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Archive for August, 2009

China

From The Good Tourist

China is a whole continent: from the tundra in the north to the tropical island of Hainan in the south; from the Taklamakan desert in the west to the economically booming east coast. You can climb mountains in the Himalayas, travel by camel, sunbathe on tropical beaches and see your reflection in skyscrapers. You’ll meet trendy Shanghainese of delicate build and burly salt-of-the-earth Beijingers.[1]

The Great Firewall of China[2]

1n 1957 Ryszard Kapuściński visited China and noted that the Great Wall is actually several walls, constructed at various times, covering thousands of kilometers and made from a mass of different things. He was fascinated by the Chinese obsession with barriers and how each new ruler, over hundreds of years, set to building the Great Wall. These vast structures marked borders, divided hostile principalities, cut off whole regions and protected cities, serving to guard and defend incessantly, until they naturally extended into the lives of ordinary citizens, and began to separate villages, neighbours and families, one from the other. For Kapuściński it was all a colossal waste of time and energy; flawed thinking that demonstrated an innate defensiveness. He lamented the thousands of days spent erecting this vast wall-fortress that, he believes, might have been better spent ‘learning to read, acquiring a profession, cultivating new fields, and breeding robust cattle.’ [3]

Like Kapuściński I find myself fascinated by a great wall; one that requires several hundred hours of manpower and regular maintenance. This is not one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but a virtual barrier that has been erected to keep citizens in check, to censor information and to block undesirable websites. The great firewall of China involves a system of surveillance that is probably one of the most complex and effective in the world, involving the manipulation of routers, filters, Internet service providers, Internet content providers, and other technology.

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[1] Strittmatter, Kai, China A-Z; Haus Publishing 2006

[2] Various human rights groups and media refer to the complex Chinese internet surveillance as ‘The Great Firewall’.

[3] Described in his engaging autobiography Travels with Herodotus based on his early travels in the 1950s and 1960s; first published in English translation in 2007

Australia

From The Good Tourist

Red Earth

 

In the Dreaming, creator ancestors made the material world as well as the people…Every physical feature has a spirit ancestor. In this sense, the landscape is a book full of stories, which can be read by the people whose country you are in. It is the largest living text in the world.[1]

Holidays in Australia remain hugely popular – in 2006 tourists exceeded 5 million[2] – and whether you are a student or retired is immaterial, for the promise is still the same whatever your age:  “the experience of a lifetime”. Looking at some of the travel literature dedicated to Australia it’s hard not to be tempted by the stunning images and evocative descriptions. Whether it’s the Great Barrier reef and beaches of Queensland, or the world-class food and wine in southern Australia; a Blue Mountains Ecotour, exploring Aboriginal sites and the various plants and wildlife of the region[3] or a trek through the Daintree rainforest;[4] the iconic buildings, stunning harbour and opera house of Sydney or the dramatic landscape of the Northern Territories where you can visit Australia’s famous landmark, the Aboriginal sacred site known as Uluru (Ayers Rock);[5] Australia genuinely does seem to offer something for everyone.

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[1] Morgan, Sally from a speech she gave at PEN’s 62nd world congress at Freemantle, Australia, October 1995: Freedom of Speech, published in PEN International magazine vol.46. No. 1 1996

[2] UNWTO World Tourism Barometer Vol. 6.No 1 January 2008

[3] Travelmood.com

[4] ResponsibleTravel.com

[5] Anangutours.com.au is an Aborginal-owned company who arrange tours around the rock. It is considered a mark of disrespect to climb the sacred site. Having lived as a part of this environment for many thousands of years, they have developed an intricate knowledge of the area which they are happy to share with tourists.

Turkey

Morocco

Egypt

Cuba