Category Archives: Travel

My Top Travel Tip!

Travelling is a huge passion of mine, and each year, I try to add new places to my list of “Must See  Before I Die!!”   I’m so thankful to have been to over 20 incredible countries to date and continue to look for opportunities to visit new and amazing places.

I’m grateful to last year have been able to add South Africa, Indonesia and China, and this year include Uganda and Dubai.  Even a visit to our Red Centre at Uluru is planned and a quick trip across ditch will add New Zealand for the first time this year as well.

Travel experiences for me have traditionally been the usual “transactional” experience: visit, eat well, drink better, take the photos, buy a shot glass and head home with great memories.  This year, I had my first “transformational travel” experience with a visit to Uganda with The Hunger Project.  Wow!  Life changing stuff!

I’m blessed that my assistant is a complete home body, never likes to venture far from her comfortable home and can keep my business running and home fires burning, while I’m off exploring.

I am no fashionista and do like to travel in comfort, but definitely never want to look like Super Dag when I turn up anywhere either.  And I much prefer to collect experiences than souvenirs, so don’t usually come back with bulging extra suitcases of “stuff.”

Unfortunately, Australia is an incredibly expensive country to live in, so I do like to pick up a couple of additional clothing items when I’m away too.  It’s great to say ‘Oh, this dress?  I got it in South Africa.”  “You like my scarf?  Found it in a little place in Shanghai.”  Such great memories!  If just a little pretentious! 😉

So, trying to travel with just one (reasonably sized) suitcase and a carry-on, can sometimes present a challenge.

My favourite tried and true travel tip when heading overseas now, is to always take with me an empty jumbo vacuum seal bag.  You know the ones – those late night, direct buy space saving miracles advertised at 3am?

Thankfully, I’ve never had a hotel yet deprive me of a vacuum cleaner so am able to pack all my clothing into this, suck the life out of it, and leave space for those extra items or gifts I like to bring home.

And as someone so cleverly pointed out to me – no, it doesn’t save on weight, but the extra space is a lifesaver!  It means you don’t need to buy an extra suitcase every time you go somewhere, or pack an extra case into your large luggage, braving excess baggage charges.

Why don’t you try it sometime and see how you fare!

This post is part of a brand-led competition and entry to the Virgin Australia comp for Pro-Blogger attendees.

Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Our drive from Lake Mburo took around 6 hours and is mostly due to the appalling state of the roads in most of rural Uganda. Some appear to have never been graded and most are deeply rutted and potholed. Even surfaced roads are covered in multiple speed bumps and allow little respite from bumps. (Ladies, a sports bra is a must, or you’ll spend most of your time clutching ‘the girls’ as they’re jolted mercilessly on your travels!)

Thankfully, our 4WD Landcruiser handled everything and our driver Baker was amazing at getting us everywhere safely.

image Continue reading Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

I’ve created a Monster!

Brisbane BBI’ve decided to classify myself as a Business Chicks junkie, to coin a phrase.

I joined this fabulous Australia wide group of top chicks in June 2011 when actively looking specifically for a women’s networking group, but it wasn’t until August 2012 that I finally took myself off to my first event.

I booked some work in Brisbane, checked into the Sofitel for the evening and the next morning took myself off to breakfast in the ballroom featuring the amazing Doctor Catherine Hamlin.  I’d never before experienced The Business Chicks buzz or the magic of quite such a treasure of a guest speaker and came away a little awed, knowing no-one, but having definitely had a lovely start to the day. (And picking up a signed copy of the book Catherine’s Gift.)

In December of the same year, Sir Richard Branson was touring and I took myself and a colleague (#businessbloke) off to that event in Brisbane as well.  Ummm… Wow!  Rockstar entrance at that event! (For Sir Richard, not me…)

By then, I was fairly hooked.  I’ve since travelled to Melbourne to see the incredible Brene Brown, Seth Godin and Arianna Huffington; to Canberra for Deborah-Lee Furness; Adelaide for Michelle Bridges and Sydney for Todd Sampson.  Locally, Dr Lois Frankl and Ita Buttrose have graced the Gold Coast stage, soon to be followed by Naomi Simpson and Sir Bob Geldof. Not forgetting Rachel Zoe and Bobbi Brown in Brisbane.Brisbane3 BB Brisbane2 BB

 

And that doesn’t cover the guests I’ve missed!  You don’t get a speaker line-up like that from too many organisations!  And I will knock Perth off my To-Do List!  And New York…. San Fransisco…. LA…. Did I also see reserved Hong Kong and UK accounts on Instagram?  Global BC Domination on the way!

I’ve also managed to accidentally wangle my last couple of ‘Anniversary of Birth’ days with the BC crew (turning 39 each time) and guess I know where I’ll be around the start of August this year… when turning 39 again.  Someone will let me know when I can’t pull it off anymore, right?

Social media is a fabulous medium for making connections and I’ve made some gorgeous friends through the BC Community both local and interstate, of BC members and the team itself.  It’s always great to catch up with these friends at Premium Member nights, Networking events and their big events of course.

The wonderful Gwinganna experience opened up a great new bunch of connections and friendships (and was so close to home!)

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This year I’m partnering with other BC Trippers and heading to Uganda in May with a The Hunger Project.  There’s an opportunity that doesn’t come along every day! I’ve never done fundraising before so this is a whole new and confronting world for me!  Perfect chance for a plug here, so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please head to www.tinyurl.com/c4e

I’d finally decided however, that I shouldn’t keep all the fun to myself and as my daughter is starting her a Diploma in Specialised Make-Up next month, I wanted to introduce her too, to the BC family.  Bobbi Brown was the perfect place to start, and although at 16, she thought it was all a bit overwhelming, she did love the music, the food, the speaker and got to clock up an extra one hour forty in drive time for her log book, before heading to a babysitting job, then coming home to check out the contents of her first ever goody bag!

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Why The Hunger Project Resonated with Me

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Charity is often a deeply personal issue and only becomes dear to us when we are personally affected or emotionally moved by an issue.

I was a giver, over a long period of time – little bits, to a lot of places.  I love the Guide Dogs, Fred Hollows Foundation and the RACQ Care Flight Chopper – they’re all personal favourites.

But choosing to partner with The Hunger Project and commit to raising over $10,000 was the first time I’d ever embarked on anything of this size or nature.

Here’s a few reasons why The Hunger Project got my vote and why I’ll be heading to Ethiopia next May:

The Three Fundamental Pillars of The Hunger Project.

Top-down, aid-driven charity models often fail to reach the people who need the most help. To be sustainable, we have discovered three critical elements that, when combined, empower people to make rapid progress in overcoming hunger and poverty:

  1. Mobilisation for self-reliance
  2. Empowering women as key change-agents for development
  3. Making local government work
  4. Mobilisation for self-reliance

The Challenges:
A. People in under-developed countries, particularly in rural areas, often live or work in isolation. Whether this is because they are physically isolated such as in the jungles of Africa, or socially isolated by caste or because they are women who are not allowed to leave their homes without a male escort, or villages that are divided by tribal rivalries, any kind of division weakens their potential collective power.

  1. Often aid money has come and gone, but the people are still hungry, and they come to believe that it will always be this way. This can lead to hopelessness and cynicism.

Our Work: When people are united for a purpose and act together to improve their own conditions, there is a multiplier effect and much more can be accomplished.

One of our first steps is to reduce the resignation that chronic hunger and poverty creates in a community.  We work to bring people together to unleash their creativity and productivity through education and skill building. Through a process of enquiry, we ask the villagers what is missing then help develop a social structure that allows local, productive action, self-confidence and strong advocacy in each region.  395,000 trained volunteers around the world are mobilising millions of others to take self-reliant actions.

In Africa, through our Epicentre Strategy, more than 121 clusters of villages have launched village-level projects to generate their own income and build classrooms, food storage facilities and health clinics.

In India more than 83,000 elected women representatives in India are speaking out and bringing water, health and education to their villages.

In Bangladesh 272,000 trained Animators and volunteer youth leaders are initiating projects such as campaigns against early marriage, dowry and violence against women; education programs for safe drinking water, nutrition and sanitation; birth registration for rural communities; and income-generating activities.

  1. Empowering women as key change-agents for development.

The Challenges: In most of the areas where we work there is severe gender discrimination which perpetuates a cycle of poverty and malnutrition.

Our Work: Studies show that women are the best change agents. We work with grassroots women to help them gain a voice in local decision-making, shifting local priorities towards nutrition, sanitation, clean water, health and education. We coalesce women who work together to end corruption, stop early child-marriage, and ensure punishment for rape and domestic violence. Our model emphasises important roles for women, working as equals to men, to determine community priorities and build the required skills to transform their lives for generations to come.  Many studies have proven that when women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase.

In Africa, Our Microfinance Programs provide women food farmers easy access to credit, adequate training regarding the importance of saving and income generation.

1.3 million people have taken the HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshop.

In India, our Women’s Leadership Workshop has empowered over 83,000 women elected to local councils to be effective change agents in their villages.

In Bangladesh, we catalysed the formation of a 300-organisation alliance that organises more than 800 events across the country each September in honour of National Girl Child Day, a day to focus on eradicating all forms of discrimination against girls.

  1. Making local government work.

The Challenges: Weak, corrupt, or unresponsive local government. Need we say more?

Our Work: In working with the local people we find and train leaders who learn to reform laws by transforming the mindsets of local officials. They focus on the issues of primary education and health care, family income, nutrition, water and sanitation. These can only be solved at the local level, and will only be solved when people are able to communicate their needs to leaders and hold them to account.

In Africa, Local government officials are included at every stage of our Epicentre Strategy. When the villagers build the epicentre building, local government provides nurses, teachers and supplies for the preschool and health clinic. Some African governments, having seen our success, are building The Hunger Project model into their national plans.

In India, we work in 3418 local village-level government units (gram panchayats), in 90 districts. There are 175 block-level Federations in 8 States where locally elected rural women come together to voice concerns and change laws as a collective unit. Currently, the priority issues include increased transparency at all levels of government. We also partner with 48 local organisations to jointly accomplish improved education, nutrition and health.

In Bangladesh, we work with 508 local government bodies (Union Parishads) ensuring 100 percent sanitary latrine coverage, 100 percent birth and death registration, and open budget meetings to provide transparency and accountability.

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If any of this also strikes a chord with you and you’d like to donate to this great cause, please support my efforts at: http://tinyurl.com/pd5c8y6

THP

Breakfast in The Square, Hong Kong

Novotel, Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong

When staying in-house and upgrading to The Premier Floor to take advantage of the onsite options, we found it was worth dropping by The Square Restaurant for the morning feed, especially as it’s included in the rack rate, and is more comprehensive than the Premier Lounge offering.

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From 6.30 to 11 am each morning the Novotel’s main restaurant offers both a full American breakfast option, or an Asian Breakfast on the first floor.  And for the Aussies, a large jar of Vegemite is featured by the toaster. You lil ripper!

And it’s hard to go wrong with all that’s on offer!

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As you enter, the breads and pastries are featured to your right, with the relevant spreads on offer, as you make your way to your table.  It’s a fairly large space so lots of options!

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Two large coffee machines turn out espressos to cappuccinos and the three food buffets have heaps on offer.

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If you love the Asian style breakfast, there’s pork dumplings and bbq buns (or bums as noted in the sign) steamed vegetables, noodles, congee and fried fish.  For the more traditional; bacon, eggs, hash browns, tomatoes, sausages and baked beans.

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Afterwards, my hotel stay favourite includes Bircher muesli and prunes, yoghurt options and fresh fruit.  For the kids there’s cereal, and for those with a more discerning palate, even hams and a cheese platter.

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Not bad for an in house option when staying at the Novotel.  Worth brekky in The Square before a big day of exploring and shopping.

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The Tai Pan House of Pain, Kowloon

 

After a jam packed tour of Hong Kong Island one morning, hubby and I stopped for a late lunch feed, followed by a massage at Tai Pan on Nathan Road.

The special offered was a 50 minute body massage for around $35 AUD. So, ok, it’s not Thailand or Bali prices, but still better than the in-house spa or Aussie prices. Lockers used, plastic slides fitted, we were directed to the massage chairs and had our feet cleansed for a few minutes before commencing. And if I’d known better, this was probably when I should have cut and run!

In the couples room, we slipped on our loose fittings cotton tees and pants and lay face down to await our fairy handed pleasuring.

Well, it appears that my benign and smiling elderly Chinese handmaiden, had recently returned from concentration boot camp and was there to give me the pummelling of my life.

Chinese water torture, bamboo shoots under my fingernails or childbirth to my 9lb+ (4.7kg) daughter again would have been preferable to what was in store for me.

Now, I do admit to being a fair skinned, inclined to freckle, red-headed English-Irish rose, and it’s apparently been scientifically proven we have a lower pain threshold than other mortals. I also admit to having had three disc bulges in the lumbar area in the past which I’m inclined to be tender with, and do sit on my ample arse for far too long each working day.

All that aside, I’ve never had a massage that felt more like a gouging and left me begging, near silently and in tears for it to end. Had I been sensible, I should have called it quits within the first two minutes, but also have a large ‘suck it up, princess’ valve that was overactive this particular day.

My groans of agony were met with Chinese titters, and my vigorous head shaking ‘no’ when asked ‘you ok?’ seemed only to invoke mirth.

The wicked hooked talons of this vicious inquisitor poked and probed every muscle, joint, tendon, fascia, bone, nook and cranny. Elbows dug where no fingers dared and my body fought her every move.

If yoga class taught me one thing, it’s to breathe. Follow the breath, focus! Breathe in, breathe out. And still, my body fought her every inch of the way. I tensed, I moved, I twisted, I groaned, I gritted my teeth, tensed some more, and sobbed, and still she carried on, poking, prodding, massaging? All the while, I was breathing… Deep. Ragged. Sobbing. Breaths.

I tried to chant silently,… ‘Dear God, let it end’ repeatedly. I’m always writing and composing in my head, and tried to think of adjectives to describe what she was doing to me, but tears sprung when words could not.

She pulled each finger to the tip, to flick them out, and I though she was trying to cleave my beautifully manicured nails from their comfortable beds. They’re still sore… And it’s six hours later…

Finally, the karate chops rained down the middle of my back indicating the torture was almost done and it was time to roll over. I fantasised about practising some Bruce Lee moves on her as I finally managed with great difficulty to turn onto my horrified back.

Now I love anyone giving me a head massage, and I’m sure the one that followed, was possibly meant to induce me once again with feelings of wellness, bliss, happiness and relaxation and fellowship with the world. Let’s just say that it failed.

At last, I heard my husband kindly thank his massage goddess whilst I mumbled incoherently at mine and she patted me sharply on my lower and now incredibly sore back, whilst chatting in Chinese to me, no doubt letting me know I had a spot of congestion there.

Finally the girls left the room, for us both to change, and I broke down, and sobbed like a baby for five minutes flat, whilst my poor husband looked on aghast.

As I lie in bed, feeling the bruises tenderly under me, I feel compelled to warn all against the Tai Pan Mistress of Pain.

But hey, if you’re anyone but me, and get anyone but her, it’s probably worth your while…