Shake, Rattle and Roll

I AM heading into a New Zealand prison to interview some male inmates and I don’t know what to wear. It’s not just the cold weather that’s thrown me, but I don’t know the reason these inmates are in the slammer. What if they shanked their mother because she wore red? Or they have a pathological hatred of blondes with Australian accents? What if they’ve read my previous blogs and realise I’m so desperate to find a fella that the only thing standing between me and my future husband is the Kiwi Parole Board? There’s a multitude of things that can wrong on this trip. And my imagination runs wild.
Like many Australian children in the late 70s/early 80s, my parents thought it was perfectly acceptable for four little girls to sit down in front of the television every night to an Aussie drama called Prisoner. For those who weren’t subjected to a similarly colourful childhood, it was a prime-time show revolving around Wentworth Maximum Security Prison in which hard-core female inmates expressed their frustrations at life.
Oh yes, there was a bunch of angry, scary gay women named Queen Bee, Doreen and Lizzie who used to lurk in the laundry room, swear themselves stupid and burn each other on the ironing press. There was also that really horrible prison guard they called The Freak and all up, it was violent and rather bizarre. I’m not even sure what the moral of the whole series was, apart from the theme song, which I used to walk around the house as a seven year old singing: “He used to give me roses, I wish he would again, but that was on the outside, and things were different then.”
Since that time, however, I’ve had a fascination with prisons. As a curious journalist I’ve always been intrigued by things to which I don’t have access. Like that secret part of an aircraft where the crew sleeps (where the hell do they go and how the hell do they come out looking so good?) The back of house of a restaurant. A boyfriend. All sorts of unattainable things.
Let’s face it, it’s not every day you get to go into a prison and so, on Tuesday morning, I found myself on New Zealand’s north island, dressed in an outfit I deemed most likely not to spark a riot and headed in. The permission form said I might be searched. Again, my imagination went into overdrive, picturing being strip-searched and being told to squat over a mirror. I had to relinquish my handbag and mobile phone. I was allowed to keep my notebook, two pens, a camera and a tape recorder.
But the adventure actually began before all that, when I arrived in Wellington on Monday to the fact the New Zealand capital had been going through a series of 6.5 scale earthquakes in the past 24 hours. Now, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this information. Was it a bit like sharks in Australia? You know they’re out there, but you still go in the ocean and don’t really give them a second thought if you’re an Aussie, but if you’re an overseas tourists, you think Australians are insane for dipping their toes in the water when Jaws is lurking? How seriously should I take this earthquake business exactly?
When I checked into my hotel, right in the centre of the CBD where apparently all the action was happening, I asked the receptionist. “Oh, no worries,” she said, “if you feel something you just drop, cover and hold.” Drop, cover and hold what, exactly, I thought? Drop my underwear, cover my privates and hold on to them for dear life? So, I simply said: “Lady, I’m from Brisbane, I have no idea what the hell I’m meant to drop, cover and hold.” It emerged I was meant to drop to the floor, cover my head, and hold my position.
Oh, goodie, I thought. If the prisoners don’t kill me, the earthquake will. For those who read my last blog on New Zealand, as you know, weird stuff always happens to me when I skip across the ditch, so I was taking 50/50 odds on how, exactly, I would meet my maker on this trip. On my first night in Wellington, I was indeed grateful the hotel receptionist had warned me of the aftershocks of the earthquake, as that’s exactly what I experienced several times and at one point I was awoken from a deep sleep as if someone was violently shaking my bed. But I had my own plan. I decided to keep a wine glass near the bed and if the wine glass fell to the floor, so would I, me and wine having had a long relationship when it comes to life’s big issues. The glass didn’t fall, and I awoke refreshed and ready to head to prison which is a phrase you don’t use every Tuesday.
At this stage, due to confidentiality agreements I signed and an upcoming story in the mainstream media, I can’t say too much which I realise makes me sound like a bit of a wanker. I can reveal I spent 4 very interesting hours “inside the wire” (oh yeah, I learned all the lingo) with 6 prisoners who were serving life sentences. I was not permitted to ask about their crimes, but suffice to say, if you are talking life you are speaking to a bunch of men convicted of crimes such as rape and murder. What surprised me most was they were intelligent and interesting men, with a positive outlook on life, which frankly says a lot about the blokes I’ve been dating in Brisbane.
Wellington is full of surprises and this is just one I discovered during my three-day trip. I uncovered cool cafes, innovative chefs, amazing art spaces and friendly people. Sure, you get the Welly wind and at 42 degrees below (where do you think that Vodka was conceived?) it can get wild and woolly. But particularly in an earthquake, Wellington, you really rock.

The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism. To book your own Wellington escape, go to

The Princesses of Queenstown

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A WHILE back I won a trip for two to Queenstown – the adventure capital of New Zealand – which would have been lovely except for one thing. I am not adventurous. Well, not in the conventional, law-abiding sense. To add to this particular journey, I decided to take with me the second-least adventurous person on the planet, my second-oldest sister. To paint you a picture, our idea of a catastrophe is if the bar runs out of Sav Blanc. Now, I don’t want to point any fingers but: Mum, it’s all your fault. You see, the woman who brought us into the world is as neurotic as they come, and when we were growing up, she would prevent us from doing anything. She’d catch us up a tree and scream out “you’ll fall out and break your arm”. Put out a hand to pat a stray dog, and there she’d be hissing “it will bite your arm off”. Eat a Dagwood Dog at the Ekka and she was convinced we’d contract Ebola. Oh yes, I can still hear her, even on a good day.
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So imagine the two of us, Scooby Doo and Shaggy, trekking off to Queenstown in the middle of winter, New Zealand’s most adventurous city and in its most exciting season. Never let it be said that our lack of life skills actually stops us from doing something. And I had already concocted a plan. While we were there, we’d try to discover what there was to do for unadventurous types. The idiots guide to Queenstown if you will. So while everyone else was up on the snow fields flaunting their ski bunnies beautiful, we’d be downtown, wining and dining. But just in case of an extreme emergency, as we dashed through the Duty Free store enroute to the plane I grabbed a bottle or two of whisky on the way out, and my sister actually said with that certain scoff of disdain that older siblings have perfected: “What are you doing? We’re not going to need them”.
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And on our first afternoon it all went swimmingly. How hard can it be grabbing a taxi, finding your hotel – in this instance the Novotel Queenstown – and having dinner?. Easy, peasy. It was the next morning when it all started to go downhill rapidly, like that skiing we would never, ever be doing. We caught the Skyline Gondola to Top Station, 790m above sea level, my sister holding on for dear life the entire way. I wasn’t too bad, as I was more worried about the next event. Apparently we were both then supposed to take the Skyline Luge down an 800 metre, slippery winding downhill track. We took one look at what we could only describe as a “death trap”, read the word “hurtle” on the itinerary and went and had a hot chocolate instead. Hey, you can get a burnt tongue drinking a hot chocolate.
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Things were still going pretty well, in fact, I like to think we came into our own on the Appellation Central Otago Wine Tour. Yes, if there were two stars of that show, it was my sister and me as no one can put it away like the two of us. But little did we know what the next day would bring. The itinerary said Snowshoeing, and described the activity as “experiencing the serenity of the spectacular back country”. We both pictured an undulating alpine walk with something akin to tennis rackets on our feet. Perhaps a charming little restaurant serving Schnapps among the pine trees. Wrong. Instead, something resembling crampons – those claw-like shoes you see on climbers on the Himalayas – were clamped to our feet. And then we started climbing, all the while I’m thinking rather airily: “I wonder how we get down from this mountain?”. Next thing we know, we’re in the middle of a white out and hiding out in an igloo. But the worst was yet to come. Our guide then announced we were just taking a short stroll back down the mountain. It was slippery, it was cold and it was white. And I was terrified. So terrified, I grabbed both the male guide and his mate and made them carry me down the mountain, while my sister soldiered on quietly behind me with the female guide. To this day, my sister still jokes about my personal sherpas, who frankly, I nearly killed with my hysteria causing them to lose their balance and footing on several occasions, making the three of us almost slide into a deep ravine. (I might have made the last bit up about the deep ravine). My hysteria, however, was embarrassingly real to the point when we did eventually arrive at the base, the guide suggested I take up indoor rock climbing to conquer my fear.
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We got back to our hotel room, lay on our beds speechless, not able to look each other in the eyes, and cracked open that whisky. But, as we are apt to do, we came good that afternoon when our itinerary suggested a visit to the Onsen Hot Pools. Sitting in a steaming pool, overlooking a mountain, sipping tea and looking at the jet boats below, my sister suggested we could probably try one of those next time. Was she serious? How much whisky had she consumed, exactly?
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But our adventurous non-adventure didn’t end there, as the next day we had a 4X4 tour with Nomad Safaris. Again, we were both picturing 4×4 tours we’d done in Australia. In the Outback. Where it’s flat. There’s nothing flat about New Zealand and before we knew it, we were on the edge of a precipice with one wheel of the 4×4 spinning over a deep ravine (this one was for real), on a slushy road. We were so frightened we couldn’t even look at each other. Instead, I focused intently on the Russian couple in the front: the husband suffered from serious narcolepsy so every minute or so his wife had to smack him over the head to wake him up. It was at that point in our program I wished I, too, suffered from narcolepsy. Somehow we survived, went back to our hotel room, and sat speechless on the bed again. Hands tightly clasped around whisky glasses.
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On our last afternoon we had a leisurely tour on the TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak High Country Farm. Given we grew up in the country we were pretty confident this was one activity we could conquer. What could go wrong watching a bit of sheep shearing? Again, it was all going so well, until they decided to round up the sheep into the yard and one particular feisty ram took one look at the two of us, and decided to charge straight at us. Yes, if calamity could happen, it would happen to us. I hate to admit it, but what if mum was right?
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We laughed ourselves stupid all the way back to Brisbane and have continued laughing about this adventure for years. Any day now New Zealand Tourism is going to call us both and offer us a role in one of their 100% pure New Zealand ads. Yes, as Crowded House sings in the theme song: Don’t dream it’s over.
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The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia and the Novotel Queenstown.

Snapshots of Sunshine

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IT’S bang on mid-winter Down Under, so I thought I’d bring you a few snapshots of sunshine from my recent trip to Thailand. As travellers, we find sunshine not only in the sky, but in the colours, characters and culture of a destination. Please join me as I explore Phuket. I hope you can feel the warmth of this beautiful place, inhabited by sunny people.
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I was walking through the floating Muslim island of Koh Panyee when I turned around and noticed this little girl simply sitting against the wall, chatting with her friends. I snapped a series of shots, some of her looking bored, some of her laughing, some of her looking pensive. This is my favourite.
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This kids on the floating Muslim island off Phuket were more aware of the camera. Happy kids, normal kids, just going about their business, is always a great delight when you’re travelling. Somehow it centres you, reminds you we are all the same.
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Sometimes you stumble across some cool dudes, as this Phuket Life Saver proved late on a sunny afternoon as I was walking along the beach.
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And this cool dude, I met at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort pool.
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Sometimes you just get a glimpse, a tiny snippet, into someone’s life…
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Sometimes life is there on a platter, in all its splendidly, colourful glory…
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And then there are those days, sitting on your own private Phuket island you’ve borrowed for a few hours with some new friends, when your heart really sings.

The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Laguna Phuket. For more information on how you can experience some of this sunshine, please go to

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The Hangover – Part Two

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LIKE the second installment of The Hangover movie I have awoken, this time, in Thailand. But it’s not bustling Bangkok in which I find myself, but Phuket. And while the four key characters remain kinda the same, the game has changed somewhat. Jon, a late-night radio presenter from Perth, is cast as Alan, possessing a dearth of resort wear (this bloke doesn’t even own thongs), a bright red ukulele, and a large but empty suitcase. Katie, an online editor for a family and kid’s magazine, is small and simply adorable and decides she wants to be the baby; in turn Rebecca, another children’s magazine editor and delightful to boot, elects to be the tiger; and apparently, and if this is an indicator of this trip, I am voted as Bradley Cooper because “you’re the reliable one”. Now, you know when The Global Goddess is voted the reliable one on a trip, things are very, very wrong.
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You see, I have found myself somewhat surprisingly, on a trip to research Phuket’s Laguna Family Festival. Say Phuket and The Global Goddess thinks cool swims, cold beer, hot days and even hotter men, preferably in that order. I do not generally use the words family, and holiday, in the same sentence. It’s a bit like the concept of a “joy flight” or a “fun run”. Wrong, people. Just wrong. But Phuket is also trying to cast itself in a different light, away from the madness of Patong and thus stages an annual event to show visitors that there’s plenty of family fun to be had. And if it’s fun I must have, no matter what form it takes, then fun it must be. So here’s The Global Goddess’ guide to Phuket fun, for little kids, and the big kids in us all…
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A maverick Malaysian, we are told, has set the record for the fastest ride down one of Phuket’s longest waterslides at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort pool. Apparently, his journey took him 40 seconds. All I can say is there is something dodgy about these statistics, as me and my mates manage the same trip in all of 15 seconds of absolutely howling, screaming fun. I reckon I could do it even faster if I borrowed the green Burqini of one of the resort guests in the pool. Ask yourself, how long has it been since you’ve been on a waterslide and then go and get yourself on one. It’s one of the most fantastic things you’ll have done in a very long time.
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If you want Candy then look no further than the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort. For here, every morning, this gorgeous two-year-old elephant who is named after a hard lolly, meets resort guests and allows the little ones to ride on her. For the bigger kids, get yourself over to either the Banyan Tree or Angsana Laguna Phuket, to meet Lucky. The Global Goddess got lucky all right, when this larger elephant planted a whopping great kiss by placing her trunk right over The Goddess’ nose and mouth. While the other guests got a polite peck on the cheek, I got the full vacuum treatment. I found out later that Lucky is a female elephant. One person’s violated is another person’s perfect day, that’s all I’m saying.
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At the Banyan Tree, Phuket, while little kids are enjoying such things as their own Sunday brunch, board and video games, arts and craft, big kids like me are free to ride their bikes around this enormous resort. A highlight of this property is the whirlpool in the centre of the property’s main pool near the spa sanctuary, where you can float on your back and be dragged through the water’s current, ending up under giant taps. Big kids will also enjoy their own luxury private spa villa, where it is practically criminal not to skinny dip…in my opinion.
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At Angsana Phuket little kids will love the Tree House Kids Club, while both little and big kids can indulge in the family spa treatments where mothers and daughters and fathers and sons can bond during double spa sessions. The Global Goddess is unsure how much relaxing little kids need, but there seems to be a market for this, and who am I to argue with anyone providing pleasure and making money at the same time?
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But probably the nicest kid story of this entire journey takes place on the nearby floating Muslim community island of Koh Panyee. Here, the kids wanted to play football which proved to be somewhat difficult without any actual land on which to build a field. Much to the initial amusement of the island’s adults, the kids tied together bits and pieces of wood like a raft to design a makeshift field and became so good at the game they gained third place in Thailand’s national competition. The adults ate their words, so to speak, and built a proper floating football stadium for these kids.
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And that’s the whole point of this story, really. It doesn’t matter if you’re a little kid or a big kid. Life is about daring to dream, creating and most of all, having fun. It’s about screaming your guts out on your first waterslide ride in 30 years, swimming naked under the stars, laughing with a bunch of new mates and realising we all pretty much want the same thing: health and happiness. Head to Laguna Phuket, you’ll find fun there in spades. Just look out for amorous elephants.
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The Global Goddess travelled to Thailand as a guest of Laguna Phuket. To find out more about the precinct, or the Laguna Family Festival which runs until October 31, go to
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