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Crossing boundaries blog

Australia

User Avatar Louise Ciaravella 29/09/2011 11:01:02
 

Posted on behalf of Doreen Bailey, Credit Control Manager, Finance

The cab will finish the final leg of the tour in Sydney, Australia’s oldest city.

When thinking of Australia, you get images of white sandy beaches, barbeques and body beautiful individuals surfing, the blue seas.  Home of Kylie, Jason and of course Dame Edna.

This week Aston has celebrated, shared and embraced various aspects of Australia, through Sports – ‘Aussie Rules Football’, enjoyed the food with a Barbeque held on Wednesday, accompanied by beautiful Australian weather conditions.

Australia is also a multi-ethnic nation and home to the beautiful culture of indigenous people the ‘Aborigines’ who have wonderful ancient stories told from generation to generation. The traditional musical instrument of the didgeridoo and clapping sticks accompanied many of their songs.

Stories are told through art work found in caves, rocks dating back thousands of years old.

Please click on the links to read some of the traditional stories of nature, or view the art gallery.

Australia stories*

Aboriginal art*

Source: http://www.didjshop.com/stories/barra.html

 

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Singapore

Louise Ciaravella 07/09/2011 08:24:45

Ditch the image of Singapore as a dull, sterile Utopia – scratch the surface and you’ll discover a strange brew of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures, a rich social stew that’s anything but boring. Sure, the graffiti-free trains run on time, traffic jams are nonexistent and everyone looks clean-cut and wholesome, but who needs pollution, poverty and chaos?

Singapore’s mouthwatering food is the number one drawcard. Pull up a pew at a hawker centre, crack open a Tiger beer and immerse yourself in a munificent range of Asian delights; heavy on the flavour, light on the wallet. Want to splurge? Singapore delivers Southeast Asia’s best shopping and innovative, stylish restaurants, plus a swathe of top-notch hotels. Top of the tree is Raffles, a timeless symbol of colonial opulence.

Of course, it’s not all about shopping, eating and G&Ts on the veranda. Work up a sweat with outdoor activities – walking, cycling and water sports – or check out the contemporary arts scene, thriving under the government’s promotion of Singapore as an arts hub. If you want a break from the urban confines, the centre of the island has sparkling reservoirs and leafy tracts of forest where all you’ll hear is monkeys clattering through the boughs.

The Lion City is more than you bargained for – dust off your credit card, prime your stomach and dive right in.

Source: www.lonelyplanet.com

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Malaysia

Louise Ciaravella 02/09/2011 11:23:03

Malaysia is really like two countries in one, cleaved in half by the South China Sea. The peninsula is a multicultural buffet of Malay, Chinese and Indian flavours while Borneo hosts a wild jungle smorgasbord of orang-utans, granite peaks and remote tribes. Within and throughout these two very different regions are an impressive variety of microcosms ranging from the space-age high-rises of Kuala Lumpur to the smiling longhouse villages of Sarawak and the calm, powdery beaches of the Perhentian Islands. And did we mention the food? Malaysia (particularly along the peninsular west coast) has one of the best assortments of delicious cuisines in the world.

Start with Chinese–Malay 'Nonya' fare, move on to Indian banana leaf curries, Chinese buffets, spicy Malay food stalls and even some impressive Western food. Yet despite all the pockets of ethnicities, religions, landscapes and the sometimes-great distances between them, the beauty of Malaysia lies in the fusion of it all, into a country that is one of the safest, most stable and easiest to manage in Southeast Asia.

Source: www.lonelyplanet.com

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Thailand

Louise Ciaravella 25/08/2011 15:34:46
 

Thailand is often referred to as a golden land, not because there is precious metal buried underground but because the country gives off a certain lustre, be it the fertile rice fields of the central plains, white sandy beaches or the warm hospitality of its citizenry.

Thailand's cool season runs from November until the end of February. With its low humidity, relatively low temperatures and clear skies, the cool season is the best time to visit, though regular days of high 20s and low 30s might leave you wondering just who came up with the term ‘cool’. It is also the peak tourist season, so expect lots of new friends at the more popular spots like the islands and major towns.

First introductions are made in Bangkok, a modern behemoth of screaming traffic, gleaming shopping centres and international sensibilities interwoven with devout Buddhism. Chiang Mai, the country's bohemian centre, is where the unique and precise elements of Thai culture become a classroom, for cooking courses and language lessons; while climbing into the mountain ranges around Mae Hong Son you'll find stupa-studded peaks and villages of post-Stone Age cultures. Sliding down the coastal tail are the evergreen limestone islands of Ko Tao and Kho Phi Phi Don, filled with tall palms angling over pearlescent sand. Thailand's beaches are stunning, hedonistic and mythic among residents of northern latitudes.

People come here as miners: first perhaps for the uniquely Western concept of R&R. And while they toast themselves to a bronze hue on the sandy beaches, they find in the daily rhythm of Thailand a tranquillity that isn't confined to vacation time. The northeast is a region better suited for homestays and teaching gigs than quick souvenir snapshots: here, you can dive deep into the Thai psyche, emerging with a tolerance for searingly spicy food and a mastery of this strange tonal language. Welcome to a life-altering experience disguised as a holiday.

Source: www.lonelyplanet.com

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Life in Cambodia

Louise Ciaravella 23/08/2011 11:43:52

Despite a beautiful backdrop, life is no picnic for the average Cambodian. It remains one of the poorest countries in Asia and it’s a tough existence for much of the population, as they battle it out against the whims of nature and, sometimes, of their politicians. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Cambodia remains poorer than Mongolia and El Salvador. Income remains desperately low for many Khmers, with annual salaries in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands, and public servants such as teachers unable to eke out a living on their meagre wages.

Cambodia’s pristine environment may be a big draw, but much of it is currently under threat. Ancient forests are being razed to make way for plantations, rivers are being sized up for major hydroelectric power plants and the south coast is being explored by leading oil companies. All this helps add up to an ever-stronger economy, which is growing at an incredible 10% a year, but it’s unlikely to encourage the ecotourism that is just starting to develop.

Cambodia is like the teen starlet who has just been discovered by an adoring public: everyone wants something from her but not everyone wants what is best for her. The government, long shunned by international big business, is keen to benefit from all these newfound opportunities. Contracts are being signed off like autographs and there are concerns for the long-term interests of the country.

Tourism has brought many benefits to Cambodia: it provides opportunity and employment for a new generation of Khmers, has helped to spark a rebirth of the traditional arts, and has given the country a renewed sense of pride and optimism as it recovers from the dark decades of war and genocide. However, not all tourism has been good for the country and there is the dark side of sex tourism, human exploitation and a casino culture. Cambodia is in a great position to benefit from the mistakes of other countries in the region and follow a sustainable road to tourism development. However, it may be that the government is more focused on the short-term gain that megabucks investments can provide. Can Cambodia be all things to all visitors? So far, so good, but a new era is about to begin and the beaches are the next battleground.

There are two faces to Cambodia: one shiny and happy, the other dark and complex. For every illegal eviction of city dwellers or land grab by a general, there will be a new NGO school offering better education, or a new clean-water initiative to improve the lives of the average villager. Such is the yin and yang of Cambodia, a country that inspires and confounds. Like an onion, the more layers you unravel, the more it makes you want to cry, but these are spontaneous tears, sometimes of sorrow, sometimes of joy.

Despite having the eighth wonder of the world in its backyard, Cambodia’s greatest treasure is its people. The Khmers have been to hell and back, struggling through years of bloodshed, poverty and political instability. Thanks to an unbreakable spirit and infectious optimism, they have prevailed with their smiles intact; no visitor comes away from Cambodia without a measure of admiration and affection for the inhabitants of this enigmatic kingdom.

Source: www.lonelyplanet.com

 

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