Brits behaving badly abroad

brits behaving badly

Today the Foreign Office released British Behaviour Abroad 2011, with detailed figures on British nationals in trouble overseas (read: Brits behaving badly abroad). The period surveyed: April 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011.

There are lots of interesting tidbits in the survey. British nationals request consular assistance in greatest numbers in Spain and the United States, though since both of these countries are very popular destinations for people from the UK, this is perhaps not all that surprising.

The more interesting chart in the report is of which countries see the highest numbers of requests for consular assistance per visitor and resident abroad. The top five, in descending order: The Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Cyprus, and India. British nationals abroad are most likely to be arrested in Thailand, followed by the United States.

Another interesting detail: The Foreign Office claims that 43 percent of the 18-24 set know someone who has taken illegal drugs while abroad. Aggregate drug arrests are highest for British nationals abroad in Spain (171), the United States (100), Jamaica (63), Norway (55), and Thailand (51).

The good news is that the number of British nationals arrested is down, 10 percent overall and 20 percent for drug-related offenses.

The report also tabulates deaths, hospitalizations, rapes, and sexual assaults abroad. Each of these categories saw slight movement up or down in 2010-2011, with deaths, hospitalizations, and sexual assaults slightly up and rapes down.

[Image: Flickr | La Citta Vita]

Philippines terrorist threat prompts travel warning

Philippines terrorist threatWhen the U.S. Department of State issues a travel warning related to terrorism its serious business. Concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world, its a reminder that terrorism can occur anywhere.

“Travelers should exercise extreme caution if traveling to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago. Regional terrorist groups have carried out bombings resulting in injuries and death” the department of state said in the warning.

Indeed, the Philippines have a long history of terrorist activities with hundreds killed in bombings and other attacks by Islamic extremists. The Philippines has also been called the “Kidnapping Capital of Asia”, with kidnap-for-ransom establishing itself as a popular and lucrative business for the Philippine underworld. But the latest focus on terrorism in the Philippines may stem from a fear of Islamist militant groups that may be plotting attacks to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden last month in Pakistan.

That should be plenty of reasons for caution when thinking of travel to the Philippines. Tourism officials in the Philippines, unlike their Mexican counterparts, have been silent so far but law enforcement officials downplay the US travel warning.”I am not saying there is no immediate threat. [But] there is no specific report of terrorist threats in the country,” Philippine National Police Director General Raul M. Bacalzo told Inquirer News.

This might be one to watch.

For more detailed information on general crime and security issues in the Philippines, see the State Department’s Country Specific Information for the Philippines.

You may also obtain information on security by calling the State Department at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays)

Flickr photo by Maks Karochkin

Video of the Day – Jellyfish Lake, Palau

Swimming in water filled with millions of jellyfish may be most people’s worst nightmare. But for visitors to the Palauan island of Eil Malik, it’s the main attraction.

Situated about 500 miles east of the Philippines, Jellyfish Lake is one of 70 marine lakes on Eil Malik that was formed when the ocean receded over 12,000 years ago. After being trapped in this natural basin, the jellyfish that inhabited the lake gradually evolved without the ability to sting since there were no predators sharing the same waters. Now, daring snorklers can fulfill their worst nightmares (or biggest dreams) by swimming among the jellyfish without being stung. However, those with sensitive skin are advised to wear a wetsuit or protective clothing.

This beautiful, dreamy music video comes from photographer/videographer Sarosh Jacob who captured his adventure with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, set to Radiohead’s “Nude”. For more great underwater videos, check out Sarosh’s Vimeo page.

What’s the most daring adventure you’ve been on? Share it with us! Upload photos to Gadling’s Flickr Pool or leave a comment with a link to your video in the comments below & we may select it as our next Photo/Video of the Day!

Travel television Q & A: Carmen Roberts

travel television carmen robertsCarmen Roberts is a travel reporter for BBC World’s Fast Track program. Extraordinarily well traveled, Carmen recently decamped from London–home for over a decade–to Singapore, the country of her birth.

Here Carmen shares a few tips, a secret destination, and gives us the skinny on how her career developed.

Q: Carmen Roberts, how would you define your occupation?

A: Roving travel reporter and video journalist

Q: You grew up mostly in Australia, if my advance research can be trusted. What brought you to London and now to Singapore?

A: I moved to London on a whim in 2000. I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend and booked a ticket all within 24 hours, and a few weeks later I was on a plane in a bewildered state. Last month I moved back to Singapore, where I will now be Fast Track’s correspondent in Asia.

Q: Can you point to events in your childhood or young adulthood that inspired a life of travel?

A: I was born in Singapore, but my father was from New Zealand and then when I was five years old, we moved to Australia. So, from a very early age, I was travelling on planes. I remember going to visit my grandmother in New Zealand when I was about nine and I travelled as an unaccompanied minor. I loved it!

Q: What do you love about London, and what would you recommend that a visitor not miss? Ditto for Singapore.

A: While the Tube is great (when it works!) you can miss so much if you don’t go above ground. The Tube map is deceptive at times, and if you walk you can get to many places much quicker and have a far more pleasant experience. I especially love the parks in London. Kensington Gardens in my favourite.

What not to miss in Singapore? The food is amazing and you must try the street food, or hawker stalls. They are very safe and dirt cheap. You can get a bowl of noodles for less than a fiver. Gluttons Bay and Maxwell Food Court are my favourites. And if you are a nature lover, you must go to Pulau Ubin.Q: How did you get your job with the BBC?

A: Right place, right time.

Q: How dreamy is your job, truthfully?

A: Haha! I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that! Yes it’s great, I get to travel around the world and meet new people and see a great number of things I wouldn’t ordinarily see if I were travelling on my own steam. But it’s not always glitz and glamour, like when you have to wake up at the crack of dawn and plaster your face with make up for a piece to camera (or standup). Or when you are stuck in the middle of steamy India and your camera has seized up due to humidity and you are about to interview a government minister.

Q: Where do you love to travel for work? And where do you love to travel for
a true holiday?

A: Going to the US for work is quite fun. There’s no language issue and everyone there is clued up with a public relations team. They understand what you are trying to do and are more accustomed to dealing with TV crews. For leisure, I like to get hot and sweaty, and go mountain biking.

Q: Do you have any secret favorite destinations you’d like to share with us?

A; El Nido in the Philippines is just amazing, a true piece of Paradise.

Q: Can you give us a travel tip or two? High-tech, low-tech, whatever.

A: Always make sure you know the emergency numbers in the country where you are travelling. I always email myself travel documents, rather than taking hard copies. And if you are feeling flush and want to upgrade your plane ticket, it’s usually cheaper to do it on the day at the airport.

Check out short Gadling Q&As with other fascinating travel media figures, including Philippe Sibelly, Zora O’Neill, and Benji Lanyado.

[Image credit: Milton Boyne]

Travel blogger Q&A: Jodi Ettenberg

For many travel enthusiasts, bloggers, and armchair travelers, Jodi Ettenberg’s story is downright inspirational. For several years a successful corporate lawyer, she left her comfortable if demanding life in New York to travel the world.

Along the way, she’s had an unnerving number of bird crap incidents, documented Thailand’s red shirt protests, and provided an enticing introduction to the Perhentian Islands, among many other engagements. One constant throughout is food, and in particular street food.

Ettenberg authors a fantastic blog called Legal Nomads and maintains a very active and always interesting Twitter account.

Q: Describe your profession.

A: A few years ago, I’d have said corporate lawyer. Nowadays: hungry nomad, avid reader, mountain climber, marshmallow enthusiast, and travel blogger.

Q: What drives your instinct to travel?

A: A desire to soak up as much as possible, as intensely as possible. I know this sounds broad, but it applies to almost every facet of what I’ve done these past few years. I am continuously energized by learning new things and experiencing them firsthand. Travel can be exhausting and it can be awe-inspiring, but I’ve found the best way to balance between the two is to keep reaching out to local people wherever you go.

My time learning, eating, and traveling with locals has compelled me to keep going, from living with a local family in the Philippines to shaking my head at the sheer insanity of a crazy transportation route in Burma.

Q: Your travels have focused on South America and Asia. What drew you to these parts of the world, in very general terms?

A: For South America, the language and the people. I lived in Uruguay and Ecuador in 2002, and taught myself Spanish by compulsively writing down words in the middle of conversations and then memorizing them at night. In my months on the continent, I managed to pick up quite a bit of the language. I was able to talk to cab drivers and learn about their life stories, and ask questions about South America’s tangled history. More importantly, I was able to understand the answers to my questions, which deepened the desire to keep traveling there.

For Asia, the food, with the people a close second. It could be whatever magnificent street eats I find for breakfast, to the many soups in Burma, to sitting down in Kuala Lumpur and receiving cooking lessons in exchange for bringing tourists to a street stand near BB Plaza. I get obnoxiously excited about food, and will happily travel to another town just to try a dish. My interest in food adds a tremendously rewarding dimension to my gallivanting, especially in Asia where food is so integral to culture. I loved reading Anthony Zee’s Swallowing Clouds for that reason, as it ties together Chinese food and history and culture in an intoxicating way.

Q: The sheer duration of your travels is an inspiration to tons of travel writers and bloggers, and your pace is both slow and relaxed. Talk about this.

A: I started out traveling at a relatively quick pace, but once I hit Asia and fell in love with Asian food I started to move more slowly. I spent four months in the Philippines and two months each in Indonesia and Malaysia. The 90-hour work weeks I’d endured as a corporate lawyer gave me the freedom to truly explore whatever enticed me as I wandered through the world. I worked hard, and I feel very lucky that I now have the time, energy, and desire to keep traveling as long as I have.
Q: You were in Bangkok earlier this year while the red shirt protests raged and were quite active on Twitter during that period. Would you be comfortable making any statements about the contemporary politics of Thailand?

A: It is interesting that you framed your question around Twitter, because the role it played in Thailand’s tumultuous spring was truly eye-opening. I joined Twitter in September 2009 after dragging my feet for quite some time, and it has been a great way to learn about new things and to meet other travelers or expats in new places.

But during the red shirt protests, it became a whole other brand of useful to me and to Thailand generally. I was quoted in a Globe and Mail article after the crackdown about Twitter and its unprecedented role in Bangkok, and the examples cited in the article show how truly important the real-time updates were. From warning people of dangerous areas, to updating on the ground with pictures, to helping rescue the wounded from the downtown core during the crackdown itself, it was just so incredible to watch the organic expansion of public interaction, even when things were going pear-shaped.

I experienced this firsthand on April 10th, when the Thai media tweeted that no tear gas was currently being used just as I was in Kok Wua intersection getting teargassed. I was able to upload a picture from my BlackBerry of the teargas being dropped over the intersection as it happened, which was retweeted widely. Pictorial proof is not absolute, but the thousands and thousands of pictures uploaded by Twitter users in Thailand went a long way to keep everyone abreast of what was happening during the maelstrom of those weeks in Bangkok.

As a foreigner in Thailand, it is important to tread very lightly with any political statements. I tried to keep my blog focused on pictures and links to articles about the red shirt rallies or politics, as opposed to making judgments myself. I was only there for a few months, and though I was lucky enough to have been thrust into the core of the protests (both by purposely running around in the rallies and taking pictures and by living in Din Daeng, an area devastated by the resulting crackdown), I am certainly no expert when it comes to Thai politics. I will say that things have, on the surface, returned to normal, but that under the surface, resentment still percolates as many of the underlying issues leading up to the protests have not been addressed by the government. Yesterday’s downtown Bangkok bomb explosion, which followed a local by-election, demonstrates that reconciliation has yet to occur.

Q: Where are you headed next?

A: I was supposed to head over to Nepal and trek with my brother and his friends at the end of the summer, but unfortunately my lingering bronchial issues (from inhaling burnt tire smoke in Bangkok during the protests) have made the trip a no-go. My aim is to move back to Asia on a more permanent basis come 2011. Ideally, I would like to keep writing about my travels on a freelance basis, and get involved with a microcredit organization in Asia.

Q: Can you offer three tips for prospective long-term or RTW (round-the-world) travelers?

A: From my own experiences, I’d offer the following:

1. Do not buy a RTW ticket. If you’ve got a set time frame, then a RTW ticket might be for you. But otherwise I encourage everyone to see where their travels take them, as that freedom is part of the fun. Had I booked a RTW ticket, I would have never made it to the Philippines, Burma, or Ecuador. I understand that many people want structure within their travels, but so much of what makes travel exciting to me is the ability to jump somewhere enticing if the opportunity arises.

2. Bring duct tape. I’ve taped up the rips in my pack cover, holes in the window screens in malarial zones, leaks in my tents on a variety of camping trips, and the cord to my eeePC when rats chewed through it in the Philippines. I wrap the tape around itself so it has no hole in the center.

3. Read as much as you can about a place before you go. Many travelers are well-informed about their destination but know little about the historical or cultural quirks prior to arrival. I could only gape at a tourist in Burma who said enthusiastically “this country is so peaceful!” He had read nothing about the place and hadn’t realized how much of the country was off limits and why. He just arrived, saw the sights, and left, without trying to dig deeper to understand what made things the way they are. I’m not saying that you need to be able to give a dissertation upon arriving somewhere new! But along the way, it is great to pick up a book or two, if only to add an additional, important layer that will make your visit more satisfying overall.