Monthly Archives: September 2010


Because Children Know No Cultural Divide

Amal shows Z the toy gun he has made. Pulau Kadidiri, Indonesia.

It never ceases to amaze me how children’s friendships cross cultural boundaries so effortlessly. We spent the Idul Fitri holiday in the Togian Islands, off Sulawesi, Indonesia, at a little guesthouse on an idyllic beach. Amal, the son of the family, is thirteen years old. He was born at home, no midwife in attendance. His […]


Travel Tips: Avoiding Transport “Scams”

taxi reading "this is metered taxi. haggling is prohibited."

It’s probably the commonest travel complaint on the planet from folk travelling the developing world. Transport “scams”. Overcharging… And it does relations between locals and visitors no good at all. Here’s how to make your life easier when travelling. 1: Agree a Price Before You Start the Journey. Would you take a minicab or unmetered […]


Expedition Outfitting in Pidgin Indonesian*

ride on toys in mall, ternate, indonesia

The scene? In and around various shopping establishments in Kota Ternate, the de facto capital of Indonesia’s Spice Islands, and home to more English language students per head of population than anywhere in the world. An increasingly harassed single mother is wrangling a small boy in khaki with a motorbike helmet over one arm and […]


When Travel Becomes Time Travel

Storm clouds gather over a flat dark sea. Off Pulau Derawan, Indonesia.

Tomorrow we embark for Pulau Halmahera, one of Indonesia’s Spice Islands, where we will travel back in time. Our aim? To experience the nomadic hunter-gatherer life as it is still lived today, among unassimilated Togutil people. And this is a journey almost as close to time travel as it is possible to get. A step […]


Harvest Time in the Spice Islands

Sun-drying cloves on blue tarpaulin by the roadside. Pulau Ternate, Maluku, Indonesia.

Ever wondered where cloves come from? Well. They come from many places now. But in the beginning, they came only from the Moluccas, the mysterious Spice Islands, a spattering of tiny volcanic islets which spawned unimaginable riches for their rulers and sparked the European powers’ race to the East. It’s harvest time on Pulau Ternate, […]


Tuesday Travel Tips: How to Hand Wash Clothes

Framed picture on wall of girl in white glass holding martini glass at crotch level.

1: Beware of washing powder in developing countries. How do women who wash by hand in dirty water get their kids’ school shirts such a blinding white? They use a powder with lots and lots and lots of bleach. Avoid for anything not pure white. (In fact, avoid white clothes in general.) 2: Plan ahead. […]


Who You Gonna Call?

bunch of plastic pink and white flowers

The following episode takes place between 9am and 10am on the day we were hoping to leave Manado. INT: A surprisingly posh hotel room. Z is lying on the bed, contentedly re-reading his latest Da-Vinci-Code-ripoff for about the fifteenth time. I am shouting into a Mac in the corner, where a nurse from the travel […]



scarlet hibiscus covered in dew, pulau kadidiri, indonesia

It was on the golden sands of Pulau Kadidiri, in the Togian Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia, as a wave of what I would dearly like to call “social diseases” spread along the beach like glandular fever in a boys’ boarding school that just took girls for Sixth Form, that I began contemplating a new hashtag. And, […]


A Fistful of Dollars

little girls in marching band, Rantepao, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Our favoured local, back in Rantepao in the Tana Toraja, was the hangout of the local Guides Association, a Teamsteresque conglomerate of the most amiable rogues since Dick Van Dyke. Sporting various permutations of Aviators, moustaches, long hair, cropped hair and funeral sarongs as night-time outerwear, the chaps spent most of their time out back […]


Rafting the Maiting River

Maiting River swirls around dark rocks in gorge. Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

We spent our last day in the Tana Toraja whitewater rafting. An activity, which in the mind of the child, now forms a kind of holy trinity with zipwiring and zorbing, as sheer, adrenaline-fuelled, screeching fun. As he put it, “Zipwiring is aerial. Zorbing is, ummm…, terrestrial. And whitewater rafting is the aquatic equivalent.” Or, […]