Bunbury in Western Australia, War Zone Hotels ElsewhereMonday, 8 December 2014
▲ I was in Bunbury last month for a Sister Cities conference, Bunbury is linked up with Setagaya near Tokyo and Jiaxing near Shanghai. The Seishokai Music Group came courtesy of the Japan link but there were lots of other sister city relationships making an appearance. Bunbury is on the coast of Western Australia, about 150km south of Perth.
I spoke about an assortment of cities I’ve had some sort of relationship with, I can count up 12 cities I’ve lived in for at least a year – Bournemouth (England), Karachi (Pakistan), Nassau (Bahamas), Detroit and Baltimore (USA), Reading, Coventry and London (England), Sydney and Melbourne (Australia), San Francisco (USA) and Paris (France). Curiously Nassau has Detroit for a sister city. I kicked around the idea of other sister city relationships, I wrote an article once on War Zone Hotels, which could have made some interesting city linkages:
The movie Hotel Rwanda put the war zone hotel back in the news again with its tale of a courageous hotel manager who took in refugees and sheltered them from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The real hotel was in fact the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali.
◄ Hôtel des Mille Collines, Kigali in Rwanda
Two hotels in Europe vied for the title of the best known post World War II war zone hotel. The Europa in Belfast, Northern Ireland survived 29 bombings through the 1970s and is still going strong today. The Holiday Inn in Sarajevo had its war zone heyday 20 years later when it may have been the most bombed hotel of all during the Balkan struggles.
It would have vied for that title with the Commodore Hotel in Beirut which rose to fame in the 1980s, after most of its rivals had been destroyed. The Commodore had the advantage of being sheltered by taller buildings, but also had owners and a manager who were adept at playing off all the competing Lebanese factions.
The Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad was made famous by the CNN reporters, amongst others, who reported from the hotel during the 1991 Kuwait round of Iraq wars. Unfortunately the mosaic of George Bush Senior, which arriving guests had to walk over to enter the hotel, was destroyed by American soldiers in 2003. The Continental Hotel in Saigon, Vietnam never suffered the sort of front line damage inflicted on other war zone hotels, but its terrace, known as the ‘Continental Shelf,’ was the nerve centre for Vietnam War gossip.
I’ve never been to any of these war zone hotels while the wars were going on although I’ve visited a number of them since. And my Belfast-born wife Maureen once had to abandon a half completed hairdressing session near the when another bomb was due to go off.
Meanwhile, back in Bunbury, the town has some interesting street art, a hilltop lookout in the centre of town and the Dolphin Experience where, rather like Monkey Mia further to the north on the Western Australia coast, dolphins regularly come close to the beach to check out the visitors.
◄ Plus there’s a nice little mangrove boardwalk.