Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Adelaide, South Australia; a city of great wine and food

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

I am leaving Australia in a few weeks, and have many things to accomplish before I step onto the tarmac; all of the above are my excuses for having been a little tardy with my posting lately!  So here is a quick and easy one!

Adelaide is my post today; a city in the south of Australia known for its churches (however, to this day I have never worked out why exactly), and more understandably for its wonderful food and wine.  Here are some of the restaurants I enjoy when I am there.

For some of the BEST Italian you will find anywhere in Australia, and impeccable and warm service 
160 Hutt Street
2 mins from the CBD

More fabulous Italian food
92 - 94 King William Road
Hyde Park
5 mins from the CBD

Italian again!
A more casual option than Chianti or Assaggio
138 King William Road
Hyde Park

375 Greenhill Road
Toorak Gardens
7 mins from CBD

 In gorgeous Stirling (Adelaide Hills)
52 Mount Barker Road
Only 15 minutes from CBD

Not much is far from the CBD of Adelaide as you can tell! 

Bon Appétit

Millie x

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Do's and don'ts of Laos (and Australia)

Copyright unknown Image taken from Champa Holidays magazine 2012

Cultural differences can mean that when we travel in a foreign environment we can easily offend our hosts without even knowing we are doing so.

I still cringe when I remember my friend Gai's words on her arrival in Luang Prabang (two days after my own), 'you do know you cannot touch a monk or his robes, don't you'?.......I had realised this by the time of her arrival but her confirmation just reiterated the faux pas I had unintentionally made.

I'm positive some of you are saying to yourselves, surely anybody would know this, you don't go slapping your local priest on the back at your first or second meeting!

Let me just say, these were not big bear hugs of a mistake (and they don't need to be to offend), but a simple touching of my friend Monk Sichanh's robe while speaking of it, or a slight brushing of his arm as we chatted together. They were at the time innate human responses of mine to a friendship that was very new and growing, but they are definitely on the list of DON'TS, and need to be respected.

Only seconds after having done one of the 'dont's' I realised that it may not have been the 'thing' to do, but it was done, and to this day I am still apologising to Sichanh for any discomfort I may have caused him. He just smiles sweetly, knowing there was never any ill intent or disrespect on my behalf.

The following are some cartoon images of do's and don'ts for Laos, I found them in the Lao airlines inflight travel magazine 'Champa Holidays'. (I imagine they would stand you in good stead in other southeast Asian countries as well).

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays

The Lao word for Hello is 'sabai dee' usually said with a smile. Touching or showing affection in public will embarrass your hosts.

Lao people traditionally greet each other by pressing their palms together, although it is acceptable for men to shake hands.

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays

Kissing and hugging in public is 
impolite. Please be discrete.

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa holidays 2012

Remember, your head is 'high' , your feet 'low', it is polite to gently crouch down when passing someone who is seated. Never, ever step over someone in your path.

Coyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays

In Laos your head is 'high' your feet 'low'. Using your feet for anything other than walking or playing sport is generally considered rude.

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays 2012

Lao people speak softly and avoid confrontation.  Please do not shout or raise your voice.  Before you take a photo of someone ask if it is ok.

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays
Touching someone's head is very, very  impolite. Lao people appreciate clean and neatly dressed visitors.

Copyright unknown image taken from Champa Holidays

Please do not distribute gifts to children as it encourages begging, but give to an established organization or village elders instead.

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays

Bathing nude or in bathers in public is impolite. 

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays

Try eating delicious Lao food whenever you can, it helps local business and Lao farmers.

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays

Monks are revered and respected in Laos. However women should not touch a monk or a monk's robes

Please help keep Laos clean and beautiful by not leaving litter. Picking up rubbish sets a good example for Lao youth.

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays

Please show respect and dress neatly while in temples and when taking photos.  There are many other sacred items and sites in Laos. Please don't touch or enter these places without permission.

Copyright unknown, image taken from Champa Holidays

Laos loses a little of its heritage every time an antique is taken out of the country. Please do not buy antique Buddha or other sacred items. Instead, support local craftsmen by purchasing new, quality handicrafts.

Fellow Australians (and others), you may be interested to read below some of the do's and don'ts that I found published on the internet for foreigners visiting our shores.

 The following are pretty much all news to me!

They are from the  Travel Taboo Guide

Do not be offended being addressed by your first name.  In Australia, first names are used both in personal greetings and business correspondence. Professional titles are not prominent in Australian business culture, and are sometimes dismissed as pretentious.

Do not touch, pat or hug other men in public which is considered socially unacceptable.

Do not visit without an appointment. Unannounced visits are not part of Australian culture, always make a call before you wish to meet the people.

Do not blow your nose in public, it is socially unacceptable.

Do learn some knowledge of major sports and how the local team is getting on if you want to associate with Australian males.  Sport is supreme in Australia.

Do feel 'at home' when invited to an Australian house. Australian hospitality tends to be very informal,and you will be encouraged to serve yourself.

When I read the first piece of advice from this list I immediately thought of an incident which happened many years ago in the Channel 10 green room in Melbourne.

One of our guests for Good Morning Australia that day was a Mr Ocscar de la Renta (I'm sure you have all heard of him).

Now I think I can safely say that Mr de la Renta would never be greeted by 'Hi Oscar' in either Spain, France, or New York (well at least not by people he has never met before and certainly never by someone younger than himself to boot), but that is exactly how he was greeted in the green room on this particular day...with a 'Hi Oscar'! 

When I heard this, I held my breath and waited for the reaction, none came....he's a gentleman (and a very handsome one at that), but in that split second I was terrified for the young segment producer.

Familiarity can be very disconcerting for many visitors to Australia and often considered rude, in this particular case I would have to agree (although I'm sure it was not intended to be).

As for me, I clearly need to brush up on my sport, keep my hands to myself, stop hugging men in public and remember to sniff not blow!

Have a great Tuesday

Millie x

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Instinct, your best travel partner. It's midnight in Paris...

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
I feel I have an angel watching over me, however I won't continue to push my luck!

It's midnight in Paris and I'm walking home on a cold January night when a cough behind me takes my attention.  I turn to see who is sharing the dimly lit and deserted street with me. 

I make out a male figure in a dark jacket with a hood pulled tightly over his head, he’s 20 meters behind. As I reassure myself there is no reason to be afraid  I quickly take out the gate keys anyway and hope that this will be the one night I won't be forced to wrestle with the lock.
I have only just put the key in when it's clear that I'm not going to make it. Some sort of weapon is shoved rudely and violently into the small of my back and I feel a prod like instrument pushing forward, it makes a loud clicking type noise and my muscles experience a tightening and weakening at the same time. The 'charmer' repeats his attack again and again into my back. I fight back as best I can and let out a shrill and persistant scream, this seems to infuriate him further and so he takes his weapon and forcefully jams it into my head, twice.
I am sharing this, one of my not so pretty Parisian experiences, to emphasize the importance of listening to one's gut instinct and using it to stay safe wherever you are in the world.
Had I listened to my instinct that night I would not have taken the metro line that I took,  I had always and purposely avoided it at night as it meant a longer, darker and more deserted walk than the alternative metro line. 
I remember vividly the words I said to a friend I was with that particular evening.....'I don't usually take that line....but ok, just this once then'.

Even though I didn't feel good about my split second decision I went with it and took the less safe option.
I do not know exactly what this guy wanted with me, it is possible he may not have simply wanted to take my bag. My screaming saved me, it alerted my neighbour who was putting her cats out for the night, she yelled and the 'courgageous' man ran like hell picking up my bag on his way out and leaving me bloodied and sprawled on the ground.
There followed a visit from the police, followed promptly by the ambulance, hospital and a bunch of stiches, a police station visit and even a home visit from a couple of detectives the next day.  Unfortunately in my struggle I never got to see the perpetrator's face and so he is left to roam the streets freely and dangerously.
Up until very recently I had no intention of sharing this story on my blog, however a recent experience in Laos changed this.  Once again I ignored a gut feeling and found myself in a very tense situation with an inebriated and clearly irrational man in a very isolated part of the country.
Had I listened to my intuition I would never have found myself in the frightening position I was in, and to this day I am not entirely sure why I didn't, although it could possibly have something to do with a stubborn streak, and the fact that when I set my eyes and my camera on something I become focused to the exclusion of all else, including my personal safety.
I will not go into the details of my experience, I will be eternally grateful for a spot of luck which saw two other tourists able to get me out of what was a drawn out and very scary situation.

Neither France nor Laos are dangerous countries, either event could have taken place in my home country of Australia.  Having said this,  I do want to emphasize that there are cultural differences and less stringent rules and regulations in developing nations such as Laos so it is important to understand and recognize this.

Instinct is one of man's most primal responses.  It exists for a reason and should be trusted and acted upon. I certainly feel I have learnt some important lessons and have vowed to never again override what my 'gut' is telling me.

In the coming weeks I will be adding a page of travel and safety tips and I hope they can be of some use.

Please stay safe and don't doubt for a minute your primal and most important of responses, instinct.

PS In relation to my opening words.... it really was dead on midnight in Paris....I'm not stealing any movie title I promise!

Millie xx
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