Who is Murray?

MAGI grew up in Sydney, Australia, in a family that considered international guests a matter of course and took an interest in cultures from an early age. I began travelling at 16 with a short exchange to Japan with Labo and later spent a year in Japan as the AFS Sydney Nagoya Sister City Scholar. The AFS values of peace and understanding and the exchange student’s motto ‘it’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just different’ have guided me through life. In 1998, I began travelling in earnest, living and working in Japan, Belgium and Bhutan, collecting stories and trying to understand the why of behaviours in different cultures.

Along the way I found a passion for writing and began sharing my experiences by email, this blog and travel articles. My first published book, Dragon Bones, was released in March 2011.

Having lived and travelled in developing countries, I have seen the damage done by outsiders imposing their values on local cultures. I strongly believe in the need for people to identify their own problems and determine their own solutions. I do what I can to support local organisations in their efforts.

I am currently back in Australia, where I completed a Masters of Applied Anthropology. I volunteer with AFS and continue to learn by hosting young cultural explorers. As soon as I can, I will head back out into the world to help local organisations and collect stories for more books.


  1. Hey MAG, this is a great site! Loved looking at all the piccies. Good to catch up with you tonight – let’s talk again soon. Take care and keep in touch – May and Michael

  2. Hello Mag,
    2 remarks on your photos of Belgium:
    1) The ‘Brussels Town hall at night’ is in fact the Antwerp Cathedral.
    2) What you call the Antwerp cathedral is another church, there.
    3) The Bruges ‘old church’ is in fact the Saint Salvator cathedral, in Bruges indeed.

    Not to worry, I am just a nitpicker!

  3. Dear Murray,

    This message may come as a surprise to you. Do you remember me? I’m Bob, the landlord of your apartment in Belgium.

    Do you recall our conversations about Japan? The mixed feelings I have about that country?
    Perhaps I also told you about my trek through the Moroccan Atlas and my fascination about discovering the world.

    Since you’ve left Belgium I have left ‘my pond’ quite a few times. I went to Mali on a trek along the Bandiagara cliffs, discovering the Dogon culture. I went back to the Atlas conquering the mount M’goun (4160m). Then followed a stay Senegal where I financed the start-up of a cybercafé. Next year I plan to return to Senegal to discover the South (Casamance-The Gambia) by MTB.

    I also love to discover less exotic places by my own means. I love to travel by motorcycle and more recently, by classic car. In the last couple of years I have trained hard on the bike so it has become for me also a means of travelling.

    I’m infected by “globetrottis”. You definitely know what I mean…
    I have read bits of your blog. I recognise myself in the expression of your feelings. The respect, the (un)founded prejudices, the ecstasy, the frustrations sometimes.

    “One People, many Cultures”. I like that ! I could add “One World, many Scenes”

    I have a friend who introduced me to this adventurous travelling. He lowered the threshold.
    Thanks to him I set my footprint in the snow of Africa, I gazed at the planes towards Burkina Fasso from the top of the Bandiagara cliffs, I watched people, animals and all sort of vehicles crossing the Bami River at sunset.

    At this time of the year we brainstorm about our future ‘adventures’

    My friend loves hiking on ‘the Roof of the World’. He has been a couple of times in Nepal and has that urge to go back. I have a negative feeling about Nepal. Call it a prejudice. I see images of busy and noisy Kathmandu with too many over-aged hippie tourists and wannabe Sir Hillary’s. I see messy temples and people spoiled by tourist dollars. Again, I may be dead wrong, it’s just a feeling based on someone else’s pictures.

    So, I suggested: Bhutan! I sensed a big YES behind his surprised eyes.

    “Leave it to me”, I said,” I know someone over there”, not realising you had moved on.

    Anyway, we have this idea to go to Bhutan but have no idea if this is do-able. When I read your blog I realise that, although Bhutan seems to open for tourism, there might be some administrative hassle and other unexpected hurdles.

    I would like to take advantage of your experience to organise this trip. We are believers in equitable tourism. We prefer that the money we spend goes as much as possible to the local people. Do you have suggestions on local people and organisations who could help us ?

    I assume that there will be 4 to 8 of us. We plan on staying about 10 days of which about 7 spent for hiking towards the mountains. We will require a guide and a supporting team with pack animals. Our average physical level is ‘moderate’.

    Do you have suggestions on local people and organisations who could help us ?

    I have downloaded your book on Japan. Having read only the prologue, it is clear to me how close I am to your views. I will experience Japan through you.

    Ah, your blog site is back (it has been out today 10/12 between 11 am and 1 pm CET). I am reading the section October 2006 learning more about Bhutan (and you).

    Keep well,


  4. Hello from cold germanien
    Coming back from warm Morocco i had to stay for a freezy nigth on the trainstation … trains home were already gone .. it was midnight ..
    the remembering to morocco is just as u wrote .. it si tricky on much places .. might be not everywhere .. but being careful with taking all the people for true and honest could be big problem for your purse and your mind ..
    hey .. it was nice travelling withu anyway .. and who knows ..

    I love your idea about peace on earth


  5. Hi Murray,

    I came to this blog through another blog (http://wangchasangey.blogspot.in/) . You seems to be a very nice person but I cannot help but think how misguided you are by reading some of your articles. When I read one of your articles in that you said China was poised to annex Bhutan as it has with other countries, I was like what were you talking about? Then it dawned on me that you were referring to that ‘China-invaded-Tibet-thing’. I am not going to talk about this subject for now but I want you to check out the following links I provided. Then you will know which country is threatening Bhutan (Hint: not China).

    1947 Annexation of Kashmir

    1949 Annexation of Manipur

    1949 Annexation of Tripura

    1951 Annexation of South Tibet:

    1961 Annexation of Goa:

    1962 Annexation of Kalapani, Nepal:

    1962 Aggression against China:

    1971 Annexation of Turtuk, Pakistan:

    1972 Annexation of Tin Bigha, Bangladesh

    1975 Annexation of Sikkim:

    1983 (Aborted) Attempted invasion of Mauritius

    1990 (Failed) Attempted annexation of Bhutan:

    1. Hello, tendimensions. Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. I completely agree that India would like to annex Bhutan, but, I wonder who you are to say I’m misguided. Are you Bhutanese? Are you Chinese? Indian? An expat? A tourist? My comments that China is poised to invade Bhutan are based on common opinion while I was living in Bhutan. The Chinese regularly built roads into Bhutan and made ridiculous claims about Bhutan’s affiliation to Tibet, which were clearly designed to influence world opinion.

      On the other hand, India has a military presence in Bhutan which it often ‘offers’ to increase, and Bhutan has had to resort to enforcing a cultural identity to avoid being culturally enveloped by India.

      Bhutan sits in a very political location, and must ‘fight’ every day to keep the superpowers to north and south at bay. To pick on one part of my commentary is to miss the point – that this precarious position has caused / exacerbated many of the internal problems Bhutan has today.

      1. Hi Mag, sorry for the late reply. China has no diplomatic relation with Bhutan because India does not allow Bhutan to. Bhutan doesn’t even have diplomatic relation with the United States, the EU and most other countries because India does not approve it. China has settled amicably twelve of its fourteen contiguous land borders with its neighbors, save India and Bhutan. So given the the border between China and Bhutan is undefined, the only possibility your claim is true is that India/Bhutan is accusing China of building on land that India/Bhutan consider belongs to Bhutan. That I think is highly likely what happen given India’s past behavior towards its other neighbors.

        As to Bhutan’s past affiliation with China, this is not ridiculous, it is simply a fact. Just like Sikkim (which was annexed by India in 1975), Bhutan was a Chinese tributary state. You can see it even today. Just look at Bhutan’s national flag. Notice the dragon there looks exactly like the dragon in Chinese depiction. The only difference is that the Chinese dragon has five claws whereas the Bhutanese dragon has four claws.

        Bhutan face no danger from China. When China was strong, all the small states around China exist. China may want to have a tributary relationship but other than that China left them alone. It is only when China was weak that these states got annexed.

        Korea – annexed by Japan. Became independent after WWII.
        Ryukyu Islands – annexed by Japan
        Sikkim – annexed by India
        Bhutan – constantly threatened to be annexed by India

        By the way if you read this blog


        and read the comments there by the Bhutanese, you can clearing see who the Bhutanese see as a threat.

        Anyway I am glad you took an interest on the Bhutanese. Nobody likes a bully. Please keep on voicing for the interest of the Bhutanese.

  6. Hi Mag, Chanced on your blog after seeing your recent post on FB. The blog is a bit like catching up with an old friend in absentia – liked it a lot. Keep writing

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