Food and travel – heaven for some, hell for others!

Food is an important element to travel – it’s heaven for some – hell for others.

I love the new, the different, the local delicacies, while others want to mostly, or even only, eat at multinational outlets. what do you prefer?

This phenomenon is not confined to only westerners but also many others. I’ve known, Italians, and Asians who only want to eat their usual food while travelling …  I know in New Zealand many Chinese tours always insist on meals at Chinese establishments.

Here are just some photos of a tiny amount of meals and food I’ve eaten all over the world.

 

Christchurch: one of the ‘worlds top 50 cities to visit 2020’ – my quake city revisited

PHOTO attribution: CathedralSquare 2402 By Gabriel Flickr Cathedral Square

It’s some eight or nine years ago that Fodor commissioned me to write about my city – back then we locals were using terms such as ‘the city that shakes’ or ‘shaken not stirred’ and ‘Christchurch rocks’.  Christchurch still rocks but in a very different way – it’s great.

In August, this year, one travel writer likened a tram ride in Christchurch to an amusement ride through a disaster zone – I totally disagree as do many others: it is the only New Zealand entry in ‘The 50 Friendliest Cities In The World’ (7th) and it’s also  the only New Zealand destination to make it into Fodor’s list of the top 52 places to visit in 2020. I suggest you put it on your bucket list.

Christchurch’s inclusion on Fodor’s Go List 2020 ‘seems to stem in large part from its response to the tragedies that have happened there over the past decade’ said one writer.

“South Island’s largest city is back – and better than ever,” the guide declares, adding that it has “wasted no time getting back on its feet after” after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and 2019 terror attack.

“Not only is Christchurch considered the ‘friendliest city in New Zealand’, according to a 2019 poll, but the evolving metropolis rewards visitors with colonial-era British architecture, enormous parks, panoramic gondola rides, relaxing boat tours down the Avon River, and an exploding public art scene that emerged after the earthquakes.”  (Stuff)

However, for many, there is still some confusion as to why many buildings have not yet been replaced, and in particular, the Christchurch Cathedral still sits in ruins.

Every local has an opinion about the cathedral – from knock it down to, restore it totally, keep some old parts and build something new attached to it, get rid of any cathedral in the square, and many variations on those themes.

Pre quake photos:

Christchurch Cathedral and Chalice before the quake damage
Interior of the cathedral. Ever seen a pavlova in a cathedral with rugby’s Bledisloe Cup?
Christchurch cathedral … in the square

Being Christchurch born, and having lived through hundreds of quakes I too have an opinion – I believed the cathedral should be reinstated – using their insurance money – it, plus the ‘Square’ itself, had played an important role over the previous 100 years.  Because of irreparable damage to many of our Gothic buildings, I believed it was important to maintain as much heritage as we could.

The February 2011 earthquake destroyed the Cathedral‘s spire, part of the tower, and the structure of the remaining building.  On the day of the quake, much more of the tower was deliberately demolished as it was thought that people were trapped inside – luckily this wasn’t so, and the rest of the tower was demolished in March 2012.  When the church started using a wrecking ball on the cathedral, a court injunction was taken out to stop that work – many people believed it should be demolished, piece by piece, numbering the stones so it could be rebuilt.

Later in 2011, after-shocks meant a steel structure – intended to stabilise the rose window – actually destroyed it and the Anglican Church decided to demolish the building and replace it with a new structure.  The church did not consult with locals despite years and years of no, or little city rates – a subsidy paid for by locals, who also helped pay for repairs and a new roof. This made many people angry, resulting in court cases and fundraising to help save the cathedral.

Christchurch Diocesan Synod announced that Christ Church Cathedral would be reinstated after promises of extra grants and loans from local and central government.

The church also says the start of restoration will begin in 2020 and “For most people, the reinstated Cathedral will appear unchanged with its important heritage features retained.  It will be safer, more functional, more flexible and more comfortable.  It will be better equipped for future worship and civic events.”

And, as for the other gaps in the city-scape, many owners of those buildings have chosen not to build for many reasons.  Some will be land-banking them, others will be waiting for the convention centre to be finished (late 2020), while others may be waiting to see what’s missing in the city, what’s needed, and then build that.  Many people have said, this wouldn’t happen in Hong Kong, or Singapore – true, but New Zealand has a democracy, and surprisingly, everyone who owns those pieces of land, often converted to car parks right now, actually can make up their own mind as to what, and when, to redevelop.

I can tell you that one building site, on Armagh Street (beside New Regent Street) will not be started for a few months.  A large flock of our endangered black-billed gulls is nesting among the concrete and reinforcing wire – as they are protected, nothing will happen to this site until they’ve finished nesting, and if they come back in spring next year, the site will remain undeveloped.  An eyesore for many, but possibly a lifesaver for these gulls!

I nested at The Classic Villa, which some years ago was transformed from an Italian style historic home to a 5-star boutique hotel in the cultural precinct of our city centre.

[Note I relocated to Wellington, a decision made in May 2010, some 2-months after the first, and biggest, 7.4 quake on the 4th September 2010 – see photos taken in my inner-city neighbourhood then]

 

 

 

 

Birding in inner city Christchurch

It’s not often I get to bird watch in the centre of the city – of course, Christchurch has the Avon River which attracts native and introduced ducks and other birds, but these little darlings are different.

About 300 critically endangered black-billed gulls (the most endangered gull in the world) have come to the city for summer. Normally nesting on the braided river beds and Canterbury they have set up camp and their nests in inner-city Christchurch, choosing a high-rent area, but pay no rent.

Their preferred, inner-city apartments, are on the site of a partly demolished commercial building one of the many (80%) quake-damaged inner-city buildings. Here, surrounded by islands of concrete and reinforcing steel, no predators are able to steal the eggs or chicks.

Some chicks, unable to fly, and used to nests on the shingle of the Canterbury Plains this high-living has caused problems. When they fall out of their nest they land in the water below, and unable to fly would drown. However, locals who are keeping an eye on them, let the Department of Conservation know and see here, life rafts have been created for them

Taiwan’s “Lantern village” has a train running through it

An unexpected road trip, with 2 local Taiwanese women,  ended at a lantern village that, surprisingly, had rail tracks running through the middle of the settlement.

Playing chicken for a photo

Here, daily, and at night time, people write wishes on paper lanterns, before releasing them into the sky in the hopes ancestors will answer their prayers.

It seems this ritual started during the Three Kingdoms period and were first to send military signals and, lighting these lanterns grew widespread during the mid-19th century when bandits often attacked these towns. So now, although once used as signals for villagers to let their families know they were safe, they now carry people’s wishes, dreams and hopes, skyward.

An annual lantern festival also takes place on the last day of the Lunar New Year but you can set off the lanterns any time of year.

There are many lantern colours and it seems the different hues have different meanings -from hoping for greater wealth and fame and fortune through to marital happiness and everything in between. Although I didn’t see them, there are also animal-shaped lanterns such as cats, monkeys and pandas.

“You can’t just let the lantern go, there’s a ritual to it and a meaning” I’m told. It seems you can even buy digital, electronic, lanterns for virtual prayers! (an environmentally-friendly version :))

For safety reasons, a shop worker lights the lanterns and controls the release – another safety measure is they now use soybean oil instead of kerosene.

To prevent the mountainside from being littered with lanterns, they have a recycling programme and residents can exchange used lanterns at shops for items like toilet paper or detergent.

WHOOPS

On rainy days, visitors can write their prayer on a piece of bamboo, which is hung along a fence in the village.

rainy day prayers

This was my first visit to Taiwan was fantastic and more stories will be written about it soon!

 

 

 

 

How do you engage with locals? Does technology keep you apart?

How do you make contact with locals? Or maybe you prefer not to, or don’t care?

I first noticed the use of mobile phones separating people from the places they were travelling in on a train in Thailand. A young British couple, were both on their phones were talking to different people back in their homeland.  I found it amazing that they weren’t even looking out the window at the beautiful scenery.

between shows – Bangkok

Of course, there is nothing wrong with keeping in contact with friends and family every now and then – however, it also means you are not living in the now, in the present moment – the very place where life happens.

I guess I’m biased because when I travel, I very rarely contact home – I ‘m always working on the premise that no news is good news :-).

That being so, I’ve noticed in my city, Wellington, New Zealand, that it is harder to engage with locals when you are using a phone to guide you around the streets.  Sure, Google Maps does sort of show you the way, but you get no interaction with the people in the area you are visiting.

South African fan in Cuba Street

Perhaps this doesn’t bother you, but for me, travelling is all about the people I meet; the questions I ask them; the directions I get from them, and knowledge about their lives.

We Kiwi, are considered pretty friendly and when we approach you on the street, especially if you’re looking at a map, we are not trying to sell you anything or take you to our cousins’ shop for instance – we are just trying to be helpful and friendly and help give you a 100% pure Kiwi experience.

(Note: ‘one hundred per cent pure’ was never intended to be about our environment – like everywhere else we too have environmental problems.  The hundred per cent pure was to ensure all tourists got a genuine Kiwi experience and holiday.  Sadly, this was not how it was understood overseas.  Even New Zealanders now claim we are being false in our ‘advertising.’  As an older kiwi – who was travel writing when it was coined – many years ago.  I’m very clear about its original intentions – one of the advantages of age 🙂  )

Lake Tekapo

I frequently ask,  ‘can I help you’ of those who look like tourists and are gazing at their phone or a map.

So, many especially those new into New Zealand I suspect, almost jump back in horror at being spoken to.  ‘Oh no, what does she want!?  Will she rip me off?’  I see it in their faces.  Happily, at least 50% of them value me answering their questions and often thank me for being ‘helpful.’ And hopefully, that little interaction contributes to them enjoying their time in New Zealand and having 100% pure Kiwi experience, and knowing most of us are kind, caring and really want to help – for no reason but to be helpful!

So next time you pull out a phone to find your way from A to B just pause, look around, is there a local to ask instead?

Alaska

This works from Alaska to Turkey, from Thailand to New Zealand.  It’s the brief connections and a smile or a laugh with a local that can make your day.  Don’t let technology separate you from the very people in the country you wanted to visit.

Have a good day 🙂

Local lads in Maheshwar

 

How to pack for business and leisure – my Asian adventures

 

Packing for both business and pleasure is often seen as difficult – I solve the problem by using different packing cells for the 2 different parts. One for business, one for leisure.

One or 2 items may belong both bags, in this instance, it’s a white T-shirt that, once the 5-day business meeting is over, it will be moved into my leisure cell for the month-long exploration in SE Asia at cheap and cheerful destinations and accommodations.

My travel is in Southeast Asia, so will have the extreme heat of July and August, and I suspect, the over-cold meeting rooms in the hotel. This just seems to be what they do in Asia – overcompensating for the heat.

I’m taking 2 pieces of luggage, my trusty red suitcase in the hold, and a daypack no. The suitcase will be left behind in Hong Kong with all my business stuff in it, while the backpack will be my luggage for Taiwan, Cambodia, and Vietnam. My red suitcase will be about 10kg max. (22 lb) while my backpack will be under the regulation 7kg. (15lb). What

carry-on luggage

It’s always a treat to just have carry-on luggage when travelling – no waiting at the luggage carousel for my red case to appear. I will also use my backpack as my carry-on luggage when I leave New Zealand for Hong Kong. It will contain vital business papers, my camera and tablet, as well as medication, Kobo e-reader and phone.

So what are in those cells? Two trouser suits – a white one with 2 tops to wear with it, and a yellow one with the white T-shirt. So over the 5 days of work, I have 3 different outfits, so one will be repeated, and if I decide to, I could wear my black travel trousers with one of the tops. One pair of black shoes will accompany them all :-).

business clothes cell

All these will remain in HK storage when I leave for Vietnam, Cambodia then onto Taiwan, before returning to Hong Kong for a couple of days and pick up my red suitcase, and go home to New Zealand’s late winter weather – and where my daughter will meet me at the airport with a warm coat 🙂

My red leisure cell contains a long sundress, a loose pair of trousers, 3 tops and my trusty Teva’s while the blue one has underwear, swimming costume, and nightwear. So that’s how I pack for a combined trip that is both official and laid-back – very different needs clothes-wise

I hope this helps you keep your clothes to the minimum -after all, we don’t have to dress to impress when we’re on holiday, you will, mostly, see a person only once, so even if you are in the same clothes daily, most of them would not even notice. We, humans, are pretty self-centred and concentrate on ourselves.

 

I’m given a very small umbrella for sun protection
ready for the airport

When a heatwave strikes, this tip will help

An umbrella lowers my temperature as I struggled up a hill in Cambodia.  People struggling with the heatwaves in Europe right now would benefit from an umbrella too.

Cuba Street Wellington, NZ -framing my apartment block at the end of the street

Here is an excerpt from my book, Naked in Budapest travels with a passionate nomad, which explains how I learnt to always carry an umbrella in hot places.

See, others carry them too … being out of the sun lowers my temperature by about ten degrees it feels

‘You go ahead. I can’t walk up here. It’s too steep, too hot.’

‘Yes you can. We’re nearly there. You will love the waterfall.’

‘We have waterfalls in New Zealand; I’ll give this one a miss.’

‘Come on. You can get up here. Just around the next corner is the last steep bit – you can make it. Just take it a step at a time. We’re in no hurry,’ Rob tells me.

‘No, I’ll sit here in the shade and wait for you all to come back down. I won’t go away from the track.’

‘Here, I’ve got an umbrella, use that, it will reduce the heat for you.’

‘I don’t have the bloody energy to hold a damn umbrella.’

‘Well you walk and I’ll hold it,’ says Rob and step by slow step I get up the mountain, feeling like a cross between a missionary with her servant and a stupid, overweight, unfit, old fool.

I’m the first to fall into the cool water – my T-shirt, shorts and sandals are off in seconds and in my underwear, I’m wallowing like the buffalo. Later, back in the boat, we make a list of the 20 different creatures we’ve seen: leeches are not on the list. The others return to Sihanoukville leaving me in this small village to find a bed for the night.

Next day I’m the only foreigner in the taxi when I travel through the mountains towards Thailand. We get pushed through sticky orange clay and cross four rivers by ferry and at each one, I’m the centre of attention – few westerners have used this road that opened two months ago: no one in the taxi speaks English.

 

Are you a slow traveller? What is slow travel?

interact with the locals

Are you a slow traveller?  What is slow travel?  I’m sure it means different things to different people.

For me, slow travel means pacing my travel, not having every moment accounted for, and therefore leaving time for the unexpected. The unknown and the unplanned for.  Leaving time to sit in the coffee shop and watch how locals live and interact.

Florida – well caught

For me, the difference is about the difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. I like to think I’m a traveller.  It means going to a country but only visiting one small region, not rushing around so you can take off everything on the must-see or must-do lists.  I like to create my own list with lots of gaps 🙂

A spirit tree in Bangkok
The KiwiTravelWriter checks out the manatee in Florida

So are you a slow traveller?  Tell me, what does it mean to you?  I do understand people taking tours, but I guess I’m selfish and self-centred and really just want to leave when I want to leave, to stay longer when I want to – or to jump on a bus and get the hell out of somewhere. 🙂

In particular, I want to have an early breakfast and get out exploring not waiting for other people to wake up have their breakfast and then join a bus group.  It is easy to see why most of my travels have been solo 🙂

taking off in a hot air balloon – Canterbury, New Zealand

 

 

How to take better photos – simple tips

How can I take better photos you ask?  Composition is everything, so use your camera settings to display the grid lines – remember the rule of thirds and focus the subject on one of the cross-lines to catch the viewers eye. It’s a good rule of thumb for all art.

Travel sharpens awareness of our surroundings; the different, the unusual and it’s these things, the view of a new eye that makes great photos. As a travel writer and author, I take many photos during my first few days in another country, a different culture.

Drummer boy, Ernakulam, Kerala

If you want your photos to be more than a mere record of your travels try these simple tips.

  1. Keep your camera with you: some of my ‘best photos’ are the ones I missed.
  2. Filling the frame adds impact to many pictures
  3. Eliminate the unessential, cut the clutter. Don’t try to grab it all.
  4. Early morning and late afternoon have the most favourable light.
  5. Avoid midday as overhead sun drains the colour.
  6. Simple blocks of bright colour make bold statements
  7. Look at other people’s photos to see what works, what catches your eye.
Malaysian Borneo

Wall of love on my Monday morning walk

Today our regular U3A Monday morning walk continued on the terrorism and grief path when we visited a wall of love at Victoria University.  these photos are in order of being taken, the bulk are of the students’ messages of love and support.

My walk photos started with a  poster on Cuba Street, we met at the wharewaka,  walked to the cable car, past some autumn colour then along to Vic Uni,  where we also saw their tuatara, before heading back  to the city and the National library where some of us signed the Book of Memories for the victims of the white supremacist terrorist murders of 50 people  – innocently praying – of course, another 48 were injured and are mostly still in hospital.  a coffee and food and there are my 13,000 steps done by lunchtime 🙂