International travel is quite an experience for anybody, as one is bound to encounter different climates, cultures and attidtudes.
Over the winter months I have been lucky enough to spend some time travelling the globe to work on cricket matches and tournaments. A benefit of playing and being involved in a summer sport is that the rest of world awaits you in the off season so that you can spend life in perpetual summer.
In March and April I was in South Africa for the Australian Test series, (Okay, for the observant it isn’t in the Northern Hemisphere but it does have wonderful autumn weather). Johannesburg, warm and dry as the thunderstorm season abated; Capetown, cool in the evening and perfect during the day and Durban,
a mirror of Brisbane.
In June, London called for the 20/20 World Cup in which my former team Pakistan had a superb victory in the
final. The weather was cool to begin with but blossomed in to mild (by Australian standards) days with that lovely lengthy twilight of the lower latitudes. A few days in Dubai on the way home for a touch of 40 degrees or more, but the iced towels at every tee box and a cold beverage at the 19th made golf bearable.
“You know the GFS is serious when even oil sheiks are suffering”
I just love those motorised golf carts that have the air conditioner which activates every time you sit on the seat. The cranes on the Dubai skyline (it is said that 25 per cent of the world’s cranes are sited in Dubai) had slowed their work rate since the GFC hit the massive developments hard. You know the GFC is serious when even oil sheiks are suffering.
In late September into early October, I had some more cricket work, this time in the studio for ESPN in Singapore. Despite the famous 157 year old Singapore Cricket Club down on Badang Park across from Raffles Hotel, cricket is not so big in Singapore, but ESPN have significant studio facilities that cater for just about every sport played in Asia as well as hosting shows on big events such as Premier League Soccer.
Singapore was a madhouse at that time as the F1 Grand Prix circus was in town and the soft sounds of leather on willow were halted by the screaming Ferrari engines, as the track surrounded the cricket ground. Rarely could you witness such a juxtaposition of technology, history and sport literally staring across a fence
at each other.
The climate doesn’t change much through the year in South Asia and I found Singapore humid but not stifling with the occasional earthquake tremor forcing office workers onto the streets. Not far across the straits of Malacca on Sumatra, Indonesia, felt the tragic force of an 8.2 strength quake which levelled
buildings and killed over 1,000 people. The whole area has been in disarray from the social and psychological impact of the quake in Indonesia; typhoon in the Philippines and Vietnam and tsunami
As diverse as the locales are that I’ve travelled to in geography, climate and culture there is always the challenge of actually getting into each country through equally diverse airports.
The security is high at Heathrow. Armed police are everywhere. To pass through immigration and customs
is nerve racking even for the experienced traveler. Passports need biometric recognition photos and are scanned carefully and thoroughly. The fear of terrorism is palpable.
In Dubai, the new terminal is incredible, especially for Emirates Airlines passengers. The building, much like
modern Dubai itself, is sparkling chrome and steel with every modern convenience. Security is discreet and passports are quickly examined and passengers made feel welcome.
In Singapore the first sign you see as you take the escalator down into the spotless baggage area is a simple one. Direct, forthright and for all that understated. You find yourself reading it a second time after the initial cursory scan. “The Penalty for Drug Trafficking in Singapore is Death”. So when that nice friendly looking puppy comes sniffing around your suitcase it is understandable that the heart rate shoots up.
Of course the sniffer dogs are in Australia as well but quarantine is a major focus of the local customs and their instruments. Every time I return to the Great Southern Land the quarantine people want to check my golf clubs and clean my shoes even though I scrubbed the paint off them before I packed! No matter, better safe than sorry.
Drugs and security are important but the other common matter of concern has been the H1N1 virus which
is making a second wave comeback as the Northern Hemisphere descends into winter. At every airport I passed through, including Sydney, there were multiple notices about “… fever, headache, breathing problem…”. It did make me wonder had I spent the last 14 hours confined on an aeroplane with someone breathing a virus all over me!!
International travel has become convenient and available for nearly everyone these days. And, no doubt like you when you travel, it is wonderful to be able to do so despite all of the difficulties, restrictions and caveats but, what is more wonderful is coming home.