travel stories

travel stories Content tagged as travel stories.

Travels

Some of Graham's travel stories with an emphasis on odd destinations, or a different view of the familiar. Must-see places and some to avoid. and encounters with unusual characters, usually in colourful places in Elsewhere. All stories copyright Graham Reid.

Cultural

Essays and interviews in the world of the arts, architecture, design, journalism, politics and culture. And more, which appeal to the curious spirit of Elsewhere  . . .

Travel Books

Travel Books

Postcards From Elsewhere WINNER: WHITCOULLS TRAVEL BOOK OF THE YEAR 2006 critical comments . . . "His engaging style makes these vicarious journeys seem especially real ... his marvellous ability with words delivers well-written passages that give the reader an enhanced sense of location" - New Zealand Herald "His...

Something

Short stories, satires, thinking-out-loud stuff and nonsense for your enjoyment, amusement . . . or otherwise. Just utterly Elsewhere.

Up where I belong? Luxury accommodation in Cairns (2007)

Up where I belong? Luxury accommodation in Cairns (2007)

To the best of my knowledge the words “upgrade” and “Mr Reid” have never appeared in the same sentence. Certainly I have stayed in some luxurious hotels -- Sorrento’s Grand Hotel Cocumella (right) gets passing mention here to make you envious -- but I knew about them in advance. Yes, a couple of times I have been...

Hawaii: Where Nature shows off

Hawaii: Where Nature shows off

The dramatically beautiful island of Kaua’i -- a 20 minute flight from Honolulu and not to be missed -- is where Nature shows off in the towering cliffs and deep valleys of the largely impassable Na Pali coast. However Kaua’i, known as the Garden Island, is also a place of intimate details and easy to self-drive around, a place...

Uluru/Ayers Rock, Outback Australia: Into the great wide open

Uluru/Ayers Rock, Outback Australia: Into the great wide open

>Uluru at the close of another cloudless day in the desert. In the designated “sunset viewing spot” a few kilometres from the big red rock, campervans and cars are arriving. In this tiny part of the seemingly endless landscape, largely silent except for the whistle of wind through scrubby Spinifex and myrtle trees, the air is...

Vancouver, Canada: A user's guide

Vancouver, Canada: A user's guide

To be honest, I can’t tell you whether you can get a decent cup of coffee in Vancouver, coffee doesn’t interest me much. What I can tell you however is that you won’t be short of a cup. On fashionable Robson St right outside my hotel was a Starbucks, and two blocks down on the corner of Thurlow a couple more faced each...

Sorrento, Italy: In the tower of the Saracins, luxury travel

Sorrento, Italy: In the tower of the Saracins, luxury travel

Over cocktails Lionello -- who owns a luxury hotel in Sorrento -- insists we go to his friend Gennaro’s restaurant. “He is a master, he has a gift,” he says enthusiastically, advising us away from his own dining room which had, the previous night, offered food that redefined the word sublime. “But is he...

Seoul, South Korea: Soul to Seoul, a bloggers journal 2008

Seoul, South Korea: Soul to Seoul, a bloggers journal 2008

Because I always travel cheap I usually forget that not everyone does. Sure I've stayed in some of the world's most luxurious and most private hotels -- but that's what happens unfortunately when you win travel writing awards sponsored by the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group and they insist on putting you up in their exotic and...

Waipari, Taupo: Into the empty valleys full of life

Waipari, Taupo: Into the empty valleys full of life

Roger pulls his four-wheel drive around another bend through the bush and there before us, in the middle of the rough road, is a fawn. Roger brakes gently and we come to a dusty halt. The fawn starts abruptly, looks directly at us for a full half minute, then bounds off into the dense bush. It won’t be the last deer we will see today....

Bangkok, Thailand: To shop, or not. That is the question

Bangkok, Thailand: To shop, or not. That is the question

The day after I returned home from Thailand I went to a well-known menswear store on Queen St to buy a tie, not something I can recall having done before. But if a man has had a handsome black silk suit made by one of the thousands of high-quality tailors in Bangkok for a mere $260, a gentleman needs a tie. When the friendly assistant in the...

Taipei in Taiwan: a visitor's guide

Taipei in Taiwan: a visitor's guide

Taipei - population about 2.5 million - must be the easiest city in the world to leave. A million motor scooters, yellow dust from China, sometimes unbearable heat ... for the tourist it's always time to head home or to the quieter, cleaner but usually more dull cities on the east coast. But some people have business in Taipei, then time to...

Melbourne, Australia: Alt.shopping tips for those who don't shop, but buy

Melbourne, Australia: Alt.shopping tips for those who don't shop, but buy

People like me -- men mostly, I suspect -- don’t like shopping. We certainly buy things, but what some people call shopping seems to entail hours of looking with little to show for it. That’s browsing and that isn’t me. I go to shops and buy things. Sometimes very stupid things. Which explains why I have a beautiful...

Blackball, New Zealand: They won't make them like this anymore

Blackball, New Zealand: They won't make them like this anymore

In small-town Blackball the locals have a saying: “Blackball, the centre of the universe . . . the part where nothing moves”. It helps to have a sense of humour when you live in the centre of a silent universe. These days Blackball, less than half an hour inland from Greymouth, can only boast five major buildings other than...

The Dordogne, France: Where centuries roll back

The Dordogne, France: Where centuries roll back

Half an hour out of Bordeaux I stop the car so we can gasp at the beauty of a crumbling chateau on a picture perfect hillside. Ten minutes later I do the same above a valley deliberately posing for a photograph. A few kilometres further it’s for an old stone house by the roadside. The day is clear and radiant blue, the breeze warm, and...

Europe, America and Elsewhere: Idiocy spoken here

Europe, America and Elsewhere: Idiocy spoken here

In New York's Village Voice, for 20 years until 1995, there was a weekly comic strip called Stan Mack's Real Life Funnies in which artist Mack guaranteed all the dialogue was a genuine, overheard conversation. And really, you probably couldn't make them up. Here are some genuine, overheard comments - not all by Americans I have to note -...

Venice, Italy: The face of a footnote

Venice, Italy: The face of a footnote

The narrow lane leading from Venice’s Piazza San Marco -- the Merceria as it is called -- is narrow and crowded. But it has always been so. This was once the main street in this city of eroding beauty and remains the shortest route between San Marco and the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge). That means lots of tourists, designer label...

San Francisco and Seattle: are you talkin' to me?

San Francisco and Seattle: are you talkin' to me?

It was at a mayoral dinner function in Seoul recently and I had got dressed up. For the previous few days my young interpreter had seen me in jeans and an open-neck shirt -- so I guess it was her surprise at my well-groomed appearance in dinner jacket, pale pink shirt and red tie that made her startled. “You are very handsome, Mr...

Barcelona, Spain: Sex and drunks and rock'n'roll

Barcelona, Spain: Sex and drunks and rock'n'roll

Warning: this article contains sexually graphic and amusing content. There was no suitable excuse to be standing outside Barcelona’s Museu de l’Erotica. It was a dreary mid-morning and the sky had a hangover. So did I. The previous evening, which stretched close to dawn, I had stumbled on the district known as El Raval....

Honolulu, Hawaii: Islamistan in Alohaland

Honolulu, Hawaii: Islamistan in Alohaland

At the end of her sometimes scandalous life, the American heiress and socialite Doris Duke was unlikely to go into that great goodnight without some attendant controversy -- and she didn’t disappoint. When she died in at age 80 in 1993 at one of her homes -- the so-called “Falcon’s Lair” in Beverly Hills which had...

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah: Headlong into the future

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah: Headlong into the future

Curiously enough, the place I know best in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah on the northernmost tip of Malaysian Borneo, is the airport. In the course of a few days I was there five times; while going to and from Brunei, then the city of Sandakan where I went to see orang utan and took in a city tour, and finally when I flew back to KL, Kuala...

Travelling light: it's in the bag

Travelling light: it's in the bag

As with most people who fancy themselves as a glamorously casual traveller -- able to pick up and run when a flight becomes available -- I would, for many years, pride myself on how economically I could pack a bag. Regular and brief trips to Los Angeles, Sydney or Melbourne made me skilled in the art of leaving things out. A weekend...

Paris, France: Clubbed by culture

Paris, France: Clubbed by culture

We were -- with a few exceptions in the café -- exhausted foot soldiers in the Art Wars. The small café where we found ourselves that late afternoon, on the corner of Rue de l’Universite about 15 minutes walk from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, was our r’n’r refuge for an invigorating pastis, cold Belgian beer or...

East Coast, North Island of New Zealand: Hawkes Bay the long way

East Coast, North Island of New Zealand: Hawkes Bay the long way

The handbrake might give you a bit of trouble, says John as he finishes a litany of idiosyncrasies about his beautifully restored 1957 Mark Two Zephyr. I have already heard it can pop out of second, to put in a measure of Valvoline with the petrol, to check the water daily, and that riding the brakes downhill might lead to them overheating and...

Natchez Trace, Mississippi: The highway like Heaven

Natchez Trace, Mississippi: The highway like Heaven

One of the guidebooks we took on a recent drive across America wasn't particularly helpful when it came to scenery. Then again, the Rock'n'Roll Traveler USA was always going to be more interested in directing you the field in which Buddy Holly's plane crashed, and the Taliesyn Ballroom in Tennessee where the Sex Pistols played the second concert...

Berlin: Another brick in the Wall

Berlin: Another brick in the Wall

The first thing you see when you come out of the Bernauerstrasse underground station in Berlin is the ruin: no houses down one side of the road, just overgrown and scrappy wasteland spotted with slabs of crumbling concrete and rusting reinforcing steel. It is as if the homes which once stood here had been hastily bulldozed and their skeletons...

Elephant Polo in Thailand: Days of the Raj remembered (2006)

Elephant Polo in Thailand: Days of the Raj remembered (2006)

"The English invent the most stupid of sports," says John. He should know, he's English and we've been talking about cricket. We're sitting at the poolside bar in the sumptuous Anantara Resort and Spa near the coastal town of Hua Hin, three hours south of Bangkok. The reason for his outburst is the game we have spent this September...

Hua Hin, Thailand: Luxury with a private pool

Hua Hin, Thailand: Luxury with a private pool

Three hours drive south of Bangkok -- on a typically terrifying journey of close encounters and near-misses along the highway -- is the town of Hua Hin, little more than a shop-lined wide spot in the road for some tourists, and ignored completely by most others. But while the islands of south-east Thailand are becoming a clutter of beach...

Bushmills, Northern Ireland: The sweet smell of morning

Bushmills, Northern Ireland: The sweet smell of morning

This is how every working week should start: it’s 10am on a Monday and already the aroma of fine Irish whiskey — people around here would say “the finest” — is filling our lungs. Outside the North Atlantic crashes on ragged rocks and the wind whips over green fields, but here inside Bushmills Distillery on the...

Mt Shasta, California: Feeling the space

Mt Shasta, California: Feeling the space

Just a guess, but the hygienically pretty town of Mount Shasta on the side of the snow-capped peak of the same name in northern California has more post-hippie residue -- herbal healers, clairvoyants and metaphysical mentors -- than anywhere else on the planet. And they are the normal ones. In Mount Shasta, population around 4000, there...

Naples, Italy: You have been warned

Naples, Italy: You have been warned

"The thing with Napoli," said Alfonso leaving a pause for effect, "is the tourist people they love it or they do not. But I understand why they do not. The city, she is . . . " To be honest I can't remember exactly what he said next about his birthplace, but it could have been something like this: that Naples is noisy and...

Alberobello, Italy: Toytown in late summer

Alberobello, Italy: Toytown in late summer

The undistinguished slice of autostrada is almost deserted. Just us, and a gun-metal grey Mercedes -- a minute ago but a dot in the rear-view mirror -- disappearing into the distance ahead. We're in no such hurry so pull off to the Adriatic Coast which has been somewhere to our right this past hour as we have driven up this east coast of...

San Francisco to Sacramento: The road less travelled

San Francisco to Sacramento: The road less travelled

Bill Foster never saw an animal he didn't like. And like so much that he'd shoot it, have it's head chopped off and stuffed, and brought back to his bar in smalltown Rio Vista, halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. While most hit Interstate 80 and speed between SanFran's Bay Bridge to California's capital in a couple of hours, there...

McMinnville, Oregon: Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose folly

McMinnville, Oregon: Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose folly

In a flat field outside the small town of McMinnville in northwest Oregon is a building so large that cars visibly slow on the highway so the occupants can take a look at it. Even in America -- the birthplace of bigness -- this enormous squat A-frame with its frontage of glass panels is an outstanding structure. And it houses one of the...

Ullungdo, South Korea: The lure of the lair

Ullungdo, South Korea: The lure of the lair

God knows what I was thinking when I went to Ullungdo. It certainly wasn't for the well-advertised local attractions which are, in no particular order, dried squid, dried seaweed and -- its special delicacy -- pumpkin candy. Ullungdo is a spectacular lump of rock a few hours off the east coast of the bickering Koreas. It rarely makes it...

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana: In Cajun country

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana: In Cajun country

Norbert shuts off the small outboard and pulls the propeller out of the brackish water. He loosens the weeds which have fouled it and tosses them away. We sit in the silent stillness of Lake Martin beneath cypress trees and Tupelo gums, some of which are 300 years old. They have their roots in soil more than a metre below the still surface....

Austin, Texas (2004): Deep in the Arse of Texas

Austin, Texas (2004): Deep in the Arse of Texas

Drive through America's southern states tuned to country music radio stations and you'll hear it; Letters from Home by John Michael Montgomery. It's real catchy, was still in the top 20 of the country charts after six months, and you can guess what it's about. But in case you miss the sentimental message the video is even more literal:...

LA by bus: Carless in car town

LA by bus: Carless in car town

In the city of Los Angeles -- which is 19th-century Spanish for "the land where men walk on four wheels" -- it sometimes seems that only the socially disenfranchised take the bus. That's not entirely true, of course. Every day any number of good honest folk ride the MTA -- but so, too, do veterans of the alcohol wars, strange men who...

America, driving across the country (April-May 2004)

America, driving across the country (April-May 2004)

PART ONE: LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO AMERICA My fans are troubling me in America. You expect it in the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff, however. This character-filled landmark within whistle-blow of the Santa Fe rail line and just off Route 66 has hosted any number of famous characters, living and dead. From Zane Grey and Humphrey...

Cameron, Louisiana: The stink of shrimp and petroleum

Cameron, Louisiana: The stink of shrimp and petroleum

In 2005 smalltown Cameron in southwest Louisiana was washed away by Hurricane Rita and I suppose battered to hell again by Hurricane Katrina. It seemed tragic and . . . Well, let me tell you my memory of Cameron, a place we stayed in for one very long night while driving the Gulf Coast before heading up to Breaux Bridge then on to New Orleans....

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas: Don't Forget to Remember

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas: Don't Forget to Remember

A hot Monday morning and I'm sitting outside of what remains of the old Alamo in the centre of San Antonio, Texas. From here the Crockett Hotel looms above the old mission, and street cars and taxis rumble across land which was once splattered with the blood of hundreds. Tourists, few of them international if the visitors book can be...

Travel with seniors: practical advice for older travellers

Travel with seniors: practical advice for older travellers

We were in a crowded post office in Venice when I said to my mother-in-law Sue, "You know the first thing you pack when you travel? Patience." We needed it that morning. We were sending home unwanted clothes and a few souvenirs. We'd queued to buy the box, queued again to have it weighed and get the necessary paperwork (in duplicate,...

Coastal Trek Lodge, Vancouver Island, Canada: Where the wild things are

Coastal Trek Lodge, Vancouver Island, Canada: Where the wild things are

Halfway up the long, ever-climbing road where the numbers on the letterboxes are in the many thousands we see small flecks of white on the side of the road. Damn, but it is getting cold up here in the clouds, so I pump up the car heater and turn on the wipers to clear away the tiny drifts of snow. Finally we arrive at number 8100 on the...

Canada: Driving and Blogging from BC (A compendium of on-the-road blogs)

Canada: Driving and Blogging from BC (A compendium of on-the-road blogs)

So, five years on from 9/11 and what have we learned? Mostly that with heightened security arrangements we have yet to figure out a way of getting masses of people through airports without causing frustration, delays and rancour. As one who likes to fly -- yes, the seats are still uncomfortable but someone feeds you, brings you drinks, there...

Northland, New Zealand: After the Flood.

Northland, New Zealand: After the Flood.

For me there are two ideal kinds of lie-down, totally relaxing, long weekends away with a good book. The first and most obvious requires endless tropical warmth and hours of sunshine, and a beach or pool within waddling distance of the deck chair and buffet. The other is . . . Well, it’s sort of what we got when we went to the Golden...

Denniston, West Coast, New Zealand: Damned and damp

Denniston, West Coast, New Zealand: Damned and damp

The weather was perfect: fiercely cold, low mist and a chilling drizzle. This is ideal when you are at Denniston, because only in such miserable conditions can you get some small appreciation of what life must have been like here a century ago. At 600 metres above sea level and with the coast barely visible through the rolling mist, this former...

Beyond Whistler, Canada: And the road goes on forever

Beyond Whistler, Canada: And the road goes on forever

There's always some mild embarrassment when you don’t enjoy some place everyone expects you will. "Oh, you'll love Whistler," they all said. But I didn't. Admittedly I didn't see it at its snow-covered best and I’m sure this town just north of Vancouver is very pretty and vibrant in ski season. But I was there...

Sorrento, Italy: Where life takes a holiday

Sorrento, Italy: Where life takes a holiday

Giuseppe the concierge welcomes us with a slight bow and a broad smile, then waves us towards the front desk. I am flattered and surprised that he knows our names, but the reason becomes apparent as we sign in. We are the only two guests in the 50-room Grand Hotel Cocumella which occupies a balcony seat in the pretty town of Sorrento across the...

The Australian Outback: Dry land, dry characters, dry throat

The Australian Outback: Dry land, dry characters, dry throat

On a hot and cloudless morning in the arid Outback, Doug taxies his single-engine Cessna onto the rocky runway at Arkaroola, a strip of man-made flatland some 500kms north of Adelaide. He makes a routine safety check, kicks the plane into fast-forward and we rise into a blazing blue sky, looking down on a parched landscape of scrub and dusty...

Southwest Pacific: The Lonely Sea and the Sky

Southwest Pacific: The Lonely Sea and the Sky

The day before our Pacific cruise a brief news item caught my attention: a volcano in Vanuatu was spewing ash and thousands of villagers were being evacuated amidst fears of a major explosion. Maybe our restful cruise to Vanuatu would be more dramatic than anticipated? The following day as we cast off from Auckland few other passengers...

Louisiana Shrimp Etoufee

Louisiana Shrimp Etoufee

In my travel book Postcards from Elsewhere I write about being in cajun country in Louisiana where the bayou seems mysterious and the food is exceptional. That chapter about Breaux Bridge and the people we met is reproduced here for your amusement. As I say, one of the great things about that part of the world is the food, so here is a...

The Australian Outback: The Man Who Knew Too Much

The Australian Outback: The Man Who Knew Too Much

There's a much repeated reason why the men of Outback Australia are so tight-lipped. "Flies. Open your mouth and a fly gets in," says a weather-beaten guy in a faded Akubra at the bar outside Brisbane. He's merely repeating the myth but, by his subsequent silence, confirms the cliche of these men for whom large expanses of dust and...

Queenstown, New Zealand: And the Dream Goes On

Queenstown, New Zealand: And the Dream Goes On

Nine months ago my life wasn't like this. Everything was different. Then, the hard white sun would melt the early morning cool and the air would thicken with the smell of decaying jungle vegetation. On the cracked pavement of the town's only main street women would squat in doorways avoiding the equatorial heat as they sold their meagre...

Norfolk Island: An island of great Bounty

Norfolk Island: An island of great Bounty

“So, here we are on Norfolk Island,” said Richard as we stood by the baggage carousel and beneath the sign which read “Welkam tu Norf’k alien”. “Welcome to Norfolk Island,” I said pointing to the weird wording in the local dialect. He took it in, then added with the raise of an eyebrow: “And...

Dunedin, New Zealand: The old hometown looks . . .

Dunedin, New Zealand: The old hometown looks . . .

To be honest, I’d only been to Dunedin twice previously -- and I left early both times. A few years ago I spent a night there on my way to somewhere else, and when I was 17 I arrived as snow turned to soggy sludge in a cutting wind. I fled to the airport after an utterly miserable couple of hours. I should have liked Dunedin better on that...

Golden Triangle, Thailand: Where the girls are

Golden Triangle, Thailand: Where the girls are

Pale fingers of mist weave through the tree tops of the jungle. At just past dawn it is almost silent, only the faint call of birds and the distant putter of a long-tail boat on the Mekong River beyond the hill. I step onto the terrace of my hotel room into the balmy air. Already you can feel that the rains will come later today. I sniff in...

Oregon, USA: Night of the Hunters

Oregon, USA: Night of the Hunters

Sonny -- that's what the big bellowing men called him -- runs a restaurant in Klamath Falls, a town in central Oregon halfway between San Francisco and Portland. His place, the Dynasty, boasts "authentic Chinese food". Sonny is from Taiwan. This town was originally called Linkville, but a century or so ago the locals decided they...

British Columbia's Sunshine Coast: Under the endless blue

British Columbia's Sunshine Coast: Under the endless blue

Paul shoves the cap of his beer bottle into his jacket pocket and settles deeper into the wooden chair. "You know what I say to people who come here and find we don't have television in the rooms or cellphone coverage? I say, 'So what part of the name West Coast Wilderness Lodge' didn't you understand?" We laugh and clink bottles...

London, England: With a pinch of snuff

London, England: With a pinch of snuff

Curious what you find in the bottom of your bags -- and maybe keep -- after a trip away. I usually turn up napkins with scribbled addresses and notes, postcards and receipts, fliers from concerts or galleries, and the odd article torn from a local newspaper because it seemed so brilliantly incisive at the time. Mostly I throw such things away...

Ross, South Island of New Zealand: Home is where the hearth is

Ross, South Island of New Zealand: Home is where the hearth is

Good historic hotels are getting harder to find. Increasingly the elderly pubs of the nation are being gentrified and scrubbed clean. Their walls are being painted up nice, a colour consultant is hired, and the big boys move in and take what was once the character of the place and reshape it into something more . . . marketable? The history...

Seattle and the Boeing factory 2005: We have lift-off

Seattle and the Boeing factory 2005: We have lift-off

This is the place where words fail, where comparisons seem inadequate or, at best, only marginally helpful. This is where sheer scale overwhelms you, has you gasping. If this were a natural phenomenon you could demur to a higher authority, make reference to the hand of God raising it up from the earth, say something about being humbled in its...

SAMSON AND DELILAH, a film by WARWICK THORNTON (Madman DVD)

SAMSON AND DELILAH, a film by WARWICK THORNTON (Madman DVD)

Two years ago I was in and around Alice Springs, a town that trades on the idea it is close to Uluru. It isn't. The town has a fascinating, if brief, white-fellah history, the landscape in that part of the desert is spectacular, and as an outsider it was hard to get a grip on Aboriginal life in the area. The rumours were bad enough, the...

Adelaide, South Australia: The great indoors

Adelaide, South Australia: The great indoors

The young man behind the counter at the Art Gallery of South Australia gets talking as I'm buying a catalogue. He comes from somewhere else too but has been in Adelaide, a city with a population approximately that of Auckland, for over a decade. "I haven't seen a traffic jam for 11 years," he says -- and as an Aucklander I add that...

Belfast, Northern Ireland: History by taxi

Belfast, Northern Ireland: History by taxi

Billy Scott is probably the most famous taxi driver in Belfast. He didn’t tell me this -- he was too busy telling me other things -- and I only found out later he’d appeared on television travel shows, podcasts and the like. That was understandable because Billy is witty, chatty, knowledgeable and over-flowing with Irish charm and...

EUR, Italy: The facades of fascism

EUR, Italy: The facades of fascism

The view at sunset from these steps is spectacular. Old men have gathered to smoke cigarettes and silently watch the orange orb sink below a horizon punctuated by distant spires and domes. The view the other way is more problematic. And pretty ugly. This is EUR -- Exposizione Universale di Roma -- a district on the southern outskirts of Rome...

Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia: Art in the hills

Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia: Art in the hills

Gazing across the rolling Yarra Valley less than an hour from inner-city Melbourne, the eye can take in columns of grape vines m in orderly lines over low ridges, expensively manicured golf courses, and huge steroid-expanded homes running to many millions of dollars. In the distance lie the blue shimmering hills of the Great Divide. This is...

Mendocino, California: Life in the mellow lane

Mendocino, California: Life in the mellow lane

The Sir Douglas Quintet out of Texas didn't have too many hits in the 60s but they cracked one successful and catchy single as the decade drew to a close. The band sprung the biggest hit of their career with a paean to the small town of Mendocino 250 kilometres north of San Francisco. San Antonio-born band leader Doug Sahm had relocated to San...

Tokaanu, New Zealand 2007: Small towns on a slow up-spin

Tokaanu, New Zealand 2007: Small towns on a slow up-spin

About 10 or so years ago I spent a few days in Turangi on the southern shore of Lake Taupo in New Zealand's North Island. I was on an assignment for the Herald. I wish I could say the story involved fishing in a town that boldly asserts it is the Trout Fishing Capital of the World but, in deference to people are dedicated to that sport, I admit...

Kaua'i, Hawaiian Islands: The land where giants walked

Kaua'i, Hawaiian Islands: The land where giants walked

The beach bungalow where the King once stayed, just a short stroll from the white sand shore, is a sad and sorry sight today. The roof has caved in, the windows are blown out and the walls look perilously close to collapsing. It looks even worse in the wider context of this beautiful Pacific playground. Over there at the lagoon where...

Tropical North Queensland 2007: Big and wide but compact

Tropical North Queensland 2007: Big and wide but compact

It is a curious thing, but as big Australian cities boast about themselves and claim their points of difference, they all start to sound similar. Each will tell you of its wonderful seafood restaurants and café culture, hip bars and high-end shopping . . . The interesting thing about Cairns -- the gateway to Tropical North Queensland -- is...

Melaka, Peninsula Malaysia: The cuisine capital of Malaysia

Melaka, Peninsula Malaysia: The cuisine capital of Malaysia

Bong comes out of her busy kitchen in the elegant Seri Nyonya Peranakan Restaurant to explain how she learned the Baba-Nyonya culinary style unique to the town of Melaka, here on Malaysia’s west coast. “No, they do not teach this in any schools,” she laughs. “You have to learn it from when you are very young. I...

Kuching in Borneo Malaysia: Big city, small town

Kuching in Borneo Malaysia: Big city, small town

  “This is my kind of Malaysia,” says Bob from laidback California as we enjoy Tiger Beer at the James Brooke Bar and Bistro near the relaxing riverfront in Kuching. “It’s got just the right mix of a quiet old town and all the modern amenities.”We clink icy glasses in agreement. Like me, Bob had...

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Old and new, the same but different

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Old and new, the same but different

In Kuala Lumpur which offers a colourful multicultural tapestry of life, it was a small but significant image: just before the expensive frockshop in the up-market Starhill Gallery opened the middle-aged cleaning woman in a headscarf snapped off the vacuum cleaner and answered her cellphone. Behind her on a massive flat-screen a barely dressed...

AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS, a doco series by  CRISTINA TREBBI (SBS/Madman)

AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS, a doco series by CRISTINA TREBBI (SBS/Madman)

For clarification this interesting two part doco series should more correctly be titled "The Americas Before Columbus" as it's broad sweep looks at civilisations in what we now call South and Central America as much as those in "America". And although it inevitably relies on CGI in places to illustrate lost cities and...

Sydney, Australia: Family, friends and fine dining

Sydney, Australia: Family, friends and fine dining

Lucio pauses mid-stride as he passes my table and then – perhaps because he can recognise the colour and bouquet, or maybe he cheated and peaked at my order – says enthusiastically, “Ah, but you are drinking a wine from my region, Liguria”. He claps his hands gently then stares at me for a moment. What...

Various Artists: The Sound of Siam (Soundway)

Various Artists: The Sound of Siam (Soundway)

Increasingly the globe becomes a village -- and the local radio station is broadcasting oldies and archival stuff. Consider the recent excavating of music from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sixties South Africa, Dengue Fever's take on Cambodian psychedelic pop, the Shanghai lounge divas project . . . You sometimes get the sense that in every...

Dropkick Murphys: Going Out in Style (Born and Bred)

Dropkick Murphys: Going Out in Style (Born and Bred)

At one level this is another installment of raucous, shot-slamming, singalong rowdiness from Boston's Celtic-punk outfit . . . and in that it is not only effective and enjoyable. It certainly makes you want the bartender to splash another shot of whisky into your jar before you throw an arm around the shoulder of mate and bellow "burn me to...

Dublin, Ireland: Hold your hour and have another

Dublin, Ireland: Hold your hour and have another

The black and white image of the man on the small television screen looks like something from a remote world of more than a century ago: wearing a white shirt, braces to hold up wide flannel pants and heavy work boots, he shaves timber slats into shape, arranges them carefully and then hammers an iron hoop around them. Against the...

THE PENINSULA, HONG KONG: A building through space and time

THE PENINSULA, HONG KONG: A building through space and time

Only a fool would try to suggest that a single building – in this instance, worse, a luxurious hotel – could refract the story of city. But let's be foolish, because the history of the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, and the way we see it today, contains bright flashes of that unique city's history. The first time I saw the...

Edinburgh, Scotland: Rosslyn Chapel and the Da Vinci Code

Edinburgh, Scotland: Rosslyn Chapel and the Da Vinci Code

Given the straitened British economy you wonder if someone might bend the rules and put the name of the American writer Dan Brown forward for some royal acknowledgement come Queen's Birthday: Services to British tourism perhaps? Brown's blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code – over 83 million copies sold – is single-handedly...

Bali: Turn off your mind . . .

Bali: Turn off your mind . . .

Being a travel writer – as I have sometimes grandly described myself – means never being able to say you're on holiday. Every destination – even the most mundane or local – may hold an experience, a story, or a character you feel compelled to explore and perhaps convey in print. And so I have gone out of my way to...

Edinburgh, Scotland: Lauriston Castle and New Orleans

Edinburgh, Scotland: Lauriston Castle and New Orleans

Although separated by culture and the vast Atlantic Ocean, there is a curious link between the multi-cultural, musical city of New Orleans and an antique-filled castle in a leafy suburb of Edinburgh. Lauriston Castle – more a refined stately home than a castle with cannons – is one of those fascinating places where cultural...

Far North Queensland, Australia: Rock of ages

Far North Queensland, Australia: Rock of ages

By the time we get to the top, and it is only a slight uphill walk for 15 minutes, we are breathless in the dry heat and reaching for our water bottles. Below us the smooth sealed Peninsula Development Road leads south to Cairns some 180km away, but up here on the top of this valley near Laura, where a sign indicated the population was 70,...

Innsbruck: The imagined mountains

Innsbruck: The imagined mountains

For about four years, from when I was maybe 10, I carried a photograph of Innsbruck in my wallet. Of course at that age I had very little else to put in a wallet and I can't remember what else might have been stashed in the thing. But the picture of Innsbruck I can still conjure up. It was highly coloured -- the sky an impossibly vivid blue...

Holly Springs, Mississippi: A Little Less Conversation

Holly Springs, Mississippi: A Little Less Conversation

Holly Springs in north Mississippi has some interesting historic attractions. Probably. I wouldn't know. I didn't bother looking for them. Holly Springs is a bit out of the way even if you happen to be in the state, but this picturesque town -- which apparently changed hands 62 times during the Civil War -- is a useful midpoint on...

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