Tag Archives: sydney

Bus Stopping

If you ever go to Paris, you might consider getting on the hop-on/hop-off bus. You can see all the sights, the Louvre, Eifel Tower, Paris Opera, Champs Elisees, Arc De Triomphe, Place de la Concorde – the list goes on.

If you ever go to London, you might consider the hop-on/hop-off bus. You can see all the sights, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, St Paul’s Cathedral – the list goes on.

If you ever go to Cape Town you might consider getting on the hop-on/hop-off bus. You can see all the sights, Table Mountain, The castle of Good Hope, Camps Bay, St George’s Cathedral – the list goes on

If you’re in Hong Kong, you might consider the hop-on/hop-off bus. You can see all the sights – Ummm, all of them, like ummm, the traffic jams in Causeway Bay, what’s left of Lan Kwai Fong, old and historic Pacific Place shopping mall, and even Wan Chai Computer Centre.

Do you think Hong Kong really needs a tourist bus? I love this place, but it’s not exactly open top bus tour friendly. You will not see, nor motor past, wondrous sites such as the Colosseum, or the Sydney Opera House. It also has to be the easiest city in the world to get around by public transport. London, Paris, Cape Town and most other major cities are spread out to varying degrees.  Hong Kong Island is 15km long, and from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay – less than 4km. It has, in my opinion, the best transport system in the world; it’s certainly easier to use than any other city I have visited.

Hong Kong hasn’t got so much in the way of grand European style buildings; we don’t have wide tree-lined boulevards or miles of majestic beaches. We have Hong Kong. Narrow streets with tiny shops selling everything imaginable; noodle shops and outdoor butchers; impossibly steep streets selling fruit and vegetables; fish mongers who will slice and dice a fish without dropping a speck of their cigarette ash. You can’t experience that from a bus.

A hop-on and off bus might deny visitors the essence of this town. Visitors should be on the Mid-Level outdoor escalator, not just looking at it from above or alighting to take a picture, only to hop back on a bus so they can drive past the Convention Centre and stand in awe at the latest harbour reclamation.

Think what tourists miss by not wandering around – all the little bars and interesting places along the way: the smell of incense on Peel St; the pungent aromas of the dry markets in Sheung Wan; the hustle and bustle of Causeway Bay; the many markets and stalls around Central and Wan Chai. That’s without even starting on the richness of the Kowloon side.

Hong Kong is a walking city. It’s a place I like to experience it at street level. Tourists should get lost in the Wan Chai markets, marvel at people who work each day in the barely tolerable smells of the dry markets, and see our City for what it is. If you come to Hong Kong on holidays or a stopover, stay off the bus and get walking, it will be worth it.

Geographic Malfunctions

Do you know where Australia is?  Would you like to know?

I was in my travel agent’s office the other day and saw an imposing poster: “European Package” it proudly proclaimed in 3” letters. Below were the glossy photos to entice you to visit the wonder that is Europe: The Eifel Tower, Big Ben… and a kangaroo.

OK, for full disclosures sake, I’m an Australian. I am also a realist. Australia is right down the bottom of the list when it comes to globally significant countries. But people, we are not in Europe!

It borders on a national obsession, recounting stories of tourist misconceptions. I have personally been told, on disclosing my nationality, that my English is quite respectable – in that slightly loud way people like to talk to non-English speakers, (as if volume is the secret to learning languages).

There are some outstanding stories from the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – Tourists turning up with Austrian currency and complaining the Vienna Boys’ Choir was nowhere to be found, questions to travel agents asking if milk was available – or should they bring their own; and my personal favourite (although I suspect apocryphal) is the story of the American lady who turned up for her Olympic experience – in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

So here it is folks: Australia is an Island in the Southern Hemisphere, we are a multicultural society where English is the official language, you can’t walk from Sydney to Perth, unless you want to die, as in between is an extremely large desert. There are no kangaroos in the streets of Sydney, (but quite a few in the restaurants, if you catch my drift). It is stinking hot at Christmas, and while it’s true we have a fairly large group of poisonous snakes, spiders, plants, and fish, you are unlikely to meet them sipping on a latte in a Melbourne café. (Yes, we also have coffee in Australia).

I do wonder in the Internet age why there are so many people who simply don’t know where things are. I perfectly understand why you wouldn’t know where Lichtenstein is – I don’t know myself, but geographically, Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, more than twice as large as India and 48,000 times bigger than Lichtenstein.

Australia is also a delightful place to visit, the people are friendly, and the weather is excellent. Remember, we speak passable English, or at least our version of it, so don’t be surprised at my superb grasp of written English, (but I concede if you are an English teacher, you may be thinking the opposite). So don’t be fooled by your Travel Agent, kangaroos are not European.

If you want to go to Australia, or simply impress your friends by knowing where it is, follow these straightforward instructions:

Log on to your computer and open Google maps.  Go left at America and when you get to Japan, head south. It’s the huge place at the bottom (no, not the Antarctic, you have gone a country too far!)

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