Tag Archives: world

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?


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)



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.


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?


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.


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.

World Buskers Festival.

Organised pandemonium takes over Christchurch, New Zealand, as each January locals and visitors of all ages flock to open-air city malls, the city’s cultural precinct, and out to the seaside suburb of New Brighton to witness the world’s very best busker talent: the World Buskers Festival. Belly laughs, amazement, admiration, and surprise fill their lives for ten days every summer.

This is when artists, from countries as diverse as Portugal, UK, Japan, Australia, Italy, the USA wing their way to Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, to provide over four-hundred free shows – although, as it’s their livelihood, optional donations are always welcome.

“The festival’s reputation for excellence and our great locations here in the heart of Christchurch’s cultural and heritage  precinct  are  big  drawcards for both international and domestic visitors, as well as for  local  residents,  and  it  has  become  an  icon event for the city” festival director Jodi Wright tells me. Such is the reputation of this event that, sitting in her office under the old university observatory, Jodi is inundated with pleas for an invitation from buskers around the world.

Hub of activities for the dare-devils, outrageous comedians, juggling divas, and other mischievous people here to entertain, is the Art Centre, site of Christchurch’s first university and the first place in the British Empire to admit women.  Some famous alumni are; poet Denis Glover, novelist and playwright Dame Ngaio Marsh, Sir Karl Popper scientist and philosopher, and our celebrated artist, Rita Angus. This university is also where the great 19th century scientist, Sir Ernst Rutherford, had his ‘den’ and where he explored his theories which led to the splitting of the atom.

When plans emerged for the Gothic Revival buildings to be demolished – in the 1970s when the university moved to a new site – Christchurch residents pleaded for its retention. They finally won the arguments and the resulting Arts Centre is now firmly established as the cultural hub of Christchurch and is one of New Zealand’s most significant historical and cultural attractions: a fitting place for the smash hit the World Buskers Festival has become in the Christchurch calendar. Numbers attending the shows have more than doubled since its inception in 1994.

Christchurch was New Zealand’s first city (by royal charter in 1856); is lauded for its gardens, and sits on a large plain between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean. It could easily be called festival city: as well as the buskers, festivals celebrating the arts, writers, jazz, and floral themes are just a few of the others. Known as ‘The Garden City’, it has won many national and international horticultural awards and these show the importance locals place in having a beautiful city in which to live, work, and play: there are maps of great drives and walks around the city available from the information centre in ‘the Square’ – the original centre of Christchurch.

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens, founded in 1863 and acknowledged as possessing the finest collection of exotic and indigenous plants in New Zealand, is co-opted as the setting for the children’s part of the Buskers Festival. Witches, magic, and juggling create fear and fun with the kids: parents love the acts too.

Each evening the Busker Comedy Club, a cabaret-style, outdoor variety show in the Arts Centre grounds, is packed with people, many of who arrive  an hour or so early with rugs and cushions to sit on. Others have booked one of the tables which are well-supplied with tasty nibbles and drinks to enjoy as they laugh at the adult-only entertainment.

Over the lunch hour, under the gaze of an old statue of one of the city fathers and alongside modern sculpture and the cathedral that dominates the skyline of Cathedral Square, I watch a Canadian as he flouts the rules of physics. Using his engineering degree he tests the quantum theory by impaling a cabbage on a spike on his head and tells us he is proud of his pasty, lanky look and ability to out-talk a senior citizen. Known by his stage name – the Comedy Engineer – he also says that ‘comedy has been waiting a long time for an engineer.’

The crowd remains when he finishes and soon Mario, Queen of the Circus, takes over the pitch. Winner of awards in Germany, Switzerland and France, he is a master of impeccable timing and phenomenal juggling skills: this is showmanship at its best and I loved every minute of it.

Recalling his show, a word of warning seems appropriate. Some performers, like this queen of the circus, may ask you to volunteer as a participant in their show. However, as the festival programme says: ‘please feel free to decline their request (for any reason) and use common sense and caution at all times’.

Nevertheless, the only injury I witnessed was to a friend’s ego when she was surprised by one of the roving acts – at the airport! Just off the plane, she was welcomed to festival city by The Crowd Maintenance Crew when they popped out from behind a wall and dusted her down with their feather duster ‘just making sure you are in tip top condition’ they tell her.

Other roving acts this past January included a pavement artist, living statues, and two local women – The Chick Taylors – who are the personification of improvisation with a range of characters from the Paranoid French or German through to Retro English Geeks: they are up for anything and it’s great to see locals in such a high-calibre extravaganza such as this festival.

Featured on the Discovery Channel programme, “Fantastic Festivals of the World,” this one-of-a-kind event extends out the beach suburb of New Brighton which sits on the long sweep of Pegasus Bay and the Pacific.

It was a hot sunny, beach-suburb-appropriate day when I caught one of the very popular shows by the Blackstreet Boys. Discovered by festival organiser Jodi Wright as she explored Venice Beach, California, these young men are irreverent, light on their feet, full of mischief and the crowd and I loved their performance. I hear that when they are not on the streets of LA they teach and choreograph would-be artists – this has included MC Hammer.

Locals claim the Christchurch cultural precinct is the finest in the southern hemisphere. Planned by the city founders – some 150 years ago – to create a cultural heart for the province (Canterbury) it is still a wonderful backdrop to many of the arts and heritage activities of Christchurch.

‘I’ll meet you at the Arts Centre’ or ‘let’s have coffee, dinner, or supper – before or after the show,’ can be overheard wherever locals gather. The old university, with over forty galleries, studios, theatres, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, shops, bars, weekly arts market, fabulous bead shop, and ethnic food stalls, this vibrant place is the perfect backdrop for the World Buskers Festival.

Park your car as this  an easy area to explore by foot or tram, and most of the activities are free, and include places such as; New Zealand’s only remaining Provincial Chamber buildings, Our City O-Tautahi with its changing exhibitions, the fabulous glass fronted Christchurch Art Gallery, the Canterbury Museum, and the Centre of Contemporary Art. So when you are exhausted from laughing at the class buskers acts that are spread around the city, complete your stay in Christchurch by enriching your senses with food, fun and culture in this very public heart of a great city. See you there!

for other world festivals check out 2camels website.

©Heather Hapeta 2008

15 top tips for great photos

Maheshwar, India
Maheshwar, India

Want friends to love your holiday photos? try these tips

Travel sharpens awareness of our surroundings; the different, the unusual and it’s these things, the view of a new eye that makes great photos.

As a travel writer I take many photos during my first few days in another country, a different culture. (www.kiwitravelwriter.com)

If you want your photos to be more than a mere record of your travels try these tips.

  1. Keep your camera with you : some of my ‘best photos’ are the ones I missed by not having my camera read
  2. Filling the whole frame adds impact to many pictures
  3. Eliminate the unessential, cut the clutter. Don’t try to grab it all.
  4. Early morning and late afternoon have the most favourable light.
  5. Avoid midday as overhead sun drains the colour.
  6. Simple blocks of bright colour make bold statements look at other people’s photos to see what works, what catches your eye.
  7. Vertical shots are great for height and portraits, while horizontal ones are good for getting some background.
  8. Hold your camera at an angle for some fun shots: I won a photo-of-the-month prize because my angled shot stood out.
  9. If possible, leave the subject lean on something, or put their weight on one leg for natural pose.
  10. Take photos when the person is unaware of you.
  11. Use a background that enhances the subject: don’t have poles, trees, or the Eiffel tower growing out of your subjects’ head
  12. Balance the picture; rarely does the subject look great right in the centre.
  13. Take a series of photos: signs, doors, sunsets, fountains, or faces.
  14. Use something to frame the subject, a tree trunk and branch, a door, a window – but not with all your photos.
  15. Finally, be considerate and don’t take photos of people who don’t want to be photographed – eg the hill-tribes of Laos. If I believe I will publish a photo of people, I get permission to do so (when possible) and pay them in an appropriate way.
Takahe - a colourful native
Festival of the Hungry Ghost. Malaysia
Kaikoura, New Zealand