I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Feeling low but seeing Hong Kong on high

Ohhhhhhh the comedown. I am in a hotel in Hong Kong, and all in front of me I can see the harbour and my lovely ship – which is sailing tonight without me! Booo!

The Grand Hyatt is on Hong Kong Island, looking over to Kowloon and the Ocean Terminal where my other address when in HK, aka the Seabourn Odyssey, is champing impatiently to head off to Vietnam.  If only the pollution were less thick, it would be the most perfect view. The locals say that it is getting worse every year as mainland China builds yet more factories manufacturing flat screen tvs and plastic toy guns.

So all the cruise-ship white is packed and it’s back on with the city black wardrobe.

Yesterday was a whirlwind of packing, a quick trot through Mongkok’s Ladies’ Market, where market traders mutter, “Hello cheap designer handbag watch sunglass look look this way lady look look ,” in one breath as you pass, then dinner in the hot highrise restaurant atop the gleaming Upper House hotel.

Can I say three words, people: pear & rosemary martinis. Hong Kong’s new drink of choice. Sensational. Worth a 10-hour flight (or a 12-day sail) from Australia.


Snoozing and cruising on the Seabourn Oddity

Today is the last day before we reach Hong Kong, where something like two-thirds of the ship gets off. There are about 130 world cruisers – those travelling from go to woah – from the USA to the final destination, Greece – and the poor things now have to make new friends with the next batch of guests coming on board for the next leg through Vietnam, China and so on, which sounds fabulous.

Last night was the traditional black-tie dinner, where the men dusted off their tuxedos and the ladies their evening gowns and pearls. Despite all the wrangling on board about dress code (the hottest topic at the card tables as the Old Guard demand jackets in the restaurant and no shorts in the observatory bar after 6pm, while the New Guard would rather leave their swimmers on, come what may) the black-tie affair was lovely to see.

And today? Snoozing and cruising on the Seabourn Oddity, as per the captain’s orders.


Brunei and the logistics of eating

Well, here they are: the gold domes of Brunei’s Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque with its gold domes, in the country’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB for short). With its obscenely wealthy sultan and a population that doesn’t pay tax, Brunei’s residents have free education and health care, living in their steamy hot little country on the island of Borneo which, amazingly, is split amongst three countries: Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Having said all that, the lavish mosque sits in front of a water village, corrugated iron slums on stilts that hover above the water. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition.

Like its neighbor, Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu, (KK for short: apparently if you say ‘Kota Kinablu’, the locals know you’re fresh off the boat, and should have your wallet nicked), Borneo’s fridge magnets were dreadful, truly dreadful, featuring the pervertedly ugly proboscis monkey, the one whose fleshy nose hangs down in front of its face like a tumor. Poor things.

We followed the ship’s executive chef, Bjorn, through the fruit markets which were, like most of what we saw in Brunei – clean and orderly. He delighted the traders by buying all the bananas and chillies in the market: “Yes, I’ll have 50kg, please.” Word has it that the floods in Queensland made restocking the larders in Sydney and Darwin near on impossible, to the extent he was dashing into the Darwin Woollies and saying, “100kg of cauli, 100kg of broccoli, thanks.” The man obviously brings joy wherever he goes, snapping up barramundi in Darwin, chardonnay in Sydney, red snapper in Borneo…


Cruising in the South China sea

The longer you stay on a cruise ship, the harder it is to get off. Champagne and corned beef hash at breakfast? Why not? Not me, but I’ve also seen at least three tables sporting bottles or tubes of Vegemite, the black breakfast spread most of us are addicted to.

You’d think that being on a cruise ship, I’d be blogging daily. But no. There is too much to do, not including lying by the pool. By the time breakfast is finished – a prolonged affair involving too many pastries, eggs and myriad juices, it’s time to nip down to a lecture on, say, espionage, and then, suddenly, it’s lunchtime. After lunch each day, I promise myself a good, hard loll by the pool. But lunch turns into a gasbag with one of the interesting people on board, be it a magician or a former political mover and shaker…

The other morning, I made time for a lecture by the jeweller whose gorgeous shop is on board. Rodney Rahmini talked us through rare gemstones of the world, such as star sapphires and cat’s eye christoberyl, mined from the troubled grounds of Sri Lanka and Myanmar. And ladies, I have found my new career – jewellery model.

I came over all Delvine Delaney (for those of you formerly addicted to Sale of the Century) and had several thousand dollars worth of rubies draped on me. The catches all seemed to be broken, because I couldn’t get them off after an hour. But that’s ok, the police pried them off and no charges have been laid against me…

Today we stopped at the Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu. Not the most exciting of ports, but I should have taken a tour. It’s a weird part of the world: Chinese clothes shops sit beside Muslim restaurants – Hong Seng and Bismillah side by side, with of course the ubiquitous KFC and a ribs house called Texas.

There were many markets: the wet, the dry, the handicraft, the night, the Sunday… Malaysians love a good shop, obviously.

But it was not enough, it appears.

“We’ll see you back on the boat in an hour,” said one cruiser, who was returning to the boat on an early bus this morning. I get the feeling many are just waiting for Hong Kong, when the real fun begins, and the countries include Egypt, Israel and then Europe. I’m heartbroken I’m leaving at HK…


Equators, evil spirits and the power of silence

We’ve just crossed the Equator, and people, can I tell you, there was no red line.

I think that might be an oil rig on the horizon, but other than that, no fanfare. There is some sort of traditional hi-jinks on this afternoon to celebrate, but for now, it was a quiet event at about 4am, somewhere off the coast of Malaysia, as we head to Borneo and the nearby Malaysian port of Kota Kinabalu.

Our day trip to Bali has spawned a new flush of batik clothing on board, snapped up from voracious traders, and people are still talking about the stick-like-glue beggars and their hour-long $10 Balinese massages (compare with the $150 deals on board), proving that even the wealthy love a good bargain.

I joined a cycling tour from Mt Batur, in the north, riding 25km down to Ubud to counteract some of the serious eating happening on board the Odyssey. About 14 of us whizzed through rice paddocks and tiny villages, kids waiting with outstretched hands that we slapped as we passed, like slightly wobbly Tour de France pros.

Our route was lined with enormous paper mache monsters, about 10 meters high, grotesque dolls being made by the villagers in preparation for Silence Day, the only Hindu celebration recognized by Indonesia’s predominantly Muslim government (bizarrely, Bali is a little Hindu island in the world’s largest Muslim nation).

The government has to recognize this day: no Balinese will work the airports, sea ports, drive, cook or even venture out doors. The belief goes that once a year, these enormous grotesque dolls are paraded from one end of the village to the other, scaring out all the bad spirits, who leap, terrified, into the air.

So, the whole of Bali goes quiet for 24 hours to fool the spirits, who are now flying angrily across the skies, into thinking the island is deserted. Thus deceived, the evil spirits dive back into the seas from whence they came. Hence the day of fasting, with no work or play – just silence. I was in Bali on this day a few years ago, and all I could hear from the hotel I was staying in was the tinkle of bells tied around the farm animals’ necks as they grazed peacefully on the jungle foliage.

Well, room service has just delivered breakfast, but here’s some more food for thought: Bali’s evil spirits are underwater, and we’re on the water…


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