Monday, February 25, 2013

Travel to change your world



Sick of the humdrum tourist destinations? I'd settle for ANY tourist destination, quite frankly. It's the Sagittarean in me.

But online travel agency ZUJI.com.au has searched the globe to come up with the Top 10 Life Changing Travel Experiences, guaranteed to give you a new appreciation for planet earth (and bragging rights).

Oh imagine the Faceboasts if your status updates included one of these beauties? Or your pinterest interest if you posted a photo from one of these destinations? Here they are:

Admire the Mayan ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
Once the glittering jewel at the centre of the Mayan empire, Tikal was consumed by the jungle and lost for nearly three centuries. Today, the sites' secrets have been once again revealed, and travellers from around the world can now witness first-hand some of the largest and most impressive ancient structures in South America. Tikal's Great Plaza includes temples more than 70 metres high, sprawling royal palaces and a host of other buildings and monuments. ZUJI.com.au advises travellers to visit during the dry season, which runs from January to May.

Meet mountain gorillas in Rwanda
Rwanda's animal kingdom promises to leave even the most seasoned traveller in awe.  ZUJI.com.au  says Rwanda's mountain gorilla is an essential to see. With just 880 left in the wild, these magnificent beasts can be found in either the Virunga volcanic mountains or the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park at an altitude range of 2,200-4,300 metres. Rwanda's strict conservation laws mean only fifty travellers can get in the midst of the gorillas at a time making it more likely to spot one of these gentle giants than another tourist. The gorillas can be visited year round, regardless of season.

Visit the temples of Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
Get in now before the hordes arrive. Myanmar is quickly becoming a tourist hotspot now that the US has re-established diplomatic relations with the newly civilian government and the National League for Democracy has dropped its long-standing travel boycott. Nestled away in upper Myanmar, Bagan is the former centre of the Kingdom of Pagan. While it is estimated that in excess of 10,000 temples and pagodas were constructed at the site, a remarkable 2,200 still stand in what is the densest and largest concentration of Buddhist ruins in the world.  ZUJI.com.au  recommends you take to the sky in a hot air balloon to soak in the sheer scale of this impressive site. Bagan can be experienced year round, thanks to its dry climate.

Witness the northern lights in Svalbard, Norway
It's a long way from Australia, but the incredible phenomena of the northern lights is well worth the trip. ZUJI.com.au recommends you witness nature's very own light show from Svalbard, a stunning Arctic archipelago where mountains meet massive glaciers. After you've caught a glimpse of the aurora, there's an abundance of things to do in this winter wonderland, but spending a few days spotting Svalbard's incredible wildlife is highly recommended. If you're lucky you might even be able to see a few polar bears in their natural habitat. The lights are most easily spotted between September and March.

Find yourself on the Ganges, India
Take a journey to Varanasi, the holiest city in India, and witness tens of thousands of people descending the ghats to take a cleansing dip in the sacred river each day. Make sure you take some time to sail down river and find yourself at one of the many meditation camps along the banks. The best time to experience Varanasi is from November to March.

Swim with humpback whales in Tonga
Once hunted to the brink of extinction, a firsthand encounter with a 36,000 kg humpback whale is guaranteed to power up the endorphins. Tonga is one of the only places in the world where you can swim with these majestic mammals. These Southern Hemisphere humpbacks are said to migrate up to 25,000 kilometres from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic to the tropical waters of Tonga to mate and give birth. The best time to travel is between August and October.

Climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
Stretch your legs with a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. The world's highest walkable peak offers tough travellers an opportunity to traverse 80 kilometres of mountain, five different climatic zones and some truly amazing scenery all in the course of a few days. These treks are best experienced in January to mid-March or from June to October however, the most popular time for climbing is in December.

Witness the Great Migration in Kenya
Known as The Great Migration, this annual event sees millions of wildebeest, zebra and gnu journey from the plains of the Serengeti to the hills of Masai Mara.  Gaze in awe as the herds brave rivers, ravines and other wildlife on their life-or-death trek towards greener pastures.  The best time to catch the action is between July and October.

Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway through Mother Russia
Once hailed as 'the fairest jewel in the crown of the Tsars,' a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway is one of life's great travel experiences. Sit back and watch the landscape slip by as you make the 9,288km trek through 8 time zones from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railway.  Travel at your own pace through some of the most rugged and awe-inspiring terrain the planet has to offer.  If you're after even more you can opt to then transfer to the Trans-Mongolian, which visits Beijing and Ulaanbataar, or select from a raft of other options and destinations.

White water rafting in Nepal
Home to the highest peaks in the world, Nepal has always been a mecca for mountain climbers.  But what goes up must come down.  Adventure junkies will be treated to an outstanding selection of snow-fed rivers, which range from PG fun to raging torrents. For ultimate bragging rights take a ride along the monster Sun Kosi rapids that start near the Tibetan border. The best months to take a plunge are October and November. Avoid the monsoon season from June to August.

I want to do the whales in Tonga first. How about you? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Not just swimming, diving

My last post wasn't meant to alarm anyone.

Though the dark monsters may nip at my heels from time to time, I haven't lost my sense of humour.

I was kind of posting my tongue-in-cheek version of those posts by amazing people who write about how they did a half-marathon, baked a creative birthday cake, flew to Perth and back, and catered a My Kitchen Rules-style instant restaurant/dinner party all before breakfast. (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

Me, I go for simpler goals.

Get up. Have a shower. Just keep on swimming...

But just to prove I have done more things this week than get up and have a shower, I give you a few of the highlights from my week:

 

 
Harmonie turned 10 and we went to Wet 'n' Wild on the Gold Coast to celebrate ...
 
 
Followed by dinner at her favourite cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurant with friends
 
One of Harmonie's birthday presents was something she's wanted for ages: A guinea pig. They are social animals, so her piggie Twitchy came with her sister Captain Sprinkles for Chase. We also adopted their mother, who has been named Pepper Pig (not Peppa).
 
 
Here they are getting spoiled ...
 
 
Captain Sprinkles, Pepper, and Twitchy


In other news, Chase, whose recent 12th birthday treat of a session at Archerfield Go-Kart Hire was rained out by Queensland's Big Wet, finally got to enjoy his present. He and a best friend enjoyed several sessions of go-karting at the track, in the first rain-free day in ages - lucky us. And thanks to Barry, who shouted the boys to a free slushie at the end of their afternoon.
 
 
Cool dude at the end of his karting sessions. 
 
And the verdict? "Awesome! When can I do it again?"
 
Not to be outdone, Miss Lucy, our pampered chihauhua-pomeranian cross, was very proud to be taken to school during the week to make a starring appearance at Harmonie's Show And Tell. She was a hit, with licks, kisses and pats all round.
 
 
And me? Well, I've been working on my speech for 'My Blog, My Story'. You may have noticed, I'll be speaking at Australia's biggest event for parenting bloggers, Digital Parenting's DPCON13 in Sydney in March.
 
I'm a little nervous (okay, a lot), but looking forward to getting away for a few days of serious blog talk and networking with the brightest and best in Australia's social media pond. And if that means I have to get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day, I'll do it, dammit.
 
 
A shower AND make up. For the win.
 
And doing a wee bit of diving into life in spite of myself.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Just keep swimming ...

Got up.

Had a shower.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No longer a one horse town!

Brisbane is no longer a one horse town.
Today, the city became home to 42 of the world's most majestic horses.
The talented animals are stars of the multimedia and acrobatic spectacular Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Human and Horse.
They arrived by semi-trailers in Brisbane for the first time after an apparently relaxing 21-day stay at Eastern Creek Animal Quarantine Station in Sydney.
Prior to the mandatory government quarantine in NSW, the VIP horses flew across the Pacific Ocean from the show’s last stop in San Diego, California, aboard a chartered MD-11 aircraft equipped with luxury boxes. (Apparently this is the equine equivalent of a luxury charter flight).
For the transoceanic voyage to the Land Down Under, the Cavalia herd, constituted of 10 breeds hailing from Canada, Europe, and the USA, was accompanied by a dedicated team of Cavalia’s equine specialists, including head trainer Gregory Molina, a veterinarian, two health technicians and six grooms.
The Cavalia team features the horses as well as 36 riders, aerialists, acrobats, dancers and musicians from around the world. They are all perfoming under a 35-metre tall white big top, where horses and artists interact in front of a constantly-changing 60-metre-wide digital projection screen.
I would love to go. A little birdie told me they even have a pony.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Cavalia premieres nationally in Brisbane on March 6, 2013. For more details, including performances in Sydney and Melbourne, go to www.cavalia.com.au
 
Cava 36

Friday, February 15, 2013

Things I love

Post brought to you with support from Travel Indochina

When you're depressed, you feel as if the life has been sucked out of you.

You lose interest in all the things that would usually interest you, and those little dark monsters keep nipping at your heels. (I refuse to call depression the black dog, because I like black dogs).

So when I discover some of the old Bronnie restless spirit bubbling up inside of me, it feels so good.

It feels wonderful to take pleasure in simple things. To be able to finish chores, and cross tasks off the list. To laugh over nothing, and stress less. To giggle when it is inappropriate, which makes the situation so much funnier.

And to be mindful of little things that make me feel more in love with the world right now.

Here are a few things that made me smile this week:

  • When the school principal quoted a Delta Goodrem song at the Grade 7 leadership induction ceremony. (It was Together We Are One if you want to know).
  • These authentic cultural holidays in Vietnam that lit up my roaming eyes. As a Sagittarean, I love to travel, and taking the kids on an adventure to Vietnam is now on the bucket list
  • The false alarm that was my cupboard-conquering Kit Kat. I felt someone - or something - watching me in the bedroom the other day, only to spy my furry friend gazing down on me from his perch.

He likes to watch
  • The honestly of kids. Bemoaning the fact that I hadn't had time to put on make-up again, Harmonie replied: 'It's okay Mum, you kind of look like a pale-faced zombie when you wear make-up anyway.' Gee, thanks honey. Guess I should be signing up for a makeover sometime soon. But I had to laugh at her description of my attempts to look more sophisticated.
  • The news that some of the teams on My Kitchen Rules had to use rented kitchens and homes because their real ones are too small to house camera crews, lights, judges and the other contestants. I must admit I had wondered about that, because otherwise it would preclude anyone with a poky house or daggy kitchen from going on the show. So much for reality telly, huh? Look out, there is hope for me next year ...
  • This actual news story. Forget snakes on a plane, it's the farts you have to watch out for! http://www.couriermail.com.au/travel/farting-on-aircraft-smelly-but-better-out-than-in-say-gastroenterologists/story-e6freqwf-1226578512315
Readers, what tickles your fancy? That expression alone is one of mine ...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day (With a little help from my friends...)

How are you spending Valentine's Day?

Are you being whisked off to a five-star hotel, all the better to be spoilt at a luxury spa before being, erm, wooed, by the romantic interest in your life?

Or perhaps it's takeaway in front of the tele, once the kids are sorted, with your long-time partner?

Will it be a dozen red roses and a kitschy stuffed toy, or a kiss on the cheek and the promise of a sleep in on the weekend? A night of passionate love-making, or a comforting cuddle, safe in the arms of the one you trust most in the world?

It's true that Valentine's Day puts a lot of pressure on lovers ... so it makes sense that it can be the loneliest time of year for singles.

But, you know, it doesn't have to be that way.

Who says that loved up couples should have all the fun?

One of the nicest Valentine's Day nights I've had was spent with a girlfriend. We still had the wine, flowers, good food, music and conversation, but with each other, as friends. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Fancy a night in a hotel or a fancy dinner? You don't need a partner for that! Spas and luxury suites are just as, maybe more,  indulgent if enjoyed alone.

If money is a problem, think about what you can do for others that might lift your spirits at the same time. A visit to ageing parents or a family member or friend might cheer you all up. Or ask a couple of single friends over for a barbie.

There's nothing wrong with going to a movie or watching a DVD, or even reading (gasp!) in a big bed alone. Luxuriate in it. Long-time couples stuck with a snoring, farting, doona-hogging partner might envy you for it.

What I'm saying is that it can suck to be without a partner to share Valentine's with. But it's not the end of the world now. Is it?

I woke alone this morning, but I did smile at the cheeky grins of my kids as they went off to school and the love-heart biscuits the tuckshop lady had baked for the children to buy at morning tea.

Love is all around us.

You just have to look for it.


 
I spent last Valentine's Day in Bangkok with two of my best friends in the world. Here I am with Carolyn at the floating markets.
 
 
With Ian and Carolyn at a Bangkok drag club. I love them in a non-sexual way, as I kept telling them all the way home in the wee hours of the morning ...)
 
 
Out on the town again after a day exploring ...
 
You don't need a partner to fulfil you on Valentine's Day. As long as you have friends or family in your life - hopefully both - you have love. As long as there is life and colour and abundance, there is love.
 
But you know, I think the most important person I think you need to love is yourself.
 
I'm getting there. With a little help from my friends.
 
Happy Valentine's Day.




Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stuck into school


Are your kids back at school yet?

My kids went back last week, after a blur of shopping, bag-packing, and lunch-planning.

These holidays seemed to fly by, and I think none of us were really ready to go back to school.

But I was relieved that when the morning came, the kids rose happily and eagerly, and were dressed and fed in plenty of time.

We made it to school nice and early, found their classrooms, teachers and school mates, and they were soon unpacking and settling in ahead of the bell.

Best of all, their teachers seemed really nice and extremely approachable, which is always a huge plus.

It was probably the easiest back to school I’ve experienced in seven years of back-to-schooling.

Mr 12 started Year 7, and is now a school leader. (Sob!) How grown up he looked in his new uniform, having shot up again over the break. He’s now taller than me – not that that’s a difficult achievement – and weighs more than I did when I met his Dad. (If only I still weighed the same. Sigh.)

Miss 9-going-on-10 is in Year 5. She has also grown in size and confidence over the holidays. I’m proud of how the little girl who once hated to leave my side says goodbye casually and runs off to play with her friends.

When Back To School Day loomed and I asked the kids to pause for photos, they moaned a bit.

“Why do you need photos?” they complained.

“Because it’s a milestone in your lives, it’s important,” I said.

Am I old-fashioned to want to mark these days in their lives? Is it a sign that they are growing up and will soon be sick of their bloggy Mum wanting to take photos of their every move?

Readers, do you like to capture moments in your children’s’ lives with photos, or do you prefer to make memories with your minds?

One of the things that made going back to school easier for me was a couple of back to school packs that were given to me by Stuck On You to review.

Harmonie was given a set of book, clothes and shoe labels plus bag tag in their most popular girls’ design, and Chase got a lunchbox, bottle, and pencil case in a simple design popular with older kids.

“Mum, they’ve got my name on it, that’s impossible,” he said, when he spotted the goodies.

He was thrilled with them, and if they go missing in the playground or lost property, I will give up completely.


Seriously, the Stuck on You products really made life easier.

Chase is a beauty at leaving his lunch box behind, and this way everyone knows it is his. (It has a whopping big "Chase" on it).

And when I was labelling Harmonie’s things, it was so easy just to pull a pretty label from the supply and pop it on her books and cases. And she thinks they are really pretty.

With most value packs priced at around $49.95, they are good value for the de-stressing they give parents when it comes to labelling not just kids’ stuff but their own things for work.

Hey, if it saves a few lunchboxes from being left lonely in the playground I’ll be happy.

Stuck On You are giving a lucky Maid In Australia follower a Value Pack from their Back to School range.

To enter, just comment below telling me if you took photos of your kids when they went back to school. You’ll get an extra entry if you like my page Maid In Australia on Facebook and leave me a comment there.

Get stuck into it!

Entries close Sunday February 10, 2013.

The competition has now closed, and the winner is Melanie Moran. Melanie, please get in touch so we can arrange for you to claim your prize.