On one of my trips to Hawaiʻi, I really enjoyed going to Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island (seen above on the far right of the Hawai’ian chain). Many think of Hawaiʻi only for its beaches and lush vegetation but this park really brought home to me, that this chain of islands was formed by volcanic activity. That brings risks for those who live on the Big Island where seismic activity continues.

Lava from the most active volcano in Hawaiʻi, Kilauea began seeping out heading toward the ocean on 27 June. It paused its movement in September and then picked up the pace this last month. The lava flow is reportedly 110 metres wide and chest-high in places.

It has been advancing over the last few days toward the the former sugar plantation village of Pahoa which has a population of about 800 people with some small shops, homes and farmsteads. The lava overran its (mostly) Buddhist cemetery last Sunday.

Today it burnt down its first home as seen in this video. Thoughts with all.

Resources for more information about the lava flows:


USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
by phone at: (808) 967-8862
by web at: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php

County of Hawai’i Civil Defense
by phone at: (808) 935-0031 (7:45 am – 4:30 pm)
by web at: http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/active-alerts/

I have bargained for Books in Bombay, Cards in Cambodia, Drivers in Delhi,  Face-creams in Fiji, Household oddments in Hong Kong, Linen in Lebanon, Night time accommodation in Nicaragua, Sunglasses in Singapore, Trousers in Thailand,  Zimbabwean stone carvings and more!

Yup, I love bargaining (also known as haggling)!

Photo 2014-04-24 10 57 57

This shopping method for me is all part of the fun of travel.  For other travellers, it feels annoying, confusing and frustrating and even terrifying. I have had friends insist I bargain for them. Others give up buying, lamenting “why can’t it be fixed price?”  When I see people struggling with bargaining or when I am tired of the bargaining game I always think of a Life of Brian skit. Brian, on the run from the Romans, is forced to ‘aggle for a disguise…

Its well worth a look at to get some tips! In the meantime,  here are my 12 tips to help you love bargaining:

1.Know your surrounds-  In Asia, Africa and the Middle East, bargaining is part of almost every transaction except food. In duty free stores, supermarkets and department stores where fixed prices are displayed, bargaining is a rarity. In most Middle Eastern situations, the arrival of tea or coffee is the sign that this is a bargaining shop and the bargaining is about to begin. Accept the coffee/tea and get ready for the negotiating.


2. Treat bargaining as a game. See it as a fun way to get the price you want, the stuff you like and get to know a local. Enjoy the seller’s protestations, compliments and entreaties. Prepare to “flirt” a little! NB  I have seen some awful berating and bullying of shop keepers. Don’t do that. Let me tell you I have seen also aggressive sales people. Walk away from them.

3. Do not buy at the first stall you see the item. Chances are you will see it a hundred times again

4. There is debate as to whether to be early and get the first sale of the day as it is considered lucky or the last sale. I don’t worry too much about that and just give it a  go.

5. Know the price you are prepared to pay but do not tell anybody. I have had a laugh a few times where I have seen a couple decide on the price they want to pay in front of the shopkeeper and then start bargaining! Or as someone is bargaining, their friend chips in with “well done, you are almost at the price you want“. Make sure you have calculated the price correctly.

6. Do not bargain unless you are going to buy – unless the price really is more than you want. I find it a little rude that some one takes up a seller’s time and then says “Sorry I didn’t really want it

7. Try and know some local language. Words for “yes, no, hello, thank you, beautiful, fine, good” thrown in suggest that you know more about what you are doing or can add some entertainment.

8. Never, ever offer the first price. Make the seller do it. If its more than double what you want to pay, say “thank you but that is too high” and walk away without looking back. If they chase you and offer a lower price, start the process. In Asia, many shopkeepers will hand you a calculator and ask you to type in the price you want to pay. Always insist on them starting the process.


9. Always start at 50% of the price the shopkeeper offers. Do not start below 50%.

10. Whatever price they offer you, make your next offer half way between their new price and your last price. Forget any previous prices they offered.

11. Do not assume, people will forget you. If you promise to buy something in the morning, they will remember you in the evening. This can work to advantage, I have a shirt man in Bangkok, I go back to each time. We do not bargain anymore. He sells for he same price, I bargained him to the first time. We are both happy!

12. Don’t be merciless. I am  willing to give in slightly on the final price as the small difference in my money can help a local family significantly.


Here is how it should work:

All of the conversations below have been taken from real life situations I have been in!

Customer: Hola, Salaam, Gidday, Greetings, Salamat Pagi etc. You have many nice items for sale. What would your price be for these jeans in size 34?

Shopkeeper: For you, best price Sir. Just 40 dollars!

Customer: [feigning shock and disbelief] 40 dollars is your best price? I would pay 20 dollars.

Shopkeeper: Sir, these jeans cost me more than 20 dollars! See the stitching, it is the finest. My brother/father/cousin/uncle makes them himself personally. It is beautiful quality. But for you because it is my first sale of the day, I will drop the price. For you, only 32 dollars.

Customer: Yes, I can see the stitching is good and they fit very nicely but the pockets are not deep enough. I really think that 32 dollars is just too much for that mistake. [pause. hesitate. pause]. I would consider going to 26 dollars but that is more than I would normally spend.

Shopkeeper: Laughs. Holds up the jeans to the gathered crowd of locals watching or the next door shop keeper or his wife (I have had an audience watching me bargain more times than I have wanted in remote places in Africa and Asia!).  He wants to pay $26 for these jeans. Don’t you think they are worth more than this? I tell you what, you buy two pairs of jeans for $60?

Customer: Thank you for the generous price for two but I will only pay $28 for one

Shopkeeper: You are a very hard man. I have to work early to late to pay for my family. I have a daughter at university to support. I need the money. But I like you. For you only, $29. My last price.

[Here is where you have a choice. You can either keep going or give in. As I said, I tend not to be merciless].

Customer: Congratulations on the success of your daughter. You must be very proud. I will take these jeans for $29 OR Congratulations on the success of your daughter. You must be very proud. I have family too and I need to be careful too. I will offer you $28.50.

At the end:

Customer: Thank you for the good price. I really like these jeans. I am very happy. Please thank your  brother/father/cousin/uncle for his great stitching.

[sometimes regretfully, I have had the following happen:]
Shopkeeper: You only have a 50 dollar note to pay with? I am sorry I only have nineteen dollars in change.

Customer: that is okay. I will wait for you to get more change


Good luck and let me know how you get on!


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702Mus of Flight As mentioned yesterday, it is 11 years since Concorde last flew. Sadly, the closest I have ever got to Concorde was at the Seattle air museum, Heathrow airport and CDG airport in Paris. I have the germ of an idea of going to visit all of the remaining Concordes around the world. As most are in the UK and France, that should not be too hard! Adding Barbados in, is a little trickier.

    1. 001:F-WTSS Prototype – flew 1969 to 1973  Museum of Air and Space, Le Bourget, France
    2. 002 – flew 1969 to 1976:  Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, UK
    3. 101 -flew 1971 to 1977:  Imperial War Museum, Duxford,  UK
    4. 102-flew 1973 to 1976: Musée Delta, Orly Airport, Paris, France
    5. 201:F-WTSB – flew 1973 to 1985: Aeroscopia Museum, Toulouse, France
    6. 202-flew 1974 to 1981: Brooklands Museum, Weybridge,  UK [you can climb aboard]
    7. 203- flew 1975 to 2000: Destroyed in CDG air crash
    8. 204- flew 1975 to 2003: Manchester Airport, UK [you can go aboard]
    9. 205  F-BVFA- flew  1976 to 2003: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Chantilly, Virginia USA
    10. 206 G-BOAA- flew 1975 to 2000: Museum of Flight, East Lothian, Scotland, UK [you can go aboard]
    11. 207: F-BVFB- flew 1976 to 2003: Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum, Germany [they also have a TU144]
    12. 208: G-BOAB- flew 1976  to  2000: Heathrow Airport, London, England, UK near runway 27L
    13. 209: F-BVFC- flew  1976 to 2003:  Airbus Factory, Toulouse, France
    14. 210: G-BOAD- flew 1976 to 2003: Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York, USA [you can go aboard]
    15. 211: F-BVFD- flew 1977 to 1982:  Scrapped in 1994
    16. 212: G-BOAE- flew 1977 to 2003: Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados  [you can go aboard]
    17. 213: F-BTSD- flew 1978 to 2003: The Museum of Air and Space, Le Bourget, Franc  [you can go aboard]
    18. 214: G-BOAG- flew 1978 to  2003: Museum of Flight, Seattle, USA  [you can go aboard]07 01 Museum of Flight Concorde
    19. 215: F-BVFF- flew 1978 to 2000: near Terminal 1 Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France [this for me is one of the saddest displays ever- she sits forlorn gazing at the runways she used to roar down - not open to public]
    20. 216: G-BOAF- flew 1979 to 2003: Filton Aerodrome, Bristol, UK- Museum coming [not open to public]


You can fly the Concorde SimulatorBrooklands Museum, Weybridge,  UK

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Vincent_Aviation_Saab_340B_DRW_Butler-1Following the collapse of its Australian operations in May, the Vincent Aviation New Zealand went into receivership this week. The Wellington-based company was established in 1990 and had about 30 workers . The company carried out flight operations, administration, engineering, planning and compliance, as well as charter flights. They had run scheduled flights, in the past, on behalf of Air New Zealand.

Owner Peter Vincent blamed the collapse on Vincent Aviation Australia which had was $US7.7 million.

Two weeks ago, NZ helicopter company Helipro, also failed suggesting things are not easy in the world of NZ aviation.

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It is 11 years since the last take off of the mighty Concorde, our only supersonic passenger aeroplane. This video shows the plane leaving JFK for the last time on October 24th, 2003. Sadly, the closest I have ever got to Concorde was at the Seattle air museum.



While I am posting old footage, here is a spectacular night takeoff in April of 2003 from London Heathrow. The afterburners are clearly visible.

The next part of the Hobbit movie series: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies will be released in December. Again, filmed largely in New Zealand.

hobbit smauag

Air New Zealand is gearing up again with the release of their latest safety video: The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made. And I am inclined to agree. At 4 mins 38 secs, it is a long safety video but it certainly kept my attention!

I get such a kick out of these. I love watching them. I wonder if they add to safety or distract from it?

Did you spot Peter Jackson himself in the video?!


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It seems it is almost compulsory for a tourist on their first overseas trip, to carry a money belt.  Every travel goods shop will tell you that you have to have one.


I don’t do it!  I tried for a few trips. I wore the one around my neck and the one around my waist.  With relief, I abandoned the practice for the following reasons:

1. Nothing spells “Target” more than a money belt. I try to look like I belong wherever I visit and money belts blow that! Thieves can see them, shopkeepers see them. Far from protecting oneself, I think it potentially puts a traveller at risk. I am more worried about being mugged than being pick pocketed!

2. They are hard to get stuff out of quickly. I remember one time in El Salvador, I was required to show my passport as ID. Surrounded by a group of  locals who saw exactly where my money belt was and what was in it was a somewhat uncomfortable moment!

3. They are horrible to wear,  make me sweat and they are annoying. On my first trip to India, everything in my money belt was soaked in my sweat. It was gross and I had to explain the mysterious stain in my passport for years.

Picture 147

A younger me in India – spot the belt around my neck and its bulge on my tummy

I do what I do at home. I carry a small amount of cash and a credit or debit card in my regular wallet. If worried, I will take a dummy wallet. I keep my passport and other essentials safely in the hotel safe or in a top pocket. I don’t wear a money belt at home and I don’t carry lots of cash, why do it when travelling? The locals that surround me in BangkokBerlin, Beirut, Brisbane, Baltimore or Buenos Aires are not wearing a money belt either! Take reasonable precautions but live normally!

touristsThere are, of course, some tourists who almost deserve to have their valuables stolen! Wandering down dark streets with a wallet  full of all their valuables hanging out of the back of their trousers is an open invitation! Or storing cash or passport in their back pack!


The travel world is divided on this topic – what do you think?


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Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

Travelling to Thailand, is a relatively safe thing to do.

Considering how many tourists go there, the state of the driving and how much many of those tourists participate in risky and/or risque activities it is astounding most people get home okay! Most end up with nothing more than sunburn! Some tourists, however, get lost or confused after too many drinks and cannot find their hostel or hotel! A number end up in fights or vandalism. Tragically out of the 20 million tourists that visit Thailand, several hundred die and thousands are injured. Most of them are killed in car accidents caused by speeding and/or drunk driving.

Since the high profile  murder of  two tourists  in Thailand this year,  I know that many Thais are dismayed that this event is besmirching their beautiful country’s reputation.

Source: nationmultimedia.com

Source: nationmultimedia.com

Now, the Thai Tourism minister, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul (pictured) has a solution to the tourists who get lost, injured or find themselves at risk of other misadventure.

She wants hotels to hand out wristbands to help identify lost tourists. Each wristband will have an id which will show the contact details of their accommodation. She also has said: “The next step would be some sort of electronic tracking device but this has not yet been discussed in detail.”

What about you? Would you wear a bracelet that said “tourist”?
How would you feel about having an electronic surveillance system that your hotel or the police could follow?

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I was barely out of my teens and I had arrived at Chicago’s Union Station by train on my first big North American adventure! The noise of people, traffic, trains and announcements seemed overwhelming. We needed to get to our youth hostel. This was the days of no internet, no cell phones and no google maps! (Yes, I am that old).

We must have looked lost with our back packs, maps as we struggled to find the bus that would take us from the station to our hostel which was out in the Chicago suburbs!

A homeless guy came up to us and offered help. We firmly and politely refused it. I assume we were slightly terrified! He offerred help again. We refused again. Finally, we walked off and followed the directions the hostel had mailed to us. This meant making a loop around the station. Coming out of a door ten minutes later, we were startled to find him standing there. He laughed when he saw us saying” You know you were 30 yards from this door and you have taken ten minutes to get here“. We felt sheepish, as he kindly pointed us to the number 8 bus and refused our offers of a dollar. “You are my guests here”. 

This experience, amongst many others has taught me to be open to strangers. For every person who has asked me for money in the ensuing decades, I would say 150 people have been helpful, friendly and/or kind. I have  life long friends with strangers who have invited me for meals, bought me coffees and even given me a bed for a night!

So put down your laptop, your kindle, your phone or your book and say “hi” to the person sitting next to you. Ask someone if you can join them for a meal if you are sitting alone in hotel, hostel or restaurant. Accept help and show interest. Who knows where it might end up.

mostlyharmlessOf course, be wary. Not everyone is kind and some people are crazy and sadly some are dangerous. But as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says: humans are “mostly harmless”.



My sister died two years ago from Cancer. She fought it nobly.  You can understand why I will support (almost) anything that helps support the fight against cancer.

fly for oinck

Here is a simple way you can join in the fight during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month:


picture it

Hint: Cover up your frequent flyer number and other personal details.


For every boarding pass photo posted to Twitter & Instagram with the hashtag #flyforpink, the frequent flyer collaborative of BoardingArea, Milepoint,Freddie Awards, Bonusfeber, Ikvliegveel and Frequent Traveler University will donate fifty US cents to cancer-related causes.

support it

If we can get 20,000 Boarding passes tweeted, then $10,000 will be donated!. The beneficiaries of the#flyforpink campaign are listed here.
Here is one of my Boarding passes. Please add yours.

boadrin pass
Thank you to the team behind this

In the last two weeks, Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), the USA’s fourth busiest airport, has had new very long distance Airbus 380 routes added.


Qantas upgraded their non stop Sydney -DFW service to an A380 from a 747 on September 29th. This upgrade means that the longest scheduled commercial flight in the world is now served by the largest passenger jet in the world!  The flight is approximately  12, 200 km (8,600 miles). It takes 15 hours 35 mins from Sydney to DFW and 16hr 55mins from DFW due to the headwinds!  Thats a few movies on a flight advertised as “just a hop”!

The A380 on the first flight arrived with the traditional Kangaroo on the tail wearing a hat and bandana! Check that out at 6mins 30sec in this Joe Streetman video (after the water cannon salute at 3 mins 38secs):

Bypassing LAX is a much better alternative  as DFW is a nicer airport and I find the connections with One World partner American are much easier. If you are travelling between the middle of the USA or the East coast and Australia, this is a great way to go.

October 1st saw Emirates replace their daily B777 non stop service to Dubai. Their service takes 16 hours to Dallas and 14 hours 45 minutes away from Dallas (those headwinds again). Both the take off and landing of the very first Emirates A380 service to Dallas are captured in this video by Matt Gee (water cannon at 55secs).

To deal with the changes, DFW reconfigured gates D15 and D16, to simultaneously accommodate two A380s on the ground. The  airport also modified ramps and taxiways in order to accommodate the giant plane.

Now there are more options that make it possible to fly the 380 around the world from Dallas including:

  • Dallas to Sydney to Dubai to Dallas
  • Dallas to Paris to Bangkok to Singapore to Sydney to Dallas.

DFW is the fifth US airport to welcome the superjumbo. The others are:

  • Los Angeles – Air France, British, Korean, Qantas, Singapore
  • JFK – Air France, Emirates, Lufthansa,
  • San Francisco – Air France, Lufthansa
  • Houston – Lufthansa
  • Miami – Lufthansa
  • Washington Dulles – Air France, British Airways
  • Atlanta- Korea

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