INT. TRAVEL ARCHIVE:
677: The Little Island
Escape the late-winter blues with a tropical blast from the past
675: Scenic Spirituality
Commune with religion and nature in an ancient land
673: Aoni Onsen
Return to a forgotten time at one of Honshu’s most remote getaways
671: The Golden Rock
One of Burma’s many splendid attractions hangs by a hair
669: Hida Takayama
For personal trips gentle to the soul, seek out the old-time charm of Hida Takayama
A serene stroll through history awaits at this seaside retreat
663: Cruising the Bay
Ha Long Bay offers a breath of calm away from Vietnam’s urban rush
Fox fires and bar codes help a rural Niigata town reinvent itself
535: Hotel California
Mark Parren Taylor kicks up the desert dust in Palm Springs, the perennial
Hollywood star retreat.
531: Race through time
The Xterra Saipan triathlon journeys through tropical jungle, up steep mountain
paths and across the sands of history. Tama M. Lung joins the chase.
527: Bohemian rhapsody
No visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the Montmartre district.
Bon vivant Simon Rowe dusts off his French to go exploring.
523: Slow Motion
Mark Parren Taylor touches down in the timeless former seaport of Lukang, Taiwan.
519: Rock of ages
From ancient times to the present, Gibraltar has always been an island of
legends. Stephen Mansfield sifts through its history.
515: Go west, young man
Simon Rowe takes in the big skies and dust trails of Western Australia's
East Kimberley region.
511: All mixed up
Mark Parren Taylor makes land on Macau and finds an enigmatic blend of cultures,
cuisine and heated competition.
505: Earth, wind and fire
A historically imperiled town in Papua New Guinea holds the keys to a magical
getaway. Carlo Niederberger splashes ashore.
501: Off the rails
Braving the 2,010 kilometers of Vietnam's Reunification Express from Ho
Chi Minh City to Hanoi is quite the adventure. Simon Rowe goes along for the
493: Rites of passage
From firecrackers and cheek piercing to divinations and buffalo races, Thailand's
most colorful customs come alive at two annual festivals. Mark Parren Taylor
joins the crowds.
489: Paradise found
Beaches, battlefields and a colossal casino provide tropical pleasures on
the Pacific isle of Tinian. Carlo Niederberger touches down.
485: Through the grapevine
Stephen Mansfield drinks up the delights of the Château Monbazillac
in southwest France.
481: Pleasure island
Saipan awaits the young and young at heart with its pristine beaches, pointy
peaks, and perfect amount of entertainment. Carlo Niederberger checks in.
477: Reservoir of dogs
Simon Rowe visits the Kingdom of Tonga, where storms burst without warning
and wild canines rule the night.
473: Into the bat cave
Sarawaks Niah Caves are home to hairless bats, birds on the brink
of extinction, and lots of bugs, according to Simon Rowe.
469: A fork in the river
Laos ethnic minorities battle the forces of time. Stephen Mansfield
goes upriver in search of them.
465: Action scene
Sick of the short, humid Japanese summer? Tired of the winter? In NZ its
summertime and the living is easy, the food and drink inexpensive, and the evenings
long and lazy. Mark Devlin heads south to explore and party.
457/458: In living color
Simon Rowe soaks in the glow of Samoa's kaleidoscopic streets.
454: From Jamaica with love
Michael McDonagh soaks up the atmosphere in James Bond's balmy birthplace
449: See worthy
Dan Grunebaum drops oar in the stunning caves of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay
445: Great heights
Simon Rowe packs his hiking boots and sets out for Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu
441: Split personality
There are few cities with such an exacting dividing line between past and present
as Lijiang in China's southwestern province of Yunnan
438: Fierce creatures
Simon Rowe introduces us to the untamed charms of Australia's Kangaroo Island
434: Leap of Faith
Simon Rowe dives into a tropical island paradise of waterfalls, reefs and bush
rugby on the Fijian archipelago
430: A week in Provence
Stephen Mansfield explores the historic festival city of Avignon, a medieval
diamond in the south of France
426: Outer space
Surreal sites, lunar landscapes and UFO sightings go with the territory in Chile
422: The Big Easy
The Moorish streets of Granada, Spain are alive with a new Bohemian rhapsody
418: Small awakening
414: Fowl play
The animal kingdom comes alive in the Galapagos
410: The river of spirits
Wading through soulful waters in Varanasi, India
406: Heading north
Marching to the beat of a modern drum in North Korea
Santa's lap - enjoy saunas, Santa and sightseeing in Finland’s Lapland
Seeking the past in China's megacity
Rising from the ashes
Mary King explores the rich history, culture and art of Croatias phoenix
The betels and the stones
Simon Rowe rolls with the tropical exotica on the obscure island of Yap
World heritage site
Land of hope
Salt of the earth
Tour the Uyuni Salt Pan
Suzhou and Hangzhou
The river mild
Top of the world
Memo from the Lower Mekong
Call of the wild
Mad about Madurai
wind and fire
A historically imperiled town in Papua New Guinea holds
the keys to a magical getaway. Carlo Niederberger splashes
|Mount Tavurvur behind
a sea of billowing hot springs
An old Japanese wartime song goes something like this: "Goodbye
Rabaul, until we meet again. My eyes fill with tears, as I
leave you behind
" During WWII, Allied bombers
relentlessly pounded the Japanese occupational forces stationed
in Rabaul, a bustling town reduced to ashes in what is today
East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea. Airmen and
ground troops were forced to dig trenches into hillsides to
avoid the infernal onslaught, and the lack of supplies and
provisions caused widespread hunger and disease. And yet,
the doomed men amicably adopted this song, suggesting that
Rabaul was a magical place that touched their hearts and left
an everlasting imprint.
In 1994, Rabaul, by then restored to a lively town where business
boomed and communities from all over Australasia gathered,
was beaten to a pulp once again, this time at the hands of
Mother Nature. Mounts Tavurvur and Vulcan, volcanoes rising
on either side of Simpson Harbour on which Rabaul lies, erupted
simultaneously, flattening much of the town with several inches
of volcanic ash and pumice.
Into the fire
After almost a decade, Mount Tavurvur still rumbles every
now and then, sending a tall plume of grey smoke into the
atmosphere, which falls onto the remains of Rabaul in a fine
mist of dust. The day I arrived at the Hamamas Hotel, one
of only three hotels still operating in the devastated part
of town, the building appeared to be the only standing concrete
structure in sight, sitting forlornly on a dusty, darkened
road that looked like an evacuated war zone.
But most seasoned tourists would agree that the initial shock
quickly subsides-when the sky turns ablaze at sunset,
casting a warm glow over the shimmering moon-shaped bay and
the volcanoes turn into dark, imposing shadows, a peaceful
silence blankets the deserted streets where a small group
of locals and expatriates mingle, taking turns at visiting
each bar, club or residence to enjoy a hearty meal, Aussie
Rules football on television and rounds of South Pacific "PNG-made"
"Come and visit my factory," offered Joe Logo,
mill operations manager at the huge coconut oil plant across
town, as we sat sipping beer in the Hamamas bar littered with
wartime artifacts like rusty bombs, bullets and machine guns.
I recalled being driven past the mill on the way in, and smelling
the distinct, sweet aroma of crushed coconuts. Logo explained
that his mill was one of the world's largest producers
of coconut oil, processed to make shampoo, cosmetics and canned
food in faraway countries. And while I penciled his offer
into my diary as a good opportunity to get to know the friendly
folks of East New Britain, I was down for rafting in the Papua
New Guinean jungle the next day courtesy of Bruce, the Queensland-born
owner of the hotel and an avid outdoorsman who'd been
credited with a crocodile kill in the harbor.
After an arduous hour-long ride in a 4x4 not long after sunrise,
we finally reached the launch site-a rocky enclave
where we pumped the raft and prepared to ride along the Warangoi
River. Graciously, the currents were slow enough for even
novices to enjoy paddling and occasionally
|Wartime tunnels face
the remains of the submarine base
tipping over into the cool stream, as well as stunning views
of the embankments where naked children waved feverishly,
screaming unintelligible greetings in Pidgin as their mothers
laundered. Working our way downstream where a riverside barbecue
awaited us, we pummeled the water with our oars, occasionally
letting the current do the work as we watched indigo-feathered
birds flying in the treetops.
Water-sport enthusiasts consider Papua New Guinea a gold mine,
because aside from the splendid rivers and pristine beaches
that abound in this country located several degrees south
of the equator, its diving offers some of the most diverse
and rewarding experiences on the planet. Rabaul, now for years
blanketed by volcanic ash, is no exception. While Simpson
Harbour's corals all perished during the last big eruptions,
new ones have begun to sprout, and a fleet of submerged WWII
relics keeps wreck divers sufficiently entertained.
The boat operated by Rabaul's only diving service,
Volcano Town Diving, was a small fiberglass craft with outboard
engines that whizzed us out to the open sea through the cool
morning mist. After a brief and enjoyable detour during which
our rambunctious Kiwi captain Gerry sailed into a school of
feeding, flying tuna in the hope of reeling in our lunches,
we laid anchor off the Pidgeon Islands, twin deserted islets
off Simpson Harbour where divers commonly encounter everything
from 5-meter-long bronze whaler sharks to the tiniest coral-reef
dwellers. Our undersea excursion through crystal-clear water
brought us face to face with thousands of tropical fish of
all sizes and shapes, some of which lived only in these waters.
Later, a pod of dolphins surfaced near the beach as we fired
up a barbecue.
We sailed back before dusk, passing outbound tankers and ferries,
and hugging the coastline where endless rows of palm trees
sprouted, above which a giant Mount Tavurvur peered down menacingly.
Records show that the volcano had been active in the 1940s
just as it is today, and it may have been the transient existence
of Rabaul's hills, beaches and seas that led Japanese
soldiers to bond with this foreign land.
Past and present
The Japanese occupation that began in January 1942 has also
enriched Rabaul with historical sites that can take days for
military enthusiasts to explore. A collapsed amphibious crane
and kilometer-long tunnels used for Japanese hospitals, storages
and living quarters can be found on the road to Kokopo, the
region's new hub. Closer to town, war memorials, a
submarine base, long-range guns, skeletons of grounded aircraft
and the restored remains of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's
bunker provide a glimpse into the past of one of the Japanese
Imperial Forces' most prominent outposts during the
Some of the elderly locals remember the Japanese and the tunes
they used to sing. Some even remember a few Japanese phrases
they have had the chance to practice on more recent visitors.
One such man is George, who at 69 still has the legs to carry
him to the busy marketplace every now and then, and still
enjoys an occasional warm beer in his vast garden where there
are dogs, roosters, piglets, and an anti-aircraft gun emplacement.
George is like most villagers in that his gums are covered
with red betel nut extract, and he speaks freely and affably
with a twinkle in his eye. It's people like him, and
the precarious paradise they call home, that linger in the
soul of the foreigner leaving Rabaul behind.
Air Niugini flies to Port Moresby from Narita on Saturdays,
and an extensive domestic service links Port Moresby with
provincial cities and towns on a regular basis. For details,
Where to stay
The Hamamas Hotel (Tel: 675-982-1999. Info: email@example.com
offers free airport pick-ups, a range of rooms from budget
to deluxe, a reputable Chinese restaurant and a bar, and is
strategically located for diving as well as land excursions.
To enter Papua New Guinea, tourists require a visa, which
can be obtained from the embassy in Tokyo for ¥2,000
prior to departure. A currency exchange booth is located in
the arrivals lobby of Port Moresby's airport. Tourists
should also be aware that malaria is a threat in some parts
of the country, and take appropriate measures. Volcano Town
Diving (Rapopo Plantation Resort, PO Box 489, Rabaul. Tel:
675-982-9944. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org)
offers daily diving trips in the care of English-speaking
staff. Destination requests can be accommodated depending
on weather conditions and the number of divers.