Five things first-time visitors should know about Thailand

Thailand is one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, and it’s one of my favourite places.

Regardless of your interest — be it exploring temples, fine dining, water sports, jungle trekking or bar-hopping — you are more than likely to have a good time. But there are a few things you should know before you set out.

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A serendipitous day in Taipei

I really should pay attention to landmarks. I spent far too long walking the wrong way today, all because I confused Metro exit 5 and 8.

National Palace Museum exhibit ok

But I also visited the National Palace Museum during the day and I’m writing this from a very nice bar I spotted while I was walking the wrong way.

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Up, up and away … this time I’m off to Taipei

For reasons that will become clearer in future posts, I have to be in Bangkok by the last week of this month.


I checked my Qantas frequent flyer points* with the view to making a direct flight from Brisbane. But I discovered that for about the same number of points I could go first to somewhere I’d never been before — and I’m always up for that.

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Show some respect

Playboy model Jaylene Cook has created controversy in New Zealand by posting a selfie taken at Mt Taranaki, a Maori sacred site.

Cook at Waikato (from @jaylenecook_)

The Instagram picture was said to offend many in New Zealand’s indigenous community, although it was met with approval from at least one local tourism official. The incident raises an important issue that goes beyond the land of the long white cloud.

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An expensive business

The first time I flew business class, it was from Brisbane to Perth. Somebody else — a publicist promoting a play she wanted me to see so I could interview the star* — was paying, so I’m not sure what it cost.

I was, however, shocked to see the difference between the economy and business class fares currently being offered by Qantas for the same flight.

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Not just for the birds

Reading recently that billionaire Elon Musk had taken Amber Heard on a date to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on Queensland’s Gold Coast reminded me of my childhood.

My family always holidayed at Currumbin Beach, from well before I was born. My grandparents camped on the beach near the long-gone mineral sands works in the 1940s and 50s, and when my sisters and brother came on the scene, my parents booked a flat overlooking the beach for three weeks every year during the Christmas school holidays.

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Liveable or not liveable?

I’m a big fan of Melbourne — indeed, I have friends there and I often advise people planning a trip to Australia to include it on their itinerary.

Brisbane: didn’t crack the top 10

But I can’t say that I’m convinced that it is the world’s “most liveable city”, as it has been declared by The Economist for six years running. (Will it make seven? Wait until August to find out.)

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Birthplace of the Olympics

Even a non-sporty person such as myself couldn’t resist the idea of squaring off at the starting line where the ancient — and therefore the modern — Olympic Games began.

Olympia, on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, is where it all began. And it’s where the Olympics torch relay always begins every four years.

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Probably the best brewery …

I was going to include these pictures in an upcoming gallery of Copenhagen, but I thought they deserved special attention. They were taken at the Carlsberg brewery, where the famous Elephant Gate ushers visitors into the fascinations of a beer-making process that has changed little over more than 150 years.

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Magical, mysterious Macau

Macau has become a magnet for mainland Chinese and other gamblers in recent years, but to think of it as the Las Vegas of South East Asia would be doing it a great disservice.

Sao Paulo cathedral ruins

The former Portuguese colony about an hour by boat from Hong Kong has its own unique cultural flavour — a potent blend of East and West that can be alluring even for those who are not interested in playing the tables or the machines. Continue reading Magical, mysterious Macau

Petra: the jewel of Jordan

The ancient “rose city” of Petra, in Jordan, is on many a bucket list, and for good reason.

The remnants of a 2,300-year-old civilisation include the ornate Treasury (Al Khazneh), which is carved into solid sandstone. Take a moment, or more, to contemplate the artistry and sheer effort involved in achieving that without the machinery or technology we have today.

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Meanwhile, near the Acropolis

Almost everybody knows about the Parthenon, the Temple of  Venus Nike and the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens.

“Socrates’ Prison”

But a walk around the area where the tourist buses park reveals some other architectural and natural delights, including a church and the (probably bogus) prison of Socrates.

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Kusadasi in pictures

Kusadasi is a city on the western Aegean coast of Turkey, perhaps best known to tourists as the gateway to the remarkable Roman ruins at Ephesus.

Sadly, a lot of cruise ships have stopped calling at Turkish ports following political unrest in that country. Hopefully the delights of the city, with its winding passages and interesting shops will be available to travellers again soon.

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Northwest Passage ho!

Would you pay a premium price for a luxury cruise through a stretch of water that was once regarded impassable and treacherous?

Crystal Serenity (

It seems enough people are to justify a second sailing by Crystal Cruises through the Northwest Passage that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Arctic Ocean.

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Better than the real thing?

In the Mall of the Emirates in the desert city of Dubai, there’s a snow ski slope. On Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ships, there are “FlowRider” wave machines that simulate surfing in the ocean.

Surfing on a ship. (

There are ice rinks all over the place, in towns and cities where the temperature never drops below freezing point, and there are water parks in places that rarely experience rainfall. China is building a theme park devoted, in part, to the English writer Shakespeare and the Spanish novelist Cervantes.

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