tip off

CRIKEY | January 24, 2013 | WASHINGTON DC | |

A bowl of chili with a side serving of Obama watching

The centre of D.C.’s historic black neighbourhood, the U St corridor in the northwest quadrant was the scene of massive celebrations during Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 and again in 2012.

K JOHNSON | January 17, 2013 | GEORGIA | 1 |

Red Ink Town: riding through rain-filled avalanches

The most useless sign in the world is triangular. It has a red border and a silhouette of a cliff-face with rocks tumbling irrevocably over the edge. Its lo-fi quality is almost cartoony, like something from Spy versus Spy. But its uselessness does not lie in the omission of detail but rather its purpose. How is someone to respond to a sign that warns of rocks falling on your head while you drive?

K JOHNSON | January 10, 2013 | GEORGIA | 6 |

Red Ink Run: moonshine at 9am, welcome to Georgian hospitality

Apprehension can be measured by the density of smoke in a room. So it was on our cargo vessel, Greifswald, as it sat motionless in the Black Sea just outside Georgian waters, the room thick with the stuff as everyone smoked and waited.

A storm had cracked and crashed its way over the boat during the previous night, leaving in its wake an interminable calm. The barman who spoke some English was our Minister of Misinformation — always providing an entirely incorrect appraisal of the situation with false projections and a set of impossible scenarios that could not and would not follow.

K JOHNSON | December 12, 2012 | IRAN | 4 |

Red Ink Run: Iraq and a hard place

You can feel the tension in the Iranian town of Piranshahr. Here the police are more alert and better armed than in the rest of the country. They maintain a larger buffer around themselves, keeping locals at arm’s length in the crowded market places and the chaotic streets.

This region contains a majority Kurdish population who have historically represented a potent internal threat to the Iranian state.

CRIKEY | December 05, 2012 | ALBANIA | 9 |

Eaten up by the east: embarrassed in Albania

If you suffer from motion sickness, are a stickler for the law or have a problem with being gawked at — do not attempt the Albanian bus system.

I had been totally over-confident about this. I was well-travelled, having worked as a tour guide in Europe for two years, and I knew how to bus myself around. I had worked on boats in both Croatia and Greece, so I knew how to deal with seasickness. I had also mastered the art of “faux patience”, having calmly told passengers the location of the toilet over 1582 times, usually in the space of one night, even though I wanted to vomit on their shoes if they asked me once more.

CRIKEY | November 29, 2012 | CHINA | |

Minus the dog meat, Wuhan is delicious

It’s such a cliché to say a city is “sprawling”, but sometimes, it’s the only word. They’re the cities that reach into the horizon like a concrete Serengeti, with tangled freeways ducking and weaving through the landscape. They’re the cities that, come nightfall, look like an earthbound nebula pulsing below. They’re cities that, every time you think you’re about to break free, toss up another turnpike or roundabout, encircling you in its urban hedge maze.

Wuhan is that kind of city. It just sprawls.

K JOHNSON | November 26, 2012 | NAGORNO-KARABAKH | |

Red Ink Run: Tanks for the memory — part 2

Catch up on part 1 (which includes an explanation of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian tourists getting arrested for taking photos of tanks and eager tour guide Ashot’s #1 less for taking foreigners around Nagorno-Karabakh) here.

By 10am next morning I was crammed in the back seat of Ashot’s Lada with the two Japonski, as Ashot referred to them and Alessio. Marty managed to score the front seat.

“Three people OK!” Ashot said turning around to us from watching the road and veering towards oncoming traffic. “Four people, politzia!”. He took his hands off the wheel and motioned writing a ticket.

K JOHNSON | November 22, 2012 | AZERBAIJAN | |

Red Ink Run: Tanks for the memory — part 1

Fanaticism thrives on peripheries. I was thinking about this when the mashutka (minibus) pulled up at the exit to the bus station and flung its doors open. In poked the head of a man holding a religious hologramatic picture of the Virgin Mary morphing into Jesus on the crucifix in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other. Fortunately this was no zealot; rather a travelling salesman that diversified a little too much. The pictures were a flop but two people bought the meat cleavers, one of them sitting right behind me.

The bus closed its doors and continued on. I was in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

ALLAN SOUTARIS | November 22, 2012 | BURMA | |

Jumping cat spotting in Myanmar

Stepping my way past smiling custom officials I was somewhat apprehensive as what to expect from Myanmar. I hadn’t read much about Myanmar, but from what I’d seen posted on the internet over the past few years I was, well, a little timid. Yet, as the airport doors slid open, I was welcomed by a familiar face — Lionel Messi. Brightly illuminated, the giant billboard was one of many surprising western influences welcoming me to Myanmar.

CRIKEY | November 08, 2012 | TAIWAN | 2 |

Taiwan’s most notorious dish: stinky tofu

William Jackson writes: The smell is the worst part. It was described to me as “excrement — diarrhoea to be exact”. With a recommendation like that, how could I resist?

Stinky tofu (chòu dòufu) is Taiwan’s most notorious dish. A form of fermented tofu, it’s similar to blue cheese in that those who like it love it and those who don’t tend to gag on it.