Spectator by Seema Goswami: Ringing out the old
No sooner has the end of November hoved into sight than the questions begin. What are you doing for New Year? Where is the party? Have you planned a trip somewhere special? And so on and on and on.
There was a time in my life when I was up for partying late into the night on New Year’s Eve, drinking and dancing till my feet hurt. Then, there came a phase when my husband and I would leave town around this period, heading to one resort or the other, where we spent all our time reading, relaxing, and fitting in the odd massage. Of late, however, I find myself longing for the comfort of my own home for New Year, quaffing champagne from my own fridge rather than the overpriced swill that hotels include in their all-inclusive New Year ‘package’. I love the thought of rustling up a meal in my own kitchen and eating it on my dining table, and then retiring to the couch for a post-prandial glass of port and a dissection of the year past with my husband.
The very idea of packing my bags and negotiating the horrors of airports at this time of year strikes terror into my heart these days. But I can understand the impulse of people who want to get away from it all and bring in the New Year at an exotic and exciting location. After all, I did that myself for years on the end.
The problem with this plan, of course, is that flights are astronomically expensive during this period and hotel rates are ludicrously high. If you are willing to break the bank for a trip like this, then good luck to you. But what are the options for those who don’t want to bankrupt themselves for the year to come, even as they celebrate it’s arrival.
Well, here are some tips for them, based entirely on my own experience over the years:
Staycations are the way to go, especially if you live in a big city. If you do, then check around and see which of the luxury hotels in your city is offering a good package for the New Year break. It will be expensive, of course, but you will come in well under budget when you account for the fact that you are not spending anything on flights (and you will eliminate travel-related stress as well, as an added bonus). Most hotels will turn a blind eye if you bring in your own liquor so long as you drink it in the privacy of your room. So you can sit around in your fluffy bathrobe, order room service and get a bit tiddly, if that’s your thing. Or you can get all dressed up for the fancy New Year dinner in the restaurant downstairs and bop along to the live music as you wait for the clock to strike the midnight hour. And the next morning, all you need to get home is a car ride. No standing in line to check in for your flight. No stripping down to your essentials at security. And no nasty airplane ride to destroy your lovely post New-Year buzz.
If leaving town is mandatory for you, then steer clear of the usual New Year destinations that are horribly overpriced and awfully overcrowded at this time (and yes, I do mean Goa) and look further afield. If you want to sun yourself on pristine sands, then try the Andamans or even Lakshwadeep. Head south to Kerala, where you can enjoy the backwaters along with beach destinations, or just cruise along on the iconic rice boats as you enjoy the verdant scenery. If you are up for a bit of adventure then use this time to explore the north east. You could go the usual Gangtok-Rumtek route or go off the beaten track and head for Arunachal Pradesh as I did earlier this year. In this part of India, it will be the beauty that takes your breath away, not the prices – or the milling crowds for that matter.
If you don’t feel like you are truly on holiday unless you have left the country, then there are plenty of destinations that will give you a sizable bang for your buck. If you are a fan of Thailand, then head to Bangkok for a city break (the resort islands are unaffordable at this time of year). This is a city that caters to all budgets, the food is excellent and cheap, and fireworks display on New Year’s Eve is free as long as you line up along the riverside. If you have been there and done that as far as Thailand is concerned, then head on to Vietnam and Cambodia, both of which are great for the budget traveller. Sri Lanka is another country that is good value at this time. The country is trying to revive its tourism industry after a few setbacks and some judicious googling will garner you some great deals in such destinations as Bentota, Kandy, Galle, and of course, Colombo.
But wherever you end up, and whatever you do, I hope you have a brilliant New Year. And that 2020 turns out to be your best year yet.
Journalist and author Seema Goswami has been a columnist with HT Brunch since 2004
Spectator appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, December 1, 2019
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