Monday, December 30, 2013


So the Earth has completed another graceful orbit of the Sun, something like 940 million kilometres at 30 or so a second. Goodness knows how many it's done in its time, or how many more it's got in it. A fair few, I'd say, Around and around, bathing the poles in long stretches of daylight and darkness, and painting the rest of this earthly canvas in seasonal colour and rubbing it out with ferocious moments of weather. I don't know how many sunrises or sets you saw this year. I saw a few. The tick-tock of the biggest timepiece in the solar system….sigh.

As the planet spun its way around, plenty of us zipped about a bit too. I followed the journeys of friends, family, colleagues here and there…daily reminders of the incredible opportunities and experiences available to anyone with the means to take advantage of them. With a passport, ticket and 24 hours you can get yourself just about anywhere. A golden age, indeed.

The travels of my year took in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Port Douglas, Smiths Lake, Bali, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai (twice) and Singapore. Not a bad set of passport stamps at all. Happy with that.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Singapore's a curious place. A tiny island state with few natural resources, this financial leviathan is famous for its food, cleanliness, its order, safety, its zoo and, now, for a bundle of shiny new things like Marina Bay Sands, the Supertree Grove in the Gardens by The Bay, it even has a massive ferris wheel - an important attraction for any serious city these days.

I first visited in 2000 and really thought nothing of it. To be honest, at the time, it was probably the dullest place I'd ever seen. It was a flying visit. Literally a weekend. After a walk through Bugis Street, a Kodak moment by Raffles, a quick stop down by the waterfront to see the famed Merlion statue - the mythical beast with the body of a fish and the head of a lion - and a bite to eat (albeit a sensational one) at a hawker centre, by lunchtime we'd pretty much ticked off everything we thought worth seeing.

My experiences in other Asian cities had been different. Very different. In Hong Kong and Bangkok the gateways into the noise and nasty that's often waiting for you just below the surface are well lit. Welcome stranger…come on in and play.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

GREAT BARRIER REEF? It's even better than that.

When you're peering across acres of coral in the shallows 70 km out to sea off the coast of Port Douglas, you realise that it's not called the Great Barrier Reef for nothing. A short distance away, the energy carried by the South Pacific collides with Australia's continental shelf. This is irresistible force meets immovable object stuff. And yet, somehow, we're bobbing about peacefully unawares of the battle playing out across the coral barrier nearby.

Snorkelling here can be mesmerising. Eyes up, gazing forward through a thin film of water separating life below from life above. Making yourself as skinny as possible to avoid scratches and cuts from the coral. Drifting over those sharp, corally fingertips reaching for the surface, making the gentlest movements with your flippers to keep yourself in slightly deeper water before the coral and ocean floor suddenly falls away leaving you soaring across an ever darkening depth. Your gasp exaggerated by the snorkel pressed beside your ear.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

DUBAI - Ugly Duckling

To be fair, I knew Dubai was going to be pretty remarkable. The biggest this. The tallest that. The shiniest, most gleaming, diamond encrusted one of these, all thrusting unapologetically from the desert like an amped-up Oz. And until recently I could kind of take it or leave it. Dubai, to me, seemed contrived. A constructed freak show. A grotesque, urban, Frankenstein's monster. Bits of this and that mashed together and forced brutally onto a culture desperately trying to create the future at all costs.

I should declare a bias here. I was for a time employed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, and the look-at-me-ness of neighbouring Dubai was, I felt, tolerated in the way an older, more conservative sister might a brash, attention seeking, superficial sibling. What has she done this time? So, when I visited to attend Arabian Travel Market 2013 (courtesy of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing) my expectations were, I guess, framed by that experience.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Small Town, USA. Easy to miss.
I know you shouldn't have regrets. But there is that saying about only regretting the things you haven't done. You know the one.

Travel lends itself to those. Opportunities that present themselves fleetingly on the road. Sometimes repeatedly. I understand there's no possible way to embrace every temptation that crosses your path. And I'd say I've grabbed onto more than I've missed over the years. But, peering into the rear-view mirror, I wish I'd done a few things differently.

So, it's time to air them. To fess up and offload the weight I've been carrying around in my day-pack of travel regrets, stuff-ups and missed opportunities, and up-end some of them onto the pavement of Get Over It Street.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Omani Francincense at the Amouage factory, Muscat.
Fessing up: Before we go any further, you need to know that I travelled to Oman as a guest of  Sultanate of Oman Tourism.

I'm sitting here with a small nub of frankincense melting on a coal that's crackling and sparking alarmingly in the kitchen. It's pretty magical stuff and drags me back without any resistance to the Middle East but most specifically, Oman.

Travel smells can be very powerful and have that ability to instantly haul you from here and now, to another time and place altogether. Like the alleyways of Old Muscat's Mutrah Souk. My travel companions are long gone...finding treasures deep in the heart of the market, knick-knacks and other gorgeous things. I'm just watching, listening, breathing it in and on the look out for a lemon & mint juice. There's got to be one here somewhere...somewhere through the frankincense.

I could write thousands of words about this place, no doubt, but I suspect you'd prefer to peruse a few pictures and maybe hear some sounds. If you've got a spare 12 minutes or so, you can hear me chatting about Oman with Joanne Shoebridge on ABC North Coast below.

If not, just push on, scroll down, and absorb the sounds hidden amongst the images of this fascinating place.

It's even better with frankincense.

If you've got some lying about.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

MUSIC FESTIVAL SMACK-DOWN: Bluesfest versus Jazz Fest

In the past 12 months I've had the very great fortune of attending two mega music events. And that's odd for me. You could count all the gigs I've ever been to on my fingers and toes, even if you include the school lunchtime concerts by Aussie acts in the 80s like Kids in the Kitchen, The Machinations, the Dynamic Hepnotics and The Cockroaches (who morphed into a little thing called The Wiggles in the 90s).

They must have been the oddest gigs for those bands. An all-boys school in the middle of the day, lunch bags rustling as a few hundred teens tucked into whatever Mum or Dad had packed that morning.

But I digress…

Monday, April 8, 2013


Even if you don't speak a word of the local language, you can tell when your tour guides are lost. There's something in the way questions are asked and replied, a tilt of the head, perhaps even a barely perceptible shrug of the shoulders and a hopeful gaze off into the distance. You can just tell.

We were only a short drive out of Muscat but it felt like we were riding around on the Curiosity Rover such was the barrenness of our surroundings. This was dry. Really dry, dusty and very rocky. And in spite of it all being pretty much one colour (a sort of chocolatey grey) it was oddly beautiful. 

Friday, March 1, 2013


I've recently had to retire a trusty travel companion of 10 passport.

I love passports and dread to think of a time when the thump of stamp on paper is a thing of the past. That irregular beat of arrival and departure. The audible start of something, or the coming to an end. Welcome, stranger...welcome home.

I find the randomness of where the stamps land a bit delicious...watching the immigration officer thumbing through pages, looking for a space that's good for a thumping. What will it land next to? Which places will it connect? Which times? What's that seeping through from the page behind?

Friday, February 22, 2013


We've just returned from a long weekend in Canberra kindly hosted by Australian Capital Tourism as part of its intriguing Human Brochure project. And, to be honest, we were blown away. Exploring some of the capital's gems, places with deep national significance, and some that were just plain fun, was an all-round positive, double thumbs-up experience.

It all seemed sort of counter-intuitive. I mean, how were we having such a good time in a place renowned for being irreparably dull with few redeeming features?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I can't wait to go to Canberra.

You probably didn't expect that.

It's a bit of a lazy joke in Australia that Canberra is boring. The nation's capital. Home to dullards like Parliament House, the National Gallery, The National Museum, Floriade, Questacon and the Institute of Sport...

All a bit of a yawn, isn't it?

Well, no.

I haven't visited in the 20 years or so since that time. But I know the story of the place with its sacred geometry, the hierarchical placement of our great institutions, the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright on Walter Burley Griffin's grand, almost esoteric vision and his wife Marion's renderings of it give this place a rich framework on which modern Canberra is draped. You don't have to dig too far to find golden veins of storytelling worth mining.