I POSSESS the dubious fortune of being born under a lucky star and by dubious, I mean weird stuff happens to me all the time. By fortune, I mean that I have not only managed to find a way to laugh at most of this whacky business, but I somehow make a living out of it. Unlike one of my sisters, who is a nurse, when things go wrong in her profession, she can kill someone. When things go wrong for me, people pay me to write about it.
And so I am delighted to announce that I am now a regular columnist for Jetstar’s inflight magazine! Yes, you will find me, on the back page, or Row 57 (as we like to call it in the airline business…yes, I like to think I’m a pilot now too), telling more tawdry travel tales among a small stable of regular writers. Trying to be entertaining in 400 words is as challenging as watching those people who pack too much hand luggage, attempting to shove it into the overhead lockers. (Learn to pack properly, people). Please enjoy my debut column, out now on all Jetstar flights.
TALES FROM ROW 57*
WHEN TRAVEL RHYMES WITH UNRAVEL
For some who journey, it’s a jungle out there, as Christine Retschlag knows all too well
I AM WRITING this having just “showered”, crouched under the tiny faucet of the bath tap in my Cairns hotel room. I would have preferred to stand under a gushing flood of water like normal people, but not for the first time in my travels have I been unable to work out how the shower nozzle actually works. We’ve all got that one friend for whom the world is a big, scary place where inexplicably weird things happen while on holiday. I am that friend.
I once took my sister on a “relaxing” holiday to Queenstown, and I distinctly recall her scoffing as I grabbed two bottles of Duty Free Whisky as we dashed to the plane. Fast forward to the next four days among which included two of our tour vehicle’s four wheels precariously spinning over a cliff ledge; me being carried down a mountain in a white-out by not one, but two sherpas, and on our last day, at a seemingly sedate farm visit, a ram breaking free from the pack and charging straight at us. Drink? We were opening those whisky bottles for breakfast by the end of that trip.
Once, on a work trip to Phuket, I accidentally stole the room maid’s shoes, believing they were the hotel slippers. It was only at dinner that night, having pranced around the resort in those slightly worn orange wedges, did it become apparent that my colleagues had not been “gifted” the same footwear. From Cambodia to Coolangatta to the Cook Islands and everywhere in between, I’ve left similar stories of destination destruction.
Back in Australia, I recently tried to furiously open my Noosa hotel room, only to eventually realise I was on the wrong floor. This wouldn’t have been so bad had there not been a group of frightened tourists inside, staring through the peep hole at a complete maniac slapping at their door.
I am yet, unlike one friend who possesses similar dumb luck, to lock myself out of my hotel room, stark naked. In his case, he stole The Australian newspaper conveniently outside another guest’s room, and used it to cover his vitals while he sheepishly approached reception for a spare key.
I’m sure that day is coming and when it does, I intend to take this copy of Jetstar Magazine with me, and hope this tawdry travel tale adequately covers all of my sins.
*Row 57 is the last row of seating on Jetstar’s 787 aircraft. To book a Jetstar flight or holiday go to http://www.jetstar.com
THOSE crazy funsters at STA Travel have released a new survey, which reveals some of the most popular pick-up lines among holidaymakers. A survey of more than 600 Aussies reveals we are not only well travelled, but we know a thing or two about romance while on the road. God, it’s the entire modus operandi of The Global Goddess, so you can imagine my delight when this literary gold landed in my inbox late last week. In no particular order, here’s the Top 10 travel pick-up lines (and my take on them).
The only part of Dubai I’ve ever seen was the airport, and to be more precise, the hole-in-the-ground airport toilet where I dashed from the plane nearly 30 years ago, on not only my first international fight, but my first flight ever. Suffering from motion sickness and culture shock, I dashed past the men with machine guns at the airport in my mission to be violently ill. Thus guaranteeing no one would use this pick-up line on me.
While I’ve never been to Jamaica, I certainly feel like I have, as does any Australian traveller who has spent more than their fair share of time in Bali. The Indonesians love Bob Marley as much as they love their Bintang brew, and it’s a dreadlock holiday every time you enter the country. No Woman, No Cry? Not an issue in Bali.
I have been fortunate to travel to Vietnam on a number of occasions. On my most recent trip, in which I found myself in Saigon, not only did a little girl become enamoured with me during my visit to the confronting War Remnants Museum, so did her aunty. Just my luck to have a middle-aged Vietnamese woman fall in love with me.
It pains me to say this, but I have been to Paris three times, and each time I have stood in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower just willing the love Gods to strike me down with that fabulous French magic by which other travellers swear. Has. Not. Happened. All I can see is a nation of chain smokers and some pretty nasty dog poo on the streets. I know, I know. Sacre bleu!
While I have been known to frequent the sunny shores of Thailand’s famed beach destination on numerous locations, I have yet to find love among the long tail boats. This could have more to do with the fact that for years I have been mixing up the Thai terminology for “the weather is hot” (because I’m such a witty conversationalist), and instead telling every poor Thai man and woman upon whom I stumble that “I am hot” (as in sexy) right down to fanning my body. In retrospect, this does explain all the strange looks.
Ah, Rome, sweet Rome. Home of all those gladiator types, you’d think I’d be able to pick up. Hell, I couldn’t even find the Spanish Steps. The fact I was sitting ON them, while looking for them, is somewhat concerning for a professional travel writer. I did, however, catch the eye of a young Roman girl on a public bus, who pointed at my then boyfriend at the time (yes, I ONCE had a boyfriend, miracles can happen), and asked in perfect English so that everyone could hear. “Is he your lover?” Had I known then that boyfriends would become such a rare commodity, I would have shouted “yes” from the rooftop, rather than pretending I was a German tourist who couldn’t understand this crass child.
Well, you’ve opened the floodgates with all this boyfriend talk and it was this very same European trip, with this very same boyfriend (did I mention I ONCE had a boyfriend?) that we travelled to Amsterdam. And being broke backpackers we decided to stay in some stranger’s home for a very reasonable fee, long before not only was Airbnb not invented, but the entire bloody internet. We wondered for years how we managed to get this room so cheaply until it dawned on us that some nefarious Netherlanders who knew the Internet was just a decade or so away from becoming a reality probably captured our nether regions on some hidden camera.
Despite being a massive, and rather tragic, child fan of the TV series MASH, Seoul has never been top of my travel list. But based on this pick-up line, perhaps it should? Move over Hotlips Hoolihan, The Global Goddess is in town. I wonder if Klinger would lend me a frock?
I’m flat out spelling this destination, let alone knowing where it sits on the US map. A quick check of Dr Google reveals it’s in Nashville where I believe Australia’s very own country singer Keith Urban lives. If things don’t work out with Nicole…
10. Customs and Immigration
It would be fair to say if I added up all of my travelling, I have spent several years simply standing in customs and immigration queues around the world. So it stands to reason that I should have found love somewhere along the line. Given Australia is so far from anywhere else, the chances of me looking even half decent by the time I arrive in a foreign land, and have to clear customs, is reasonably remote. The hilarious line I like to use on immigration officers “I look much better in real life than my passport photo” hasn’t jagged me a boyfriend yet either. But I had a boyfriend ONCE…did I mention that?
The Global Goddess is off to Fiji this week on assignment and is searching for some witty pick-up lines fearing “I’m feeling a bit Nadi, do you want to Fiji me?” may be lost in translation. All suggestions welcome…
POISED TO PARTY IN PHUKET
One of the Global Goddess’ favourite places on the planet is Phuket. I love the beaches, the bars, the vibe. I’m not talking the crazy Patong part, but other parts of the island which embody the Thai’s verve for life, without bumping into southern-cross tattoos on every corner. This year, I was lucky to go to Thailand not once, but three times and twice to Phuket in which I explored the emerging beach club scene. One of my favourite places is at XANA in the Laguna Phuket precinct which is kicking off the official start to Phuket’s high season with a Carnival party on December 14. Hang out in this stunning beachfront location with its 35-metre pool (there’s even chairs in the pool on which to relax), state-of-the-art sound system and a food and cocktail menu (does anything beat a lychee martini?). XANA’s onsite accommodation Angsana Laguna Phuket is also offering 30 percent off room bookings throughout Carnival. http://www.xanabeachclub.com
THE BEST OF BRISBANE
For those of us not heading overseas this summer, a new Brisbane Marketing campaign is designed to remind us of all of the great reasons to take a break in Brissie during the summer holiday season. This innovative campaign reminds Brissos of their own backyard with beautiful destinations such as Moreton Bay, Redlands, Logan, Ipswich, the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and Somerset all just a short drive away. Think Brisbane, think boring? Think again. Locals and visitors can spot dugongs in Pumicestone Passage, hot-air balloon over the countryside, or camp on the white sand of North Stradbroke Island, among a swag of summer experiences. And, just launched this week, Brisbane’s award-winning hotel The Emporium is paying homage to the European Summer through a new cocktail menu promising a glimpse of the Amalfi Coastline, sunset at Cannes, and a cliff top at Santorini. There will be classics with a twist, summer punch mixes, gin specials, this Pavlova martini (pictured below) and Emporium favourites. The Global Goddess is thirsty already. http://www.brisbanemarketing.com.au and http://www.emporiumhotel.com.au
HEY MR TAMBORINE MAN
Still on the subject of Queensland (it’s hard to get The Global Goddess off of this), gorgeous Mt Tamborine, in the Gold Coast hinterland, has just welcomed its first six-star accommodation with Skylodge – an exclusive luxury residence. We’re talking modern timber, glass and linear steel, to maximise the views down the valley, and all those quintessential Queensland features like wide verandas, a corrugated iron roof (which makes the most divine sound when it rains) and weatherboards. The lodge is designed for joint stays with friends (did someone say girls’ weekend?) or families, and even couples can hire a single room. You can also order private yoga classes, in-house massage, a serenading violinist and a personal chef on request. The whole lodge costs just $1800 a night and boasts two suites. http://www.skylodge.com.au
BEST SPA NONE
Environmental advocates EarthCheck have just released a global spa standard which outlines 12 benchmarks which should be followed by those wishing to meet an internationally-recognised standard. These include: water consumption; energy consumption; water saving; water source; water sent to landfill; waste recycling; community commitment; community contributions; paper products; treatment and cleaning products; pesticide products; and staff wellness. Given the growth in the spa industry in the past 15 years, Taking off her face mask and putting on her green hat for a minute, The Global Goddess reckons it’s important to main standards to support sustainability. And did you know, the word spa originates from the Latin salus per aquam which means “health through water”. I’ll drink to that. http://www.earthcheck.org
SPEAKING OF SPAS
While we are still speaking of spas, The Global Goddess would like to shine the spotlight on one in which she’s been interested for a while. AYANA Resort and Spa Bali was the international resort destination selected for filming of America’s Next Top Model. While she is neither a top model, nor American, The Global Goddess reckons this secluded resort, perched on cliffs above Jimbaran Bay, looks pretty spectacular. There’s 290 rooms and 78 private pool villas and I believe some innovative spa treatments here. And another language lesson: AYANA actually means “place of refuge” in Sanskrit. Any day now. Any day. http://www.ayanaresort.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
And this cool dude, I met at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort pool.
Sometimes you just get a glimpse, a tiny snippet, into someone’s life…
Sometimes life is there on a platter, in all its splendidly, colourful glory…
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 http://www.lagunaphuket.com
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 http://www.lagunaphuket.com
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