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Where on Earth? Week 43 - Isla Negra, Chile

Where on Earth this week is the small beachside town of Isla Negra, 80km south of Valparaiso in Chile. This is one of three houses that Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda maintained in his home country. Up the road in Valpo, La Sebastiana cascades down the rugged hills of the port town, and further south in Santiago, La Chascona is a suitably bohemian and rambling abode in the arty suburb of Bellavista. And which of the three homes was reputedly Neruda's favourite? Casa de Isla Negra of course...

Where on Earth? Week 43

And you thought your backyard was overgrown? This was one of three very different houses that a globe trotting Nobel Prize-winning poet maintained in his home country. Come back on Friday for the definitive answer.

Racking up Mullet-Miles

Love it or hate it, the erstwhile Mullet is the kind of haircut that's hard to ignore, and now a mad Scotsman - unfortunately sans le Mullet - is making his way around the world to visit every place on the globe that's got the word "mullet" as a place name.

He's currently in New Zealand, visiting such out of the way places as Mullet Point and Mullet Creek. So far he's racked up 12 Mullet-sites and is on track for a spectacular total of 29.

Truth be told, most of the Mullet-sites in New Zealand are probably named after the fish.

The haircut that time and taste forgot is unfortunately still pretty big down here, although nothing in comparison to the tonsorial tragedies you're likely to uncover in Eastern Europe or in the southern states of the US.

Click here (if you're brave enough) for shocking photographic evidence.

And click here to visit the website of Simon Varwell, mullet hunter extraordinaire.

Thanks to Mr Jaded on Flickr for the London Mullet

Why wait a year for your next New Year's Eve?

How was New Year's Eve in your neck of the woods?

If you were a little disappointed with how it turned out, don't wait a full year before your next opportunity for end of year shenanigans. Just hop on a plane/train/taxi or chartered donkey and head overseas to intercept the coming of the new year in a different culture.

Chinese New Year kicks off on February 7 in 2008. Welcome to the Year of the Rat.

Around March 21, the Persian New Year or Nowruz is celebrated in Iran and across Central Asia. The traditional meal is Sabzi Polo Mahi, rice with green herbs and fish.

The indigenous Maori people of New Zealand celebrate Matariki or Maori New Year on June 5 2008. In the 21st century Matariki has been celebrated with renewed interest.

The Ethiopian New Year or Enkutatash falls on September 11. Because the Ethiopian calendar is seven years behind the western calendar, the Millennium was only celebrated in Ethiopia last year.

That's by no means a definitive list. Let us know about other opportunities for celebrating the New Year in other cultures and countries.

Thanks to kenyaoa on Flickr for the pic of Times Square

Where have you spent Christmas overseas?

I'm spending Christmas in New Zealand with family this year, and Auckland's weather has dawned fine so it promises to be a day of wearing shorts and flip-flops around the barbecue. For northern hemisphere readers that probably sounds pretty exotic, but down here it's just what we're used to.

More exotic have been a few other Christmases that I've spent on the road.

  1. In the Vietnamese port town of Nha Trang and attending midnight mass on Christmas Eve at the local Catholic cathedral - all the familiar carols like Silent Night but sung in Vietnamese
  2. In the Indian city of Panjim in Goa and being entertained on a karaoke disco riverboat cruise by scores of locals wearing fake Santa beards
  3. Christmas night in Penang in Malaysia, trying to find Fairytale of New York by The Pogues at a karaoke bar. The following morning we felt the earthquake that caused the Boxing Day tsunami and saw the wave roll into Penang's beaches

What are your memories of Christmas in a foreign country?

Is that damn pizza done yet?

When I was researching New Zealand's Hermitage hotel a few weeks back for Lonely Planet, I had no idea of the weird no-brain stuff happening behind its flash doors. Maybe it was the altitude and mountain air - the Hermitage is right beside Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest peak - but a recent guest had a bit of culinary trouble in her room.

Hotel staff were called when an American guest in her mid 40s complained she couldn't get her frozen ham and pineapple pizza out of the microwave. Turns out she'd jammed the doughy treat in the lockable room safe, hit a few random numbers she thought stood for 3 minutes on high, and waited for her meaty, cheesy snack to emerge.

Is the appropriate response laughter or sympathy in such a case?


Thanks to feeb on Flickr for the pic of a pop tart retrieval process.

Rudolph's on the loose above New Zealand

Yep, eveyone's favourite reindeer is on the loose, and a week out from Christmas has already been sighted above New Zealand's capital, Wellington.

Click here to see a larger image of this Yuletide-friendly cloud formation that was snapped by Kiwi photographer Alan Blacklock as he sat in his back garden.

He's adamant it's not the result of some Photoshop jiggery pokery, a stance backed up by the boffins at New Zealand's MetService. Apparently it's the result of light cirrus clouds being blown by a few winds in different directions. Go figure.

Let us know if you've seen any other quirky cloud formations that made you look twice.

A musuem you can't refuse

One of my favourite Scorcese movies is Casino.

(It's not as good as Goodfellas, but hey, what is?)

So it's cool to see a new museum being planned in Las Vegas dedicated to the role of the Mob in making Las Vegas what it is today.

I haven't been to Vegas yet, but I wish I'd seen it in the glory days of the Rat Pack and the Tropicana. Once I do get there I might be disappointed with the contemporary lure of all-you-can-eat salad bars and Cirque de Soleil.

Of course, Casino was set a few years after the 1940s and 1950s period the musuem's going to focus on - a time when a gangster nickname like Bugsy, Lefty and Sneezy was nothing to be sneezed at.

OK, I made that last one up.

The musuem is scheduled to open in 2010.

Don't fuhgeddabout it, OK?

Thanks to Hometown Invasion Tour on Flickr for the pic of Bugsy Siegel's Flamingo.

So this Great Wall thing's the real deal, right?

Forget bootleg iPhones and bogus DVDs. Just when you think China's finally getting serious on the purveyors of dodgy counterfeits comes news that a Hamburg museum may have been duped with a touring exhibition of the Terracotta Army from Xian.

They thought the assorted statuary was the real deal, but apparently it's not that simple.

(You would have thought the "Made In China" logos were a giveaway but obviously not).

But does it really matter, when scores of satisfied punters have been to the exhibition before this hub-bub of half-truth?

If the real thing was on display, would anyone have known the difference, and is it any different from the cosmetic surgery applied to historical sites like Angkor Wat or Knossos in Crete?

Your starter for ten: "Exactly what does authentic mean when it comes to travel?"

Thanks to mick y on Flickr for the pic (I'm pretty sure these ones are the real thing).

Would you like coffee, tea or insightful travel information?

A few months back we reported on a couple of special flights offered by Air New Zealand, one an inflight fashion show across the Tasman from Auckland to Sydney, and also a special gay-themed flight from San Francisco to Sydney in time for the Sydney Mardi Gras.

Now the little airline that could is launching a new service they're describing as "in-flight concierges". Basically the idea is have a dedicated person on board the plane whose sole role is to liaise with passengers and handle enquiries on "must-do" activities at their destinations, arranging onward bookings - even advising on wine selection with meals.

The in-flight know-it-alls will begin service on long haul flights from Auckland to North America and Asia in April 2008.

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