Taking the Plunge

Photo by Jocelyn Pride


THIS terrific tale starts in the steamy jungles of World War Two Malaysia and ends with a teasing trickle under a sophisticated Sydney hotel. It’s a story about survival and in fact, casts even further back, right to Australia’s first settlement. I am in Sydney, wading around the Tank Stream Hotel for a yarn, built around the First Fleet and that most coveted of commodities, fresh water.

Photo by Jocelyn Pride


You see, the Tank Stream Hotel, opened in 2015, hovers right above the site of the life-source of the first European colony, established in Sydney Cove in 1788. And yes, the water or “tank stream” is still there, sometimes a torrent, others a trickle, depending on the rain clouds. While this underground system is opened twice a year to visitors, via a ballot undertaken by Sydney Living Museums, you can still glean a glorious sense of history by taking a self-guided tour starting at Circular Quay and ending at Hyde Park, which was a former swamp.

Photo by Jocelyn Pride


Wicked winter westerlies nudge me along Pitt Street, following the path of the stream and story. There’s seven significant sites to visit, starting with flirty fountains down at Circular Quay. The light is fading into the golden glow of lanterns and Sydney’s social set is streaming onto the streets of the Tank Stream Bar at one stop; and buried deep within the bowels of the sandstone GPO at another. Long drinks are being poured and the gossip is gushing. Little do they know they are perched atop a sloppy secret.

Photo by Jocelyn Pride


But it’s back at the Tank Stream Hotel itself where another layer of this story is unfolding. That of the owners, Malaysia’s Tan family who have transformed a tragic tale into a dynamic dynasty. It dates back to World War Two when Nam Chin Tan, and his brother Yeow Kim Tan, were forced to hide in the jungle from the invading Japanese. After the War, the two brothers sold chickens by the roadside to feed their family, before they eventually started the companies Ipoh Garden in 1964 and Tan & Tan Developments in 1971. Today, Tank Stream Sydney is run by their son and nephew, Boon Lee Tan, and the family are also the proud owners of four Melbourne Cup winners, among a large property portfolio.

Photo by Jocelyn Pride


In many ways, this whole travel tale is about taking the plunge. For the reason I am in Sydney is that one of my stories, about snorkelling with salmon in the ice-cold waters of Canada Snorkelling with Salmonis a finalist in the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ NTIA awards for Best Travel Writer. And I am in grand company indeed, with my photographer on this Sydney assignment, friend and fellow finalist Jocelyn Pride, also here for her piece examining the Arctic and Antarctic poles Poles Apart

Photo by Jocelyn Pride


There are five finalists in total and Jocelyn, deservedly, wins. In her acceptance speech, she speaks of taking the proverbial plunge into travel writing after 40 years of teaching. And like the First Fleet, and the Tan family, it’s as simple as that. Diving off the deep end into the unknown. Hoping you discover what sustains your body, your brain and your soul along the way. Later that night, back in my Tank Stream room, I read a message from another travel writer friend: “I know you’ll have a blast in Sydney, as seizing the day is your forte”. Seize and swim. And just hope that stream carries you in the direction you wish to flow.

Photo by Jocelyn Pride


The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of the Tank Stream Sydney. Perched on the corner of Pitt Street and Curtin Place, opposite Australia Square, this hotel offers 280 rooms over 15 floors.
https://www.stgileshotels.com/hotels/australia/sydney/the-tank-stream/
The Tank Stream Hotel is ideal for solo travellers, such as the Goddess, as it has a Go Solo program which includes a Solo Travel Microsite with local content highlighting restaurants, bars, entertainment and tours for those travelling alone.
http://www.StGilesHotels.com/solo-travel
To view more of Jocelyn Pride’s award-winning photographs, or read her award-winning words, go to http://www.jocelynpride.com.au

Photo by Jocelyn Pride

Darwin’s Evolution

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Destination: “Batchelor” Northern Territory. Population: No eligible blokes.
A FRAGRANT frangipani guard of honour framing the road from the airport announces my arrival into Darwin city. I’m driving an automatic hire car and I must be the only person on the entire planet who can’t handle an automatic, my feet fumbling every few metres for the clutch. So poor am I at mastering this skill, that I realise I am actually driving the car in neutral. That explains the odd looks from the people outside the vehicle and the strange sounds from inside. In retrospect, it’s not a bad thing to arrive in a new city in neutral. No expectations. And Darwin is my last Australian capital city to conquer.
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Yes, 30 years of travelling the globe and I am possibly the only Australian who hasn’t been to Darwin. In human terms, I am the last cab to Darwin, so to speak. But I’ve heard all the stories. About the croc attacks and bum cracks. Those Top End “terrors” (I’m talking about the blokes here), apparently even more daring than those in my hometown of Brisbane. I’ve seen NT Cops on television and I’m an avid follower of the Northern Territory News’ front-page headlines such as “A croc ate my cock” (you should be so lucky, mate) and frankly, I can’t wait to see what this final frontier is all about. A female friend finds out I’m going to Darwin and assures me there’s a “mansoon” happening up here. Yes, the ratio of men to women is apparently 13:1. The very same time last year I was in Mount Isa where the bloke/sheila ratio is 7:1. Things are improving. According to another friend, the odds are good but the goods are odd.
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While I expect to meet plenty of men, what I don’t expect is to find a city that is thriving as much as those frangipani trees. I walk down the Smith Street Mall on a glorious winter day, past the posh Paspaley Pearl store with its swanky shell handles. A few doors down, di CROCO Boutique is selling handbags made from NT crocs for around $3000. I spy some $20 key rings more in my price range. All the beautiful people are sipping skinny chai lattes in the Star Village courtyard, home to local designers.
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Down the Mall I wander, stumbling across an old black caravan. There’s a pretty girl inside with a killer smile and I ask to take her photo. She’s selling tickets to the Darwin Festival in August. She points out a plaque on the caravan. Turns out this van is called Tracy, and it’s the original van used to house one of the 25,000 people rendered homeless when Cyclone Tracy destroyed the city on Christmas Eve 1974. It is at this exact point I fall in love with this city. I love a destination with a story and soul and Darwin has both in spades surviving not only the Japanese bombing in 1942, but Tracy too.
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Around the corner, I bump into the old Country Women’s Association building. Fair enough, I think to myself, there’s a CWA here. But as I step closer I discover it’s now an eco café serving the kinds of things our grandmothers had never heard of. Yes, there’s acai bowls and skinny lattes where once there was crochet and black tea. On this particular afternoon I have time, and I let the gentle breeze off Darwin Harbour blow me in whatever direction it chooses. I find myself in Austin Lane, just off of Smith Street, where I discover graffiti art galore. Little do I realise that in a few days I’ll be back here, taking a cooking class in Little Miss Korea, a converted loading bay at the back of the old Woolworths complex. Korean chef Chung Jae Lee, who was born on the floor of his mother’s Seoul restaurant kitchen, will teach me how to make a seafood pancake. And God, will we laugh.
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But before I cook with Chung, I’ll head to the Wave Lagoon where I’ll grab a boogie board and join a bunch of excited kids in Darwin’s answer to the ocean. And it’s pumping. Queensland board riders hate this sort of choppy onshore surf, but on this divine Darwin day I can’t think of anything more swell.
Days later I’m swimming at Litchfield National Park, spending the day wading from waterhole to waterhole. It’s on this journey we pass through that town called Batchelor. While the spelling is slightly skewiff, the sentiment is spot on. There’s even a Batchelor Museum which forces my face into a wry smile. Yes, single blokes are so rare in Australia, they are now building shrines to them. Of course, this museum is about something entirely different, but it keeps me amused all the way back into Darwin.
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I’m in Larrakia country, the birthplace of Australian singer Jessica Mauboy and actress Miranda Tapsell, who I had the great pleasure of interviewing before I came to Darwin. Tapsell was a pure delight and so in love with Darwin it was infectious. I adore how at this time of the year, when the wet season finally concedes to the dry, Aborigines describe the weather as “knock-em down storms” and “clean em-up country”. Everything is fresh. And with it comes an air of possibility. Of Dreamtime and daydreams.
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It’s my last night in Darwin and I head out to Mindil Beach for the sunset markets. No one told me how much Darwinians love a sunset and I watch in utter fascination as hundreds of locals and tourists flock to the cool sand at this magic hour to watch the sun collapse into the ocean. The crowd applauds in a gesture which makes me love this city even more. What is this mystical place where hundreds gather to celebrate Mother Nature at her finest? I head to the Deckchair Cinema where the cool breeze blows off the harbour and sit under the stars, slouched in a canvas chair. It’s one of the most romantic settings in Australia and I am all alone, but I am not lonely. For I am sitting in a city which has had everything thrown at it and not only keeps bouncing back, but flourishing. And that feeling, that delicious Darwin magic, is contagious.
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The Global Goddess travelled to Darwin as a guest of Tourism Northern Territory – http://www.travelnt.com
Sunset

Saluting the Anzacs

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HERE is my confession. I have never been to an ANZAC Day dawn service. I have been to numerous war sites around the world, I’ve played two-up with Diggers in my local RSL on ANZAC Day, and watched them march on the streets of Brisbane, but I have never risen before the sun to listen to the hauntingly beautiful Last Post, which honours our soldiers who have died in global conflicts.
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As a young backpacker, I followed in the footsteps of my peers and made the trek to Gallipoli to see where so many Aussie lives were lost on that impossible stretch of beach. I have stood in the trenches where they bled out and died. I remember the undeserved awe in which the Turkish regarded my pilgrimage, so astounded were they that so many young Australians would cross the oceans to honour their dead. I’ve visited the Egyptian pyramids from where the Aussies did some of their training in preparation for Turkey.
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I have knelt in the gas chambers of Dachau in Germany and Auschwitz in Poland and wept at the futility of war itself. I have scanned the piles of suitcases, teeth, hair combs, reading glasses and shoes, and tried to imagine how those captured by the Nazis endured their fate. Tried to fathom the stroke of dumb luck that makes one person survive a war and another perish. I have sauntered through Switzerland and marvelled at how a country so tiny, and in the midst of all the combating countries, could remain neutral.
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In London, I have stayed in the Savoy which miraculously only sustained minor damage during the bombings of World War Two, retained its stiff upper lip and kept trading, and from where Winston Churchill regularly took his Cabinet to lunch. It is believed Churchill made some of his most important decisions regarding the war from the Savoy, whose air-raid shelters were considered some of London’s toughest. And like so many Aussies, I have stood in the London Underground and tried to imagine its role as an air-raid shelter.
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I have sat on the shores of Pearl Harbour and imagined the Japanese fighter planes overhead. On the other side of Oahu, I have seen the beaches from where local Hawaiian kids fled when they saw the jets overhead, before racing inside and crowding with frightened family members around a simple transistor radio to try to understand what was happening to their peaceful paradise.
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In south-east Asia, I have witnessed the effects of war and the cruel regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia in the torture chambers of Phnom Penh and on the streets littered with the limbless in Siem Reap. I have visited the many war museums of Saigon in Vietnam and crawled through part of the Cu Chi Tunnels before becoming overcome with claustrophobia. In Thailand, I have visited the River Kwai many times, and walked along the railway sleepers, the construction of which claimed the lives of so many Australian soldiers. I have paused on the site of Singapore’s Changi Prison and attempted to feel what it must have been like to survive the heartless humidity and the chaos of capture.
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As recently as last month, I was up in Papua New Guinea where I learned that it was actually in Rabaul that the first Australian soldier lost their life in any global conflict back in 1914. There’s war history galore there and I walked into in one of the tunnels which the Japanese forced the Aussies, along with other Allied soldiers, to build so that the enemy could store their food, weapons and themselves during air raids. I visited the Bitapaka War Cemetery, funded by AusAID, which pays homage to thousands of soldiers, many of them Australians. There’s even a remaining tree there from which the Germans are said to have climbed to shoot at the Aussies during World War One.
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Thanks to the ANZACS, I’ve been granted the freedom to travel the world and to experience their stories. Because of them, I live in a free and beautiful country. On this ANZAC Day, and not just because it’s the 100th anniversary since the ANZACS tried to steal Gallipoli but because it’s high time, I intend to set my clock, rise before the kookaburras, and tip my hat in their honour and of all of those who have perished in war. Lest We Forget.
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