Sex under the Banyan Tree

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IN my four-poster bed, replete with white chiffon curtains, I imagine I am an Indonesian High Priestess. Even my private spa, in which I will later take a skinny dip under the night sky, seems to gurgle its approval of the latest predicament in which I find myself. I have arrived at the Banyan Tree Bintan Island in my usual disheveled state, the effects of some aeroplane turbulence as we crossed the Equator, a reasonable swell on the ferry as we sailed across the South China Sea, several prescription drugs and red wine to fuel my travels, all beginning to wear off. But I remain chipper, for tonight I will sleep under this thatched Indonesian roof, or “alang alang”, in my seaside villa.
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Yes, I can be quite the wanker, and never more so than when someone has handed me chunky keys to thick, timber doors of my very own villa, and informs me this is my home for the next few nights. Bintan Island is only a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore where regular readers know I lived, rather unhappily, some three years ago. If only I’d known of this destination’s fabulous existence, I would have jumped on that boat and never returned to Singaling. Yes, I would have been last spotted swanning around this Indonesian island, potentially joining the local fishermen in their bright blue boats below, in a bid to carve out an existence. The fact I am staying in the luxury Banyan Tree only serves to make this story all the more exotic. Even the traditional monsoon seems to be behaving, blowing cooling south-easterly kisses in my direction.
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I’m on a one-week expedition discovering both the Banyan Tree Bintan Island, and Banyan Tree Lang Co in Vietnam. Christopher Columbus I am not. By “expedition” and “discovering” I actually mean partaking in several long, lusty feasts on both properties, punctuated by the odd cooking class and spa treatment. It’s in the Banyan Tree spa on Bintan Island that I meet my therapist, Oza (pronounced Oh-Zah) who instructs me to get buck naked (“not even my undies?”, I mime, rather inelegantly to my Indonesian hostess) before we undertake the “Serenity” massage. Oza smothers me in peppermint oil and for the next hour I feel like I am Charlie Brown’s Peppermint Patty. My friend Amanda is in the next spa villa, and I wonder what treatment, and more important what Charlie Brown character, she smells like. So enthusiastic is Oza about her job, she crams the modesty sheet between my bare butt cheeks, before massaging them with gusto. It’s only after the massage that Amanda informs me she was instructed to keep her underwear on, and there were no sheet wedgies in her villa.
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Later that night I return to my villa and discover my towels have been fashioned into two swans in the shape of a love heart and flower petals have been scattered on my sheets. For a brief moment I think Oza may have mis-read the intent of my lack of underpants during the massage, until Amanda posts a photo of her neighbouring villa, with identical set up. We both lament the fact we will be staring at those swans, alone, while conceding the Indonesians must be among the most optimistic on the planet to leave such a letter of love for the two of us, who are not, exactly, what you’d call lucky in love.
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Onwards and upwards we travel to Vietnam, where we have a date with the Banyan Tree in Lang Co, a beachside destination some two hours from Danang. Those sexy swans seem to follow me wherever I go in Asia, and I arrive back to my latest villa one night to find not only those birds have been folded and tucked into a corner of my bathroom, but someone has drawn me a bath, complete with rose petals. Could it be Windy, my Vietnamese masseur, who earlier that day allowed me to wear some XL disposal underpants which I may or may not have torn trying to get over my thighs? Windy insisted on massaging my breasts despite the fact that Amanda was in the next room, having the very same massage, yet no one touched hers. I am beginning to think my sex appeal among Asian women knows no bounds, when I discover the bath is actually part of the hotel’s turndown service known as “Intimate Moments”.
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It’s only when I’m partaking in a cooking class in the Banyan Tree Lang Co’s Organic Garden that I’m reminded of home. For here are a bunch of herbs, whose descriptions run along the lines of: “Piper Sarmentosum is an erect herb with long, creeping stems” and “Chillies are usually skinny and wrinkled. These chillies usually measure 6 inches long and 1 inch wide.” If ever there was something designed to make me think fondly of the boys of Brisbane, it has to be this herb garden.
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But I have no time for such folly, as we are spending the afternoon shopping in the World Heritage city of Hoi An. Amid the chaos of cycles, coconuts, tinkers and tailors, I tend to fall apart. While the girls shop in a feverish manner, I take reprieve under a fan in a corner café and sip a cold bottle of the local Biere Larue. It’s the kind of place I figure the man of my dreams may frequent. He’ll be a fellow traveller, perhaps even a literary type, and I like to think I look exotic and mysterious sitting alone in this Vietnamese café. He’ll glance at me and forget my hair is fuzzing from the humidity or that I wear a moustache of sweat, and think I’m simply lovely, I imagine.
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Incredibly, this doesn’t happen, and instead I wander further down the street where I stumble upon our Vietnamese friend Kiet, who has accompanied us on our shopping trip. Kiet is sitting on the sidewalk of his favourite café, Cargo, partaking in one of life’s great pleasures, drinking beer and people watching, and as I join him we linger for a long while, discussing life and love and ponder world issues. Eventually, the tourists disappear, the lights fade and the air starts to cool. And I realise there is absolutely nowhere I’d rather be on the entire planet than at this destination, at this exact moment in time.
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The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Banyan Tree – http://www.banyantree.com and Scoot Airlines – http://www.flyscoot.com
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Living the Thai life

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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
http://www.banyantree.com
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Thai on Life

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
http://www.banyantree.com
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