There’s many a half-truth in those old sayings


Don’t carry coals to Newcastle, goes the old saying.

This means do not offer something when it is already plentiful.
The statement always suggested to me that this city in the north east of England was a coal mining and industrial city.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised during a recent visit there to discover that recently Newcastle has completely rejuvenated itself with pedestrian-only squares and large shopping malls.
It has always had some brilliant old buildings, symbolically nowadays topped by the new football stadium on a hill overlooking the city.
Another catchphrase; “You cannot teach an old dog new tricks!” Then how come all the pensioners and grey-haired ones are deftly sending sms messages and using the internet to communicate and even to shop? Not too bad for a generation brought up on telexes and fax machines.
“Travel broadens the mind, but shrinks the wallet.” Another myth, about one third of all travellers today are flying to work to meet customers, negotiate deals, attend confer-ences, thus travelling profitably. And if you want to stay at home, there is so much to discover locally. In the Gulf, each of our neighbours offers fascinating sightseeing – from Oman’s Hajjar Mountains and fortresses, Bahrain’s soukhs to the desert safaris of the UAE.
One of the great privileges of travel is that one is able, at first hand, to be able to separate the myths from the facts. For example, newspaper articles about Dubai often talk about the “oil-rich Gulf sheikhdom”.
Today oil represents less than five per cent of total revenues with tourism now contributing more than 30 per cent.
“British food is the pits”. If you have ever had the opportunity of dining out in the UK, you will realise that this statement is untrue. On the contrary, apart from the fine dining restaurants in London, which are now recognised as some of the best in the world, I have also been in country’s pubs, where Sunday lunch with roast beef and Yorkshire puddings is an absolute delight.
“Bangkok is full of pollution and is becoming too touristy.” Not quite true. The new flyovers and highways into the city have helped to clean up the air. As we get older, travelling by tuk-tuk is more hair-raising that it used to be, but it is still fun. The Thais are still friendly and smiling.
Bangkok has always been a city that attracts many tourists, but the customs, festivals and wonderful architecture have always managed to overshadow such “invaders” and Thailand has shone through it all.
“Aussies talk about cricket endlessly, or rugby or Aussie rules football. Not much culture!” Well, they are admittedly very good at playing cricket, a game I have never managed to fathom, but there are plenty more of them enjoying a feast of culture in the beautiful Sydney Opera House, listening to their symphony orchestras or watching the movies made locally in their own huge film studios with such home grown stars as Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. Aussie grub is very good too, and I still long for the “sinful delicious” cinnamon rolls sold in the centre of Melbourne.
“Africa is scary and unsafe!” True, parts of Africa are a little scary and unsafe, but if you listen to your travel agent, he/she will book you into a secure hotel in a safe district, where you have the chance of meeting the local people and discover the true Africa. Of course, Johannesburg after dark, if you do not know the district, is not advisable, but there are also cities in Europe and the USA equally challenging, when the sun sets.
Myth indicates that a story is imaginary, fictitious and not based on facts or scientific studies. We have all come across such myths and I would advise anyone to investigate such myths or at least take them with a pinch of salt. Happy’ exploring!
Speaking Out by Jonna Simon