Travel Stories

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Sydney, Australia: High, wild and gone

27 Aug 2006  |  1 min read

Frank was never going to make old bones. He was an Aussie wide-boy and after a wild, suburban youth and service in Vietnam he'd returned to Sydney and become a stuntman. He was stocky, but larger than any room he occupied. His speaking voice terrified children and his raucous laugh set off car alarms, but he was gentle with his young daughter. Frank was likeable and tough, but you also... > Read more

Perth, Western Australia: Journey to the end of the world

16 Aug 2006  |  2 min read

For many years I thought Perth was in Western Australia. Then I went there. My recollection is this: up at around 5am to get a taxi to the airport to wait two hours before departure, three hours to Melbourne or Sydney or wherever it was to wait another two hours before the five hour flight to Perth. It seemed to take a couple of days to get to Perth, and when I arrived it was the middle of... > Read more

Singapore: A cheap treat

16 Aug 2006  |  2 min read

Singapore is awash with cheap eats and fine dining. From the outdoor restaurants in Chinatown and Little India to the exquisitely presented fine cuisine at the Zhang Jin Jei-designed My Humble House, it would be a hard heart or a cynical palate that couldn't find something interesting, if not outstanding. Local knowledge is always helpful when looking for a place to have dinner, so when my... > Read more

Fiji to Vancouver and beyond: My life lovin' friends: Parts One and Deux

24 Jul 2006  |  5 min read

Part One: Travel isn't usually conducive to long-term friendships. Any fork in the road can mean you and your new-found companions may part company, paths never to cross again. Which made is such a rare pleasure that I have seen Bob and Mary (from then-Vancouver and now-Victoria BC) a couple of times since we first met on a cruise around Fiji's Yasawa Islands one February. Bob'n'Mary... > Read more

Rome, Italy: The healing doll

17 Jul 2006  |  2 min read

There are few churches in Rome more interesting, or more overlooked, than Santa Maria in Aracoeli, tucked in beside the famous Vittoriano, the massive white monument which dominates Piazza Venezia and looks like an old Olivetti typewriter. But walk up a very steep flight of old steps and after a wheezing climb you enter one of the more fascinating places in the city. And tucked away in... > Read more

Vietnam, China and Elsewhere: First cut is the deepest

6 Jul 2006  |  2 min read

Much in the way that I always take a photograph out of the window of any room I stay in when I travel (if there is a window, and often there hasn't been), it has also been a habit of mine to have a shave in a country I am passing through. It's always an interesting experience and, if a cut-throat razor is involved as it often is, then a very trusting one also. You may come out feeling crisp and... > Read more

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

10 Jun 2006  |  6 min read

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 exotically named Forbidden Plateau Road and pull the... > Read more

The Pacific Ocean: No time to stop and chat

9 Jun 2006  |  2 min read

She was what my mother would have charitably described as "unfortunate". I saw her first on the Promenade Deck as the ship slipped its lines and slowly headed for the open sea. She was standing alone, but even in a crowd she would have been hard to miss: overweight, in her 30s at a guess, her dark hair pulled tight at the temples and hanging in a long and unruly ponytail, thick... > Read more

Southern Thailand: The untreated truth

9 Jun 2006  |  2 min read

The bamboo and thatch bungalows on the beach had the feel of a village: the family which owned them lived there, so did the staff of the small restaurant and their extended families, plus a few other unspecified people who came and went every day. I stayed a week or so in this quiet part of an island off Thailand's central east coast, initially eyed warily by an Australian new-comer, the... > Read more

Travel with seniors: practical advice for older travellers

6 Jun 2006  |  4 min read

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, not to be filled in at the counter), then queued... > Read more

St Maximin, France: The love of life

21 May 2006  |  1 min read

My friend Amanda's reputation -- some might say cheerful notoriety -- is well known around Uzes, a charming medieval town in Provence about 40 minutes north of Avignon. Amanda's village of St Maximin -- 10 minutes outside Uzes and where the writer Jean Racine used to stay -- has visitors and residents from all over the world, and many of them have been guests at Amanda's huge 18th century... > Read more

The Dalles, Oregon: The man who rode the wind

8 May 2006  |  2 min read

We had been at Chuck's bed and breakfast fewer than five minutes -- through the front door into the enormous lounge, into the kitchen and then out past the pool to the back gate -- when I asked him if he wind-surfed competitively. It seemed a fair question. We were standing by his van which had a board strapped to the top, there was another on his deck, the lounge had been lined with... > Read more

Hua Hin, Thailand: Heavy metal in Hua Hin

29 Mar 2006  |  1 min read

The night was noisy, the drinks were free and free-flowing, and this small corner of balmy Thailand seemed like it had been sent down from heaven -- with an endless buffet of European, Chinese, Thai and Japanese dinners. The party at Hua Hin had started just before sunset, the dancers and fashion show came on shortly afterwards, and beneath palms which waved in the evening breeze like a... > Read more

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

27 Mar 2006  |  42 min read

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 Bogart to John Wayne and REM's Michael Stipe, the... > Read more

Mekong Delta, Vietnam: History and its victim

20 Mar 2006  |  1 min read

Hai was using English again. He'd learned it many years before but it had been beaten out of him. Literally. It was a humid afternoon on a ferryboat on the Mekong when I noticed him through the crowd. He was making his way toward me, his eyes wide with yearning. As with so many Vietnamese he wanted to practice his English, and like so many he had a story to tell. He had been 18 when he... > Read more

Tokyo, Japan: Night cries

15 Mar 2006  |  1 min read

The sound of a baby crying in the night is a terrifying thing. The screams go on and on, no one seems to be taking care of it, you look out your window into the darkness but cannot see where the cries are coming from. You feel helpless. My ryokan in Shin-Nakano, a suburb to the west of central Tokyo was perfect -- except at night when I heard the baby crying. Tokyo may be a metropolis but... > Read more

Lubbock, Texas: Lubbock or leave it

15 Mar 2006  |  2 min read

There comes a time when anyone who travels becomes Blanche Du Bois, the woman in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire who famously said, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers". We might not always be as needy as that faded southern belle -- but when you need help strangers are often the ones you depend on. Joe Don was one such stranger. My need wasn't... > Read more

LA by bus: Carless in car town

13 Mar 2006  |  5 min read

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 mumble and pay their fare in refund money, the... > Read more

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

6 Mar 2006  |  6 min read

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: photogenic talent-agency soldiers playing cards and... > Read more

McMinnville, Oregon: Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose folly

2 Mar 2006  |  4 min read

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 biggest and most eccentric aircraft in the world.... > Read more