Monday, 3 July 2017

Australia's best hotel club lounge?

Sofitel Melbourne On Collins has the best club lounge experience in Australia in our humble opinion. Forget The Langham, Pullman hotels or the Crystal Room in Crown - the views, choice of food and beverage are better at Club Sofitel. 
Good old Melbourne Sofitel still has the option of serve-yourself drinks (beer, cider, wine and premium spirits or staff will bring your preferred tipple to you (between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.). Evening canapes is more like a 3 course meal: 2 or 3 hot dishes, seafood (usually king prawns and/or oysters), gourmet salads, sushi, cheeses, bread, antipasto, desserts and a chocolate/Turkish Delight/nougat platter to finish.
A light lunch and afternoon tea (Le Gouter) is also complimentary. Breakfast is an elaborate affair with a full buffet as well as a la carte menu (no extra charge).
Staff are friendly and efficient without being cloying.
The lounge is on the 35th floor (hotel rooms are from level 36 to 50) with sweeping views of the city.
Sydney and Brisbane Sofitel are great, but Melbourne's club ticks more boxes.
Visit the gym after all this indulgence. Pamper yourself with the high tech massage chairs.

View from reception desk

Light lunch, dessert to follow - views toward Parliament House
Some of evening food options 
A range of premium spirits available
Lunch buffet

Gas fireplace

The club is L-shaped with separate rooms for meetings/reading/games. Shower facilities available
A la carte breakfast - Poached egg on wilted spinach and field mushroom, truffle sauce and rosti potato
Delicious lunch treats

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Swimmer's ear in Bali

I always end up with "swimmer's ear", in the surf and in swimming pools.
Prevention: ear plugs (Blu-tak works if you don't have the expensive gel ones)


  • 2 drops of vodka in the affected ear, every few hours
  • 2 Panadols every 4 hours
  • Ear drops, if Vodka doesn't work.  After 24 hours of treatment, all good.  Price 55 000 rupiah (50 000 rupiah on Jalan Legian, near Jalan Melasti)  A bargain.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Nusa Dua or Nusa Don't?

Public land adjoining 5 star hotels tends to be used as rubbish dumps. This is particularly noticeable in neighbouring Tanjung Benoa.
View from the beachfront walkway that links Tanjung Benoa to Nusa Dua

Conrad Hotel - front view
Conrad Hotel - side view

Bali tourist spots in 30 words

Tuban - airport, bogans, no accessible surf
Kuta/Legian - bogans, surf
Seminyak -  sunset beach bars, villas, funky shops, dodgy surf
Tanjung Benoa - water sports, petrol fumes
Nusa Dua - sunrises, resorts, weddings
Tanjung Benoa
Nusa Dua

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Bali bodysurfing: Legian vs Seminyak

Legian - near Pullman Hotel

Legian has more consistent surf and fewer red flags. Seminyak seems to be prone to more rips and dangerous currents. Red flags (swimming prohibited) are seen on a daily basis - not that anybody takes any notice of them. Whenever you see surf schools in Legian, you will find medium waves suitable for body surfing with the chance of a long run to the shore.
These comments relate to the April - May period.

Seminyak - Royal Beach Hotel

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Is Jetstar Business Class worth the money?

This post covers Jetstar flights on Dreamliner 787, ex Melbourne, Australia. Flights to Denpasar, Singapore, Bangkok, Osaka (Business Class ex Cairns) and Tokyo (Business Class ex Gold Coast).


  • Cost - Jetstar frequently have International Business sales (e.g. one way MEL-DPS, MEL-SIN, MELB-Bangkok for around $499). This compares favourably to 'cattle-class' for around $199.
  • Small business cabin (3 rows of 7 seats) means speedy service from crew and better ratio toilet to passenger (1:21) than Qantas Dreamliner.
  • Usual perks - priority boarding, express card for immigration (in Australia), handy amenity pack with skin care products, socks, toothpaste, etc.
  • Surprisingly tasty and varied meals (see below). Plunger coffee with cabin attendant circulating with giant selection box of premium chocolates (weird?).
  • Help yourself to snacks in the forward galley.
  • Copious bottles of water.
  • Champagne (Piper-Heidsieck or Henri Laurent) served in tumblers rather than flutes throughout flight - but, hey I ain't complaining - or choice of wines, beers and spirits.
  • Baggage (checked) 30 kg included and generous carry-on. When travelling in Asia for 1-2 weeks, we prefer to just use carry-on only, avoiding that dreaded wait at the carousel.
  • Seating perfect for medium haul/day flights. No need for lie-flat beds.
  • It's "old school" business class seating, so you can chat with your partner over lunch, unlike some newer seating configurations that box you in for privacy.
  • Less kids
  • Champagne/water/juice served before take-off.


  • "Business-lite" and more like Premium Economy on some airlines.
  • Row 1 has the most legroom but you have to use in-flight entertainment stored in armrest.
  • Limited but adequate range of IFE, if you don't mind U.S. television series rather than U.K.
  • Avoid middle seats unless you are want to travel as a trio. Hard to exit middle seat, limited wriggle-room.
  • No guarantee your baggage will come out first.

Starters for Lunch menu
Salmon steak with salsa (tastes better than it looks)

Choice of cheese platter or dessert (or both if you are lucky)

Monday, 10 April 2017

Is the paper book dead? Or just creatively reused? Books become visual art

The ultimate example of style over substance? Or is it stunning visual art?

Entry staircase
A closer look at "Reader's Digest" 
With the use of e-readers, hard cover and paperback books are now being used as decorating items.

We found this wall of pre-loved books in Melbourne's QT hotel foyer. The feature was created by Sydney artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro. Their "Reader's Digest" combines books 5.5 metres of books, glue and MDF. Some might say the best place for Jeffrey Archer is to be tightly wedged into a wall cavity.

The Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit doesn't bother using real books. It uses giant mock ups for its decor in the club lounge.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

"Bates Motel" Final season - the best bits

This frustratingly inconsistent show is going out in style.

  • Episode 1's opening sequence was masterly, thanks to writer/producer Kerry Ehrin (eps 2-5  have different writers). There's even a shower curtain reference, with tongue firmly in cheek.
  •  The show is at its best when Norma and Norman duke it out (e.g. the scene in the woods with them both brandishing flashlights).
  • Chick's viking funeral in Episode 3 was just plain weird. No kimono needed.
  • The cheerily lit Bates house with dining room table elegantly set for dinner, contrasting with the reality of Norman's squalid existence.
  • Marion Crane (Rhianna) walks past a sign for real estate: "R. A. Bloch" (shout out to the original novel by Robert Bloch).
  • Episode 6 was a clever reinterpretation of  key "Psycho" scenes. Not a dud scene. The series most consistent episode. Respectful of its source material, then improving upon it. Producers Ehrin and Cuse scripted this episode. Note: "Sam Loomis" was John Gavin's character in the original movie.
  • Episode 7 (scripted by Freddie Highmore) demonstrates Highmore's black sense of humour (see early scenes - bathroom clean-up and dumping Loomis in the well: "Make a wish").
  • The intrepid sheriff (Brooke Smith - so good in "Ray Donovan") has some great scenes with Norman in Episode 8.
  • Episode 9 had one decent scene - Emma visiting Norman in jail - the rest was tedious padding.
  • Episode 10's climax was more like a Greek tragedy. Max Thieriot acted his socks off. The dinner table scene was truly macabre. The show went out in style. (Small gripe: If you were Emma - 30 mins into episode - wouldn't you ignore Dylan and ring the police yourself?)

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bangkok's Underground - MRT

Booths at Lumphini Station
Cheap, clean and efficient. Why can't Australia have a system like this? Spotless carriages, no graffiti, no smells of someone else's junk food. Food and drink are prohited.
Fares start at 16 Baht (60 cents). You can travel to the other side of the city (e.g. Chatuchak Market) for 42 Baht ($1.57).

Beat the traffic!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The cheapest and easiest way from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok CBD

There is a train ever 15-20 mins
Announcements are in Thai and English
Take the airport link train (in Basement) after clearing Customs. The lift is easier if you have lots of luggage but there are escalators also.
You can buy your token from a ticket window. Makkasan Station (connects with Phetchaburi MRT - underground) costs 35 Thai Baht (about US$1). The journey takes 25 minutes. Phaya Thai station is the end of the line (45 baht), this links with BTS Skytrain.

Beat the traffic. View from pedestrian walkway, Phetchaburi MRT top left
MRT map (southbound)

Follow the covered walkway (about 170 metres) to Phetchaburi MRT. This line connects Sukhumvit and Silom Road hotels. Fares start at 16 baht. Ticket machines give change.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Luang Prabang's litter problem

This cultural gem has experienced a tourist boom in the last ten years. Like many other third world countries, the infrastructure cannot keep up with the growth tourism.
A scenic spot, but look below...

View of the Mekong, with pile of plastic bottles and assorted rubbish - Dry Season
It is the public areas (like the roadside rubbish above) that is the problem. Individual hotels, guest houses and restaurants keep their individual areas clean, it's in their interest to have attractive surroundings for their customers.
You can also see the same cascade of litter along the riverbank on the Nam Khan (River). With the wet season, this mountain of rubbish will be swept into the river and downstream to join the rubbish in Vientiane and even farther afield (through Thailand, Cambodia to the delta in southern Vietnam).

Friday, 10 February 2017

Is this Bangkok's coolest high rise?

Located in the Silom district, this condo looks like a cross between an unfinished Lego masterpiece and a Transformer.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The A-Z of Retirement (so far)

A Adapting, learning to relax, not meeting a deadline.
B Budgeting
C Crosswords - keeps the mind active, hopefully.
D Dog - crucial
E Exercises
F Five o'clock drinks at home - wine o'clock.
G Garage becomes a gym.
H Hammock
I  Internet - more time for trivia.
J  Jetting off.
K Kitchen - more time to shop around for bargains, better and varied meals.
L Long Service Leave - use it all up before retirement.
M Morning walk - with the dog. Win-win situation.
N Netflix - more time to binge.
O Out with the old - declutter.
P Photograph albums are replaced by Facebook posts.
Q Queensland
R Reading crime fiction.
S Seniors Card - invaluable - free weekend travel in Australian cities.
T Travelling - out of holiday/peak time, saves a bundle.
U Utilities - check your entitlement for concessions and rebates on water, gas and electricity
V Vacuuming, my job; after while wife dusts.
W Whinging - grumpy old man
X Xenophobia = ignorance
Y Yeast, new product in the kitchen now partner has taken up baking.
Z zzzzz's Afternoon naps

Friday, 20 January 2017

The best bits of "Taboo" (BBC/FX)

BBC's new historical drama is full of fun, if you can get past the mumbling and murky plotting. Steven ("Peaky Blinders") Knight turns his attention to Regency England.

  • Tom Hardy cutting through the streets of London in stovepipe hat and billowing greatcoat.
  • Jonathan Pryce tapping his cane ominously in the East India Company board room.
  • The Machiavellian Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) has a great catchphrase: "Always assume I know".
  • Gout ridden Prince Regent (heavily padded Mark Gatiss) surrounded by stuffed zebra and legless giraffe.
  • Atticus's (Stephen Graham - remember Al Capone in "Boardwalk Empire"?) compass rose skull tattoo
  • The always-good-value David Hayman (in any scene).
  • Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper from "House Of Cards").
  • The intriguing relationship between Delaney and his school chum/EIC spy
  • Chemistry lessons with manure-munching Mr Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander; he played the slimy Lance in "The Night Manager").
  • Delaney's constant companion, his mini-scythe - it slices, dices, slashed - the perfect kitchen tool.
  • Amazing night photography.
  • Street scenes - looks like a movie budget
  • Lush musical score.