Travel Stories

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Outback, Australia: The speed of the sound of loneliness

15 Mar 2010  |  6 min read  |  1

Eventually curiosity gets the better of me and, on a typically empty stretch of tarseal some 100kms west of Alice Springs, I stop the car and climb a rocky outcrop. For the past half hour I have had the magnificent MacDonnell Range on my right but 10 minutes ago a strange, irregular wall of bricks ran parallel with the road on my left. I’m puzzled as to who might have built it way out... > Read more

Vancouver, Canada: A user's guide

14 Mar 2010  |  5 min read

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 other across the intersection. Within an hour... > Read more

Sydney, Australia: I'll be back. Or not.

14 Mar 2010  |  2 min read

My recollection is this, that after having interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger for some ludicrous and subsequently unsuccessful movie I went back to my room overlooking Sydney Harbour and read the booklet about my expensive hotel's many merits. Among them was a cigar bar and -- having talked cigars with Arnie -- I decided this might be a nice place to adjourn to after a dinner on Circular... > Read more

Crescent City, California: Redwoods and dead wood

14 Mar 2010  |  2 min read

So, he said leaning over me in a slightly menacing manner, how do you get to meet people when you travel around? "Just like this,"I said, and the big man looked puzzled. "By coming into a bar, buying a drink and talking with people. Like you." The big man with the bleary look paused just long enough for it to be uncomfortable, then realised what I was saying wasn't... > Read more

London, England: With a pinch of snuff

1 Mar 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

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 after a period of grace, but sometimes bits and... > Read more

Golden Triangle, Thailand: Where the girls are

1 Mar 2010  |  7 min read

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 the humidity and gaze across at Myanmar no more... > Read more

Kuching in Borneo Malaysia: Big city, small town

1 Mar 2010  |  4 min read

  “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 travelled down Peninsula Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur,... > Read more

Norfolk Island: An island of great Bounty

22 Feb 2010  |  7 min read

“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 why not?” It is easy to be cynical about... > Read more

Kath and Donald: Norfuk es awas Hoem

Vancouver Island, Canada: Cocktails by the highway

8 Feb 2010  |  4 min read

My Canadian friend Bob would often tell me that there was a highway right outside his house, and then he’d laugh loudly. I didn’t think that was a laughing matter -- until I went to his beautiful ocean-side apartment in Victoria on Vancouver Island. As we sat on his patio sipping cocktails in the late afternoon he swept his hand towards the blue harbour in front of him and said,... > Read more

Edinburgh, Scotland: Connected in the family

7 Feb 2010  |  3 min read

This may seem unusual -- especially given I was born in Scotland -- but it is true: my godfather was Italian. And I say that hoping never to be troubled again by pesky creditors or door-to-door religious groups. When I was born my parents, who weren’t especially religious, had me baptised and asked their good friend Dominic Valente -- whom we always called Uncle Dom -- to be my... > Read more

London, England: Pub preconceptions

7 Feb 2010  |  2 min read

The Moon and the Sixpence in Wardour St is much like many pubs in London these days. Whatever genuine historical features it might have had have been air-brushed in a sanitising make-over. The artists, poets and musicians whose portraits are framed on the walls may, or may not, have some connection with the area, and the pub menu is almost identical to that of most others. You have to look... > Read more

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

7 Feb 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

>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 alive with the sound of beer cans being cracked open,... > Read more

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu: Djarimirri (from The Rough Guide to Australian Aboriginal Music)

Golden Triangle, Thailand: Paradise without the soundtrack

7 Jan 2010  |  2 min read

What is that wise old saying: be careful what you wish for, you might just get it? Raymond got a wish come true, but I suspect it was mine. I met him at the luxurious Anantara Resort and Spa in Thailand's Golden Triangle where my room with a private terrace overlooking the steamy jungle cost around $1200 a night. After I had relaxed in the pool-sized bath with its rose petals and... > Read more

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

26 Oct 2009  |  5 min read

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 blonde gazelle in high heels hip-swayed down a... > Read more

Paris, France: Clubbed by culture

24 Oct 2009  |  1 min read

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 coffee. Time to recover from a day of big ticket... > Read more

Hong Kong: When the rain comes they run and hide their heads

18 Oct 2009  |  4 min read

When the serious rains come, that end-of-days Flood you may have heard about, the question won’t be, “Would I get on Noah’s Ark?”. It will be, “Quick, where is it?” In this, I can help. Noah’s Ark -- and you won’t believe this -- is in Hong Kong and if you’ve ever been to that exciting city you probably drove right over the top of it... > Read more

Melaka, Peninsula Malaysia: The cuisine capital of Malaysia

18 Oct 2009  |  6 min read

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 learned this style from my family in the kitchen at... > Read more

Samoa: A stranger in paradise (2001)

2 Oct 2009  |  6 min read  |  2

As a tourist carrying stress into Samoa you notice things by their absence. Ordinary, boring stuff like clocks and timetables, cellphones and power-dressers in black, graffiti and rubbish, and haste and urgency. And surprisingly, New Zealand accents. In 2000 fewer than 7000 New Zealand tourists flew the 3 1/2 hours to Apia, Samoa's largest town. In the same period almost 50,000 chose... > Read more

Bordeaux, France: Paradise and lunch

13 Sep 2009  |  5 min read

As I looked across the manicured box-hedge to the garden where peacocks ambled, and then on up the orderly rows of grape vines marching towards the 18th century chateau, the thought occurred to me: if the prettiest part of Paradise -- with a cellar of more than 15,000 wines -- were transported to our world then it would look exactly like this. The thought didn't linger however because my... > Read more

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii: Sunday morning, coming down

24 Jun 2009  |  4 min read

The sky is a perfect and pale comic-book blue, the breeze as warm as a whisper. Palm trees line the white sandy beach, the very image of a Pacific cliché. In the downtown streets before the shops and offices open people make their sleepy, slow way to work. It is the start to yet another balmy December day in Honolulu. And on just such a morning, I remind myself as I wait for a taxi,... > Read more

Jake Shimabukuro: The Star Spangled Banner