Traveller Letters: Sydney Airport is an international embarrassment

I fully concur with Katrina Lobley and the dilemmas expressed by her keeping track of how many countries she has visited (Traveller, May 6); however, I wish to add another – balancing the urge to add to the count against the desire to return to the places you have thoroughly enjoyed in the past…62 and still counting.
Peter Dickinson, Blackburn South, VIc

I agree with Katrina Lobley that when counting countries visited a transit doesn’t count. But nor should calling at a port on a cruise. My rule is you must have stayed the night on land. Counting countries can be tricky if they no longer exist – Yugoslavia is now several countries while East Germany and West Germany are now just Germany. So my count is over 80, some since 1960 multiple times. All wonderful memories.
Ainslie Morris, South Durras, NSW

A SMORGASBORD OF OPINIONS

In response to the letter by John Sutton (Traveller Letters, May 6), are you kidding me? Of course you should pocket morning tea and lunch from the hotel breakfast buffet – it’s a buffet and if you don’t take it, it will be binned. I pack zip lock bags just for this purpose. Just think of it as refined recycling.
Graeme Simon, Newtown, NSW

Please do not encourage anyone to pocket food for later. The hotel does not owe you lunch because you paid for breakfast. You state that there is a huge amount of wastage at buffets, but what if some hotels have a policy of supporting the community by donating excess food? In my opinion, your position does not pass the front page test for behaviour, and I hope you reconsider your advice, as it sets a bad example for children as well as for adults.
Nancy Kohn, Centennial Park, NSW

Taking food from buffets to eat later is theft. Staying at the Fairmont Resort in the Blue Mountains, NSW, a few years ago, we were horrified when one of the waitresses stated the seafood would be thrown out. Why couldn’t the food be given to the staff? The cleaners, the gardeners, housekeepers, chefs, cooks, waiters? It would keep the low paid staff happy and the food fresh.
Brendon Fehre, Waterloo, NSW

I have happy memories of a family run hotel in the Greek islands where the host and cook was delighted that I had helped myself to some cheese pie from the breakfast buffet to take away for lunch. It’s called hospitality.
Kris Sloane, Fitzroy North, Vic

Editor’s note: This has been a hot topic of discussion at Traveller and we took a deeper look at the issue here, including getting the views of major hotel chains.

UNFAIR EXCHANGE

I would appreciate it if you could make your readers aware of an experience I had booking a hotel room in Brisbane. I used my Visa card to pay for my online booking, as I have done many times in the past. However, I was shocked when I checked my bank statement to find that I was actually charged for the hotel stay by a company in Hong Kong along with an additional $7 “international exchange fee”. There was absolutely no mention of this during the whole online booking procedure.
Helen Mason, Randwick, NSW

FALLING FOR VIRGIN

Peter Dowling’s letter (Traveller Letters, April 29) reminded me of my wife’s experience in Darwin, when she fell down some steps in a dimly lit area and fractured her heel. We were booked to return to Sydney the next day. On arrival at Darwin airport, I commandeered a wheelchair and took my wife into the terminal. At the Virgin desk I asked if we could have a change of seats (we had chosen 24A and 24B) so that her walk along the aircraft was minimised. Not a problem: we were promptly allocated seats in row three, which turned out to have much greater leg-room). On entering the aircraft, the cabin crew couldn’t have been more helpful. I hadn’t thought about making arrangements at Sydney but the crew had, because a wheelchair was waiting for my wife when we exited the aircraft. Superb service from all the Virgin staff.
David Gordon, Cranebrook. NSW

TIP OF THE WEEK: CONVENIENCE TO AN MRT

We have travelled to Singapore 12 times over the past 12 years and love its MRT – Mass Rapid Transit – system (one of its stations is pictured). It is extensive, modern, clean and cheap, so our choice of accommodation needs to be within 200 metres of the nearest station. Our favourite hotel is the V Hotel Lavender, booked directly on their site, which has a swimming pool and laundry facilities. It is situated above the Lavender MRT on the East West line in Kallang. The area around the Lavender also has good Aussie-style cafes and bakeries for breakfast with our favourite dinners at modern indoor shopping centre cafes and food courts linked to virtually all major MRT stations.
Judi Rosevear, Wantirna, Vic

BIG ON THE APPLE

My husband and our three teenage children and I recently took a 2020 pandemic-delayed trip to New York City. Everything about it was outstanding, the flights were easy, clean and fun, the airports efficient and not plagued by testing and mask-wearing. NYC was alive, it was dirty, busy, rich and poor and felt like New Year’s Eve every day. We did all the touristy things with ease and relished in the travel, the new experiences and a togetherness that was extra special after our collective experiences of the past three years. Get out there people.
Pippa Cadwallader, Forestville, NSW

IN THE KNOW ON NGOs

Lee Tulloch describes engagement by the river cruise company, Scenic Cruises, with NGOs (non-government organisations) in Cambodia (Traveller, April 30). Such engagement supports the valuable work of organisations while allowing the traveller an opportunity to learn more about Cambodia’s history and society. However, at Siem Reap Airport signs state that children are not tourist attractions. Travellers are advised to avoid visits to schools and orphanages. Allowing casual travellers to interact with children at a school or orphanage is surely not an ethical practice by an NGO. It is preferable to support essential and sustainable education needs such as teacher training and purchase of materials by donating to organisations with ethical values.
Margaret Bradshaw, Point Lonsdale, Vic

EDITOR’S NOTE A spokesman Scenic Cruises replies: Guests’ visits do not interrupt regular schooling of classes; instead we support a voluntary after-school English class. We do this through providing teaching materials and allowing the guests to interact and help teach the children in this class through participating in English teaching exercises. Without our support, these lessons would not be possible. Scenic also work closely with NGOs and our Vietnam and Cambodia-based staff to ensure these experiences are ethical.

FULL CREDIT

Reading the letter about use of credit cards in India (Traveller Letters, May 13), I thought my experience may be of interest. We are in Ladakh, India, as I write, having also been to Bhutan and Kashmir. My wife read Bhutan would be a credit card desert. Cashed up with Indian rupee (interchangeable with Bhutan’s currency) in case, we found credit cards and debit cards generally accepted everywhere. Even market traders accepted them. But be careful because when declined at our hotel I rang my Australian bank thinking it had been blocked, but the issue was on the Bhutan side. In India every place accepted cards and with nearly all, we had no issue. In Leh, Ladakh, it is not a problem.
Jim Jobson, Darlinghurst, NSW

HIGH AND MIGHTY

Lisa Hodgetts (Traveller Letters, May 7) overlooked the piece de resistance in her letter about Coimbra, Portugal. High up on the hill the magnificent old university with its chapel and library, sites not to be missed
Patricia Barron, Salamander Bay, NSW

PARK YOURSELF HERE

I’m in full agreement with Gail White (Traveller Letters, May 13) about the attractions of New Plymouth, New Zealand. However, she left out the place many consider the jewel of New Plymouth – Papakura Park. Right in the middle of town, it consists of 52 spectacular hectares of bushland, walking tracks, cultivated gardens, a music bowl, displays, and especially, at the end of October, what used to be called the Rhododendron Festival, is now known as the Taranaki Garden Festival).
Tanya Tintner, Halifax, Canada

How to write to us

We give preference to letters of 100 words or less and they may be edited for space, legal or other reasons. Please use full sentences, don’t use textspeak and don’t include attachments. Email us at travellerletters@traveller.com.au and, importantly, include your name, address and phone number.

The Letter of the Week writer wins three Hardie Grant travel books. See hardiegrant.com

The Tip of the Week writer wins a set of three Lonely Planet travel books. See shop.lonelyplanet.com



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