The Thoughts of Chairman May... on Travel
A collection of opinions and thoughts on travel and foreign countries by the OzFurry fox himself.
"These days, people are a lot more concerned as to what you take onto a plane as opposed to what you take into the country you are entering - at least in England and the United States."
"The IRA is to blame for the litter problem on London streets and railway stations. If the IRA didn't plant bombs in rubbish bins, the bins wouldn't need to be removed, and people would have somewhere to put their rubbish. Who's going to hang onto a drink can and sandwich wrapper travelling across London on the Underground?"
"My feeling is that Hamburg is a worse city than London. Within 3 hours of arriving at Hamburg central railway station I saw druggies shooting up in the streets - as opposed to 5 days in London seeing nothing worse than homeless people."
"The Soho red-light district in London makes Karangahape Rd and Vivian St in New Zealand look like respectable members of the Business Round Table as far as customer service is concerned. Never mind the supposed sordid delights of Soho - you can't set foot in the places without being ripped off!"
"Some things in the United Kingdom are so.... English - a phrase that takes on new meaning after you've been in the country for more than a few days. For example, queuing is a very English thing."
"The city of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire is planned, organised, clean, well laid out and modern - in fact, it's a very un-English city."
"Even after just 3 days in Germany I was starting to be assimilated. Before I left I was starting to speak 'Deutchslish', which is a mix of English sentences constructed by German rules or speaking a mix of German and English in the same sentence."
"I paid a visit to the 'Secret Nuclear Bunker' near Chipping Ongar, north of London, last time I was in England in 2001. This was a dedicated installation devoted to seeing the UK government survive a nuclear war with the Russians. Three floors of self-contained environment with ten foot thick concrete casing, self-contained air supply etc etc... but going by the newly released Civil Defence TV shorts they were to show in the event of a probable nuclear attack I figured that the best advice was literally 'Kiss Your Ass Goodbye'. In the event of a nuclear exchange Cold War-style, I felt it would have been better to stand outside under the Bomb yelling defiance - at least the end was quicker than dying of radiation poisoning."
"Viewing the Pacific War Memorial on Corregidor Island in the Philippines was very moving or me. To think, this island - which ended up with bomb craters every couple of yards after the war ended, and was so denuded by battle they had to reseed the entire island with plants from scratch - was the scene of so much fighting, death and bloodshed. It was very easy to visualise the fighting, bombing, shelling and stuff that went on, no part of the original fortifications was unscathed, from wrecked buildings through to blast damage on concrete bunkers and bullet craters in the metal of the big artillery guns. Yet now, there was an atmosphere of peace over the place now, just birds in the ruins, and trees reclaiming the wreckage and stuff. Standing at the altar of the memorial, and just thinking of what people had gone through fighting to defend and then retake Corregidor, brought tears to my eyes."
"The airports of Chek Lap Kok in Hong Kong and Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila couldn't be more different. While the new Hong Kong airport was squeaky-clean, the decor was extremely depressing - sort of a '2001' scheme of dull greys and metal. In contrast, while NAIA had a colour scheme reminiscient of seventies-brown, at least there were green plants!"
"There's something that really hits you when you land at NAIA that lets you know you've arrived in the Philippines - the hot, humid tropical air with that distinctive scent of... diesel fumes. Not even avgas from the planes, just diesel fumes."
"I'm sure that most jeepney and taxi drivers in the Philippines are frustrated Formula 1 racers, judging by the way they drive! The first rule of driving is 'If there's a gap - go for it!' which explains why so many service station forecourts turn into thoroughfares, and how Filipinos are the only people I've seen so far that can fit five lanes of traffic into a two-lane highway."
"Japan is an amazing country - where else can you walk out of the airport and become instantly illiterate? For an English-speaking person, even if you don't know French, German, Italian or even Filipino, you can at least read it and try and pronounce it. But Japanese (or Chinese, Korean, Hindi, Arabic etc) looks to the untrained eye just like random chicken scratchings. It took me around five months before I could even recognise some of the simpler katakana characters without looking it up in a phrasebook!"
"A thing that struck me about Tokyo was how many buildings there were. I know, this sounds silly, but when you look out of your 15th floor hotel room and you can see nothing but buildings - few trees or gardens, and even the skyline has a ragged jaggy artificial look to it - you realise what it actually means for Tokyo to be the densest-populated city on the planet."
"What can I say about the Japanese Shinkansen Bullet Train? It's fantastic! Smooth, comfortable, and fast as hell! Every country should have one."
"Hurrah! I finally found an American beer that I actually like - in a micro-brewery/pub in downtown Portland, Oregon. Something that actually has a) taste and b) alcohol! For some reason even Heineken gets the taste taken out of it in the US, and don't get me started on Miller Lite: tried that five years ago in L.A. and I'm still waiting for the taste..."