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.

 Novotel6

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!

Novotel5

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!

 Novotel2

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

 Novotel8

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.

 Novotel4

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.

 Novotel1

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.

Novotel3

Rethinking Retirement

On my final morning in Beijing, we headed to The Temple of Heaven, a Taoist monument dedicated to praying to the heavens to bring a good harvest at the start of spring, and to offer thanks when it was done.

This is a 600+ year old building, that’s managed to survive the Japanese and British, and has been restored to its former glory for tourists the world over to enjoy.

 Temple of Heaven

This story however, isn’t about the monument, but about the fun that takes place in the surrounding grounds of 200+ acres surrounding the central buildings.

Over 55’s can buy an annual pass to the parklands surrounding the temple allowing unlimited annual entry for around $20AUD.  Over 65’s are free.  And you should see what these creative retirees are up to!

On entering at The North Gate, there were couples learning Rock & roll, and incongruously jiving away to classical Chinese tunes.  Check them out here: http://youtu.be/DLVBi86HPoE

Others were honing their skills with a shuttlecock with an agile version of Hackysack.  Paddles were available for those who prefer a racquet to using their feet and large and small groups were loving kicking it around.  The feathered ball was also available for purchase for anyone wanting to take one home to try with the family. I’m kind of regretting now that I didn’t grab one off the touts for practice at home.  Then I’d be a legend by retirement!

 TOH

Others were learning or had mastered the art of tai chi and slowly went about their moves, completely engrossed and ignoring all onlookers.

One group of four that stopped us in our tracks was a human game of quoits and I captured a little on video. Their skills obviously the result of much practice.  Check out their skills: http://youtu.be/dtwF4VzwvyQ

One woman regaled us with her operatic tunes while women danced, and more practiced their musical instruments, mostly brass, and loudly.  And if not well, at least with enthusiasm.

I kid you not, I’m sure I heard bagpipes!

Others had dressed up in traditional Turkish garb and were practising their Whirling Dervish routines.  And all with massive smiles of enjoyment on their faces at the fabulous gift of being alive and the wonderful sense of community they no doubt felt.

So, for all those who think retirement means hanging up the boots, an occasional game of golf or going home to die… Think again!

What was it you’ve always wanted to accomplish?

Maybe it’s time to find a tribe and invade your local park!  Perhaps I won’t lock myself away in a mouldy attic to write a novel after all.  It appears my seniors beach volleyball team awaits!  Or salsa lessons… Retirement’s looking better to me every day!  But hey! Why wait?

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…

My Journey with The Hunger Project

A big thrill for me over the coming months is to share my journey with The Hunger Project, in partnership with Business Chicks, culminating in a trip to Ethiopia next May.

I’ve committed to raising $25,000 for this very worthy cause, and just having heard first-hand how well the system works, based on Navali’s story from Rajasthan, am really looking forward to this.

To hear how a 20 year old girl from a rural village was educated and became an elected official in her village and has made such a difference to her community, establishing schools, stopping the abduction of a 14 year old girl in her village and even the wedding of another child in a different area is testament to how THP works at such a grass roots level.  There’s no stopping this girl and her dreams are only just starting to become a reality.

Navali

So, a little on who and what The Hunger Project is all about.

Their Vision is to ensure a world where every woman, man and child lives a healthy, fulfilling life of self-reliance and dignity.  Sounds fair to me.

Their Vision is simply to end hunger and poverty by pioneering sustainable, grassroots, women centred strategies and advocating for their widespread adoption in countries throughout the world.

Cathy BurkeCathy Burke, Australia CEO sharing the vision

To date, THP has reached 24 million people in Africa, India, Bangladesh and Latin America across 15,000 villages.

There’s now over 395,000 locally trained volunteers leading change in their communities.  Ten partner countries are leading the change to empower 12 countries involved in the programmes.

The three pillars are to:

  1. Start with Women: Studies show that when women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits. This is why we focus on building the capacity of women.
  2. Mobilise everyone: They build people’s knowledge, skills and leadership, so they can take action to improve their own communities; and
  3. Engage Government: by empowering people to communicate their needs to local government to ensure they are effective and accountable.

Living in a country like Australia where our lifestyles are so generous and free means we often don’t give a thought to those less fortunate than ourselves.  And if we do, the confront can make us squirm, and be a little hard to deal with. Time for me to meet that head-on and try and make my little difference.

Please, if you can join me on this journey and give something to ‘give back’ any donation would be gratefully and graciously accepted.  Please go to my page for your pledge here:  Amanda’s THP Ethiopian Adventure

Poverty can drain human dignity, and financial aid without collaboration can actually make systemic hunger worse.  Who knew?? Through their integrated and wholistic approach, THP assists people, believing they can end their own hunger.

Thank you in advance for any support provided which assists women, children and entire villages to become self-reliant, eliminating hunger and poverty.  Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

Former THP Trippers:  Trippers

Learning to Thrive! with Arianna Huffington

Learning to Thrive, Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post, Business Chicks Event, Melbourne

Arianna3

Well what a gorgeous lady, and what a privilege to see Arianna Huffington on her whirlwind trip to Oz.

The Peninsula room in Docklands was decorated beautifully, with incredibly low and flattering lighting, and the thousand (mostly) women in attendance were ready. The Business Chicks vibe was out and proud.  And with 6 events in 36 hours it was awesome to be there for this one.

BC2

 Nicky Buckley was our gorgeous MC and did a fabulous job introducing Arianna, possibly echoing all our thoughts by the end, that we ‘just wanted her to be our best friend.’

And, from the moment she opened her mouth on stage and we heard that gorgeous Greek accent, I think we were all in love.

But even more important, than her charm, wit and elegance, was her message, in learning to digital detox, reduce stress and starting to thrive.

I devoured her book Thrive some time ago, and it was great to hear those important messages once again.

BC1In a culture that ‘men have broken’ we’re expected to view sleep deprivation as a badge of honour, and stress and burnout as a natural progression in our working lives.  Its the illness of our civilisation and it’s up to us to change that. It’s interesting to note how many of our poorest decisions are based on lack of sleep and being too tired to best evaluate what we should do.

Arianna’s brush with burnout is set to serve as a wake up call to all to get our eight hours sleep each night, remove devices from bedside, and take a day to digital detox each week (if God could rest after 6 days of hard work, so should we!)  We need to start adding a third metric when defining success in our lives, beyond money and power, by learning the magic of ‘Wellbeing, Wonder, Wisdom, and Giving.’

Business Chicks have a culture of women who want to give back, and not just turn up to take, which fits perfectly with an ethic of giving and creating a happier life.  As Arianna’s wonderfully wise mother put it, ‘a giving attitude can transform our lives from struggle to grace.’

There were so many key takeouts from her story.

One tip she shared with Oprah was that we are more magnificent than our jobs.

Another is that ‘No’ is a complete sentence. Who knew?

Learn to make eye contact again and connect with our children and friends when they speak with us.

Start looking up!

For inspiration on how others have taken up the challenge, check out the #HowIThrive hashtag and join the Thrive revolution!

AC & Zoe

Cape Town Highlights!

Well, what an awesome adventure South Africa turned out to be!  Cape Town is an amazing City, flanked by huge Mountains – it’s seriously hard to take a bad photo there.

P1040479

This is the view from our apartment in Camp’s Bay – real hard to take at the end of each day out!

Balcony View

My two big bucket list items there were to trip up Table Mountain and visit Robben Island, the home of Nelson Mandela for 18 of his 27 years in incarceration.  Both received the Big Tick.  Table Mountain has spectacular views – depending on the day you choose to travel, and Robben Islandd has a fascinating history.  Our guide was a political prisoner who ‘did time’ whilst Mandela was there, and the strories of their fights for freedom are fascinating.

P1040382

On top of that, we also managed a day trip to Franschhoek for tripping on the Wine Tram, a half day safari at Buffelsfontein, afternoon tea and the Cecil Rhodes Memorial, a drive up Chapmans Peak for the view over Hout Bay, lunch at The Brass Bell in Kalk Bay and a serious amount of shopping on the V&A Waterfront.  Gotta be happy with that!  And we added a couple of days in Durban visiting friends.  Truly a great trip.

P1040355P1040415Amanda and CecilP1040342

And although the trip for my friend’s fertility adventure didn’t turn out as successfully as planned, there’s the option of another two trips for her, and fingers crossed for a future successful outcome!

The idea was even born for a new blog – documenting our search for the world’s greatest brulee – you can check out that journey on http://www.bruleeadventures.com. 

My next international adventure is to Hong Kong, Macau and China in October – two places I’ve never been.  A six day organised tour is planned in China of all the highlights, including Tianenmen Square, the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors and Forbidden City before a conference in Shanghai.

So much to look forward to!!

Cape Town here I come!

Wow!  What a hugely busy year 2014 is turning out to be !

The team at Wealth Planning Partners have completed their change to the new dealer group, now partnering with Financial Services Partners as our new Licensee.  With ANZ as the ultimate parent company, we’re looking to be able to tap into some great resources to bring our clients some much better advantages.

We’ve had two new advisers signed on as part of the team and completed our new look branding exercise.  The launch event for the new brand is still to be planned however.  Maybe a job for the French Intern we’ve taken on for three months.

There’s still lots of domestic work travels happening for me but the tip trip to South Africa is now less than two weeks away!  Can’t wait for a spot of R&R!

Soooo looking forward to my stay in Camps Bay, Cape Town; a trip up to Table Mountain, a visit to Robben Island and hopefully a wine or two on the V&A Waterfront and in Stellenbosch.  Followed by a few days with friends in Durban.  Lovely!

Having said that, the trip is revolving around a friend of mine seeking fertility treatment and the hope is that three of us will be returning from South Africa instead of the two that arrived.  A very exciting adventure to be sharing in!

Until then, there’s more clients to assist, Self Managed Superannuation Funds to arrange, investments to be placed and insurance to be sorted.  I look forward to filling you in on the success of our journey on my return!

No rest for the wicked!