Making friends on flights – Goodbye Asia, hello South America!

After a teary goodbye to my family in Malaysia (special shout out to my cousin Sheba for looking after me so well!) I jumped on a plane to Sydney for a couple of days, just long enough to make sure my animals were ok, repack, and for Mr fabulous to accidentally drop a 6 seater heavy wooden bench on my right foot, fracturing it – On the plus side, a bench falling on my foot in public did earn me many glasses of wine, which helped numb the pain – I enter my Aerolineas flight from Sydney to Lima and lay exhausted in my aisle seat, shut my eyes and tried to get some sleep.

2 guys sit down next to me at different times and start talking to each other about football.

5 minutes into their conversation, Brazilian voice – ‘So, is she your wife?’ referring to me

Australian accented voice – ‘No’, quietly adds ‘but I am sleeping with her.’

Surprised, I open my eyes an turn to see whom it was I’m supposedly being intimate with.

Introducing Kush, a large dark indian man in his 30’s, who Is a tough looking Flight Centre travel agent, but a real softy deep down – You know, the kind of softy that would be a complete gentleman to your face but sleaze behind your back?

Kush, embarrassed – ‘I’m not really sleeping with you. I don’t know why I said that!’

T – ‘ Because you’re a boy’ smiling, then turning attention to the young Brazilian sitting beside her ‘ You’re from Brazil? I’ll be there in March for Carnival, is it as crazy and dangerous as people keep telling me?’

Igor is a 24 year-old Rio born and bred, Macquarie Uni (based in Sydney) business student, who was about to spend 3 months back home in Rio with his family after not having seen them for 3 years since coming to Australia.

Igor – ‘There use to be little riots, where 50 men would run at you and just grab whatever they could.’

T – ‘That`s hilarious! 50 men, 1 backpack?’ imagining the comedy of splitting the goods of 1 backpack between so many.

Igor, seriously – ‘It would be you and anyone around you, always targeting more than a couple of tourist on the beach and grabbing camera’s and bags. But don’t worry, it doesn’t happen anymore, now the police protect the tourist, it’s bad for business if the tourist are scared.’

We chatted through the whole 16 hour flight and had swapped facebook details by the time we hit Buenos Aries in Argentina.

Igor – ‘Let me know if you come to Brazil any earlier than March, I’ll show you around. And it will be handy for you to know someone in Rio.

T – ‘Definitely! And you let me know if you decide to stay in Rio for Carnival!.’

We parted ways with the promise to keep in touch, and after having made my first South American friend within 5 minutes of my flight out of Sydney, I knew instinctively that I was going to love this continent.

Igor was right – it would be extremely handy to know a local especially during crazy carnival time.

Marrickville Yum Cha – YUM!

When I was asked if I had time to do yum cha in Marrickville today, the day before I depart state and country for 8 months, I said I would make the time.

We got to Hung Cheung Chinese Restaurant at 12pm, an hour later than usual. And if Sunday yum cha is anything to go by, we were expecting a long wait. As the car neared the restaurant, we didn’t even wait for the brakes to kick in before jumping out and stealthily sliding past the 3 unsuspecting patrons who nearly got to the door before us. They were the only people in the queue, and there was a surprising four or five tables available at the time, but we didn’t care. We were hungry.

The name of the game at Marrickville yum cha is speed. The speed that the food comes at you and the speed of eating it. There’s a delicate skill that seasoned yum cha pilgrims gain – You become a fast talking fast eating dumpling GPS, always knowing what’s coming out of the kitchen and the exact location of the serving trays within the restaurant.

Steamed snowpea and prawn dumpling, seafood dumpling, money bags, fried scallop dumpling, eggplant and fishball tofu, chinese broccoli, spinach and prawn dumpling, prawn in rice noodle, fried prawn dumpling, lightly fried rice noodles in satay sauce, two servings of fried chicken wings!!! (Deep Breath) It was beautiful.

Chatter over spilled tea and chilli sauce while chopsticks battle it out. A strategic play over how to distract your party so you can steal the last dumpling is also very common. My personal favourite is asking questions that require a reply in story form.

For those of us with expandable stomachs the Marrickville yum cha experience is priceless, in a good cheap cheap, way.

Missed Plane No Money – What not to do on a business trip

It was finally time to go home – my boss and I were so excited! Spending the last couple of weeks together was really getting on our nerves and the irritation cracks were starting to appear. Not only that, we both had no money left.

You might ask how this could happen? Overseas on a business trip and you both have no money?! Truth be told, I have no idea how this came to be. There were some contributing factors, like I didn’t get paid enough and had been relying on my boss to front all the bills. Oh, and I had just purchased this really awesome expensive camcorder! Why my boss was broke I put down to bad budgeting, and he had just bought a new amazing camcorder too.

Scraping our shrapnel together, we concluded there was enough funds to get us on the monorail , but only to the second stop just before the Airport. We were going to have to wing it.

Loaded up with our luggage, we walked to the monorail station and purchased a ticket to as close to the airport as possible. We nervously planned to fast talk some tale to get us on the other side of the gates and pumped ourselves up for the confrontation. Fortunately, there was no guard and the gate was wide open – We were home free!

Getting to the Singapore Airlines counter, chuckling over our narrow escape, we smile at the check-in lady and hand over our itineraries… to which she politely informs us that our 12am red-eye flight had departed the night before.

Now if you can imagine, as she gave us the news that made time stop, the lights behind her got really bright forcing me to squint, her voice took on a low, demonic tone, and I swear I felt something pop in my left ear. I did a slow motion turn to my boss and found that he had already cleared a space behind us. I watched in horror as he proceeded to jump up and down, arms and knees high in the air, fist clenched, repeatedly chanting ‘FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!’

A Singapore Airline customer care rep came over to see what was causing such a commotion. Realising that my boss was in no shape to communicate, I pulled myself together and explained our epic fail as calmly, yet desperately, as I could.

I don’t know if it was my boss’s chanting or the fact that I had broken out in hives, but the customer care rep took great pity on us and kindly informed us that they were willing to waive any fees and put us on tonights red-eye flight.

Plug – I LOVE Singapore Airlines.

We flew in silence, exhausted and grateful to be on our way home. We’d work out how to get home from the airport without any cash or credit later.

Massage instead of Meetings – What not to do on a business trip

Arriving into Penang, my boss and I checked into our hotel and switched our phones on only to find that incredibly all meetings had somehow been cancelled. We were only there for a couple of days so there wasn’t time to reschedule. Having come to South Asia with a goal to complete all appointments successfully, this turn in events would not be taken well or lightly back in the office. So we did what any professional would do, we lied, and communicated that everything was running as planned.

It’s not easy to lie. You have to back it up with some facts and you’re constantly paranoid. It would be suspicious if we came back to Sydney without any evidence of taking clients out. And we had all this free time to get to know the place. Plus we were tired from our previous stop in KL. We needed a massage.

The easiest thing to do was to use the hotels massage services, which on the invoice would only state the name of the massage parlour ‘Yasmin House’ . Yasmin House could easily be the name of a restaurant in the hotel. Secondly, the bill had to be enough so it looked like we took out at least 3 clients to this restaurant for lunch – a 1 hour foot massage followed by the 1 hour full body massage should do perfectly.

2 hours later (4 hours downtime in total for the both of us) I walked out of my room feeling light on my feet but my body felt scratched, and abused, from the old lady’s rough hands. To be honest I was feeling a bit uncomfortable with her technique. As I walked out of my room, my boss was coming out of his with a look of wonder etched across his face. ‘What happened?’ He just looked at me and shook his head, traumatised from the experience.

To sooth ourselves from the hard day’s work, we headed to the Ship Inn. We really needed a drink. And we needed to drink enough for 8 clients.

What not to do on a business trip

Many years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang for work. I was accompanied by my boss at the time who is still a great friend and mentor. I’d like to share with you our experience which may be to the extreme of what I believe majority of business trips share on the hush – Down time. So not to overwhelm you, I’ll break the trip into four short chapters.

• Roller coaster rides – Why not?
• Massage instead of meetings
• Camcorder for duds
• Missed plane no money

Roller coaster rides – Why not?
When in the KL business district, also known as the Golden Triangle, you are surrounded by mega shopping centres. We’re talking massive, MASSIVE, centres. Large enough to host its own indoor theme park – YES! A gigantic indoor theme park holding 133,000 square feet of thrilling rides including a 7 story high roller coaster! In between meetings, this was a ride too good to pass up.

Standing in our business attire, we entered Cosmos World Theme Park in the Time Square shopping centre like 2 gladiators ready to conquer this man-made beast. But first, we needed tickets. Lining up and looking completely out of place with these young, tiny children, who may have been teenagers, we asked the lady behind the ticket counter for two seats on the monster ride. Taking one look at my boss, she calmly informed me there was an age limit to this ride as they would like to avoid heart attacks. My boss, hard of hearing due to the crazy theme park music and flashing lights (not his age) smiled sweetly at the girl while I convinced her that this ride will not be the end of him.

Success! The ride was ours. And I mean completely ours, nobody else had hopped on.

We made polite conversation while strapped in, waiting for the Supersonic Odyssey to start, quietly discussing quality control and regulations ‘Australia would never allow an indoor roller coaster of this size! It would be too dangerous, the risk of shoppers getting hurt and lawsuits too great..yeah, how do they get away with this here?’ As we began inching forward, what seemed like the entire infrastructure for the whole left side of the shopping centre shook, this action incurred a thunderous, rattling noise which turned out to be the scariest part of the entire 2 minutes of this event. For me anyway, my boss came out a little worse for wear. Shaken, but not stirred, we climbed out, smoothed the creases from our suits, and started making our way to the next meeting.

As Featured On EzineArticles

Wicked Review

Remember when you were young, still in single digits, and life was filled with wonderful, magical experiences without the use of mind altering substances? Then as you got older, cynical, and jaded, expectations grew and you suddenly became a critic? Well that’s what happened to me, and only on rare occasion does this cynic get to feel the absolute thrill of being a kid again. But it happened, last week, as I nestled into my seat at the Capital Theatre, the lights turned low, and the wonder of Wicked began, that’s exactly how it felt, magical.
The settings/props were the best I’ve seen with the use of old style and modern technology. The songs were catchy, the melodies playing the part of an emotional guide throughout the play. The type of melodies that you are instantly attracted to. The singing was amazing, with the two main charactors, Galinda the Good and Elphaba (Wicked witch of the west) cast well with their contrasting tones.
The balance of comedy, excitement, romance and anticipation perfectly written and timed. An incredible alternate story line about how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be that guarantees you will never look at the Wizard of Oz the same again. Without giving too much away, this is simply the best musical I’ve had the pleasure of viewing and would recommend it to anyone.

Sydney puts the FU in FUN – Daniela’s and Timmy’s Birthday Bash

It was Daniela’s and Timmy’s birthday on Saturday night and, to my delight, Oxford street had the honour of hosting this special occasion! Dani and Timmy are a colourful married couple, with a 20 month old dingo called Ernie. Living in the inner west, they have shared many, many, good times with almost everyone they have met.

Ahhh Oxford street. I’d spent many a Thursday night to Tuesday morning cruising the bars and clubs along this strip, from the Burdeken, Mars Lounge (Cougar Lounge), the old DCM’s, Nevada Lounge, Oxford Art Factory, The Gaffar (Rogues), Columbian, Qbar, GasLight, Midnight Shaft, Ark, the list goes on..


It was 8pm when we rocked up to Low 302, next to Gaslight, quarter tanked on Vodka. The financial strategy was that if we drank at home first, theoretically, we wouldn’t need to spend as much money on drinks out. In practice, as the booze took effect, all strategy went out the window and I believe we spent even more money than if we had come out fresh like everyone else. For example, while everyone else slowly sipped on their cocktails, we started with tequila slammers. It was only uphill with deep pockets from here on.

Low 302 went by in a blur, lots of chatting with good friends, everyone looked beautiful and acted loudly, as they should at such an event. In opposition, the venue was intimate, with lots of wooden, natural curved furnishings, low ceilings, candles, and a capacity of always just under the handful of people waiting to get in off the streets.

I had dressed ‘rocky’ expecting there to be a rock band based on the image of the Low 302 webpage. Unfortunately, Rock band there was not. Sitting outside in the smoking arena I do recall hearing some music, commercial sing-a-long that kept the place humming but didn’t overtake from the conversation. Our time came to a close at Low 302 as Dani gave her birthday speech, eyes shut, one hand triumphantly placed in the sky, ‘ I love all my bitches…’ Right on!

Dani's birthday speech

From Low 302 we naturally gravitated towards the QBar. There’s a running joke between my girlfriend Sara and I. QBar sucks you in and spits you out – Sometimes without your spine. I had left my spine in QBar back in 2002. I wanted it back, I could use a good spine in my travels.

Lesbian night at the Qbar was an unexpected twist. But only for those of us who notice the hundreds of loved up women grinding happily close to our tight circle. Others were oblivious. Lucky them.

Daniela and the Queen @ The Sweet Spot

An executive decision was made and back we were out on Oxford Street, this time heading towards the sweet spot – The Columbian. I have never, ever, had a bad time in the Columbian. Making friends with every kind of person possible, dancing to their funky tunes and drinking away until you don’t remember leaving. Or even arriving. Images flash before me.. Daniela being carried around like a queen on the shoulders of a loyal servant, blowing kisses to her minions. Bonding moments in the ladies cubicles (I love my bitches!), braving the cold streets with the smokers, being bewildered as a couple of my girlfriends got their bags stolen but not really being in the right frame of mind to offer any advise, assistance or use. Both Mark and Julie being able to see, actually see, the same invisible chair against the wall before falling ass flat on the dance floor while I laughed and laughed and laughed… until I started to fade. It was time to go home.