been when I have stepped away from the main roads. A fond memory was when walking around the back streets of Phonsavan (Laos) and I stumbled across an old Chinese lady sat outside her home with tiny bound feet!
I have eaten my fair share of weird and wonderful street food, especially in Cambodia where I sampled a variety of bug snacks! My favourite Asian dishes range from a simple Pad Thai or Nasi Goreng to a delicious Thai dish called Tom Kha Gai – chicken in coconut soup.
I once took a rickshaw from Ella in the Sri Lankan tea country all the way to Uda Walawe National Park. The journey snaked around the mountains with awe inspiring views and the cliff drops at the side of the road had me on the edge of my seat the whole way. I also took an “eye opening” trip on a fast boat up the Mekong River in Laos, in a type of boat that I have now learnt is known locally as a ‘coffin boat’ … the less said about that experience, the better!
I can’t choose just one place, but having my toes in the white sand of a Thai beach at sunset is high on the list! Walking through the jungle in Borneo with an orang-utan swinging above me in the trees is something that will always stay with me, so much so that I have felt the need to return on numerous occasions to re-visit them. Standing in front of a street vendor in Kuala Lumpur with the fragrant smells of my chicken satay being cooked is also a firm favourite.
60 second interview
What made you want to work in the travel industry?
"Being able to talk about what I love every day and to help others see what is out there. It’s a wonderful feeling to inspire others to get out and see alternative cultures, environments and wildlife"
Who is the person you'd most like to sit next to on a flight?
"David Attenborough. He has travelled to some extremely far flung places and I would love to ask him what his weirdest experiences have been. I bet there have been some extraordinary interactions and encounters that the camera may not have been rolling for!"
What is your favourite aspect of travel?
"I love that feeling of arriving somewhere I have never been before - excitement mixed with caution - and that feeling in your stomach when you see an iconic sight that you have only ever seen as a photograph or on TV is unlike any other."
Any useful advice?
"The best advice I can give to anyone travelling in Asia is to relax: sit back, stay calm and smile. Yes, things are completely different to back home, but remember that is why you are there."