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

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

is thailand safe?

Although I have been blogging about my trip to Thailand last week – I suspect some of you may still be wondering: “is Thailand safe?

Now I have to admit when the political protesters blocked the airport I found it hard to be sympathetic for travelers who were bleating about being ‘stuck’ in Thailand.  That may have been unfair of me, as, as a passionate nomad, as a  traveller who makes her own arrangements as to how, where and when I’ll travel, and where I’ll stay, my thoughts were ‘Thailand is the easiest of countries to leave’.

peaceful lives along the klongs in this old 'Venice of the east'
peaceful lives along the klongs in this old 'Venice of the east'

In my mind I was saying to those nameless people on TV, just get a train south, fly from Phuket,  Malaysia or even fly out from Singapore’. I also knew they could go north to Changmai or west to Cambodia. But I also know, many of those people, even those on the so-called various ‘intrepid-type-travel’ programmes that screen around the the world, that even those  intrepid travellers would not know what to do either. ( After all they have an entourage of minders looking after them, just out of camera range – it’s hardly intrepid.  So to the tv I said, ‘just hole up in your hotel, lay by the pool and wait’.  Guess I was jealous – as I wouldn’t have minded an enforced stay (paid for by the airlines or insurance) in Thailand.

So, back to the question, is Thailand safe?

OF COURSE IT IS! 

Buddha images for sale
Buddha images for sale

 

 

 

When I was there –only a week ago– there was a demonstration outside Parliament when the ASEAN conference was on, but just as when Oxford St, London,  is blocked due to road works  or demonstration (or any road in LA, New York, Miami, Sydney, or even when the so-called ‘boy-racers’ disrupt part of my city  on a Friday or Saturday night … the rest of us are not even aware of it happening .. all we see is the same as other TV viewers see and it doesn’t affect our life.

So too with any political unrest in Thailand ( insert any other countries name here too) YES it is safe …  in fact I have often heard that straight after any major event is when it’s safest to go anywhere – after all the security is on high alert.  and the demonstration had nothing to do with travellers:

It was political, not a secuity risk to any traveller. Go there NOW – I’m sure it will be cheaper.

go ride a bike – in thailand

Last week I was riding a bicycle in Thailand ….. I’m now in the process of writing a story about it – well more about me and how unfit I am, and how hot the day was: keep your eye out for it in a newspaper or magazine.

Part of the cycle trip on Phuket in Thailand
Part of the cycle trip on Phuket in Thailand

In the meantime, thought I would tell you about Spice Tours.

I did their Bangkok bike trip ( 35k) a couple of years ago and can recommend them: and right now they have 10% off all trips  starting after 31st March and includes all of 2010 (they have cycle trips all over Asia —  from hours to days long — so if that sounds like something you would fancy, have a look at the website. (and start practising .. not just little rides around a flat city like I live in!)

Check here for information about cycling in Thailand  in particular.

don’t loose your passport close to home

Just heard a warning story that I thought well worth passing on as a reminder to you.

A friend of a friend went to Australia recently: name any other country here … especially a country that’s ‘next door’ to your own country.  On the trip to the airport she lost her wallet ( pocket book/ purse) which contained her passport along with other identifying items.

This loss resulted in an expensive side-trip to Sydney to get a replacement travel document.  This could have been avoided if she had had a photocopy of her passport – something we often do if we are travelling somewhere distant and or exotic and different to our way of thinking.

So, remember, no matter where you travel, next door or the opposite side of the world – photocopy your documents and keep them in a different place to the originals.

web-passport-etc

thailand visa free

 

THE Thai government has agreed to exempt the fee for tourist visa applications for a three-month period from March 5 to June 4.. 

Within this temporary period, citizens of 20 countries including Chinese, Russians, Indians and Taiwanese, who are required to apply for visa at Thai embassies overseas or pay 1,000 baht (US$28) for a visa-on-arrival, will be exempted the visa fee for a stay of not exceeding 15 days. 

Only citizens of another 42 countries including the UK, US, Australia, Germany, Japan and South Korea are allowed a visa-free stay in Thailand not more than 30 days. 

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is seen as personally spearheading efforts to revive the tourism industry and boost the country’s competitive position to offset the impact of the global financial crisis.

Tourism Authority of Thailand governor, Ms Phornsiri Manoharn, said: “The support we are getting from the highest levels of the Royal Thai government is a clear indication that Thai travel and tourism is back to business with excellent deals and marketing support for our friends in the travel trade.” 

Travel and reading: what do you read?

The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page” according to St Augustine.

I am an avid reader and traveller so want to read and see it all. I wonder how many pages you have read? Maybe you don’t believe the old saint and see the world in different ways. Of course his world was smaller than we know it today, and we all read different types of literature.

Guess that makes the saying true, maybe it is a book – if we use that word it’s widest meaning. Some will go to Rome – for instance – and read a very different book to the one that you or I will read.web passport etc

Maybe you are an encyclopaedic type person and will have read all the history you could before arriving. You will know the dates – or at least the order of – all the various reigns and many historical twists that the city has taken. You will know some of the bloodthirsty events that took place at the Colosseum and all about the Sistine chapel in the Vatican City – the city within a city.

Other will prefer their book to be a comic, perhaps a classic that will give them all the details quickly and in manageable bite-sized portions. Comic readers will be like a couple of Aussie women and me, who, when we had been subjected to more than enough views of cathedrals were saying “ABC.” Translated it meant – another b**** church, or another WEB naked-front-coverboring cathedral. It was as if Europe was throwing pearls before swine- we had lost our appreciation when each day seemed to be dominated by yet more churches, cathedrals and their inevitable pigeons – all beginning to seem the same.

Other books I have read to inform me before, during and after my travels are the travel guides. A plethora of them and these too can range from a full hearty meal, a silver service six course classy event, to some world-wide chain takeaway food on the run, or a get your fingers dirty banana-leaf curry. As always the choice is ours: our tastes change with the weather, venue and hunger.

Travelling through this mosaic-like world – physically and via words – is a wonderful privilege and just recently I read figures that really showed just how privileged this travelling life-style is.

  • While well over 50% of New Zealanders have been overseas – so must have passports – I discovered less than 25% of Americans do; World-wide the figure for people owning passports is 3%. Although I haven’t been able to verify these figures they show a number of things. DO YOU KNOW?
  • We are an island nation so have to have a passport to go anywhere! That passport owning is not a right but a privilege – and sign of our wealth – and that kiwis, despite being flightless birds, really get around.
  • Using St Francis and his saying it seems we New Zealanders are avid readers. But what does it say about the other 97% of the world?

For many, in the poorest countries, the word is not even in their vocabulary as something they could aspire to owning. But what does it say about the world’s richest nation when so few have passports. Is it any wonder we hear words such as insular and naïve credited to them at times. Perhaps it’s because collectively they haven’t read much of the worlds pages that St Francis was talking about. Remember 10 years ago – the disbelief of the Europeans (and us Kiwis) when they found out that ‘Dubya’ – the new head of so many people- had never been to Europe, or so it seemed, ever left the USA!

Once again it makes me wonder, do broad-minded people travel or does travel make people broad-minded? I have always been broad-minded – albeit forced on me by circumstances at times – but travel has made me more so: I will keep reading the pages of this world.

There is nothing more exciting than to be alive with travelling, to not know where you will sleep that night – just the absolute certainty of knowing that it will be somewhere you have never been before.

What a wonderful freedom and richness that living on an affluent island that was peopled by adventurous explorers gives us. The privileged richness of owning a passport and therefore reading so many more pages than other nations can or do.

However, remember that privileges are equally balanced with responsibilities.