I AM experiencing pure and utter unadulterated bliss. Or to be more precise, Bamboo Bliss, the new massage treatment designed specifically for winter at the Hilton Surfers Paradise. On this particular day I am the guinea pig for this steamy spa sensation. Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking… gee that Goddess is a humanitarian. What will she do next, donate a kidney to medical research?
This blissful journey in the eforea: spa at Hilton begins wearing a fluffy robe, on a day bed, in the relaxation room sipping an Indigenous-inspired Yulu tea of wild rosella, lemon, aniseed, wild lime and lemon myrtle leaves. It’s red, warm and like a little bit of the Dreamtime has exploded on your taste buds. Take your time, there’s no rush here.
I am then led into a treatment room and where the bliss begins in earnest. My therapist and new best friend Lauren rubs my back with a Vitaman Sea Salt Scrub consisting of sea salt, aloe vera and wattle seed. You’re on the Gold Coast remember, so picture a shirtless surfer scrubbing you down with sea salt in the ocean, or, if you like, a topless sun baking woman. What interests me here is that the Vitaman range, as its name suggests, was originally designed for blokes, but women liked it so much, it inspired this new treatment. Lauren then places a hot towel on my back and wraps me in a cocoon, a little like your mum used to when you ran out of the surf on a cold day.
Warm bamboo is then rolled gently up my legs, not unlike a stick of melting butter. On a crisp day outside, it’s simply scrumptious and I feel like I’m a juicy roast duck being prepared for dinner. The back massage follows with a Vitaman Relaxing Oil of almond, orange, jojoba and lavender. Lauren massages my arms and gently stretches them, a little like a Thai massage before moving to the front of the body. A reflexology-style foot massage is a highlight here.
On this particular day, Lauren throws in a vigorous head scrub as well. Remember those days when you got home from the beach and mum shampooed all the salt out of your hair like her life depended on it and you thought “geez, mum, that’s a bit rough?”. Well, this is nothing like that. It’s firm and relaxing and like all those thoughts you can’t slow down in everyday life are being massaged from your mind.
The eforea: spa at Hilton is the first purpose-built spa of its kind at a Hilton property in Australia. It boasts seven private treatment rooms including a Vichy Shower and two double rooms for couples – in case you happen to have a shirtless surfer or a topless sun baker of your own.
The word “eforea” describes “a place where people want to escape from the pace of modern life”. Want to escape even further? Book yourself a room at the Hilton Surfers Paradise, which sits right in the heart of this tourist strip. This property offers 250 one, two and three-bedroom Hilton Residences and 169 Hilton guest rooms and suites. There’s a signature restaurant Salt grill by Luke Mangan, the FIX Bar with cocktails created by a team of expert “mixologists, and The Food Store delicatessen and wine bar.
But why should The Global Goddess have all the fun? I really value my readers and, in conjunction with the Hilton Surfers Paradise, I am thrilled to offer a prize for one loyal follower. The prize, worth $155, includes a 90-minute Bamboo Bliss treatment at the eforea: spa at Hilton, Surfers Paradise. Yes, one of you will be able to indulge in the journey I have described above.
To enter, you must be a follower (if you’re not, simply click on the follow button in the bottom right hand corner) AND you must leave a comment telling me what your idea of “bliss” is. It’s THAT simple! The competition opens today, Monday, May 27 and closes on Monday, June 3. The winner with be announced on this blog early next week. Transport to the Hilton Surfers Paradise is not included (but you can borrow my broomstick). The prize itself is available to be taken up until November 22, 2013, so if you are planning a trip to the Gold Coast between now and then, please enter.
THIS journey begins like so many others. With me, frantically scouring Brisbane Airport for the man of my dreams who will not only be smart, funny and sexy, but will be on my flight, happen to be seated next to me, and will fall instantly in love with my jaunty wit and irrepressible beauty. Yes, because I am deluded.
Instead, I am stuck on a five hour flight across the Nullarbor from Brisbane to Perth with the Redlands Rhapsody Choir – who are testing their vocal chords and my patience. But not as much as grandma and grandpa in 66J and 66K right behind me, who use the back of my chair to lift themselves from their seats, thus ripping out tufts of my hair each time they go to use the toilet. Which appears to be urgent and often. I comfort myself with an eye mask and The Village People on my iPod. Boys, you were so right. You can’t stop the music. Nobody can stop the music.
And so I arrive in Perth where I meet my travelling companions, two of them recent brides who are still blushing profusely from their nuptial naughtiness. And so they should be. What’s not to adore about being in love? But I can’t help but wonder if this is some kind of joke the universe is playing on me. Why, God, why? Why me? Why here? Why now? And where are the horny miners for which this region is renowned?
We are bound for Margaret River and a journey which consists of boobs, brides and Bunker Bay. I console myself with the thought of the wine I’ll be drinking over the coming days in this remote region which has etched itself into the Australian psyche. Mention to any Aussie that you’re coming to Margaret River and they act like you’ve just won lotto. And really, you have. Boasting 150 wineries, 7 breweries, salt-kissed surfers and a stray miner or two, and what’s not to love? It’s a cussing booze hag’s paradise.
At the Pullman Resort Bunker Bay, delectably perched on the edge of the Indian Ocean, I indulge in a native Indigenous mud massage where my therapist Sarah applies a ring of mud to my lower back, and then gently massages warm oil into my muscles. It’s about as sensual an experience you can have without being arrested. If the horrible homophobes are right and “turning gay” is a “lifestyle choice”, it’s one I make many times during the next 80 minutes.
We visit Vasse Virgin, a haven of soap and other super smelling stuff, plus olives and olive oil products. There’s even a tasting room and, rumour has it, in the near future a
“sealed section” where they will be launching a raunchy range of soaps. Look out for the “V” and “P”. Dustin Fisher, whose title I miss while talking about vagina and penis shaped soap to the managers, tells me the secret to snaring a man is by wearing a lovely scent.
“I love aniseed. Or you could try spearmint green tea or lime and cassia which is nice and refreshing,” he says, before returning to his lip gloss-making. A glorious sticky pot made from Perth bees wax, olive and essential oils.
At Leeuwin Estate, Hospitality Manager Stepan Libricky talks about wine and food like the art of love making.
“Our award-winning chardonnay is aged in French oak. I find it a very sexy wine. I really find it very attractive. It is about letting the fruit speak for itself,” he says.
“There is nothing wrong with having a few glasses of wine with good friends and good food.
“Wine and food is very sensual today.”
And so, too, is the Margaret River. Someone hands me the Margaret River Wedding Guide which includes 330 pages of happy couples. But defeated, I am not. I’ve discovered nearby Yallingup means “the place of love”. As I leave this lovely region, I make a mental note to return. I arrive at the airport. The Redlands Rhapsody Choir is on the same flight back to Brisbane. And they are singing a love song.
Virgin Australia flies to Perth three flights per day from Brisbane and four flights per day from Sydney. Fares start from $199 one way from Sydney and $219 one way from Brisbane – http://www.virginaustralia.com.
Rates in a Studio Villa at the Pullman Resort Bunker Bay start from $239 per night – http://www.pullmanhotels.com or 08 9756 9100.
LONG after the humidity, dust and noise have reluctantly retired for the night – or at least taken a brief reprieve – it’s the stench of poverty in Cambodia that remains etched beneath your skin. Beneath the chorus of whirring fans and clucking geckos, images of the limbless, the orphaned and the blind coil, like an endless movie reel, around the mind.
Somewhere around the bewitching hour – about 3am when the mosquitoes chopper in – arrives the rude realisation that almost the entire Cambodian population is under the age of 30…a deep and brutal scar of the Khmer Rouge regime. And most of its people are dirt poor.
I penned these words several years ago, after my first trip to Cambodia and Siem Reap and after I had visited the Sunrise Children’s Village where beautiful orphaned children had been taken under the wing of big-hearted, flame-haired Australian Geraldine Cox. One little girl was suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome. A little boy in the orphanage had seen his father killed by a land mine, and was too frightened to even step on the ground, so had to be carried everywhere. Other little girls and boys had been sold by their starving families across the border into Thailand’s sex trade.
About a year later Cox was in Brisbane addressing a business women’s lunch, when she described one of the most horrific images I will never forget. She talked about how she was in the Siem Reap markets and there was a baby orphan boy, who kind of belonged to everyone and at the same time, no one. Cox looked into his big bright eyes and told him that when she returned from her latest trip to Australia, she would take him into the orphanage. She did return and what she found sickened her to the core. Someone had cut out the baby boy’s eyes and sold them on the black market. I defy anyone who travels to a place like Cambodia not to be moved by its story. Australian photographer Danielle Lancaster, who owns Blue Dog Photography, is another person touched by Cambodia’s soul.
Lancaster first started travelling to Cambodia about seven years ago prompted by an interest in history, Buddhism and a bewilderment at how someone like Pol Pot could kill his own people.
“How can someone walk one million of his own people out of a city in one night and horrifically torture them? Nearly every monk was killed and there were about 4000 doctors at the start of the Pol Pot regime, and only 4 left at the end,” she says.
“Friends of mine had worked as war photographers there and I started to go back every year. I met a tuk tuk driver who was a young fellow who took me to his village and I got to meet his family. We became good friends and I met more Cambodian people but at that stage you hardly saw a girl in secondary school because selling girls into prostitution was so big.
“I met a lady whose daughter was working in hospitality and she was paid $2 for her. Yes, her daughter was working in hospitality but she was not serving tables. I started to look at the high school and said ‘where are the girls?’.”
So struck was Lancaster by this beautiful country and its story she started buying basic goods such as underwear and books for the children and talking to the community about the importance of educating its children. Lancaster, who also privately sponsors two girls and works with a local orphanage, gained sponsorship in 2011 to produce a calendar, the sales of which meant they could build two new class rooms and desks with a white board. In 2012 Blue Dog Communities was formed.
“Last year I was just like ‘bring it’ and we had the school full of girls. They clasp the chalk like it’s gold. Last year I realised this is working, we are getting the girls into school and they are staying at school,” Lancaster says.
“From the sales of our 2012 calendar we are replacing the palm frond class rooms with cement so the kids don’t have to sit there with mud on their feet. It is a big project but our foundations are down.
“The community needs to be able to see the business happening. This is a population that has had a lot of promises of aid, they’ve got no natural resources. It was so torn apart by Pol Pot and the arms’ trade during the Vietnam War and everybody just has forgotten about it.”
But not the likes of Lancaster. As part of her commitment to the community, Blue Dog runs an annual 7-day Photography & Cultural Workshops journey to Siem Reap. The tour includes experiencing a Cambodian floating village; temples; Angkor Archaeological Park; schools; silk and lotus farms; a private monk and private traditional dancer photo shoot; photography workshops; and grassroots activities such as helping villagers build chicken pens and dig vegetable gardens.
Along the way, this professional and passionate photographer will critique your work and assist you in getting the best photographs possible, such as those shown in this story. At the end of the week, not only will you have done something amazing for your fellow humans, but will have some terrific pictures of your journey.
“When I go there I have this wonderful sense of calm that comes over me. It is just an extremely rewarding experience,” Lancaster says.
“In Cambodia, there is just something that got me in my heart and soul. I believe it is a life-changing experience.”
The next Blue Dog Photography & Cultural Workshop to Cambodia will be from June 30 to July 7. To book a tour or simply donate to their community work in Siem Reap, go to http://www.blue-dog.com.au
IS there sex in this city we call Brisbane? And does it all have to take place behind closed doors? Or, is this a coitus capital where sex exists on the streets and in the suburbs? As delicious as it sounds, I’m not referring to a giant orgy here. I’m talking about that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling you derive from discovering something new. And I think I’ve found it, at inner west Paddington. Please join me on this journey…where Paddington bares all.
I’ve always thought of Paddington as a bit of a sultry supermodel, stretching languidly along a steep ridge, the curve of her elegant back twisting gently from Upper Latrobe, into Latrobe, Given Terrace and then finally Caxton Street. She is Brisbane’s catwalk queen, but she is much too professional to be pretentious. You’ll find class in her converted workers’ cottages which have been transformed from homes into shops whose contents are colourful and brimming with charm.
We start at Hampton Home Living at Upper Latrobe where the first hidden gem is revealed just underneath this old Queenslander. At the newly-opened 180a Latrobe, you’ll find all sorts of sexy things like a felt winter bustier for $180 or some naughty knickers, French of course, for $45. You’ll find designer clothes hanging in the yard, and even an old-fashioned out-house with a pair of boots poking out from underneath the door.
Past Trammie’s Corner – a popular Paddington meeting spot – and across the road, we trek to Monty’s Chocolates, home to some of the world’s finest chocolates imported from the UK. Our tasting begins with the darkest chocolate first as your brain registers flavour before sugar. At this point in the tour we pause and decide this is much like men. Go for the quality and flavour, as if you’re chasing the sugar, you’ll always be wanting more.
A couple of doors back we stroll into the Paddington Antique Centre, a former 1929 cinema in which some 50 dealers have swamped the 1000 square metre floor space with ancient wares. If shopping is your idea of sex, you’ll find it here among thousands and thousands of pieces from old records to jewellery to retro clothing.
On this particular afternoon we’re on the “speed dating” version of Amanda Kruse’s Shop in Style Escape Hidden Gems Paddington Tour. Time poor, we’re indulging in a “quickie” if you will, as we taste test our way along this strip which transforms from antiques to vintage, to retro to modern. And there is nothing sexier than a city which backs its own. Along the way on your more leisurely three-hour version, you’ll discover local designers such as Dogstar, Little Workers, Maiocchi and Sacha Drake – where you’ll climax with a styling session and a glass of champagne.
Our wander reveals fine French restaurants, vintage clothing and home ware shops. Great cafes, funky food and colourful characters. Old books with a scent divine. So is there sex in this city we call Brisbane? Poke around Paddo. You’ll be most pleasantly surprised.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Shop in Style Escape. To book a tour, go to http://www.shopinstyleescape.com