A wild wildlife encounter.

On my recent trip to Nusa Lembongan (a small island off the south-east coast of Bali) I went on a snorkelling trip to Manta Point on the southern side of neighbouring island Nusa Penida. As the name might suggest Manta Point is a favourite hangout for Manta Rays. Or most of the time it is at least – our skipper told us (me and a Brazilian couple who I chartered the boat with) that he couldn’t guarantee we’d see any. And he was right. The only rays we saw were of the sun variety. But, our skipper wasn’t about to give up. We chugged around to another cove where the water was so rough that metre-high swells were smashing into the shear limestone cliffs. As soon as we arrived our skipper screamed, ‘Manta!’ and told us to quickly jump into the water. I dived in and immediately found myself smack in the middle between two huge creatures the size of small cars. One of their massive rippling wings brushed past me and I’m not ashamed to say that I almost wet my swimming trunks. I then floated, bobbing about on the surface of the sea while getting beaten around by the swell, while the mantas gracefully swam around us. At one point the larger of the two came straight at me with it’s mouth open – which looked as if it could swallow me whole – then glided directly underneath me. Read more

New Bali Airport Terminal

World’s best (and worst) airport?

I’ve just returned from a trip to Bali and boy was I surprised when I arrived (and departed from) Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport. When I was last in Bali five years ago the airport was pretty much one step up from an oversized tin shed. It’s now a big, new, shiny, clean and well-run airport. There are no more waiting in a hot line for immigration. The pay on arrival visa system is quick (although it has gone up from $US25 to $US35) and we were out in less than an hour after landing. I always bemoaned that it was one of my least favourite airports in the world. In one of my long flights this year I wrote down all the airports I have been to in my travels over the years (and yes I was bored – I’d seen all the movies and read the inflight magazine twice). I have passed through 167 airports (now that’s a lot of shops to wander aimlessly around). And during my travels I also managed to visit what I consider to be the best and worst airports in the world. And other travellers tend to agree with me it seems. A recent global poll of airline passengers from 160 countries voted for the best and worst airports of 2014.  These are the results from the survey: Read more

Bali beyond the beaches

Bali beyond the beaches.

We are going to Bali next week and although this is my seventh time I’ve been there I’m looking forward to discovering somewhere new. We are going to the island of Nusa Lembongan, which is a half-hour boat trip away from Sanur. There is so much more to Bali than Seminyak or Legian (which I’ve never actually been to). A couple of years ago I wrote an article for Voyeur Magazine (Virgin airlines inflight mag) about exactly that. Here’s the story…

With over two million tourists every year it’s not surprising that Bali that gets a lot of press, although recently it seems to be mostly about pushy touts and drunken yobbos. But travel away from the main towns and tacky souvenir shops and you’ll not only discover the authentic Bali, you’ll wonder where all those touts and tourists are.

The road out of Ubud is one big shopping strip selling huge stone carvings, woodcarvings, mosaics, brightly coloured paintings, ceramics, clothes and every other tourist trinket you could possibly think of – or, in some cases, hadn’t thought of. I was on a brand-new scooter that I’d hired in Ubud and heading north on a three-day jaunt through the mountains and volcanoes, and around the northern lakes, including Lake Batur and Lake Bratan. If you’re not game enough to jump on a scooter (although this isn’t Kuta and the traffic isn’t nowhere near as chaotic or scary), you can hire a car, or even hire a car and driver if you want to sit back, relax and take it all in. Read more

100,000 rupiah

My wife is a millionaire!

We are about to jet off to Bali for my wife’s birthday and my sister gave her a 1.2 million rupiah in cash as a birthday present. It would be nice if the rupiah was one rupiah to the dollar, but sadly it’s 10,000 to the dollar. Still, Beth is not complaining – that’s $120. I do love getting hold of foreign currency in my hand. And particularly when you arrive in a new country and change your money to be given a pile of often brightly coloured notes. I spend a long time looking at all the different notes and coins and I’ve collected quite a few over the years (check out some of my collection here). And I particularly love currencies with wacky names.  In Mongolia they have a Tögrög, while in Malaysia they have a ringgit. Read more

tripadvisor logo

I contracted a venereal disease at this hotel.

That is just one of the great quotes from a review on Trip Advisor. The bad reviews on Trip Advisor can be really bad. Like scare-everybody-away bad. I admit that I use Trip Advisor quite a bit when I travel and have stayed in some fantastic accommodation and eaten in some amazing restaurants because of the advice and comments. Yes, it’s nice to just wander around aimlessly sometimes to find that ‘hidden gem’, but there is a very good chance that the hidden gem is ranked No.4 for that town or city on Trip Advisor anyway. And they can still be hidden gems, by the way, even if they are on Trip Advisor. On my last trip to the Philippines I went to the No.1 ranked restaurant in Taglibaren City and beside enjoying my best meal in the Philippines it was truly a hidden gem because no tourists really stay in Taglibaren City anyway. Nearly all of the reviews were from locals. Read more

Air asia plane

Flights for $3 (inclusive of taxes and toilets).

I’m planning to go to Malaysian Borneo in June (for another Dad and Daughter Adventure) and I started looking at flights today. And being somewhat frugal I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the cheapest way to get there. After way too much time searching around I did find a cheap way, but it does mean detouring quite a bit. If we fly to KL with Air Asia we can get a flight from KL to Sabah, Borneo for around $35. I’m not sure If we’ll do it because we’d have to pay for accommodation in KL, but boy wouldn’t it be fun being an ex-pat in KL. Read more

sihanoukville snorkeling trip

Travel highlights of 2014.

…and there goes another year. And, as usual, there is never enough travelling. I can’t complain, though. In 2014 I went on our first Big Dad and Daughter Adventure to Cambodia, did some serious skiing in the New Zealand Alps, had my first American Thanksgiving in a snowy Minnesota, skied in Utah with the mormons and a had a few local trips, including being in Sydney for the St Patrick’s Day parade. Amongst all that was a whole bunch of highlights (and often the highlights are not necessarily about a place as such, but about the people you are with, the food you ate, discovering something so new or simply a beautiful moment). So, without further ado here are my Top Ten Travel Highlights from 2014 (in no particular order): Read more


A Christmas tipple.

It’s that time of year when most people (well, most Australians at least) give the bottle a bit of a nudge. Admittedly, I give it a good go at Christmas parties, but at least I stick to beer and wine. On my last trip to Vietnam I got quite tipsy on rice wine and in the morning I had stomach cramps to go along with my hangover-cum-monstrous-headache. My stomach cramps may have had something to do with the fact that we (about twenty of us) were all drinking the sickly sweet rice wine from a large wooden bucket. Out of shared straws. While dancing around it. It was up there with the worst alcoholic drink I’ve ever had. Then again, if you want to fire up your Christmas party it gets you drunk very quickly. And, if you want some other novelty drinks for your Christmas party here are my Top 5 worst alcoholic drinks of all time: Read more

travel apps

My favourite travel Apps.

For quite a while I refused to take my phone with me when I travelled. I actually liked being away and feeling like I was truly away. And I certainly didn’t want to sit in a cafe with a beer in hand and update my Facebook page about sitting in a cafe with a beer in hand. I resisted for a while then one day, a few years back, I flew into London for a connecting flight to Zurich and all the planes were grounded because of fog and I was put up in a hotel. The problem was that someone was picking me up from Zurich airport. I couldn’t call or text until I got to the hotel, but by then it was too late because they were already on their way to the airport. I had to call them from the hotel phone to tell them what happened. That cost me 80 dollars. A text would have cost me 50 cents. From then on I took my phone with me when I travelled. Then along came the iPhone and I now sit in a cafe with a beer in hand and update my Facebook page about sitting in a cafe with a beer in hand. Read more

Scooter accident waiting to happen

Five ways to poo your pants.

I have been scared a few times in my travels (restaurant bills in Europe scare the hell out of me for a start), but thankfully nothing too bad has happened to me. Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t die or break any bones or end up in jail, but I have had a few almost-poo-your-pants moments. Here are my Top 5 Scariest Encounters (in no particularly scary order):

Gun to the head – Trans Mongolian train, Russia
The train was trundling along through the middle of Siberia when I was confronted by two scarily drunk Russians on my way back from the dining car. One asked a me a question in Russian and when I said that I didn’t understand he began shouting at me and grabbed my arm so I couldn’t get away. Then he reached into his jacket and brought out a gun. A gun? It took my brain a second to register that he was holding a real-life handgun. As he was bringing the gun up to my head his friend screamed out ‘NYEY! NYET! and grabbed his arm. The gun fell to the floor. They both dived to the ground and a struggle for the gun ensued. It took me another few seconds for my brain to figure out that it was probably a good idea to get the hell out of there. Read more