Tales from the Southern Hemisphere

The Southern Hemisphere is not a bad place to be in the wintertime. That is, when it is wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere. By the time the chilly winds from Baltimore reach the southern tip of Africa they have been warmed by the South Atlantic. Flowers bloom. The sun shines. Gentle breezes glide over the fields and parking lots.

As near as we can tell, South Africa is booming. Driving along the freeways, you’d scarcely know you weren’t in Southern California…or Texas. Except that it seems newer and more modern in Johannesburg than it does in LA. Most of the roads…shops…and offices you see in Jo’burg were put up only in the last couple of years. Those in LA date back decades.

But there are a lot of poor people in Africa, more than in California. And some of them are not very good neighbours. At intersections that are particularly favoured by hijackers, for example, signs warn motorists to watch out. Razor wire, stretched generously and lazily on the top of walls, reminds the visitor that this is no paradise.

Melbourne, Australia, is equally sun-washed this time of year. But it seems cleaner, safer, and more urban. People ride bicycles up and down the Yarra River. Couples stroll hand in hand in front of the old train station or through the narrow alleys, now filled with tables and outdoor dining.

Jo’burg is much cheaper than Melbourne. We paid $44 for a buffet breakfast at the Crowne Plaza hotel. Then again, Melbourne has become one of the world’s most expensive and desirable cities. Each year, it and Vancouver vie for the top position in The Economist’s list of the world’s most liveable cities.

To summarise Australia’s economic situation: the Aussies sell dirt to the Chinese. Since the Chinese have such a strong appetite for antipodal dirt, the Aussies are making money. Prices are rising. Investors are confident. The boom goes on.

Australian property prices seem way out of line, at least compared to Baltimore. An office building that might sell for $1 or $2 million in the heart of Baltimore is on offer in the St. Kilda area of Melbourne for $7 million. Then again, St. Kilda is lively, hip, and attractive, with an exciting nightlife and a beach next door. Baltimore, on the other hand…oh, never mind.

And more thoughts…

We went around the world last week. We wish we could say we learned something. But modern travel has been standardised…and culture and technology have been “globalised”…so that the more you travel the more you feel you never left home.

“How was your trip around the world?” asked our assistant when we got back in the office in Baltimore.

“No problem. Nothing special,” we replied.

How could a trip around the world not be ‘special’? Well, the airports all look alike. The planes are all alike. The restaurants and hotels are all alike, usually international chains. So are the shops…and the products.

You can travel to the far side of the globe…and except for the fact that you can’t quite remember where you are…or what time it is…you might as well have stayed put…


Bill Bonner
for Markets and Money

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail Markets and Money.
Bill Bonner

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5 Comments on "Tales from the Southern Hemisphere"

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I couldn’t agree more with the second part of Bill’s piece (I agree with the first, too) that air travel has nothing whatsoever to commend it any more. I also made a round-the-world trip recently, including through the US, and even in business class it was simply to be endured. Thankfully my employer was footing the bill as I wouldn’t have chosen to myself. Apart from the several days in France in a small, family-run hotel that was blessed with an excellent chef, the rest was pretty awful. What gets me most is the knowledge that the moment you enter… Read more »

Hear Hear Bob


yes Bob, it is so sad the way everything is turning out. No one in authority has any sense of humor any more. Smile, be happy and get arrested?


Globalization —> distopia


sorry sp – should be “dystopia”

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