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Oman

Oct 30, 2011

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Venise Alstergren writes: Clutching a copy of the latest Lonely Planet: Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsula and a clapped out bag, I wondered if the text I’d underlined could possibly be correct. The writer had raved about Oman’s khors-rocky inlets and its pristine beaches, about its windswept deserts and the stark and treeless mountains.

Almost anything was better than the blasting heat of Dubai and the month long trial of Ramadan. Therefore it was with little sense of loss that I hopped into the proffered lift by a 4WD owner and headed for Khasab on the Musandam Peninsula on the Strait of Hormuz in Oman.

Continue reading “Oman: where dolphins and turquoise water meet camels with birth control bags”

There is something peculiarly English about the music festival. I think it has something to do with Glastonbury, mud, and Kate Moss. I’ve been to loads of Australian festivals over the years (although perhaps not any more, considering the overblown ticket prices) but a UK outing was high on my list of cultural things to do. This year I didn’t go to Glasto, but I went to its boutique baby alternative, the season-ending Bestival on the Isle of Wight, curated by Mr Rob Da Bank.

Season-ending is code, of course, for “perilously close to the colder months” and indeed the weather forecasts for the September weekend had me in a frenzy of sun-loving, Antipodean dread.

Continue reading “Just 50,000 of my closest music loving friends and a small hurricane”

There’s a nauseating article all over the Fairfax press today titled “Bali: why bother?“. In it Age journalist Carolyn Webb talks about her recent holiday to Ubud, Bali, where touts harassing her to buy things and offering her transport on their motorbikes ruined her holiday. The souvenirs were too tacky, the streets were too noisy and the sales people too desperate in their poverty, says Webb.

In essence, all the very typical things that make up a holiday in a developing country.

Webb’s article is probably the worst travel article I’ve ever read.

Continue reading The Age goes to Bali: the worst travel article ever published?”

New York

Oct 20, 2011

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New York, how do I love thee

This week a recruiter asked me what someone from Australia (with its miraculous 5% unemployment rate) is doing looking for a job in New York. Fair question. The number of people unemployed in the US, at 14 million, is equivalent to two-thirds of the population of Australia.

Caroline Regidor writes: This week a recruiter asked me what someone from Australia (with its miraculous 5% unemployment rate) is doing looking for a job in New York. Fair question. The number of people unemployed in the US, at 14 million, is equivalent to two-thirds of the population of Australia.

“It’s the centre of the centre,” I answered, paraphrasing Zadie Smith’s Autograph Man. He agreed and proceeded to give me sage advice on the current market, from one Brooklynite to another.

New York, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Continue reading “New York, how do I love thee”

James Salmon writes: Colombia’s new tourism slogan of “The only risk is wanting to stay” means I couldn’t say I wasn’t warned. And after nearly two months enjoying all the country had to offer — hiking to the Lost City of the Tayrona, partying in the Caribbean metropolis Cartagena, lazing on the Guajira Peninsula’s desolate beaches, perving on hotties in Medellin — and still wanting more, I was facing the consequences; an encounter with the dreaded DAS.

The Administrative Department of Security, the Colombian equivalent of the CIA, handles security and counterintelligence services for the government and is a primary agency in its eternal conflict with drug cartels, leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups. This being Colombia, it has of course been accused of collusion with the very same groups, along with spying on the government’s political rivals.

Continue reading “Battling it out with Colombia’s CIA”

Philippines

Oct 17, 2011

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Read part one of this series — Room for one more: how to ride a jeepney

Henry Bateman writes: Although being the backbone of Manila’s public transport system, jeepneys traverse a pre-determined route of 10 to 15 kms. This means to get across town you will need an intricate knowledge of Metro Manila geography to negotiate the 3 to 5 rides required. An alternative, if you are headed for a popular destination is to catch a bus. Buses in the Philippines come in two varieties, ordinary and airconditioned.

Continue reading “Room for one more: riding the buses of Manila”

Syria

Oct 13, 2011

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Generosity in the oldest city in the world

It’s that combination of history that got me, and the people, so unexpectedly warm and full of generous ways -- from sharing their sweets with you on a bus trip from Damascus to Palmrya to searching up and down the street for someone with sufficient English to guide you back to the Ummayad Mosque, after you have become hopelessly lost in the myriad labyrinthine ways of the Old City of Damascus.

Margaret O’Connor writes: I liked Syria so much on my first visit in 2009 that I came back again earlier this year before the current unrest made travel there problematic. It’s that combination of history that got me, and the people, so unexpectedly warm and full of generous ways — from sharing their sweets with you on a bus trip from Damascus to Palmrya to searching up and down the street for someone with sufficient English to guide you back to the Ummayad Mosque, after you have become hopelessly lost in the myriad labyrinthine ways of the Old City of Damascus. These are seriously charming people, a fact which I’ve beaten friends, family and work colleagues over the head with ever since.

Continue reading “Generosity in the oldest city in the world”

Thailand

Oct 10, 2011

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Matt Smith writes: Deep within Thailand, north of the city of Chiang Mai and near the Burmese border, is a Mahout Training School.

Put simply, a mahout is a person who works with elephants (a ‘chang’). At one time there were elephants all over Thailand, but over time, and pressured by deforestation, their numbers have dwindled. Ten years ago there were 4000, now there’s 2500, and most of those are in captivity.

Traditionally elephants were used for a variety of tasks, often transport, and for heavy-lifting, particularly hauling timber. They were also used in battle, with kings mounting the beasts to lead the Thai in war against the Burmese. Now a great number of them are used to ferry tourists around and the few that are in the wild are under threat from poachers.

Continue reading “The blood, sweat and fears in riding an elephant”

Henry Bateman writes: The Philippines is renowned for its multi-coloured, highly decorated jeepneys. But after about 10 minutes in the country, you realize that these are the exception.

Officially referred to as PUJs, the majority are drab utilitarian vehicles with the route details painted on their sides being their major decoration and more often than not belching black smoke. That being said, they are the back bone of the public transport system as they career down major thoroughfares and side streets playing tag with each other.

Continue reading “Room for one more: how to ride a jeepney”