Sunday, May 31, 2009

World’s Strangest Festivals

~ I recently received a bunch of photographs from a friend depicting images from a unique – to say the least – annual Japanese festival.

Yes folks, it is the colloquially named Japanese ‘Pen!s Festival’.

Here is what that wonderful online resource, Wikipedia has to say about the event.

The Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) is an annual Shinto fertility festival held in Kawasaki, Japan in spring. The exact dates vary: the main festivities fall on the first Sunday in April.

The pen!s forms the central theme of the event that is reflected everywhere — in illustrations, candy, carved vegetables, decorations, and a mikoshi parade.

The Kanamara Matsuri is centered around a local pen!s-venerating shrine once popular among prostitutes who wished to pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. It is said that there are divine protections also in business prosperity and the clan's prosperity, easy delivery, marriage, and married couple harmony.

There is also a legend of a sharp-toothed demon that hid inside the vag!na of a young girl and castrated two young men on their wedding nights with the young girl before a blacksmith fashioned an iron phallus to break the demon's teeth, leading to the enshrinement of the item.

Today, the festival has become somewhat of a tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV research.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia...

NOTE: Sorry to seem like a prude by misspelling the word pen!s, but I don't want to get this blog flagged as offensive, and have the Blogger thought police closing my account!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The King is Dead – Long Live the King!

~ Elvis fans rejoice.

Tickets are now on sale for the 11th annual Tupelo Elvis Festival, which will take place June 5 through 7 with headliners Jason Michael Carroll, Lucero, tribute artists Donny Edwards, Shawn Klush, Victor Trevino and Travis LeDoyt, and youth tribute artists Demi Downing and Nick Gutierrez.

Other activities include the third annual Tupelo Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition, the Elvis parade, the Ladybug’s Children’s Activities, the Sunday Gospel Show and free music on Broadway Street.

Oh, and who would dare to miss the Elvis-Look-A-Like Pet Parade? No, really.

“This is one of our most exciting events of the year,” said Linda Johnson, executive director of the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau (she was talking about the Festival in general, not the Elvis-Look-A-Like Pet Parade!).

“Elvis was born and spent much of his early life in Tupelo, and we are so lucky to have that history and be able to celebrate someone who made such a positive impact on so many people,” Linda said.

At the Lyric Theatre in historic downtown Tupelo, 24 tribute artists will compete this year for a chance to win the grand prize of $2,500 cash, represent Tupelo in the Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Qualifying Rounds in Memphis during Elvis Week in 2009, lodging for three nights in Memphis, a commemorative plaque, a guitar from Tupelo Hardware and a feature performer at the 2010 Tupelo Elvis Festival.

Music that influenced Elvis or was changed by his style will be performed on the Fairpark Stage Friday and Saturday. Artists include AllyeriA, Jamie Davis & Soul Gravy, Spunk Monkees, House Rockers, Drew Chapman and the Kevin & Bethany Paige band. The gates open at 4:30 pm Friday, June 5 and Noon Saturday, June 6.

Sunday afternoon at the First United Methodist Church of Tupelo, fans can hear gospel music Elvis sang throughout his career. Headliners are Travis LeDoyt, the Foyer Boyz and the Landmarks.

Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 888-273-7798.

To enter to win a free trip to Tupelo click here…

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 things you should—and shouldn’t—do abroad

~ Forbes Traveler dot Com has a fascinating online story detailing some of the many things you should do or not do while travelling abroad.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

"When Iraqi journalist Muntadher al-Zaidi threw his shoes at President Bush during a press conference in December, 2008, news outlets scrambled to explain the incident to American viewers. Al-Zaidi hadn’t intended to hurt the President; he meant to demean him. In Arab countries, the soles of feet are unclean, so you never throw a shoe at a person. For his gesture, al-Zaidi was given three years in prison.

You travelers probably won’t toss a shoe across a crowded room, and not every insult—intended or otherwise—will lead to jail time. But whether you're abroad on business or pleasure, knowing the local etiquette is crucial for every traveler.

Consider the case of Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors. In July, 2008, the British couple were arrested for engaging in romantic activities on Jumeirah beach in Dubai. At first, it's hard to feel sympathy for such loutish behavior, but according to The Times, the Brits were convicted not just for indecency; they were given three months in jail for "having sexual intercourse outside marriage." Even off-the-cuff, seemingly harmless decisions can land foreigners in hot water. In Sudan, British teacher Gillian Gibbons faced 40 lashes for blasphemy in 2007. Her offense? Naming the classroom's teddy bear Mohammed. Gibbons was ultimately pardoned after eight days in custody, but she had to leave the country."

Visit the Forbes Traveler site...
You can read the full article here...
You can see a slideshow of Travel Taboos, Do's and Don'ts here...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Of Such Small Pleasures

~ So there I was walking back from Largs Bay late in the afternoon, when I looked out to sea and saw this spectacular rain cloud just off the coast.

The sun is directly behind the cloud which accounts for the ‘backlighting’ effect. The jetty on the right is the Largs Bay Jetty.

This image was taken with the camera on my ageing Nokia 6280 phone!

If I had taken my digital camera with me, it would look as truly magnificent as it actually was. As always, when I don’t have my digital with me, I always seem to miss great photographic opportunities. You’d think I’d learn – but no, I never seem to.

I am grateful at least, for having my phone cam with me.

Of such small pleasures as these are my days made whole!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Obsessive Traveller

~ I recently finished reading, The Obsessive Traveller by the Australian author David Dale.

Despite the fact that it was first published in 1991, I like the book for the way Dale combines many experiences into each chapter. Rather than write in a linear fashion, that is, start at the beginning of a journey and document his travels from start to finish, he divides the book into sections with each chapter looking at different aspects of the travel experience.

That way he can write about, and compare luxury hotels he has stayed at in America, France, Italy, and elsewhere. Or he can do the same for meals he has eating in various countries; famous burial grounds he has visited – one of his obsessions; and a host of other experiences.

I particularly liked his fondness for choosing an item from menus when he has no idea of what the item or meal might be. It was the danger and excitement of knowing he might discover an amazing gastronomic delight, or find himself eating something plain and bland, or worse still, disgusting and inedible that made his dining out experiences just that much more interesting.

Dale also made a point of using public transport as much as possible wherever he travelled. As he rightly noted, and as I myself found, there is so much more to observe and discover about a city and its inhabitants when you share their buses, subway trains, and other means of public transportation.

I also like how he indulges himself at least once on every trip he takes. He does this by spending at least three nights in some of the most expensive and exclusive hotels he can afford. One of these cost him $400 a night (and this was during the 1990s), but he built this indulgence into his budget. It was Dale’s way of rewarding himself for tightening his ‘purse strings’ throughout the rest of the trip. It also gave him an opportunity to try out the top end of the travel experience, if only for a brief few days.

While on a much more modest level, I too enjoyed my stay at the Lake Placid EconoLodge hotel, in upstate New York when I stayed there during May 2008. At US$60 a night, it was twice the price of my YMCA accommodations in New York City, but the luxury of having my own room with two double beds, en suite, TV, tea and coffee making facilities, and free WiFi internet connection was worth the expense.

As far as accommodations are concerned, it was in fact, my only major indulgence in seven months. The hotels I used in London, while more expensive than the Lake Placid EconoLodge, were far more modest.

The book is informative, easy to read, full of humorous anecdotes and observations, and makes me want to travel again – sooner rather than later.

I’m delighted to find that David Dale is alive and well and still writing.

You can read his bio here…
He also has a blog, Who We Are, here at the Sun-Herald here…
And his own Essential Ideas website is here…

Image courtesy of Wall Media website

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

10 Multipurpose Travel Essentials

~ Rachel Turner has written an excellent article for Matador Goods which I highly recommend you read if you are travelling.

She lists 10 multipurpose items that should be in everybody's luggage, all of which are compact and lightweight.

Among Rachel's suggestions are: Dental Floss (for cleaning teeth; for use as a clothesline; emergency thread; and as a cheese and bread slicer!); various all in one survival tools like a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman tool; Safety Pins for use as emergency buttons/clasps, or clothespins; a Poncho for use as a tarpaulin, picnic blanket, bag liner, and of course, to keep the rain off your head.

Women will want to pack a couple of Sarongs since, as Rachel suggests, these can be used as towels, curtains, beach mats or picnic blankets, and even as sheets when staying in hostels.

Rachel also recommends taking a good Shampoo. Ok, no surprises about the shampoo, but Rachel suggests you also use shampoo as a laundry detergent, body soap, and even for dishwashing.

Finally, there is the Credit Card Survival Tool (see image illustrating this entry). I've never heard of, or seen one of these, but as the name suggests, the Credit Card Survival Tool is the size of a credit card, made of stainless steel, cheap, and has 11 different uses including Can opener, Knife edge, Screwdriver, Ruler, 4 position wrench, Butterfly screw wrench, Saw blade, Bottle opener and more.

Now why didn’t I think of that?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Something About The Light

~ There is something about the late afternoon light that seems to be uniquely Australian – especially when you are out in the country.

On my recent road trip to Sydney, I slept in the back of my trusty station wagon four times. Twice going over and again on the return trip. Each evening I had an opportunity to sit and watch the sun dropping behind the western horizon, and each evening it did so in the form of a magnificent golden orb which was truly stunning to see.

While the sunrises didn’t seem to be quite as beautiful, they too were worth braving the almost freezing morning temperatures to watch and wait for.

The colour coming through the huge gum trees, and the quality of the light filtering through the eucalyptus leaves is quite exquisite. I think is has something to do with the way the late evening light refracts and reacts with the red dust particles that hang in the air. The dust is kicked up by the constant traffic moving along the major highways, and of course, by the farm machinery being used to plough massive acres of countryside in readiness for the new planting season.

During the heat of the day, you don’t notice the dust, but when the light from the waning sun hits it at a particular angle, and at a certain time of the day, it takes on another quality altogether.

Many artists have tried to capture this light in their art, and but few have succeeded.

IMAGE: Highway Sunset, by Jim Lesses

Monday, May 11, 2009

Research: The Travelers Best Friend

~ I've just finished reading an excellent article on the New York Times website, written by Matt Gross for his regular column, The Frugal Traveler. In this entry, Research: The Traveler’s Best Friend, Matt shares in detail the many steps he goes through when researching flights, hotels, and other information before he embarks on one of his journeys. Here are the opening paragraphs.

"My key research tools: books and a long list of websites.

As the Frugal Traveler, I’m on the road three to six months out of the year, and all that wandering takes not just stamina but organization as well. From researching destinations to booking flights and hotels to actually figuring out what to do when I arrive, I have a long list of Web sites and other resources – some well known, others less so – that I use to learn what’s new, interesting and inexpensive. Since so many are planning their summer vacations, I thought I’d share my tried-and-true process. It’s less about secret Web sites and exotic booking strategies than about sheer thoroughness.

Once my editors and I have decided on a destination, I head straight for an obscure little Web site to do research. It’s called Google, and mastering its nooks and crannies is a skill all travelers should develop. One of the first searches I perform is for my destination plus the words “frugal” and “affordable Seriously! When I went to Hawaii’s Big Island in 2007, the search immediately turned up the Pomaikai “Lucky” Farm B&B, an active tropical-fruit farm with comfy rooms for $80 a night – a steal in America’s most expensive vacation spot."

Highly recommended. You can read the rest of Matt’s article here...

IMAGE: Courtesy of the New York Times Online

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

South Australian Maritime Museum

~ Welcome to a world of explorers, uncharted waters, seafarers trading across heaving oceans, new migrants in search of a new life, and bold adventurers from many lands.

Step aboard some of the ships that carried them and explore a life-sized ketch that draws you back to the days of sail.

Admire the extensive collection of intricate model sailing ships, steamships and passenger liners.

Immerse yourself in the voyages that brought people to Australian shores as you experience life onboard an 1840s sailing ship. Then step into a third class cabin to feel what life onboard must have been like for thousands of migrants travelling to Australia from Europe and beyond.

You could even discover your own slice of history as you search through a database of migrants to find your own ancestors.

All this and more awaits you at the South Australian Maritime Museum in Port Adelaide.

The Museum is renowned for its innovative approach to maritime history and education. Its three floors of exhibits houses Australia’s oldest nautical collection started in Port Adelaide in 1872. Among the huge collection of iconic treasures is the anchor of the Investigator that carried the explorer Matthew Flinders to Australia. You will also find the largest collection of carved ships’ figureheads in the southern hemisphere.

In addition to all this, the Maritime Museum’s new and ever changing exhibitions cover every aspect of Australia’s maritime history. From stories of those who lived at sea and on shore, to the dolphins and marine ecosystems that contribute to Australia’s natural heritage.

The exhibitions also provide visitors with a hands-on experience, giving them opportunities to learn through discovery and adventure. The themes and displays cater for all age groups, and provide a unique experience for all the family.

Port Adelaide is home to the most urbanised dolphin pod in the world. The Maritime Museum runs Dolphin Spotting Cruises which provide a fantastic opportunity to see the Port River in the Museum’s heritage vessels.

South Australian Maritime Museum
126, Lipson Street
Port Adelaide
PH: (08) 8207 6255

Open daily (except Christmas Day)
10am to 5pm

Getting There:
Bus: from city routes 151 or 153
Train: to Port Adelaide station (then sort walk)
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