Top 10 Travel Hot Spots (or not) To Find A Fella

Head straight to Long Shan Temple in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. Here, you can gamble on God, dice with Dharma and bet on Buddha all at once. In what is essentially a game of Taiwanese two-up, you first take a stick with a number on it. Then, in your head, you tell Buddha your name, where you are from, and what you are asking for (eg: the love of your life). Then you take two blocks of wood and toss them. If they both land face up, Buddha is still thinking about your request. If they both land face down, your request will not happen. If one lands face down and one lands face up, your request will come true. The good news is that one of mine landed face up and the other face down. The bad news is that I am still waiting to meet my “man of honour” that the wood promised. But if I do, I am told I must return to the temple with him.
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In Saigon I managed to attract lots of love interest. Just none of it from members of the opposite sex. Rather, it was older Vietnamese women who appeared enamoured by me here, something which became apparent from my first night. While enjoying a Vietnamese omelette stuffed full of prawns, pork and spices, an old lady, who was at least 100, walked into the restaurant carrying a pile of books as high as her head. She pointed to Fifty Shades of Grey, asked, “You want to read” and then punched her first into the air, laughed and said “Boom, Boom!” In the beach resort town of Nha Trang I had a Vietnamese massage where my masseuse slathered me in oil and then proceeded to slap me hard on the buttocks. At one point I thought I’d entered the Red Room of Pain in Fifty Shades. Back in Saigon, I was befriended by a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl who gave me a small doll as a gift, before telling me that her ageing aunt thought I was “beautiful”.
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You can guarantee seduction in Samoa, at least by this Pacific island nation if nothing else. For this is a land of tsunamis, tragedy and triumph. Of man over Mother Nature. And it’s also about tribal tattoos, tradition and testosterone. Head to the Samoan Tourism Association Cultural Village in the capital of Apia and you can witness local men partaking in the manhood-testing tradition of a tribal tattoo. I was reliably informed that the only part of a man’s body from his middle back to his knees that is not tattooed is his penis. Curious types like me can go there hoping for a gentle breeze to lift a lava lava to prove this point. You’ll fall in love with this country, which has survived its share of cyclones and a devastating tsunami in 2009 which claimed 189 lives in the South Pacific, many of them children. This is a land of loss, lore and love. And the men are handsome too.
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One of the greatest love stories of modern time, and which I’ve been furiously following, exists along the River Kwai, better known for its war history. Here, overlooking the emerald mountains of Kanchanburi exists a young man named Sam. Sam is a Mon man from the displaced Mon people, considered one of the earliest tribes to live in southeast Asia. Sam, 22, a tour guide at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts, is in love with a girl called Jaytarmon in a neighbouring village but he doesn’t own a boat, so access isn’t easy. And then there’s a girl from his own village who is also keen on Sam. Yes, even in the jungle, love is complicated. While you may not find your own love story along the River Kwai and her floating raft hotels, you’ll adore this bridge between the old and new worlds, and this enduring and evolving tale of the heart.
I’m reliably informed that Bali is a hunting ground for cougars but if you’re a reformed cougar, like me, then all hope is not lost. I was once accosted by a Balinese waiter who asked from where I hailed, to which he replied: “Oh, Australia, kangaroo, kangaroo very sexy.” When he saw my baffled expression at the thought of Skippy being a sex God, he proceeded to draw an invisible outline in the air of a curvy bottle of Coca Cola. He then pointed at me and said: “Coca Cola, very sexy.” While my outrageous laughing may have put paid to any love interest, for the rest of my stay, if my girlfriend was looking for me in a crowded pool, she only needed to visualise a kangaroo drinking Coca Cola and up I’d pop. Or should that be hop?
It took me all of five minutes upon arriving at Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, to realise that Arab men are as sexy as their reputation. I don’t believe I’ve floated through airport immigration anywhere in the world with such outrageous flirts. At my hotel every morning, three young waiters would actually argue over who got to bring me my morning coffee, and be rewarded with a smile. In the end, all three each brought me a cuppa, so it was more like a maniacal grin from me. Charm is everywhere here, with male shopkeepers saying things like “Your lips are like honey”, or “I can see Sydney in your eyes” despite the fact you live in Brisbane.
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Back on home soil I’d love to say I’ve cracked the code to attracting an awesome Aussie male, but that would be a lie. However last year I did go to the Whitsundays for the annual Airlie Beach Race Week. Think: 74 islands and 800 horny sailors in town. Unfortunately I didn’t read the fine print, which states that old salts like their calamari young, so to speak, and I’m more of a barracuda. When not staring out at the horizon, I’m told sailors have quite the roving eye. Airlie Beach itself is a backpacker party town, so should you wish to meet a hot, young man you’ll never see again, and are prepared to spend the night in a bunk bed, this is the place for you.
Like her Samoan sister, Fiji is teeming with attractive people, including the women. Which is just as well, as a woman twice the size of both my mate and me dragged us both up onto the dance floor, and then watched our inherent lack of white girl rhythm as they played the funky music. A much better bet, and a lovely day trip, is out in the Sigatoka Valley and to Naihehe Cave. Here, you 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. Which makes for an interesting souvenir to take back home.
9.New Zealand
Every time I skip across the ditch to New Zealand something strange happens. Last year I went into a Wellington prison to interview six “lifers” who were involved in a Prison Gate to Plate cooking event. Yes, the only thing standing between me finding true love was the New Zealand parole office. The earth did move for me there, but that’s only because there was also an earthquake. A few years prior I was in Queenstown researching what non-adventurous souls such as myself could do in the world’s adventure capital. Adventure ended up finding me, and caught in a white out somewhere up on The Remarkables, I managed to enlist two kiwi men to actually carry me down the slippery mountain while I cried hysterically. Needless to say, there’s nothing attractive about a woman with frozen ice tears on her face.
Think like Australia’s own Princess Mary and snaffle yourself a Prince. Hey, if it’s good enough for a real estate agent from Hobart…And there’s a few single blokes on the market including Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark, who is actually based in New York and does look after Greece, whose economy isn’t so hot right now. You could try Prince Sebastien Henri Marie Guillaume of Luxembour who, at 23, loves to travel and is a keen sportsman and apparently adept at climbing, skiing, swimming and rugby union. For my money, I recommend Prince Wenzeslaus of Liechtenstein. His family is considered the richest monarchy in Europe. Vince the Prince, or Vincent, as he prefers to be called, has never married, but has been known to date the odd Victoria Secret supermodel which makes him simply perfect for the average Aussie sheila.

Vince the Prince

Vince the Prince

This blog post is part of The Global Goddess’ entry into the Virgin Australia Top Travel Tips ProBlogger competition. #pbevent @virginaustralia

The Carrot or the Stick?

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WITH so much happening in the dating world lately – (clearly not mine, but overall) – I thought it was timely to take a look at some of the global developments in this arena. Friends have sent me all sorts of reports on love, and some of them have been as eye-opening as the bad spelling or questionable grammar with which I’m regularly assaulted by potential suitors.
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First cab off the rank is a new dating App called Carrot Dating. And no, it’s not for vegetarians or those who like to do kinky things with vegetables. This free App (and yes, there is no way I’d be paying for it), apparently allows those looking for love to use incentives such as dinners and chocolates in a bid to convince others to accept a date offer, according to a report in Mashables. Yes, a cold, hard bribe. And by this we mean dinners, flowers, shopping and even trips. The last item on the list makes me laugh, as only this week I was joking with a fellow single travel writer about how we could offer a free trip as part of our attraction. Then we realised if we have to present an overseas holiday as part of our overall package, then they really aren’t worth knowing.
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But not, according to Carrot Dating App developer Wade, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (how did I just know he’d be American). Wade came up with this gem when he apparently discovered his “shy” and “socially awkward” personality made it hard to meet women. Wade reckons this form of bribery works “because both sides have absolutely nothing to lose and something to gain by breaking the ice and getting to know each other”. Nothing to lose, Wade? How about several thousands of dollars on that trip to Jordan that I could have spent with someone I actually know and like?
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But say what you will about Wade. Since its October 1 launch, the App has been downloaded 45,000 times, with a ratio of 2 women to every man (that part sounds realistic in the dating world in my experience). And to date, more than 28,000 bribes have been offered and accepted in return for a date. The report does not say whether Wade himself has found love from this venture, but I wish him all the best.
Another friend sent me a piece of literature that has been circulating for a while now. It’s a piece written from a bloke called Charles Warnke and it’s entitled: “You should date an illiterate girl”. (I knew I was doing something wrong learning to read and write all these years). According to Charles: “Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in a film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. F**k her.”
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Warnke goes on to write: “Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so goddamned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am.”
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In his defence, debate has been raging about whether he actually means his words in the way they are first interpreted, or whether he is being facetious. And yes, I have only published a portion of what he wrote so I encourage you to read the entire piece and make up your own mind. I am yet to decide. In response to this piece, another writer (one of those pesky literate girls) Rosemarie Urquico penned: “You Should Date A Girl Who Reads” in which she says: “Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve. Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.”
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Urquico goes on to write: “Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads. Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”
I, for one, would rather spend the rest of my life with a good book than a bad bloke. What about you?
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Serenity in seven minutes

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SHE wore a smile of smug serenity, the kind borne from hours and hours of meditation and, I suspect, being a gentle soul. I’m in country New South Wales for a three-day yoga treat and Basia, who calls herself a “tea advocate”, is performing a modern-day version of a Japanese tea ceremony to welcome us to Billabong Retreat.

My journey to enlightenment begins several hours earlier when my friend Jess picks me up at SydneyAirport in her clapped-out car which lacks air-conditioning in the middle of an Australian heat wave. It’s such a scorcher, I expect to see Satan himself behind the steering wheel.

Jess and I have a history of colourful trips which share an unwittingly similar theme. It’s always hot, there’s limited alcohol and we swim in interesting watering holes. In June it was Jordan’s Dead Sea, this time it’s an Australian Billabong the colour of black tea.

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I’m in the fittingly name Harmony Cottage on this 5000 hectare property replete with lotus pond. Jess is in a tent. Yoga takes place in a central yurt. I fall in love with the word yurt. Billabong is an eco-retreat where each guest is allocated 50 litres of water each day which are broken down as such:

  •  3 minute shower = 30L
  • 1 x full loo flush = 4.5L
  • 3 x half loo flushes = 3 L
  • Spare = 3.5 L

Guests are advised to save water and “shower with a friend”. If only. I perform a crude mathematical calculation in my head. If I don’t have a bowel movement for six days, I can afford another shower. Jess reminds me we aren’t here for six days, so my maths, as always, is flawed. In my spare time, I take to trading shower minutes with the other guests.

Paul and Tory von Bergen own Billabong Retreat near Richmond, about an hour’s drive north-west of Sydney. Paul, a former high-flying Londoner who made millions of pounds, lived in a penthouse and had a photo of a yacht on his desk, lost all his money in a bad business decision. He headed to Thailand where he discovered yoga, but instead of a lightening bolt, it was a gradual transformation on his path to serenity.

Rather than teaching guests the kind of power yoga that has crept into chic city studios, Paul believes yoga is about the mind. A kind of meditation yoga which dates back to 300 BC. Jess calls it Moga.

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“The fact you are twisting one way or the other way is almost here nor there, it is about peace of mind and health and happiness,” Paul says.

“Yoga was always about the mind for thousands and thousands of years. It was only really when it came to the West in the last 60 years that is has become dominated by the physical.

“For 4000 to 5000 years yoga was not about postures. It is about developing the mind. It is about neuroplasticity – the ability to retrain out minds.

“Whoever came up with that phrase ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’….that’s bullshit. It is about feeling better, living longer, happier and more contented lives.

 “As long as we’re heading in roughly the right direction, it is OK.”

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On a scorching Saturday afternoon we perform a Hindu chant 108 times – the number 108 believed to be the figure required to achieve enlightenment. I arrive at roughly the 38th Om and my mind starts to play a nasty trick. It reminds me it’s the weekend, my throat is parched from chanting, and I need an ice-cold Sav Blanc. It takes everything in my power to sit still and return to the next 70 chants by which time I forget Sav Blanc, let alone the sacred Marlborough region, exists.

Paul teaches us a simple seven minute practice that we can take home. Seven minutes to serenity. On the drive home and after a weekend of gorgeous vegetarian fare, I implore Jess to stop at the first coffee shop she can find before she drops me at the airport. I’m in the middle of a long check-in line when my tummy starts to grumble. I break into a cold sweat. Fuelled by caffeine and possibly the fact I can flush the loo all I wish, my bowels have decided upon the most inconvenient time all weekend to do what they are designed to.

I barely make it through check-in and rush to the toilet. Afterwards, I celebrate with a large carton of greasy chips and a New Zealand pinot noir. My enlightenment is tested three times on the way home. The first time, when the passenger next to me decides to shake a tin of breath mints all the way home; the second when we hit severe turbulence; and the third, when a maniac cabbie picks me up at the airport, road-raging his way to my front door. I practice breathing in and out slowly and saying “I am” over and over in my mind.

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I think back to what Paul has to say about this modern, frazzled world in which we exist.

“There is too much masculine energy in the world. We can be both, soft and strong. Women are better at that,” he says.

“I’d like to see more men at this retreat. It is the story of my life at the moment. I haven’t spoken to a bloke in three months.”

Welcome to my world Paul. Welcome to my world.

The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Billabong Retreat. To find out how you can achieve serenity in seven minutes, go to or better still, book yourself in for an enlightening adventure.

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The Goddess has arrived

IT’S 5am at Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, shortly after the Muslim call to prayer. And all I’m feeling is the call to Muslim man. I’ve travelled some 25-plus hours from Brisbane, via Bangkok to the Middle East and have landed with hair that resembles a sucked mango and a mouth which feels like a colony of bats are seeking asylum inside my throat.  But I can’t resist. The Arabs, both male and female, are so handsome, it’s like I’ve arrived in a parallel universe. I attempt to say hello “Salam wa aleikum” but all that comes out of my mouth is a strangled sound, and a little bit of spit. Fuelled by sleepless delirium and excitement at being back in the Middle East after nearly two decades, I ask our guide to translate to the Immigration Officer the question of whether he would like a wife. “Wait one year” comes the reply. I’m so jetlagged, I’m unsure whether I should simply stand to the side of his counter for the next 365 days or actually come back after I’ve done a few more things with my life. My travelling party rolls its collective eyes:  it’s classic Goddess.

Let me be clear: a Goddess, I am not. I’m not even Bridget Jones, more like her daggy underpants themselves. I inherited this nickname last year when I was working in Singapore, sweating out my body weight each day along the Equator, while living in Little India. The Indians there seemed to adopt a curious attraction to me, so the name arrived and stuck, as nicknames tend to do. The Global bit comes from the fact I’m a travel writer, who seems to uncanningly find herself hunting for a husband while simultaneously foraging for a story. Let’s just say, I always come home with a story.

I’ve told my friends I’m “on assignment” in the Middle East. Heck, I’ve even packed my khaki pants, just in case some mystery editor calls me up to jump over the border and cover the strife in Syria. The fact the only shoes I’ve packed are thongs shows how serious I am taking the idea of being a war correspondent. And thus instead, my travelling party and I head to the Dead Sea.

Across the salty water sits Israel. Jericho to be precise. If I squint into the sunshine, my 41 year old self dissolves and I can picture my 25 year old backpacker self, with the boyfriend who would become my husband and then my heartbreak. The image is like a mirage. But sad, I am not. Resilient, foolhardy, passionate…yes. And ready to take on the world again.

I wake up each day to find three waiters battling over who will bring me my morning coffee. I end up drinking three different cups of coffee to appease all three. I suspect I shall miss this when I wake up next week in Brisbane. The next day, my guide informs me: “Tomorrow night you will see a man dance in the desert.” “A man!” I practically shout, “and what does this man do?” I ask, barely able to contain myself, expecting something erotic and exotic in equal measure. “Not a man,” comes the reply “Amman dance.” The dance is pretty good for something non-erotic. The Arabs possess charm in spades. It continues when I go to buy batteries for my camera. “Your lips are like honey,” the dapper shopkeeper says, “I can see Sydney in your eyes.” I don’t have the heart to tell him Sydney is 1000km from Brisbane, so I would have to be Wonder Woman and not just an ordinary Global Goddess, to be able to possess this special trait.

We continue on to Petra, the desert of Wadi Rum, the Red Sea and then home. I’m right, there are no handsome Arabs making my morning cup of Joe when I wake up in Brisbane. But a bloke who calls himself Ford Falcon has contacted me and wants a date…