IT’S a torrential Thailand Tuesday and I’m stuck in the middle of a tropical downpour when I decide my only course of action is to steal Lucille’s golf buggy. A decision made more interesting by the fact her personal butler is behind the wheel. “But where’s Miss Loo Silly? What happened to Miss Loo Silly?” GiGi, the butler asks me frantically. “I can’t see her, she must be shopping,” I blatantly lie as I encourage GiGi to drive like the wind which is howling around us. GiGi, as it turns out, doesn’t need any encouragement, her relationship with Loo Silly strained at best, venomous at worst.
I’m staying at the Banyan Tree Phuket and the concept of butlers is foreign to me, but not to Loo Silly. Loo Silly grew up in Hong Kong with a Filipino Amah and is accustomed to having hired help. I, on the other hand, grew up in country Queensland, and made my own bed. Loo Silly was six before she bought her first Barbie Doll accessory – a jeep. I’m 42, and my Barbie is still hitchhiking. Loo Silly’s family celebrates special events by drinking Moet from an authentic 1911 Melbourne Cup they own. Mine drinks Spumante from plastic cups, to save on washing up. And thus begins what is an unlikely and fabulous friendship between the two of us. Over in her villa, our other friend, the earthy and lovely Rhianna, has captured the heart of her butler, Pop Tart. I also have a butler, with the more sedate name of Sarah, but I don’t see her again after I check in and offer her the use of the spare bedroom in my cavernous villa.
We’re in Thailand for a week but not the Thailand I know. My Thailand is one of $50 a night beach shacks and all-you-can drink Chang beer down at Nai Trang beach on the island of Phuket. But this time I’m several beaches away at Bang Tao, at the luxurious Banyan Tree. I learn later that Loo Silly has trekked back to her room in knee deep water in the rain, a cloud of angry smoke billowing from her head. Around the same time, GiGi decides to go missing in action, only appearing again when it’s time to pack up Loo Silly’s room. She’s standing at the front reception as we wave goodbye, having taken a photo of Loo Silly and given it to her, and smiling maniacally. Pop Tart has not only taken a photo of Rhianna, but framed it and told the next resort to expect her arrival. There’s still no Sarah and certainly no photo. “I think I know why GiGi hates me,” declares Loo Silly as we drive away, “I found out her name is not GiGi but Geek.” One stark fact remains: Geek and Loo Silly will never be BFFs.
We fly on to the Banyan Tree Koh Samui where again, we’re each in a luxury pool villa which triggers a series of late-night skinny dips, the sounds of my friends splashing happily away into the night through the rainforest which divides us. I’m thrilled, as apart from the requisite Banyan Tree bath robe and slippers, there’s some orange chunky thongs which the Thai’s call flit flots. And flit flot around in them I do. Around my room, around the pool, around the resort. What I don’t realise at the time is that no one else has these in their room, they are not part of the resort wear, and I am wearing someone else’s shoes. In Thailand I discover I am a closet kleptomaniac. First the golf buggy, now other people’s footwear. What next for me, a cute small child or two?
We end our journey where we began, at the Banyan Tree Bangkok where I first discovered I was entitled to have two items of laundry cleaned for free. I’d only just arrived and couldn’t decide whether I should simply sling my underpants on a long stick and poke them out the front door like a flag of surrender. Loo Silly would have known what to do – she once made her Amah go clothes shopping for her, tried on all the clothes and then sent her Amah back to the shops with the items she had discarded – but she’d already gone to bed, having somehow managed to locate and arrange a personalised shopper for her return journey to Bangkok.
It’s late when Loo Silly and I leave Bangkok, the airport a heaving mass of humanity and that distinctly disappointing smell of holidays come to an end. Loo Silly is back to Melbourne and I am bound for Brisbane, Rhianna long since departed for Bali where no doubt Pop Tart has informed the island of her arrival. There’s still no sign of Sarah, GiGi was last heard partying on Phuket and I’m now the proud owner of an orange pair of flit flots.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of The Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Banyan Tree. To book your own luxury Thai holiday, go to http://www.tourismthailand.org and
AS is so often the case when The Global Goddess travels, the adventure begins before the plane has even arrived at its destination. In this instance, I’m on a Thai Airways 777-300 bound for Bangkok. I’m in seat 53H and in seat 53K sits a 40-something woman who admits she’s never flown before and is a tad nervous about her journey and subsequent arrival in Bangers. Now, on the one hand I want to assure her by telling her she’s seated next to The Global Goddess – her sister advised her to sit next to a woman (yes, because no woman in history has ever killed anyone. Much). On the other hand, I don’t quite have the heart to tell her The Global Goddess is also a terrible flyer and in terms of occupational hazards, this is a bit of biggie. I do, however, get through it by fuelling up on red wine and prescription pills which make me slightly hysterical and prone to simultaneously laughing and screaming out “we’re all going to die” at the slightest sign of turbulence. Or provocation such as running out of wine. I tell the cabin crew member to save us both time and just leave the bottle of red on my fold-down table.
At this point, I should also confess that the woman in the seat in front, by way of apology for taking too long to load her oversized carry-on bag into the overhead locker and standing with her crotch in my face, decides to pat my arm, but instead tweaks my left nipple, thus ensuring it throbs all the way across the Gulf of Carpentaria on my north-bound journey. I don’t quite know how to ask in Thai for ice, or paw paw cream for my affronted boob, and given I’ve already secured the wine, I sit in silence for the next 9 hours, clutching the bottle and cursing my lack of Thai language skills. For years, I’ve been travelling to Thailand and I only recently learned that instead of commenting to locals that the weather was “hot” (yes, I’m such a witty conversationalist), I’ve been telling the Thais that I’m “spicy”. Not the sort of phrase one should be tossing around Thailand with gay abandon.
The nervous woman next to me also has the name “Rachel” tattooed on her inner right forearm which causes me to wonder whether it’s the moniker of a loved one, or whether has sister also advised her to have her name on her arm in case she gets lost. I’m not poking fun, we all have to start our travelling somewhere. More power to her. In any case, the plane lands and I never see The Girl with the Rachel tattoo again. For I have the grand fortune of staying at the luxury Banyan Tree Bangkok, and I’m pretty sure “Rachel” is off to some seedy back street – such is her game face.
A prestigious black private car with my own driver is waiting for me at the airport. Like most Australians, when it comes to posh, I feel like a complete and utter fraud and half expect the Thai police to stop the car just as I’ve opened the free water. I take great care not to tell the driver that I’m “spicy” and instead tell him that I speak “a little” Thai. Who am I kidding? Apart from “hello”, “thank you” and the surprisingly handy “no worries” – all three phrases I repeatedly confuse with each other – I speak bugger all.
At my hotel, the staff checks me in and curiously take my photo on their iPad. I suspect they’ve never quite seen such a dishevelled Australian woman replete with airline chicken fried rice stuck to her dress, a couple of red wine stains and coming off the effects of the cache of prescription pills in her handbag. A little cup of crazy? I look like I’ve drunk the whole bottle.
And hence begins my Banyan Tree journey to Bangkok, Phuket and Samui, which is characterised by a big lap of luxury, a whole lot of laughs, and a misadventure or two. Stay tuned for next week, to find out how The Global Goddess copes with Living the Thai Life.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of The Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Banyan Tree. To book your own luxury Thai holiday, go to http://www.tourismthailand.org and
IN this land of lore and legend, of caves, coconuts and conch shells, kava, chiefs and tradition carved deep, they have become the unlikely faces of Fiji’s feminist movement. They probably don’t even call themselves feminists, western labels as unnecessary in paradise as a three-piece suit. But these are the women who are carving a new path. These are the strong, smart women of the South Pacific.
This story begins with Una Murray, the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji’s Public Relations Manager of 32 years, who died late last month. If you love a good legend, you’ll adore the tale of Una, who was 70 but told everyone she was 60. Why? Well, Una liked a party as much as she loved rugby and could be found in the resort’s Vakavanua Lounge seven nights a week, often till 1am. We’re sitting in the very same bar, which has introduced the Una Boogie Boogie cocktail in her honour, discussing her life and death.
Executive Assistant Manager Lindsey Palmer says Una knew “everyone” on the island from the Attorney General to Fiji’s International Rugby team who would drop in and find her in a spot in the bar.
“She used to hang out here. We used to have to kick her out. She’d just sit here with a glass of red wine and relax. She was spoilt rotten and she would spoil us,” he says.
So revered was Una, that during her illness the resort supplied their own nurse to her Sigatoka Hospital room, sent down their maintenance team to fix up her room, and brought her breakfast, lunch and dinner, and much-needed morphine. When she died on May 22, the Outrigger negotiated her beachside burial with two separate chiefs, offering copious kava, a suckling pig and gifts to ensure Una’s passage on her next journey.
Want more feisty females? Well, the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji Communications Manager Talei Tora also happens to be the first Fijian woman to be trained by the Australian military in Duntroon. She was forced to quit the army due to a leg injury but as she says “I’ve done my bit for my country, now I can have fun.”
Fun includes promoting some of the resort’s other fabulous females, such as Sous Chef Priya Darshani, who you’ll find in the upmarket Ivi Restaurant. In 2012 Priya was named Fiji Chef of the Year and won third place in the Global Chef’s Challenge in Perth. Priya was also named the resort’s Manager of the Year; and she and her team won best team among all of the Outrigger properties world wide. Which is all pretty remarkable given she started as a trainee chef straight out of school at the resort in 2005 and had never seen a hotel before.
“2012 was a good year,” Priya says simply.
These days when she’s not in the kitchen, you’ll find her hosting a cooking class with the resort’s Executive Chef Shailesh Naidu, who also happens to be the country’s most awarded Fijian-born chef. Shailesh, who is an Indian-Fijian man, says while coconuts are one of the crucial elements of Fijian cooking, chilli also plays an important role.
“Never joke about chillis with the locals, particularly the Indo-Fijians. Even if we are having a breakfast omelette, we have spoonfuls of chilli,” Shailesh says.
“We tell people to put some love into the plate.”
Love. Lore. Legend. All part of this land. Just like the fabulous females who form the fabric of Fiji.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji
Outrigger on the Lagoon_Fiji http://www.outriggerfiji.com; Bebe Spa Sanctuary http://www.bebespafiji.com; Off Road Cave Safari http://www.offroadfiji.com; Coral Coast Tourism http://www.coralcoastfiji.org; and Kula Ecopark Fiji http://www.fijiwild.com
AT first I was afraid, I was petrified. Gloria Gaynor is trying to lure me into the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji’s Vakavanua bar where a group of merry Maoris is staging a post-wedding party. Before I have time to ponder my comparative lack of rhythm (play that funky music white girl), a woman – twice the size of me and my mate – yanks the two of us onto the dance floor. We are too afraid to protest and frankly, our South Pacific sista has all the moves. It’s only later, when we see her with another woman in an affectionate head lock, we realise how lucky we’ve been.
I’m on this island nation’s Coral Coast but it’s not the usual picture-postcard experience I’m enjoying. Sure, there’s coconuts, hammocks, swaying palm trees, and merry marriage-makers, but there’s just one of Fiji’s fabulous faces. This journey begins in the Sigatoka Valley known as the “fruit bowl of Fiji” which rests inland from the Coast through a lush tropical valley. I’m on the Sigatoka Cave Safari in a bouncy off-road vehicle which makes me wish I’d worn a sport’s bra. Never mind, there’s too much to see as we carve our way through traditional villages before arriving at our destination, and besides, with my bra-less breasts I feel like I’m embracing the inner islander I’m convinced lays inside every uptight white person.
At this stage, I should point out that The Global Goddess is not very intrepid. I’m clumsy, I slip, I trip, and I break bones in the most unlikely of scenarios. I’m talking situations so incredulous, that I have to sometimes lie to emergency room doctors about how events unfolded. But on this occasion, I’m in good company with a group of new friends for whom strange things also seem to happen. And thus we march bravely forth.
“You’re in the jungle now,” our host says simply and with that, we begin a muddy trek down to the Naihehe Cave where the Sautabu people used to eat their enemies. Little white girls like me wouldn’t have stood a chance. We wade through cool water and pass through three chambers including a tight spot known as the pregnancy passage – if you get stuck, it means you are pregnant. Thankfully, there’s none of that here today. Unfortunately, for my friend Laura, who has indulged in a fake tan before her Fiji trip, the cave water does act like a paint stripper, and she emerges looking part Pointer Sister and part Scissor Sisters. Chantay is convinced there’s a (harmless) bug in her hair, I’m thinking about sex, and Shannon is already talking about what she wants for dinner.
Back in the village with the chief and a group of his men, I introduce myself as The Global Goddess and they nod like it’s the most natural thing in the world as we share a sacred cup of kava and partake in this honourable tradition. I only wonder what he makes of me and my motley crew of mates.
The next day I meet Fred, Fiji’s rare crested iguana at the Kula Ecopark Fiji. This is Fiji’s only wildlife park and facility for the breeding of endangered species as well as the only free environmental educational facility for school children. Lounging lizards not your thing? Well you can also cuddle a boa constrictor, or simply wander through this lush acreage punctuated with turtles, birds and bats. Chantay wraps the baby boa around her arm and it gives her a little nip, Laura has gone all jungle-girl in leopard print and lipstick, I’m thinking about sex, and Shannon is talking about lunch.
We spend the afternoon in the Bebe Spa Sanctuary – I told you we were hard core – where I have booked the Ultimate Bebe Fijian Polish. This two-hour treatment includes something called a Dilo (I swear I read dildo) and leaves me scrubbed seashell-smooth and relaxed. At the end of the two hours my therapist looks puzzled and asks whether I have another treatment booked. I reply in the negative and look at the piece of paper she is clutching in her palm. It says simply “back wax.” First I escape the Maori wedding, only to have a close call with a back wax.
We amble back down the hill to the resort. It’s dinner time, Chantay now has pretty pink nails, Laura has survived the massage she had originally feared, I’m thinking about sex and Shannon is talking about food.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji – http://www.outriggerfiji.com. Guests who stay in the resort’s bures and suites enjoy a daily Talai butler service where an attractive Fijian arrives daily with champagne and canapés at cocktail hour. It’s a 24-hour service you can enjoy.
Later this month, the resort will open its exclusive adult’s only pool and poolside bistro called Vahavu which means to “chill out and relax”.
Also check out: Bebe Spa Sanctuary – http://www.bebespafiji.com; Off Road Cave Safari – http://www.offroadfiji.com; Coral Coast Tourism – http://www.coralcoastfiji.org; and Kula Ecopark Fiji – http://www.fijiwild.com.
THANK you to all of those Global Goddess followers who read last week’s Kissed with Bliss post and entered the competition to win a Bamboo Bliss spa treatment courtesy of the eforea: spa at Hilton, Surfers Paradise.
I was overwhelmed (and a bit excited) by your comments and ideas on what constituted bliss for you (many seemed to mention hot men and wine), and selecting one winner wasn’t an easy task. But in the end it was Pauline Mathers who captured the Goddess’ attention with these evocative comments.
“Goddess! I was blissed-out just reading your latest blog! But if I wanted to be blissed-out further, I would rent one of the gorgeous houses in the Bunya Mtns in winter … complete with a cosy fireplace and several good books, several bottles of red wine and enough cheese to keep us alive for a month. It would be high on a hill with views of the bunya forests and on a sunny, still day I could sit outside and chat with the visiting wildlife … Wallabies, parrots, currawongs. During the night the wind would be howling, and I would be snuggling under my doona reading a book, the house kept warm by having the fire going all day. Oh and Mr J.M. could come too!”
Congratulations, Pauline, you are the lucky winner of the 90-minute Bamboo Bliss spa treatment worth $155. An honourable mention must go to Lee, who gave us her version of bliss in two seasons. Unfortunately, I don’t have a second prize voucher Lee, but am happy to pop around and give you a massage with my own bare hands, for all the effort you injected into these comments…
“Summer bliss: a cool breeze floating over my skin and an even cooler drink in my hand, wearing a sarong, sand in my toes, no phone, no deadlines…just the sound of the sea.
Winter bliss: rain on the roof, no reason to go out, glass of wine, flannelette pyjamas, a good detective novel or a pile of newspapers, music softly playing, good conversation.
Is that greedy?”
Finally, the ONLY man brave enough to comment (do men not need bliss?) – was Richard Tommy Campion, with these words:
“A blissful Goddess – but where’s the blissful man?”
Ah, Tommy, if only I knew.
Thanks so much for entering, everyone. The Global Goddess is already in the throes of planning more exotic and erotic prizes in the coming months, so please keep reading, encourage your friends to follow my blog and keep moving forward on your personal path to bliss.