Hong Kong

May 30, 2011


Crikey intern Chris Lau writes: I was born and raised in a city sparkly with neon-lights and packed with incredibly tall skyscrapers. It is a city that takes pride in being an international city and in a previous life was a British colony.

And nope, it’s not Sydney.

Hong Kong is my birthplace, a city where I spent 17 years of my life living as a local.

Continue reading “How to rock ‘n’ roll like a true HKer (part 1)”

On the road again

May 25, 2011


If you missed part one of Road Trip USA, catch up here.

Landing in San Francisco always makes me feel like I’m emerging from the Australian Stone Age as suddenly we are encompassed by a proliferation of high tech, and even more so as I wonder in slack-jawed awe at the hilly city’s incredible green consciousness.

This year’s arrival included a slightly negative carbon offset thanks to the sleek black limo my darling brother sent to pick us up. Nine-year-old Antigone, grinning madly next to me, exclaimed, “I never thought I’d be in one of these before I’m even famous!” A very luxurious ride to Noe Valley, although unusual, was welcome after 20 hours travel, especially facing the TSA (shoeless) at LAX alone with the brood.

Continue reading “What’s green, high tech & full of taquerias? San Francisco!”


May 23, 2011


Claire Chaffey writes: When my housemate came home from work with a human tooth lodged in the sole of her shoe, it confirmed what I had come to know in my time as a volunteer in Accra, Ghana: I definitely wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The offending molar was rather large, slimy and yellowing and was stuck fast in the bottom of her thong. Believing it a pebble, she plucked it out at the dinner table just as we were sitting down to our evening meal of goat stew and steamed plantain.

Ordinarily, I might have found this event quite strange, but here in Accra, Ghana’s sprawling and boisterous capital city, I barely battered an eyelid.

Continue reading “An African education in Accra”

An Expat Opinion

May 20, 2011


Can you ever go home again? For most expats, home is a humble little word filled with a wealth of meaning.

Home can evoke wistfulness and a feeling of longing that seems to settle in your soul. Or home can simply mean a place you visit once a year, if only to keep your family happy. Or home can be in many places at once, wherever you have a left a piece of your heart.

The longer you embark on an expat lifestyle, the more fluid the concept of home becomes.

Continue reading “Home: a humble little word with a whole world of meaning”


May 18, 2011


And the winner is… Azerbaijan!

Azerbaijan -- a country that was on no one's mind a mere week ago until a television audience of millions watched it soar to glory in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest on the weekend. With the ink on its name barely dry on the victor’s podium, Crikey gets the jump with the following definitive list of some of the greatest things about visiting the country.

Azerbaijan — a country that was on no one’s mind a mere week ago until a television audience of millions watched it soar to glory in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest on the weekend.

But where is it? What will next year’s Eurovision contestants find there when they visit Baku to perform?

With the ink on its name barely dry on the victor’s podium, Crikey gets the jump with the following definitive list of the greatest things about visiting the country.

Continue reading “And the winner is… Azerbaijan!”


May 17, 2011


Nicola Heath writes: There’’s a reason it’s called the “off-season”. Pleasure-seeking humans are invariably drawn to sunny skies and welcoming climes.

Which would explain the absence of fellow tourists in Turkey when I visit in February. Having lived in Melbourne and London, I’m not one to be put off by a bit of challenging weather — unless it turns out it’s an even zero and the icy rain is coming in sideways.

But these are the conditions we battle through crossing Istanbul’s Taksim Square, and crossing it again, cursing, trying to find the rental car office.

Continue reading “A chilly drive through Turkey”

From quiet life in the mountains, to headlines around the globe, the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan, has found itself blinking in the media spotlight this week as the perfect spot for a murderous terror leader to leave in relative peace.

Yet Pakistan may demolish Osama bin Laden’s hideout for fear of it turning into a tourist attraction for extremists. Already there are tourists (thought they seem more happy family than extremist) getting their photos taken outside bin Laden’s compound.

Continue reading “Abbottabad: the next big tourist hot spot?”


May 9, 2011


Part two: natural disasters are inevitable; those of the fashion variety are not.

Freelance journalist Laura Burgoine writes: The recent spate of natural disasters casting a path of destruction across the planet with the same vigour as Lindsay Lohan on a bender reinforces two things for me. Firstly that we can’t ever truly be prepared for what life throws our way and secondly that some forces just can’t be stopped.

In my first Back in a Bit post about Chile I argued the merits of being underprepared when traveling, so it seems only natural I should now extend this theory to Acts of God.

Having survived the biggest earthquake for 50 years, the 8.8 magnitude quake that struck Chile in February 2010, I quickly took it upon myself to become quite blasé in the face of disaster. Of course at the time my fearlessness was fueled by the most seductive of temptresses: mediocre fame brought on by five minutes of local media attention. My meteoric rise to small-scale notoriety was born from a few phone interviews with Australian radio shows, and a 30-second cameo on Channel Nine’s 6 o’clock news. Remember even the chk-chk boom girl had her fifteen minutes.

It’s probably important to point out that I was in Santiago at the time the disaster struck, not at the epicentre of the earthquake. But nonetheless I was there, in the country, and I was completely unprepared.

The quake struck at around 3am, and I, like many others woken by the shaking, initially believed it to be just a tremor. Continue reading “How to light a gas stove, survive an earthquake and other Chilean disasters (part 2)”

United Kingdom

May 4, 2011


Crikey intern Grace Jennings-Edquist writes: Like most urbane modern-day Australian youths, I love to travel. Not within the bounds of my own enormous country — because, predictably, I plan to incorporate the seeing of local sights into my post-retirement itinerary — but rather to Europe, South East Asia, and other destinations favoured by inner-city and self-proclaimed ‘wordly types’.

Although this penchant for inter-continental travel has become a rather tired trait amongst University-aged Australians, I cringe at the thought of being regarded as merely another tourist on my travels. I scoff at the Walkabouts and Billabongs of the Northern hemisphere, brimming as they are with schoolies groups gleefully flashing Bintang Beer singlets — a uniform of the Aussie tourist that, along with the dodgy tattoo and the obligatory hair bead — I entirely eschew. I mentally compartmentalize myself, probably misguidedly, into a different category from those bucks’ night troupes who did not get the memo that nationalistic boozefests verge on distasteful in the context of a small South Asian village.

You can imagine my horror, then, when I arrived in London last year, bought myself a wine in the nearest pub, and was promptly labelled JAFA — that’s right, Just Another F*cking Australian — by the proper local geezer sitting next to me. Continue reading “Avoiding the JAFA tag: tips for living in London”


May 2, 2011


Jean McBain writes: Australia is a country of migrants, with an exciting mix of cultures and peoples that enriches our society and shapes our national identity. We’ve got nothing on Europe though.

Look at any historical moment in Europe over the last few millennia and you’ll find constant demographic movement. Well before the EU was a twinkle in the European coal industry’s eye, the Romans, Goths, Huns, Normans and others were happily marching across the European continent. In their wake they left, amongst other things, a swirl of languages, cultures and genes that have caused endless headaches for drawers of borders (just look at the town of Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog in the Benelux region).

Migration around the European continent (including the British Isles) wasn’t just in the form of marauding armies of course. An endless flow of individuals shifted from one region to another in search of work, opportunity or warmer climes.

Come 2011, and despite all of the supposed extra freedom of movement, travel around the European continent feels fairly restricted at times. Those times tend to coincide with moments of crossing the French borders, as a train full of passengers (including a number of migrants and activists) discovered recently on their way from Ventimiglia in Italy to Nice in France. The train was stopped before crossing the border, igniting a minor diplomatic storm between France and Italy.

Over 20,000 asylum seekers, primarily from Libya and Tunisia, have arrived in Italy since January. French authorities have been doing everything in their power to prevent these displaced people from moving into France, including closing the border to trains from Italy.

A week before this border squabble hit news headlines, my husband Andrew and I happily climbed aboard the first of three trains that would take us on the same route from Italy to France, on our way to Barcelona. We chatted happily about following in the footsteps of Hannibal, who crossed the Alps here with his elephants over two thousand years ago.

As we crossed into France the train stopped at a small-town station. A group of French police boarded the train and checked each passenger’s passport. A few minutes later I looked out the window to see a young man, flanked by police, being marched off to detention and, no doubt, deportation. I think he must have been younger than I am. Continue reading “A continent of migrant stories”