Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre

Monkeying around in Phnom Penh.

We’ve just got home from our Big Dad and Daughter Adventure (with my 12-year old daughter Jasmine) to Cambodia and the highlight of our trip was a behind the scenes tour of the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. The wildlife sanctuary, which is about an hour out of Phnom Penh, is home to gibbons, sun bears, crocodiles, elephants, tigers, otters, deer and over a thousand other exotic critters. The animals were taken from poachers, markets, restaurants and abusive owners and they receive care and shelter as part of a sustainable breeding program. No animal in need is ever turned away, and wherever possible the animals are released back into the wild once they have recovered. Read more

Karaoke-Thailand

Karaoke World Tour – Thailand.

We’re off to Thailand for Part Ten of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour and a bit of ‘Speed Karaoke’ in Chiang Mai. I was travelling around Thailand in March this year for my book Tell Them to Get Lost when I dragged my girlfriend Beth into a dimly lit and very empty karaoke bar in a back street of Chiang Mai. There was all of five other patrons in the bar, so the barman was very happy to see us – and sell us a drink (the pic is of all the five guests with me singing in the background). The barman handed us a thick song book then flicked to the very back. That was because there was about fifty pages of Thai songs and only one page of English songs. And even then there were only twenty songs to choose from. Read more

Russian Karaoke

Karaoke World Tour – Russia.

It’s Chapter Nine of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour and this time I’m singing with the Russian Mafia. I was in Moscow after completing the Trans Mongolian train journey for my book Planes, Trains & Elephants. It was on one of my usual aimless wanderings through the streets when I spotted a very upmarket ‘Karaoke Bar’ with two very large, very menacing and very well dressed bouncers standing at the doorway. This was some exclusive karaoke bar, but that didn’t stop me going in. Even when the bouncer told me that there was a $US25 cover charge. I just told him that I didn’t need to pay a ‘cover charge’ because I was only going in to ‘find’ my friend and that I would be out in a few minutes. Read more

Singapore karaoke

Karaoke World Tour – Singapore

I spent a couple of hours in a karaoke bar in Singapore and didn’t buy a drink. Or sing a song. But that was because one drink cost more than some Air Asia flights and I had to escape from mini-skirt wearing girls trying to pick me up before I got a chance to sing. It’s Chapter Eight of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour and although I was in Singapore doing research for my book Tell Them to Get Lost I couldn’t pass up a chance to add another country to my list. There was a whole line of Karaoke bars near my hotel and I picked the largest one with the biggest crowd – although the room was so dark it took my eyes a while to adjust before I could actually see the crowd. I was escorted to a table and given a drinks menu. It was then that I almost fell off my stool – a small glass of beer was $13! ‘I’ll wait a bit,’ I said to the waiter. Read more

Karaoke Switzerland

Karaoke World Tour – Switzerland.

They didn’t have yodelling on the karaoke list in Switzerland, but they did have songs about asparagus and breasts. It’s Chapter Seven of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour and this time we’re off to the Swiss Alps. I know Swiss karaoke bars pretty well because I must have gone to the same karaoke bar in Wengen, Switzerland at least fifty times. I was working in a ski resort for a tour company as a ski guide and we would take the ‘clients’ up to Sina’s Bar in Wengen every single Monday night for karaoke. But, hey I didn’t mind. Not only do I love karaoke, but I got free drinks all night. Read more

Philippines karaoke

Karaoke World Tour – Philippines

It’s Chapter Six of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour and this time I’m in the Philippines. I was in Manila ‘couch surfing’ for my book Sleeping Around when my host suggested that we do what all good Filipinos do. Go to karaoke. We went to a small karaoke bar and when I told Jude that I was going to sing ‘My Way’ he said, ‘You can’t sing that. You’ll get killed!’ Only the week before a man had been shot dead in a karaoke bar for singing My Way. He was halfway through the song when the bar’s security guard yelled at him for singing out of tune. He ignored him and kept singing, so the guard pulled out a thirty-eight-calibre pistol and shot him dead. His defence was that it was his favourite song and he didn’t like the way he was singing it. Read more

Blackpool-England

Karaoke World Tour – England

We’re off to England for Part Five of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour and the most visited place in all of England – Blackpool. In fact, with 120 000 holiday beds, Blackpool has more tourist beds than the whole of Portugal. What is even more amazing (and frightening) is that Blackpool attracts 11 million visitors annually, which is more than twice the number of people that visit Australia every year. And as a draw for tourists, nothing comes close to Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach (an amusement park). It is the most popular attraction in the UK with 7 million visitors annually, outdoing the British Museum by almost 2 million (stuff ancient treasures when you can shove ping-pong balls down a clown’s throat). And amongst all the fish and chip shops, tacky souvenir shops and B&Bs are pubs full of drunk Brits including some scary karaoke bars. Read more

Sweden karaoke

Karaoke World Tour – Sweden

In Part Four of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour and we’re off to Sweden. And Finland. Well, it’s actually in the middle of the two on the overnight Stockholm to Turku ferry (this was part of my ‘Ferry’ chapter for my book Planes, Trains & Elephants). I was leading a group of Hong Kong Chinese on a Russia/Scandinavia tour for tour company Top Deck and my passengers were very, very excited because there was an all-you-can-eat buffet followed by karaoke. I both love and loathe buffets. I love them because you have so much food to choose from, and I loathe them because you have so much food to choose from. I feel I should try everything, and end up heaping my plate with 14 different dishes. And I can tell you with some authority that Thai red curry chicken, spaghetti marinara and sausage rolls don’t taste that flash all mixed in together. Read more

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Karaoke World Tour – Kyrgyzstan

We’re back for Part Three of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour. I was in Kyrgyzstan as part of the research for my book Where’s Wallis? and on my final night I hit the streets of the capital Bishkek in search of karaoke (as any good travel writer would!). It was there that I found most of the young cool set of Bishkek loitering on the footpaths of the main drag Chuy Prospektisi. Kids loiter on city streets at night in every city in the world, but these kids had a better reason to hang about than most. Every twenty metres or so along the street there was a full karaoke set-up, complete with TV monitors, large speakers, flashing lights and even plastic chairs for the audience. The combined cacophony of badly sung, god-awful soppy Russian love songs was both ear-and nerve-shattering, but I loved it. Read more

vietnamese-karaoke

Karaoke World Tour – Vietnam

Part Two of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour takes you to Vietnam – although it does seem to have much the same storyline as Part One (ie: lots of drinking and singing). I promise that not ALL my Karaoke World Tour stories involve me getting drunk.

I was in Hue in January 2003 as part of the research for the Tet celebrations (Vietnamese New Year) for my book The Naked Man Festival. I was on one my usual aimless wanders down side streets looking for the ‘real’ Hue where I found Tet celebrations in full swing as I peeped into people’s houses and saw lots of card games going on and plenty of drinking. I was squeezing down one impossibly narrow lane when I heard loud music and even louder out-of-tune singing. I peered through a small window into a tiny, dark and smoky room. A bunch of twenty-somethings were crammed into the corner watching a large-screen TV and belting out a bit of karaoke (another favourite Tet activity). Read more