Traveller letters: Australia could learn a lot from world-class Norway

ICY RECEPTION

Having chased and experienced the most wonderful display of the Northern Lights at Lyngen Lodge in Norway, at 80 degrees north, well above the Artic Circle, we set out on a day walk to see some old Viking cave paintings.

We settled in the cave, with a cup of "glug", the local mulled wine, and enjoyed the view to the edge of the world outside the cave mouth.

It was then a German traveller announced that " he really could live in a cave like this".  When asked why, he pulled out his phone, and noted that "even here I have 4G coverage" .

For us it came as a sad indictment on the state of telecommunications infrastructure back in Australia.

Norway's investment in infrastructure for the benefit of its population is simply astounding. 

Roads, rail, ferries, airports, hospitals and universities in the most remote reaches of the country are to be found to be world class. Yes, they have the benefits of North Sea oil riches, but they have used those riches wisely.  

George Fishlock, Box Hill, VIC

LETTER OF THE WEEK

CREATURE DISCOMFORT

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I've just returned from a tour of Yunnan and Sichuan in China with a well-known China tour operator. We saw some spectacular scenery, ate delicious local food and met lots of really friendly locals.

Sadly, among all of the positive memories remain the negative ones of distressing animal cruelty. Monkeys, cats and birds in small cages not much bigger than their bodies, plus two turtles and what appeared to be a large lungfish, in tanks smaller than their body length.

The obvious remedy is to avoid China in future. However, this will not solve the problem for their animals. Animal welfare is slowly improving there, so please continue to visit and speak up, as we did to our local guide, informing her that we found such sights distressing.

We will also write to our tour company to ask them to do whatever they can to improve conditions for animals in the restaurants and other businesses they use. 

John Dunphy, North Turramurra, NSW

WAR FARES

Jamie Lafferty's article on Papua New Guinea (Traveller, April 21) provoked memories. I was an 18-year-old student among 11 locals leaving from Wau Airport in the New Guinea Highlands. with the terminal consisting of a tin shed and a terrifyingly steep runway.

My fellow passengers, tribal members flying to the Goroka Show, were resplendent in rainbow body-paint and elaborate head-dresses and were carrying spears and axes. I was clearly outshone.

On board, we sat around a mound of vegetables and an unhappy pig tied down and protesting loudly. We sat happily and if this was an everyday occurrence – worlds apart culturally but united on this flight.

Dawn Worner, Moss Vale NSW 

PULITZER PRIZE

Having loved a wonderful wintery pre-Christmas stay at Amsterdam's Hotel Pulitzer just a few years ago, it was a fabulous surprise to see you review (Traveller, April 21). 

Great location, great service and great charm for sure but you missed the best bit and reason enough to go:  the Pulitzer has absolutely the best hotel breakfast in the world – cooked by a Santa lookalike chef to boot.

And, yes, we managed to fit in Amsterdam's cultural attractions to expand our minds and not just our waistlines).

Shashie Rose, Malvern, VIC

KEEP BALI BEAUTIFUL

Kudos to Barry Williams' daughter, Penelope (Traveller Letters, April 28) for embarking on a clean-up project in Bali.

While Penelope's program aims to educate locals on rubbish disposal and recycling, particularly plastic bottles, it's also vital that tourists visiting the Island of the Gods do what they can to help create a greener, cleaner Bali.

With more than 1.2 million Australians visiting the island in 2016, it's imperative that we all think about what we can do to help keep Bali beautiful.

Let's leave only our footprints on the sand so that generations of visitors can continue to enjoy the many unique delights of this magical island.

Jann Burmester, Byron Bay, NSW

VIETNAM EASE

I have just returned from a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia and was perplexed to read the moan from Elizabeth Terrill regarding her Vietnam experience (Traveller Letters, April 28).

We visited "historic" Hoi An and yes we paid the $7, not exorbitant, and were given a simple map, in English, to guide us. Does Elizabeth have any proof the money does not go toward the maintenance of Hoi An?

To claim that no one speaks English is utter rubbish. We had no problem communicating with hotel, restaurant, or sales staff throughout the trip.

Did Elizabeth ever think about trying to speak Vietnamese, considering this was claimed to be her third visit to Vietnam? Why travel if you only want to speak English?

Warren Lyons, Northmead, NSW

I'm not sure what Elizabeth Terrill expected travelling to Vietnam. Yes it is noisy and crowded – it's what makes it vibrant and exciting.

Amid the traffic chaos it is actually civilised – motor bikes slow down and drive around pedestrians, no road rage, smiling friendly people. Coming from a country where a cup of coffee can cost $5, paying $7 to visit a UNESCO-listed town seemed pretty good value to us.

And as English not being spoken, we found most folk associated with tourism were keen to practise their English, especially if you take the time to learn a few simple phrases in Vietnamese. Vietnam has amazing food, a rich culture and appreciation for history, and the people generous beyond words. Our family of four can't wait to go back. 

Alison Steele, Carlton, NSW

RIGHT ON NIPPON

We have just returned from Japan, a beautiful country where the people are gracious and extremely well-mannered. Never once did I feel unsafe or ripped-off. 

The bonus is that there's no tipping in Japan, removing the stress and sometime awkwardness as to whether "you've got it right".

I can highly recommend a local tour company Sunrise Travel, exceptionally well organised and very informed friendly guides. 

Blanche Mikalauskas, Greystanes, NSW

QUIET, PLEASE

On boarding a Qantas flight we had such loud and obtrusive pop music playing I had to put headphones.  The entire flight, basically a daytime one, was in darkness – not ideal for an arrival time of 7pm.

The second meal was not available as the cooler failed. Okay, these things happen, but we were compensated with a $15 voucher, barely enough to buy a sandwich in the terminal, and certainly not enough to compensate for a missed three-course meal with wine.

Dave Torr, Werribee, VIC

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