Travel Stories

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Travelling light: it's in the bag

29 Mar 2009  |  2 min read  |  1

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 stopover to interview Arnold Schwarzenegger... > Read more

John Mayall: Fly Tomorrow (1968, see Essential Elsewhere)

Ko Samet, Thailand: Lonely days

26 Mar 2009  |  2 min read

Greg would have been hard to miss in most places, but on the small beach at the southern end of Ko Samet -- a tiny teardrop-shaped island off to the east of Bangkok -- he was impossible to overlook. It wasn't just that he was, shall we say, a large man. Or that he was conspicuously gay. And it wasn't even that he carried the pampered Miss Spitty, a white Pomeranian, with him everywhere.... > Read more

Mendocino, California: On the road again

6 Mar 2009  |  1 min read

Sal introduced himself in the lounge bar of the Hotel Mendocino in the mellow seaside town about four hours north of San Francisco. "I'm a Ferrari doctor," he said. That figured. The hotel dining room had been fully booked by those on the Mille Miglia, a 1000 mile tour for cars manufactured between 1927 and 1957. The street outside was gleaming with much-loved, classic cars,... > Read more

Hawaii: Where Nature shows off

3 Dec 2008  |  5 min read  |  1

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 where you take life and the day at its own pace,... > Read more

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

22 Nov 2008  |  4 min read  |  1

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. It’s curious what you find when looking... > Read more

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

16 Nov 2008  |  2 min read

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 Graham,” she said with the kind of charm I am... > Read more

The Dordogne, France: Where centuries roll back

27 Oct 2008  |  4 min read

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 the architecture and landscapes quaint or... > Read more

Europe, America and Elsewhere: Idiocy spoken here

25 Oct 2008  |  2 min read  |  1

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 - which I have picked up along the way. I'll add to... > Read more

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

16 Oct 2008  |  5 min read  |  8

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 fire station: a general store, two hotels, the... > Read more

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

16 Oct 2008  |  5 min read

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 metal replica of Supercar -- from the 60s Gerry... > Read more

Taipei in Taiwan: a visitor's guide

15 Oct 2008  |  3 min read

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 kill before the flight out. Here, then, is a... > Read more

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

6 Oct 2008  |  3 min read

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 menswear gestured toward a selection of... > Read more

Waipari, Taupo: Into the empty valleys full of life

5 Oct 2008  |  5 min read

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. In fact on this warm afternoon until a mellow dusk... > Read more

Ullungdo, South Korea: The lure of the lair

22 Sep 2008  |  5 min read

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 onto maps, let alone anyone's travel plans. But... > Read more

Bako in Sarawak: Monkeys, metaphysics and heavy metal music

10 Sep 2008  |  2 min read

There are many things you can expect at the famous Bako National Park in Sarawak, some 40 minutes from the capital Kuching by car then a small boat across the river. At Bako you could expect proboscis monkeys, biting ants the length of half a matchstick, the Borneo bearded pigs which are so solid you feel you could throw a saddle on them, poisonous snakes, vibrant blue skipper mud crabs in the... > Read more

Mendocino, California: Life in the mellow lane

8 Sep 2008  |  5 min read

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 Francisco as the hippie vibe took off and, like so... > Read more

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

1 Jul 2008  |  1 min read

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 in that part of the aircraft where the cabin crew... > Read more

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

13 Jun 2008  |  19 min read

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 exclusive digs. (see tag) But mostly I end up in... > Read more

Tropical North Queensland 2007: Big and wide but compact

23 Apr 2008  |  19 min read

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 that it doesn’t boast. Because it... > Read more

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

10 Oct 2007  |  2 min read

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 my job was somewhat less serious. I was there to... > Read more