dangers of travel, border crossings, and fruit juice

Although travel talk is often about the dangers of air travel, terrorism and using plastic knives, there are other problems associated with travel.

While security has been stepped up and a few desperate friends are hoping to be frisked by a young man in uniform, the biggest danger to air travel is getting to the airport and your excess baggage that’s squeezed into overhead lockers ready to fall on my head.

Despite the warnings, most of us have continued to travel, tolerating the security procedures over which we have no control and putting our Swiss-army knives, sewing kits or knitting needles into our checked luggage. But what other dangers and problems do we face in the sky?

web-namibia-elephants-copy

Flying to Wellington recently, squeezing my voluptuous body between two men, was an interesting exercise. They too were of generous proportions and I had sat on the neatly crossed seat-belt buckles. Not dangerous, how does a gal retrieve them- and maintain some dignity?

Then there are the foil-covered fruit juices. I’m always thirsty, and heedful of the advice to remain hydrated want to drink them. But the memory of arriving in a new country with orange stains down my white shirt makes me cautious of those tin-foiled-terrors. You also have to watch the person beside you as they tug-tug-tug at the top only to have it give way suddenly. Their arm and the juice fly skywards, and as the truism explains, what goes up . . .

Other dangers from fellow fliers include the up and downer. Up to the toilet down into the seat, up to the locker, down to the seat again only to remember a moment later they also wanted something else from their carry on luggage bag and back up they go. Not so much a danger to me, but to them: verbal or physical reprisals from an irate fellow traveller. Now I haven’t been accused of air-rage yet, but worldwide it is becoming more common and I have felt the occasional urge to join the aggressive community of ragers. Window seats help me remain calm.

Other dangers, well perhaps not a danger but an unpleasant event, is the drinker, who, replete, falls asleep on my shoulder, alcohol fumes and dribble threatening my peace of mind and comfort. He, and the occasional she, are always given a quick flick off my body. I’ll bet they wonder where that bruise came from.

Although not usually dangerous, planes toilets always sound dangerous. Laugh if you like, they sound treacherous to me. That huge suction and final thuk-thunk have me in fear of being sucked around the S-bend and into the holding tanks. Putting the lid down before flushing helps me feel in control.

Other fear-inducing events include feeling guilty at borders. I have never taken a piece of fruit, drug, or elephant tusk into another country but still feel guilty. Should I be friendly or aloof? Which will ensure a quick and pain-free journey through customs?

However, guilt free or not, border crossings can still be fraught with problems.

I once spent the night in no-mans-land between Botswana and Namibia because of a passport problem for an Israeli woman. We had left Botswana, had our passports stamped but were not allowed into Namibia because of her lack of visa. Despite tears, anger, and pleading, the drunken guard was adamant that we could not proceed and, with the border behind us closed, we prepared to sleep in our tent – not realising this narrow strip of land was an elephant corridor.

sailing down the Nile
sailing down the Nile

A two-metre fence and gate ensured we went in neither direction. Around midnight, the guard’s colleague woke us. “This is much dangerous” he said “My boss he sleep now, you come” And come we did, finally sleeping fitfully to the sound of foraging elephants and something being eaten for supper on the other side of the fence.

And then there was the big-haired woman customs officer in Los Angeles; and the . . .; and then of course . . .

Buy and read my book

Naked in Budapest:travels with a passionate nomad

by Heather Campbell Hapeta

guesthouses in thailand

 

reclining buddha - Wat Po Bangkok
reclining buddha - Wat Po Bangkok

Found this on twitter  from travellingman (follow me on twitter http://twitter.com/kiwitravwriter)

 

I am a frequent traveler to THAILAND. When traveling outside of Bangkok, I often stay at a local guesthouse rather than a conventional hotel. Besides saving some monies, staying in a guesthouse allows me to sample the local flavor and it is a more conducive environment for meeting fellow travelers. In addition, the informal, carefree ambiance of most guesthouses suits my personality better than the somewhat stiff and fabricated environment of many traditional hotels. Guesthouses are usually small family run affairs – ranging from no frills hostels with simple dormitory like accommodations and shared bathroom facilities (popular with the young backpacker crowd) to the luxury “boutiquish” affair with amenities comparable to a small hotel (popular with the older crowd and families). As they say different strokes for different folks!

check out more recommendations from him here  

interviews with writers: its all about me! ha ha (two years ago)

WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2007

 

Interview with a Travel Writer…Heather Hapeta

Today’s interviewee is New Zealand travel writerHeather Hapata. Heather’s articles have been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, NZ Listener, and Morning Calm (Korean Air’s in-flight magazine), she writes a monthly travel column for Homestyle magazine, and has her first book, Naked in Budapest, due for release in June. 

Hi Heather and thanks for stopping by My Year of Getting Published.

1. Did you always want to be a writer ? How did you get started writing?

I was an avid reader as a child and always dreamt of being a writer – I thought how fabulous it would be to give such joy as I had from book. However it wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I had the time and confidence to give  a try – after all when you are fifty-plus surely it’s time to do what you really want to do.

READ THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW HERE

pecha kucha: I help 79 men become monks in thailand

 

monk takes photos at the Grand Palace in Bangkok
monk takes photos at the Grand Palace in Bangkok

 

Pecha Kucha Night is a presentation format for creative work originally devised by Astrid Klein and Mark

Dytham of Klein-Dytham Architecture (KDa) in Tokyo, Japan in 2003.

The name derives from a Japanese term for the sound of conversation (“chit-chat“). A Pecha Kucha Night is a non-profit orientated event that is part of an international network and consists of a format where presenters show a data slide-show of 20 images, each of which is shown for 20 seconds, giving a total presentation time of 6 minutes 40 seconds.

Each event aims to have a maximum of 14 presenters. Presenters (and much of the audience) are usually from the design, architecture, photography, art, music and creative fields. The event format has been replicated in more than 172 cities including London, San Francisco, Seattle, Rotterdam, Shanghai, and Berlin, as well as in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Nelson. Events are usually limited to one each month per city and to a minimum of four events per year.

Pecha Kucha Nights Auckland is currently organising their twelfth event, Wellington hosted their fourth event in late 2008, and Nelson, Hamilton and Dunedin have recently joined the New Zealand contingent.  The next one in Christchurch New Zealand is on the 2nd April and features this blogger – the kiwitravel writer – anda presentation on  how she became involved in helping create Buddhist monks from 79 ordinary men to celebrate and commemorate the King Of Thailand’s birthday.

Below are some additional links to more information about Pecha Kucha Nights in New Zealand andinternationally:

http://pecha-kucha.org/ 

http://www.pechakucha.co.nz/

http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/commentary/

international garden show in my city

It’s only one week until I get a sneak, media preview of the Ellerslie  International Flower   being hosted in my city Christchurch New Zealand .

out of bare earth - beauty
out of bare earth - beauty

Follow the link – above – for more infomation and come back to this blog next week to see what I thought:  especially if you can’t get here.

Maybe you can diary it in for 2010 as this is an annual event in this, the ‘Garden City’ of New Zealand

How to use a toilet – in a Thai train

How to use a toilet – in a Thai train: from person experience

between shows - Bangkok
Dancers between shows – in Bangkok – but nothing to do with the train!

Inside a small silver-lined room, the floor wet and smelly from twelve hours of use, I finally need to use the toilet: it’s about eighteen inches above the floor.

Rolling my pants legs up to avoid the wetness, I clamp my knees together to stop the material falling back down, then drop the waist of my green, Thai fisherman pants.

Climbing up onto the shining edifice – while keeping my knees together – I place my feet either side of the hole, and, with the train rocking alarmingly, hold on. Moments later I reverse the process and leave.

I’m relieved I haven’t been cursed with the travellers disease; the trots, runs, dheli belly, or whatever common name is given to dysentery and diarrhoea, that so, I’m sure I won’t need to come back into the throne-room – well not for a while anyway.

how to write travel stories. TOP TEN TIPS

My next one-day travel writing workshop ( They Pay you to do What!) is 13th August  2011 in Wellington, New Zealand

Chaffers Marina, Wellington, NZ

Keen on travel – like to write?  As travel editor of newspaper (now defunct so please don’t send me stories J ) here is a list of what we wanted from people who wanted to send us submissions. I hope some of these will be helpful as good tips for you travel writing.

Here’s what we asked for: Firstly we required authentic travel articles from people with a passion for travel.

  • In other words, you have actually been there, done that. If you haven’t actually got the T-shirt, you at least have real experience to write about, not information gleaned (plagiarised) from the internet or travel book. They are great for research before you go – we want to hear about your adventures after the trip; good and bad.
  • So what makes a good travel article? The goal is to transfer the emotional experience to the reader.
  • Avoid long scenery bits and a day by day, sight by sight, blow by blow  account of your journey.
  • Tempt with flavour, use weather to create atmosphere. Encourage with imaginative language, and resolve doubts with facts.
  • Take an unusual viewpoint and offer practical advice. Disabled travellers, parents with children and others need relevant information.
  • Who, what, how, why and when are always good to start with, and don’t forget smells, sounds, touch, sight and colour.
  • Tighten the focus of any story, don’t give too much detail, people want the feel of a place not all it’s history or each shop in a street. Aim for a free flowing narrative.
  • Try to keep the personal to a minimum – you, travellers and visitors are inviting words. Frequent use of the  word “I” doesn’t encourage the reader to visit too.
  • Give a strong structure to the piece . . . beginning, middle and end. Set the scene, take the reader with you, and round off the story.
  • A fact file can be really helpful – airlines, flights, costs, best season, accommodation.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Even though I write frequently, it’s when I concentrate on these basics that the story is better, the scenery brighter and the food tastier. Check out some of my  stories on www.kiwitravelwriter.com

For more of my writing check out another  blog here  

Balloon seller in Bangkok
Balloon seller in Bangkok

ALSO  see the top of this blog for comments and reviews  about my book Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad . ISBN 978-0-473-11675-0

BUY A COPY BY PAYPAL

enrolling in the gym – fit for travel?

Maheshwar, India.
Maheshwar, India.

Enrolling in the gym is an ego deflating exercise and I have just humiliated myself.

Now there is a man, whom I had never met before, who knows more than he should about my body mass, flexibility and fitness. It was a reality check I’ve been trying to deny, but with only 72 sleeps until I travel, it’s time to review the necessities on my pre-trip checklist.  Once money and tickets have been arranged, fitness is the number one issue. I failed.

Why do I want to be fit to travel? Well I believe that I am better off and less likely to get any bugs if I am fitter, flatter and flexible. By now people who know me will be choking over their morning coffee as they read this: laughing hysterically. Ba-humbug I say to them, just watch this space!

I need put in a disclaimer – this entire column is purely my opinion and backed up by no known medical evidence.  I have gleaned screeds of useful and useless information over the years and stored it away like a pack-rat for when I need it.  Now I give it to you: take what you like, leave the rest, and, like going to the gym, consult your doctor about health issues.

Back to the gym, the first line of fitness defence. “Pull your tummy button to backbone,”. . . “Doesn’t take much to get your heart rate up”  . . . “how does that feel?” Red faced, hot, sweaty and embarrassed at my deep breathing, I ask myself, what has this go to do with travel; what has riding a bike that goes nowhere or rowing a boat that never sees the water, have to do with tourist activities?

All I know is past experiences has taught me that I feel better and am able to do more when I feel healthier.  I asked other travellers what they do for pre-departure health all said walking. So reassured, and my own knowledge to back it up, I’ll continue to work on improving my fitness level. I visualise myself jumping nimbly from boat to wharf, climbing hills to see views and monuments with nary a deep gasping breath to be heard and throwing my backpack onto my back as if it weighed nothing. Remember I said visualise, this is not reality – yet.

What other pre travel checks are needed? Unless you are going to a place absolutely guaranteed not to have any dreaded diseases or bugs it pays talk to your Dr or vaccination clinic to see what shots are needed. Tetanus, typhoid, polio, tetanus and hepatitis are some of the travellers common protection needs. Accurate up to date information about vaccinations is vital.

A couple of years ago I was off to Zimbabwe and it had been recommended that I have a hepatitis A vaccine. As it lasted only six weeks I waited until the very last minute to give myself the injection: I hadn’t intended to wait until just prior to boarding the plane in The Netherlands.

Picture if you will: me inside the toilets – in a city well known for it’s drug use – hunting through my pack for the syringe and contents required to jab myself in my thigh. I am sure my innocence would not have been believed had I been caught on the security cameras.

Apart from indulging in addict-like activities what else can I do to ensure I’m a healthy traveller? I could take multivitamins or drink only bottled water with no ice, become vegetarian while on the road but a hepatitis carrier, often unknown to them, is of greater concern than bad food. So vaccinations and common sense around hand washing is really important – and no sleeping in fowl-houses.

Despite my constant state of good health when I travel I’m not a good role model as I break so many rules. I drink local water, eat from street stalls and remain healthy. Good luck? I guess so. In the meantime I’ll keep going to the gym.

John, next time you test me I’ll remove your heart-rate strap and watch from my body before I go home. Promise.

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year: travelling in Penang, Malaysia, (a couple of years ago)  temporary stages were all around the city during the days leading to the Chinese New Year. Large semi-solid structures are at temples or outside affluent establishments or homes where people have financially supported the theatre or opera that is about to be staged.

Happy Thai new year
Happy Thai new year


For a few days before New Year opera plays nightly. Outside a supermarket two colourful dragons cavort, their fluttering eyelashes making the dance look flirtatious. As in many warm climates, evenings are when places come alive in a different way to the daytime busy-ness. Locals wander the streets talking to neighbours, eating meals in noisy gaggles and now in the Chinese New Year, watch local theatre.


As with all travellers, I too watch the theatre of life that unfolds itself daily, hourly, minute by minute and as part of that kaleidoscope, watch the shows. To a Western ear the sounds are often discordant, loud, and too highly pitched.  Each evening I wander the streets of Georgetown, watch the opera and gradually my ears become accustomed to the tone.

Men, often dressed as women, are in colourful clothes and the story usually seems to be about long-lost loves or love betrayed;  well that’s how I, with no knowledge of any Chinese language, interpret them.

Four or five men, sitting behind screens, make up the orchestra, and during long speeches or songs from the stage, I could hear their conversations and watch as huge plumes of cigarette smoke drift from around the screens and out to the audience.

The audience emerges from the shadows of alleyways, shops and homes as the band tune their instruments. I am given a sheet of newspaper to sit on, others sat on their rickshaw, bike, or chair carried from home, while yet others sat on newspaper too. Most smoke. Adding to the pall of smoke is the token money burnt in temple grounds as people make offerings to their ancestors.


If you can, spend  some time on the road early in the western-calendar year. Leave New Zealand  ( or whatever country you live in) after your New Years eve party and picnic the next day, then start counting. Counting the celebrations you can indulge in. Chinese New Year is usually first, both it and Islam’s end of Ramadan, the next new year, aren’t fixed dates but are lunar events so check for the dates. Then finally, in mid April – the Buddhist New Year.


Four fabulous New Years in a short space of time, all celebrated in very different ways and all wonderful times to be travelling and learning more about how other cultures enjoy the change of year.

To the Chinese community – Have a happy New Year!

NOTE: See photos of the Chinese New Zealand in Christchurch elsewhere on this site