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Archives - Africa and Asia and the Pacific

Himalayan Harmony

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by Nicholas Walton Emerging from the tiny terminal at Paro, Bhutan’s international airport, travelers are greeted by dazzling sun, crisp mountain air, and a wave of genuine smiles. The warm welcome brings colour back to the faces of those who have just experienced one of the most nail-biting landings on the planet.

A Traumatic Injury Far from Home

An overnight stay brought us to day number three and an excursion to a Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Preserve. About half an hour down the trail, I tripped over a short stump hidden under leaves and fell hard on my face, my right leg and knee twisting under me. I knew immediately that something serious had happened.

Deep in the Waterways of Myanmar

by Nicholas Walton
Laughing and leaping across puddles as wide as jacuzzis, the children seem completely unfazed by the torrential rain as they scamper through the tiny village of Sitthaung, a line of foreigners following in their wake. Water gleams off their umbrellas as they wind their way across rice paddy dykes and around ambivalent water buffalo. The kids are obviously very excited; tourists are rather rare on the further reaches of this mighty waterway, especially here in tiny Sitthaung, a village of only 25 stilted thatch homes, but a new river cruiser from Orient Express is reaching further into Burma than ever before. Read More...

Fiji Masala

Between 1879 and 1916, more than 60,000 indentured labourers, or Girmityas, were shipped from Bengal and other parts of India to work on Fijian sugar plantations. One in three returned home after their contracts expired but most stayed on, forever changing the social landscape of this dreamy South Pacific nation. To get a true measure of what it means to be Indo-Fijian, one must attend a wedding ceremony. Wrangling your way into one isn’t overly difficult. They usually take place under canopies on roadside locations, and a polite enquiry may earn you an impromptu invite.

My crash-landing at a Indo-Fijian wedding was less deliberate. I was hitchhiking in the Sabeto Valley – a velvet-green basin 15km north of Nadi – when I heard a hullabaloo of horns. A cavalcade of cars and buses came speeding down the road, the lead vehicle adorned with a mesh of pink garlands. I stood aside and took in the spectacle until the last car pulled over and an Indian gent stuck his head out the window. “Where you going?” he asked.

Five Sides of Sydney Harbour

“We had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world,” Captain Arthur Phillip, the first governor of Sydney, wrote on discovering Sydney Harbour in 1788. Despite the city of 4.5 million that’s grown around it, Sydney Harbour remains one of the world’s greatest aquatic playgrounds. It’s at its most brilliant in the summertime from October to March, when Sydney-siders strip down to swim, fish and boat around in its sparkling blue waters.

Mythical Jeju Island, South Korea

Jeju-do, as it’s known in Korean, translates as the Peace Island, and with good reason. A blanket of tranquility seems to have descended over this little rocky outcrop, located 48km from the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula. Jeju is an isle shaped by the elements and coloured by the seasons. The tiny island is not only famous for its fields of yellow flowers and bands of hardy diving women, but also as a place of myths and legends, and pristine nature. Read More...

Almighty Almaty, Kazakhstan

by Nicholas Walton
The beauty of the Ascension Cathedral emerges from the darkness as I blink away the bright sunshine and step inside the candle-lit Russian Orthodox church. With its yellow and cream façade and gleaming onion-like domes, it's a symbol of one of Central Asia’s most fascinating destinations; Almaty is an ancient trading city that’s enjoying new fortune as Kazakhstan finds its place on the world stage.

Feature Story: Floating Villages on Cambodia's Great Lake

by Nicholas Walton

An elderly Buddhist monk, shrouded in crimson robes and wreathed by a trio of novices, chants a blessing that resounds across the water. Nothing is permanent in the floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake; everything ebbs and flows with the life-bringing waters, including this pint-sized floating temple. The chanting complete, passengers board their modern skiffs and make for the setting sun.

Night Fishing in the Maldives

It's dusk, that magical transition from blue sky to black night. With a rumbling gurgle from the engine and a bellow from the helmsman, a dhonis pauses where I stand at the end of a jetty, just long enough for me to leap aboard and join its crew of fisherman for a night's catch. It's an ancient scene, one which plays out every night, here in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Sail of the Century

by Ian Lloyd Neubauer
When the U.S. stole victory from New Zealand at the America's Cup in San Francisco Bay in September after bouncing back from an 8-1 disadvantage, it rekindled interest in the prestigious sailing series that hadn't been seen in decades. It also sparked interest in people wanting to sail America's Cup Class AC72-class hydrofoiling catamaran – multimillion-dollar engineering marvels that levitate above the water on wing-like foils. Such is their ferociousness on the water that crew are required to wear an array of safety gear. They're also required to undertake months of arduous training, have years of sailing experience and be pretty good swimmers in case they end up in the drink. Read More...

Swimming with Endangered Turtles in Samoa: Protection or Commerce

by Ian Neubauer
In 1990, Mataua Matai’a from the Pacific island nation of Samoa visited a friend in Brisbane who had an injured marine turtle in a pool in her backyard. Everyday, many people came to see and feed the turtle and it got Mataua thinking: perhaps she could create something similar in Samoa, where turtles, or I’a sa (sacred fish), have for centuries been an important part of tradition, folklore and song. Mataua’s legacy – the Satoalepai Turtle Reserve – is one of only a few places on earth where you can not only feed but swim with globally endangered green turtles in captivity. Read More...

Adrift in the Central Philippines

When the engine finally chugs to a stop, the silence is deafening. For an hour and a half we had motored through a light chop in the Cebu Strait, the last of the day’s sun catching burnt faces, the ancient engine of our traditional Filipino banka outrigger catching and wheezing like an asthmatic. Finally, it gives up the battle, leaving us drifting, cast in the middle of the stunning Talima Marine Sanctuary, a sprawling marine plateau of coral and impossibly blue water, like a pearl cast onto azure silk sheets.

Allure of Tanzania's Mt. Meru

Among the most rewarding experiences of my Mt. Meru trek was hanging out at the end of each day with the community of mountain guides, porters, cooks and rangers. Unlike other mzungus who often segregate themselves from their guides at the end of the day, I sought out the guides’ companionship. Many spoke fluent English and wanted nothing more than to talk about their lives and learn a little about mine.

Disappear in the Seychelles

It’s early morning and at the tiny ports of Victoria, capital of the Seychelles, boats are being loaded with supplies. In a nation of scattered islands like the Seychelles, everything comes in by either boat or plane and has to be transported, often by hand, out to the resorts that grace some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. I’m off to one such place, a tiny private island an hour’s cruise from the main island of Mahe. Riding the gentle swell in, the wow-effect comes as we putter around into the main bay, where the water is the colour of mint mouthwash and the beach is blindingly white.

Discovering Bali

Ibu is the Indonesian word for mother. On Bali, surely one of the most fertile places on earth, this simple word appropriately carries much grace and dignity. Women are respected and regarded as equals in Balinese culture. So after a few days on Bali, when men and women alike began calling me ibu, I felt welcome. My sister had leased a villa in quiet East Bali, far from the popular tourist locales of south Bali and under the shadow of Mt. Agung, the island’s highest and most sacred volcanic mountain.

Feature Story: New Zealand's TranzAlpine Railway

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by Nicholas Walton

My breath fogs up the window and I have to bunch up my sleeve to wipe away the condensation that’s building the higher we climb, but the view is well worth the effort. Outside is a winter wonderland, a landscape of steep mountain sides, their peaks lost in low clouds, their flanks pasted with thick icing sugar snow that lies in clumps beside the railway line.

A Taste of Sydney

In the middle of winter down under, Sydney is a sparkling jewel. Sunlight bounces off the harbor and is reflected in the glass towers of Sydney’s CBD, or Central Business District. The Royal Botanical Gardens and parks lining the waterfront are still vividly green, despite the cooler winter temps. At lunch hour, business people trade their suits and ties for jogging attire. Seemingly everyone is getting fit in the midday winter sun. Sydney is ideal for runners and power walkers - flat, at sea level, and with crisp, cool air. What better way to build up an appetite and sample the eclectic tastes of this city? Read More...

Modern and Ancient Morocco

How does one begin to explore a 1,200-year old city comprised of a labyrinth of over 9,000 non-paved alleys? The answer is to be comfortable with being lost. It was easy to lose track of time as we were transported back to the Middle Ages. Pedestrians compete with donkeys, mules, and bicycles in this car-free zone. Streets are crowded as the inhabitants go about their daily business. The chaos has a certain order to it. People are hard at work, spinning silk from the local cactus plant, making shoes, selling traditional medicines, and sweets, olives, nuts, dates, vegetables, and meats. Skins arrive on donkeys before being processed by men standing knee deep in pigeon dung. It’s no wonder they offer fresh mint to tourists to mask the odor. Read More...

Stunning Wine and Vistas on New Zealand's Waiheke Island

The wind dies down quickly as the powerful Fullers Quick Cat ferry slows and enters Onetangi Bay. We had just crossed Auckland Harbour and part of the Hauraki Gulf, passing in the shadow of Rangitoto, an extinct volcano. Now, at our 35-minute journey's end, crowds of locals can be seen joking and chatting with one another on the pier while they wait for another load of city folk to embark on their island hideaway.

This is Waiheke, a quirky beautiful little island in the heart of Auckland Harbour, in New Zealand. It's famed for its hippies and nudist beaches, its boutique art galleries and café culture, and for its stunning wineries, the production of which, although small by commercial standards, regularly matches up with the region's greatest drops.

The Essence of Japan by Rail

In an age where most travellers often see whole continents at 40,000 feet from an aircraft window, the romance of rail travel continues to seduce those looking for a real connection with their surroundings. Japan, with its extensive rail network and high-speed locomotives, is a great destination to explore by train. You can criss-cross between major cities like a speeding bullet, or take slower local trains to discover somnolent, yet beautiful rural landscapes.

To Market in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Navigating the serpentine streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar, is an exercise in patience. Put aside thoughts of reaching your destination in a timely manner. Instead, follow the undulating curves of the alleyways, pause to take in a group of schoolboys playing a pick-up game of soccer or watch a barefoot child roll a tire down a narrow passageway. Beautiful women in flowing black hijabs walk purposefully, eyes downcast. Vendors call out from crumbling doorways, hawking antiques, mancala boards and souvenirs. Seagulls cruising the Indian Ocean screech overhead.

In the Heart of Tanzania

On the outskirts of Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania, micro- enterprise is making a difference in the lives of rural villagers. Central Tanzania is reminiscent of the American southwest: red clay earth, simple mud-brick dwellings, dry riverbeds and deep blue skies. Read More...

Once in a Lifetime in the Seychelles

On our last morning at North, our butler woke us at 7a to watch the release of the islands’ most recent sea turtle babies. The turtles hatched in the wee hours of the morning, and we watched as 80 tiny turtles made a trek over the sand and into the sea. North Island is unashamedly aimed at providing the very best in privacy and accommodations - and will rejuvenate your soul. But its essence remains one of sustainable, ecologically sensitive utilization of a precious natural treasure.

A Family Holiday in Southern Africa

Winter in southern Africa - June, July and August – is an excellent time to visit the Southern Hemisphere. Cape Town and surroundings are cool but still lovely, with charming restaurants and delicious wines. Namibia remains dramatic and wide open, and the wildlife viewing is at its best in Zambia and Botswana. The combination of city life and thrilling animal encounters appealed to our entire family.

A Ugandan Widow's Story

"Poverty can be a thing of the past if all of us consider the other person’s lot rather than focusing on our successes or failures. It is amazing how small sacrifices in terms of time and financial resources can change the fate of the under-privileged."

Urban Walks - Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

My favourite time to explore Kennedy Town is Sunday mornings. Unlike many expats in Hong Kong, I like to rise early to see my adopted neighbourhood wake for the new day, something I share with the local Chinese. This particular Sunday I wake early and wrap up warm. Despite Hong Kong’s reputation as a steaming Asian hot spot, it has its winter too. My neighbours, as usual, have beaten me to the rising and the shining; in the stairwell of my ancient low-rise apartment building there is already the tang of incense in the air and I pass smoking incense sticks poking out from tiny doorway shrines.

International Justice and Rwanda

The city of Arusha in northern Tanzania is a jumping off point for many travelers to the Serengeti and Mt. Kilimanjaro. But there is another, perhaps more compelling reason to visit this small outpost. Read More...

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