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India

Dec 26, 2011

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Anna Daniels writes: There are certain situations in life that force you to take stock. Sitting at your parents dining room table, alone, on a Friday night at age 30, is one such situation. There are pictures hanging on walls and framed photos atop furniture reminding me of bad hair days and carefree childhood adventures. This house is as old as I am and so incredibly familiar that if there was a blackout, I could still comfortably make some toast, have a shower and put the washing on.

I’m back here, in Rockhampton, after leaving a job as a television producer in Melbourne. The work was fun, with a sparkle of glamour, but the commutes were long and the weather challenging. When you grow up under Queensland’s big, sunny skies, it’s hard to accept that the cold, grey skyline is just the way it is. So, I gave notice, citing the weather as my main reason for leaving, and took off for a month long holiday to India.

Continue reading “Rocky Road: the challenges of returning to your hometown”

I don’t really like Christmas. Several years ago, channelling my inner fourteen-year old, I stormed out of a family dinner and swore I would never return home for Christmas again. And because my inner fourteen-year old is about as stubborn as my outer thirty-something, I’ve stuck to my guns. This year, I’ll be swinging in a hammock on a Cambodian tropical island paradise. So there.

You’d think Vietnam is a great place for Scrooges, but actually the Vietnamese love Christmas. I mean, they really love Christmas. Every year, come December 1, the whole of Hanoi is instantly festooned with fairy lights, fake snow, and electric Santas playing saxophones. Every supermarket and café switches their playlist over to Kindergarten Children Singing Jingle Bells On Repeat.

Continue reading “Christmas without the tradition and religion? Welcome to Vietnam”

John Newton writes: This story was written in 1982. I was travelling from Rome to Barcelona on the way to Mallorca with my lover at the time (and for some years after) and her daughter. 

We arrived in Arles at around ten o’clock in the evening in a sickening Seat Ritmo, having driven all the way from Barcelona in a day. The main reason for the interest in Arles at Ascension is the Romany pilgrimage, the annual convocation of Gypsies at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer. On the edge of the desolate salt marsh of the Etang de Vaccare, the celebrated Camargue is home to herds of half wild white horses, Europe’s last breeding ground for the pink flamingo, and also a breeding ground for the fighting bulls of Provence.

I had been entranced with the idea of the Gypsy pilgrimage to Les Saintes Maries (as it is called locally) since reading about it in Jan Yorrs’ book The Gypsies.

Continue reading “Madame Bessiere and the gypsies”

Talkin' Travel

Dec 19, 2011

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Crikey intern Jess Gregory writes: As the year winds up, the Christmas holiday season kicks off. But how do you pick one hotel over another? How do you know if a famous old hotel is just cruising on its reputation from the 1920s or still holds up? Where do you find those tiny hotel gems, where service is impeccable and its four rooms deem it too small to make the guidebooks?

Probably on the internet. But which travel review sites should you trust?

Continue reading “Who advised your trip? Reviewing the top travel review sites”

Paul Johannessen writes: Weeks have passed already and a good deal of time has been spent reflecting over my very short but intense trip to Ishinomaki. The town lies in Miyagi prefecture, a few hundred kilometres north of Tokyo and over a hundred kilometres north of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear absurdity. I had wanted to go north for a long time, but was unsure how to be of any use, and was reluctant to just go purely out of curiosity.

Then, this year’s One Day on Earth project was to take place on 11.11.11, and this seemed like a good opportunity to head into the affected area. Coincidentally it would be eight months to the day since the earthquake and tsunami, and would also in fact be a full moon.

Continue reading “Visiting Japan’s tsunami-devastated towns eight months on”

New York

Dec 11, 2011

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Today I learned how to cook the tasty dish, Pescado a la Veracruzana, at my favourite Mexican restaurant. That was at midday. It’s nearly midnight in New York and I’m still on a high. Sustaining this level of ecstasy usually costs a lot more than what I paid for lunch.

Problem is I won’t be able to get my Mexican hit once I’m back home. And so I planted a seed. Open up an offshoot in Sydney where demand for good, authentic Mexican food far outstrips supply, I recommended to Arturo, the chef-owner at Chavela’s.

Continue reading “Dios mio, these tacos are worth a trip to New York”

Australia

Dec 9, 2011

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Crikey intern Harrison Polites writes: I was seeing red when I boarded my flight to the Gold Coast. No, Alan Joyce didn’t casually end my holiday before it began. I was staring at the red, second degree sunburn all down my friend’s back and legs. I was thinking: “I really hope this doesn’t ruin my holiday.”

Emily and I had been planning a holiday to the Gold Coast for the past year. We wanted to revisit the theme parks and re-live memories from our childhood holidays.

Sunburn was never part of the plan.

Continue reading “Seeing red over a trip to the Gold Coast”

USA

Dec 6, 2011

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Halloween in the Mormon capital

When we first started planning our trip, Utah was a state I casually mentioned wanting to see -- mostly out of a morbid curiosity about strict Western religions and some photos I'd seen of Salt Lake City. So we added it to the itinerary and no matter which way we flipped the direction of our trip, Halloween fell during our stay in SLC.

Freelancer Julia Gardiner writes: When we first started planning our trip, Utah was a state I casually mentioned wanting to see — mostly out of a morbid curiosity about strict Western religions and some photos I’d seen of Salt Lake City. So we added it to the itinerary and no matter which way we flipped the direction of our trip, Halloween fell during our stay in SLC.

In the first week or so on the road, we drank hard and fast with as many Americans as we could find, from a man who rigged trapeze artists in Las Vegas circuses to classical music students, to bartenders, to musicians. Without fail, we mentioned we were spending Halloween in SLC, which was usually met with raised eyebrows, and led to a lot of nervous laughter on our part.

Continue reading “Halloween in the Mormon capital”

 I don’t actually remember being born, but I imagine it probably would have felt something like this.

It’s hot, dark and damp, and I’m covered from head to toe in a thick, gooey sludge. With sweat clouding my view, I’m sliding through a suffocating tunnel, crawling desperately towards a light which seems so very far away.

I’m desperate to gasp clean, crisp air, and my hair is stuck to my forehead in an unflattering blob of disgustingness. Claustrophobia is setting in as I will my knees and elbows to move faster; away from the stinky mire in which I fear I’ll drown and closer to what I am praying is the exit.

And then, suddenly, it’s over.

Continue reading “Dining at the mud buffet”

“You’ll get bored,” she’d said to me, with such certainty that I wondered if it might be true. ‘She’ was my boss, and they were her parting words as I walked out of my office, family photos from my desk and farewell card stashed in my bag, three years in a country I couldn’t even locate on a map stretching out ahead of me.

“Learn Polish, do yoga and give dinner parties,” was my standard response when people asked what I would do. But it was a glib non-answer. The truth was, I had no idea what I’d do in Poland. Have a few months off, do a bit of travelling. But what then? I didn’t know anyone who didn’t work. What did they do?

Was she right? Would I get bored?

Now, somehow, I’m on the other side. Another office, another boss, and having plenty of those, “did that all really happen or was it a dream?” moments. And with it all behind me, it seems like a good time to review my performance.

Continue reading “So long, and thanks for all the sour cream”