Travel Writing Competition 2012 Entries

A Casual Encounter

"Where are you from?" It's the first question travelers ask each other, but when people ask where I'm from, California is not the the answer they're after.

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A close encounter

South Africa will stay in my memory as a kaleidoscope of impressions including the cold blue ocean, funny penguins, lush vineyards, misty Table mountain, friendly people.

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A Day In Cambodia

I rise to the sounds of the street permeating through paper-thin walls. The mattress is thin in my $3-a-night room and the slumped ceiling is spotted with mould. My toilet is a mere hole in the floor where I squat...

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A Hole in my Bucket List

“Bucket List ….no.8 Egypt,” was the choice for our 70th birthday celebration with two friends. The Nile cruise over, we set off in a comfortable mini-van for the White Desert National Park.

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A Summers Day Outing in Kenya

Mt. Kenya. The highest peak in Kenya and the second highest in Africa. At 17,057 feet, it is one of the few features in Africa with snow.

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A surreal fieldtrip to the Magritte Museum

Hmmm, I thought, this is either a particularly well-behaved class, or there’s some truth to that annoying “European children are better behaved” theory.

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Across the Mona Passage

The foreboding darkness of night enveloped us as we left Puerto Rico, sailing across the Mona Passage to the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Horizontal lightening burst across the heavens, fusing each cloud with...

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Agent Orange

In imperial Hué, Vietnam, “ethnic eats” expert John M. Edwards alights upon a café not located in the Lonely Planet guide.

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All is not well at Tiger Hill

As the sun rises over Tiger Hill in Darjeeling, India, the pushing and jostling for position stops as we all stare in wonder at the magnificent picture unfolding in front of us.

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AmeriCorpse

Lacking more direction but refusing to move back in with my parents, I decided it would be best if I did some volunteer work before entering the real world.

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An Acquired Taste

It’s all in the details; the meticulous planning, the time spent with map and calculator working out how long each individual activity will take, right down to the last minute.

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An adventure

Far

Loneliness

Maybe not -

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Arigato, But No Thanks

"Here I am, all set for this amazing trip", I thought. It was a long haul flight, and not being a keen flyer. I thought paying a little more for more comfort was ideal. I ate, drank, watched movies slept in...

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Atmosphere

The atmosphere on the minibus is tense. Quiet and unsmiling the guard slowly moves from person to person, scrutinising with unflinching eye each and every document, peering from passport to face to passport again.

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Bandhavgarh: Wilderness and History Entwined

Although I had read a lot about Bandhavgarh’s bewitching beauty and gathered enough information from those who had visited the place, all my preconceived notions were swept aside once I found myself...

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Blow Away the Cobwebs

‘I can’t feel my face,’ Tracey says as her words are blown back at her. I have to lean in at forty-five degrees, using my body weight just to close the door.

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Bolivia with a pinch of salt

I was woken by a sharp “tap tap” on the car window. The door suddenly opened and a rifle was pointed into the vehicle. It was a fair indication to get out.

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Bottom of the Lake

Under a canoe in the middle of a lake. Fully clothed. That was where I didn’t want to be...

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Budapest to Split

Little did we know that the 750km train ride from the bustling city of Budapest to Split, Croatia would turn out to be THE worst day of our lives.

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Buffalo, NY

Buffalo, NY on July 9th, 2010 was a place I did not want be. It was not that Buffalo is such a bad place. However, because of the expectations I had prior to getting there it temporarily seemed bad.

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Carpets For Sale

The art of haggling for a good bargain is considered a much desired attribute in many parts of the world so the acquisition of a handmade knotted carpet on a visit to the Middle East was not going to be achieved in an hour or two!

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Condoms and Cups

I always hated playing baseball. I found it boring and frustrating, and frankly, I just wasn't very good. Nonetheless, ever since I was a kid and up through my sophomore year of high school...

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Costa Rica.

Just after dark the bus stopped at a cafeteria. The timing of the unprepared traveler and his stomach do not often agree, so food had become a priority for us. Maybe we were distracted by hunger pains; perhaps we...

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Crossing continents

I climbed back onto the Greyhound, the smell now familiar to me after twenty four hours of travel on this thing; dust mixed with chemical pine from the air freshener hanging from the mirror.

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Curse Of The Sea Gypsy.

Well, er, the problem was, I thought I saw a real live mermaid. Get that?

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Dont tell mum

Don’t tell mum. Please. If you do, she’ll be terribly angry with me, and probably so afraid that I’ll never get to go anywhere on my own again. I know that what I did was extremely foolish...

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Dried Fish and Impulsive Love

I smelled like dried fish. As I sat in a coffeehouse in Bogotá, the sharp pieces of dried fish that clung to my cotton trousers were scratchy and annoying.

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Drop In On the Droppings

All I wanted to do was show my kids the sights and sounds of London, but I soon realised memories can be quite visually orientated as I had forgotten one other thing, the smell.

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Eggs In One Basket

I was on my way to Suleja, a town in Northern Nigeria. I had fallen asleep right after we set out and when I woke up, we were on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway. Sitting in the back of the Nissan were...

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Elephant Toilet Paper anyone

Elephant toilet paper made from its own faeces, elephant shaped badges, fridge magnets, biscuits, clothes, bags, ornaments, you name it Pinnawala Elephant ‘Orphanage’ sells it.

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From Cruising to Dozing Off

It was our last day at our island destination. We were so thrilled to tour around the island and despite the fact that it was just two days and one night getaway, I still enjoyed it or so I thought.

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Going to get help does not always have immediate benefits for your fellow travellers

Everyone is familiar with the 1-2 person hiking tents. Yes you can squeeze two people into them and the comfort level is directly proportional to the size of those people – ie the smaller the people, the more comfortable.

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Gratitude

What does one think about when lying awake all night—huddled under 4 heavy blankets but still not quite warm, taking only shallow breaths to avoid the stench of bodies and smoke embedded in the pillow and blankets...

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History Tour To House The First President Of Indonesia

I stood in front of the Hotel Sahid, Jalan Sumatra, Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, just next to the train station Gubeng. My goal this Wednesday, June 6, 2012, was visiting the house of Bung Karno.

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In Search Of The Mosquito Coast

“Ice is civilization!” declaims the protagonist in Paul Theroux’s popular bestseller The Mosquito Coast. But on the rich coast of Costa Rica, “beans” are!

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Island of the Damned

I should have known better than to come to the island of the damned on a full moon. The Greek island of Leros was home to a notorious psychiatric hospital where 4000 ‘untreatable and unmanageable’ patients were...

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Italian Insomnia

The summer I turned 18, my older sisters Karen*, Deanna* and I packed our bags for three months of backpacking around Europe. We were three college students trying to pinch pennies, staying in dorms of 20 people...

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Italian Stew

Our small hotel was a charming stone structure, nestled in the luscious countryside of Umbria, my friends and I were taking a well deserved break from our respective realities to eat, rest and be merry.

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Journey Diary

I always went by bus whenever I wanted to travel to Minna from Kaduna. I’m not an often traveling guy. I travel for at least once a month. Because I’m used to the trend of having this nauseating feeling...

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Kuantan, Malaysia

At almost every seaside hotel with a swimming pool there is always Jacuzzi in the vicinity. The warm bubbling water entices all weary travellers to relax in it. Who would have thought this almost cost me my son’s life?

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Labe

Labe? Labe? Labe? Are you going to Labe? In an empty car park under the unforgiving sun of West Africa, it is never an easy task finding five more passengers making the 250km...

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Little Prairie On The House

"Little Prairie On The House: Introspective and Philosophical yet Politically Correct and Culturally Accurate View Of Australia In Hindsight In Non-Convoluted English"

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Lost In Lima

It was when I passed a pair of policemen patrolling the footpath in leather boots laced to the knee and double gun holsters, each with a Rottweiler on the end of a chain, and they looked surprised to see me...

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Milksops in the Magic Kingdom

Disneyworld, Orlando. The franchise may be largely aimed at six year-old girls, but lurking behind every Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique there is something twisty and loud, perverting gravity in ways that should be illegal.

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My journey to Borneo

My journey to Borneo was a coincidence, or simply unintentionally made. I did most of my journeys for a simple reason, to pursue my passion for capoeira and photography.

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My name is Sam and this is the place I didnt want to be

My friend, Kelsey, and I sat in her basement. We had been down there all weekend listening to music and drinking soda. It was our typical hang out spot during the weekends because my father didn't allow me to bring...

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Nananu-I-Ra

We arrived on the little island of Nananu-I-Ra, finally landing on Lomonisne Bay, exiting the little boat which had taken us on the short journey from the mainland jetty to where we were staying at Safari Lodge on Mile Long Beach.

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New Years Eve In China

We stepped off the plane into the freezing Beijing airport. It is 3 in the afternoon Asia time and for us…probably 4am or so. We walk through an easy breezy customs with stern looking gov’t officials and look for...

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Nightmare to New Orleans

One of my worst ever journey experiences happened when I was a UK exchange student at Frostburg State University in the USA. I really wanted to go to New Orleans for the New Year celebrations.

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No booty for the king

We’d just had a late Christmas celebration, playing a game to win as many of the cheap presents we’d bought along the way as possible. My score was quite good actually. After a twisted psychological battle...

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No One was There

Last November, I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The few days I spent in Israel and Palestine brought me face-to-face with myself and taught me a dramatic lesson in self-restraint.

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Non-Climbers Guide to Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t really up there in terms of a romantic getaway. But this is exactly what my significant half Stuart and I decided to do for our honeymoon.

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Not Climbing Mountains

On the 4th April we woke ready to begin the next part of our trek. Arriving at Deboche later I headed straight to our tent to rest.

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Sainu, please

A thick, salty aroma from the noodle shop on the train platform in Osaka hung in the sultry air while I waited for the Shinkansen—the bullet train—on the last day of July, the time of year when Japan peels off...

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Scared, beaten, hung-over, discovering Barcelona!

“No! Uno cigarette!” I shout in a pathetic Spanish accent, hopelessly assuming that my audacious attempt to translate would calm the situation. Monstrous shadows tower behind him, smothering the moon.

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Sheena and the Geezer

Antigua is a half hour dog-eat-dog drive from the girls’s school in Guatemala City, the school for which I volunteer and visit at least once yearly. I’ve yet to visit the IMA School without at least a little time spent in...

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Sheffield

Sheffield is a woman called Tracy, and well, Tracy is a bit of a tart. She knows nothing of civility, elegance or decorum – let alone how to spell them. She embodies everything that is wrong with city...

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Singing the Church Camp Blues or Look, Ma! No Tan Lines

Thirteen: an awkward age by anyone's definition. But when adolescence is coupled with peer pressure and the elevated expectations of devout Southern Baptist parents, life can become something akin to multiple personality...

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So Much for Hakuna Matata

LangaLanga Primary School is not the type of place that can easily be described by words. At 8 o'clock on a sunny Monday morning, I arrived covered head to toe in sun cream and armed with a bottle of water...

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Terror at the Lake

After spending sixteen hours in the car cramped in the back seat between my two little brothers, my grandparents say they want us to drive another three hours in the car to visit their lake house. My parents can’t say no...

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The Bear Necessities

‘You people from England?’ asked the bus driver. He was a grizzled old man with a grey goatee and thick spectacles. It wasn’t really a question; it was more like a taunt. We nodded.

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The Bread Eaters

Crashing a Club Med in French Polynesia, nonpaying guest intruder John M. Edwards discovers life is no picnic. . . .

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The Bridge

To cross the bridge or not to cross the bridge? I continuously asked myself at 2am under a starless night, after a 14 hour van ride from Puno to Cusco, Peru.

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The Bus Trip from Hell

I don’t remember much about Germany. What I do remember is the bus ride. Endless hours sitting on the bus driving from one place to the next for another ten minute stop. And I remember being sick, very, very sick.

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The Dentist From Hell and or Mexico

In the middle of nowhere Mexico, my filling breaks. With no apparent cause, an upper back molar, which for many years has been an amalgamation of tooth, silver and white composite, cracks and crumbles.

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The eviction

“You won’t need to take towels”, he’d said as I tried, and failed, to squeeze a couple of towels in the suitcase the day before. “Everywhere has towels provided, even the worst B&Bs supply towels these days”.

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The First Flight

The cold, hard all-night unforgiving concrete of the North West Australian Main Roads Department depot floor, told him more about his real condition than any guide, best friend or philosopher ever would.

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The Fungus Eaters

If you ever have the chance to stroll through the streets of one of Norway’s immaculate cities in winter, sparkling with lights as if all the stars of heaven have decided to fall to earth, keep in mind that hidden somewhere...

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The greyhound

Ah the greyhound! You collect your tickets from a motel office, you await inline in a garage parking lot and see who is to accompany you on your leg of a journey across the USA.

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The Labyrinth

Their cautionary warnings ran through my head as we sped through the labyrinth, the hidden maze of backstreets in the expansive metropolis of India’s capital.

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The Man with Bullets in his Socks

She wanted to be my girlfriend. I didn't really understand why such an attractive Kenyan girl would be interested in me.

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The New Culture

The bus to Addis Ababa is almost retro inside, overly decorated with hanging tassles, flags of red, green, yellow and black, and a picture of Jesus Christ, hanging behind the driver’s seat.

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The Pamplona Bull Run--Modern Gladiators

Uncomfortably crammed amongst the masses of sangria-crazed adrenaline junkies, my brother and I concocted a strategy to thwart the plans of the scheming bulls. It was the second day of the San Fermin festival...

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The place I didnt want to be

India, somewhere between McLeod Ganj and Manali on a government bus. For ten hours throughout the night we were beaten heavily into the metal bars and thrown off our staunchly upright seats by a driver intent on...

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The Real Singapore Sling

John M. Edwards flies all the way to ex-Empire Changi Airport to try the zings and arrows of an authentic ancient Chinese secret called “Singapore Sling.”

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The Salamanca Blues

I had not traveled before my eighth grade Spain trip. My mother and grandparents have traveled so much in their lives, and the idea of joining the clan was utterly romantic.

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The Talented Foreigner: Akaltara, Rajasthan, India.

‘Hannah Didi, Hannah Didi wake up!’. I groaned as I woke to the sticky hands of five year old Tuk Tuk talking to me through mouthfuls of Pan.

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The Thing

In January when I mentioned that I was visiting Finnish Lapland my Swedish colleague Martin suggested I get to the treble border point of Norway, Sweden, and Finland (and no, not in an angry "Tony, why don't you p%^& off to the end of the earth" way).

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The Train Ride From Hell

We arrived at Munich international train station at about 11am and were told by Information it would take 4 trains, and 16 hours to get to Nice, meaning we would be arriving at 6am the following day…Brilliant!

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The Trek From Hell

My wife and I are not geriatrics. Neither are we spring chickens. We're greypackers: fit for our age; fitter than many younger than us. But Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay we ain't.

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This Could Be It

We’d been warned about scorpions. That they’re everywhere in the desert. That they’re attracted to your body heat during the cold nights. That they hide in dark places...

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Thoughts On Ak-47's Pointed At Your Face

The point isn’t to dwell on the fact that I had ingested large amounts of hallucinogenic substances sold to me at the small cafe where I ate my pizza and drank my beer.

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To be or not to be in the mighty Himalayas

Eight of us stood in the midst of the Himalayas in Sikkim, Northeast India, looking uncertainly at the landslide before us. The storm had moved great chunks of mud and rock downwards, birthing a gushing waterfall...

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Trapped in a Shark Cage

Uneasily, I boarded the small boat with fifteen other people that would take me out to cage dive with great white sharks. I was on the coast of South Africa and terrified of the large predators of the ocean, but didn’t want...

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Trapped in the Night

There had been only darkness and the drone of the engine for several hours before the coach suddenly lurched to a halt. A few of the inmates stirred, awakened by the advent of the dim interior lights.

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Travelers Manifesto

"Okay, take a deep breath, you can do it." This is the silent, self-coaching, I chant, as I enter the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. I conclude, I should be more than capable of completing this foray because I have experience in...

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Travels with my Toilet Roll

Before my first visit to Africa, a ruddy-faced ex-colonial moustache offered me two pieces of advice: shake your boots before putting them on, and don't look in holes in the ground.

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Twenty seven and a half hours to Laos

On a bus to Laos. Or rather, in a bus to Laos. On the bus is a selection of wicker furniture that would make a participant of the 1990s' craze of sticking a conservatory onto the back of your home weak with excitement.

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Two Nights In A Hospital, One Night In An Airport - Unexpected Experiences in Bangkok.

On returning to Bangkok from Burma, I felt incredibly weak after 2 weeks of on/off illness. The thought of an hour’s journey across Bangkok on two trains with a backpack, just to get to the hostel I’d been to whilst waiting...

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Two Weeks in Sun Drenched Heaven

In all my years as cabin crew I had never experienced any real stress with airline travel and rather enjoyed the hustle and bustle of airport life. Being whizzed through security at staff search, swiping my I.D. pass...

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Vacationing in Prague

While vacationing with Werner in Prague it’s the eve of the New Year. We walk through the cobblestone streets of the historic Old Town Square and head for the famous Charles Bridge.

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Waiting and waiting and waiting in Paris

My lasting memories of Paris will not be of visits to iconic museums and landmarks, but of the queues to visit said museums and landmarks.

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What Goes Up, Has to Come Down!

I was 58 years old and had hiked for years, but never climbed a significant mountain in my life. Why on earth did I think I could climb two in three days, one being the highest in Great Britain?

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What's for breakfast

In my grogginess, I rolled over and mumbled “Good morning, Amy.” Her reply was a barely audible “Good morning, John.” But then we looked at each other and both broke out in uncontrollable laughter. “HAHAHAHAHA!”

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Womens Cooking Class

Women’s Cooking Class (Translation: Wear your best clothes and bring your juiciest gossip)

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