It felt like eight freight trains were riding towards me on a phosphorous crescent and I had no idea where to go but into the water. Eight of us sat suited and masked-up, hugging our knees. Silent. All of a sudden, the boat veered sharply to the left. My heart beat quickened. I nervously rechecked my gear. I was seconds away from being thrust into the fore of something so powerful that my own humanity was dwarfed into powerless insignificance. And then the engine tone dipped and the thud-thud died. For an eternity, I heard air… if that was possible. A horn sounded. The watching was over. The time was now. I had reached the point of no return. I was confronting the unknown. Fear of water, fear of sharks; my own insecurities. The sound was deafening: “Go, go, go!” As I pushed out from the marlin board, into the big blue, I had no time to go “fuck!” I just swam. For my life…and my pride. And then I met my destiny.
I could have been a trench soldier in World War I, waiting for that shrill whistle to jump over the top, helpless but hopeful. I had nowhere to go but forward, my meaningless and proverbial “bayonet” just useless for what I would face. A lot of thoughts cross your mind before you plunge into a vast ocean to meet a pod of humpback whales travelling towards you at 7 to 9 knots, and the first question is always, “Why?”. At 250 metres and closing, whales look like submarines barrelling towards you, not torpedoes. They are definitely going to hit you! I could have been all toasty and comfortable at home, sipping my coffee. Leading my same-old-same boring life. Swiping through Facebook. Checking emails. Or I could be out there in the wild: no phone, no electrics, no swiping. No personal challenges. A complete detachment from living and earning. Or I could push the envelope even wider and do something for myself, to tick that bucket list item, that sense of adventure that I gave up the moment I stopped being a kid. I can almost hear the voices now: “Don’t jump in the puddle!” Why? “You’ll get dirty!” So? “I mean it!” So do I! “I’m serious!” SPLASH! Life is judged by experiences and only you can make them happen. In my book, when you crawl up to the “Pearly Gates” it’s a one-way ticket. Click, punch, “Next!” I don’t want aimless chit-chat like, “Did you do this?” or “Did you do that?” I’m a person of adventure. I want to shout, “Hell yeah! That and more!” 15 years working in the charter boat world and owning four companies has taught me an awful lot about charter boats. And that is why I searched out one company in particular for my whale de-virgination: Kings Ningaloo.
If you’re not in the boating game, then the words “Brother Bill” mean nothing to you, but if you are, then they mean everything. Most skippers revere him. But the one thing I like about Kings Ningaloo is the “total experience”. Boat, food, humour, people. And I definitely like his marine biologists. (Shut up, Bill!). And this is why. I tried every avoidance tactic to not get in the water. I thought my excuses would work. To say I was tired, or sick. But they all ganged up on me, and my pathetic excuses were crushed with a “Bullshit! Shut up! Suit up! Now! In the water!” They were like my old sergeants, as a cadet. Only better looking. I wanted to kill you then Zoe, Jess and Sacha. But you made me step out of my comfort zone and I felt so safe and secure to be led by you. Thank you. I would never, ever, have done a humpback swim without you. When we plopped in the water, I just swam like a tagged Nemo on a sashimi menu. I followed the frantic kickings, preying no one was ever above me, drizzling my back with soy sauce and dollops of wasabi!
Swimming with humpback whales is completely unnerving and life-changing. When you launch into the great, bubbly yonder, you are no longer a human and master of the world. You become a guest in their environment. Vulnerable. Blind. They rule the roost, not you. You are the weakest link. You are part of the food chain, not the producer of it. Diving with humpback whales is also a game of tactics for the skipper. Laws of probability. Calculation. If “x” whale(s) are travelling south, at “y” speed, and I am “z” distance in front of them, will my clients “a” see a whale, or “b” have then dive below them. On our trip, I’d say the whales chose “b” about 40% of the time. The skipper is key to success. He is the ultimate reason why you have an encounter with a humpback whale. I’ve known Bill for a very long time and he just reads the water and animals like they are his best mates. He talks to me like he knows them. He can judge a bump or swell or ripple. I don’t know how. I really don’t. But he knows. He really does. Bill hates negativity. If you come on the boat with one negative thought, he doesn’t want you there. “The whales know it,” he says. I have to believe him now. “The whales aren’t going to hit you,” he chides. “They’re too smart. They know where you are!” A few times in my life I have faced something outside of my comfort zone: this was one of them. When the horn blared and the call to “Go!” sounded, yes, I followed everyone, but we all swam with purpose; a chance meeting with the leviathan of the ocean. I swam like a man on a mission. I was scared. But then something happened. The ocean was no longer my fear but my friend. I was in it and with it. Deep and dark blues, glinting rays and firing shards of light. I suddenly realised that I’d left my fears on the boat. I was among friends. The water was warm. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, when everyone was searching in the shallower, deep blue waters, missing everything, I had this stupid idea to duck-dive deep. I had this feeling that something was going to pass below me.
What I saw was beyond any photo or videographer’s dream. This huge, gentle giant rolled and slid past me, flashing the white of his belly. One chance in a lifetime. He stopped kicking for a second, looked me in the eye and I know we embraced before he slid past. Our eyes kissed. I took a memory back to the boat. I hope he took a memory back to the deep.
For more information on swimming with Humpback Whales or Whale Shark Tours: T: 1300 799 758.
Click here to view all humpback whale interaction swim tours:
This is the second time in my life (outside of being in Bali or Thailand) that I have plucked up the metrosexual courage to get my nails done and I wasn’t even dragged out screaming by the wife either. I was proud to tag along and show my support on an otherwise very non-manly excursion to a nail salon.
My first impression on entering Elite Nail Bar in Booragoon’s Garden City was confusion. A long “bar” stretches the length of the room like a giant….well….bar. I was the only man in a fairly packed room of ladies, which was….well….wonderful! I was ushered to a barstool by my prospective nail clipper and tried to look around without feeling like I was leering or perving at everyone. All the staff were Asian and decked out in official looking red uniforms. Except for the young male manager. He was allowed to wear jeans and a T-shirt. Obviously different rules apply to the different sexes.
My main concern was why were there rows of dusty wine glasses behind the bar, a few bottles of Johnny Walker, three loaves of bread and two bags of potato chips? Were we going to have a party?
When I entered the place, the staff gawked at me like I was a dollar bill ready to get up and run out the room. And now I know why.
For $30 I had a hatchet job done on my nails. It was appalling! How could anyone with scissors and a file do such an incredibly bad job. My beautician must have trained at a kindergarten class for origami! And if you think my nails were bad, the wife’s were even worse. Her varnish was applied with such pathetic amateurishness.
(For clarification purposes, I wish to add that the pink nails in this photo are not mine!)
With deja vu on my side, I actually recall asking my wife, “How do you know whether these people have trained or not?” Clearly it wasn’t such a dumb question. Yet my wife was more concerned about whether they sterilised the equipment. I forgot to tell her that at the end of my session, my lady picked the debris off her scissors with her own nails and then promptly put them back in a cover, presumably to be used on another unsuspecting victim!
When Complaining in English Never works
When my wife complained to the manager, they kept repeating, “But it is cream varnish. It’s cream varnish.”
Well I was buggered. It looked pink to me. And like a tractor had applied it.
“We can fix for you,” came the chorus from the red coated brigade.
That buggered me too. You’d need a spatula to fill in the divots!
Needless to say, “NO” I will never go back to this place again. In fact, it has put me off the whole concept of going into a nail salon at all. I’m keeping my metrosexuality in my pocket from now on.
My only consolation was when I got home and my 12-year old daughter gave me a pedicure after a really warm bath. We had a really long chat (which I never do) whilst I repaired my finger nails myself. Both were infinitely better results than anything Elite Nail Bar could produce.
This is what I love best about Perth: hidden gems like Julio’s.
The building has come a long way since completion in 1902. It was once was the proud residential home of the Walsh family, an iconic red brick corner site in West Perth that sides the intersection of Hay Street and Ventnor Avenue. It was an outstanding location in its prime and it still is today. A whisper away from Subiaco’s fashion district or a downhill ride to the city centre.
Today, the Walsh’s have long moved on and in their place stands the new Sage Hotel after a full renovation. The name Julio’s stays with the bar and restaurant, thanks to the vision of new owners, Adam Zorzi and Rod Hamersley.
The restoration project was mammoth. A story of contrasts. Old and new. A faithful nod to heritage, yet in keeping with a traveler’s modern needs. The exposed white-washed brickwork is rough, in stark contrast to the smooth, polished floors and sculptured fireplaces. Wooden tables add to the rustic feel, as do the heavy overhead beams. You could be in an old English country home with its large sash windows, were it not for the modern bar with hanging martini and wine glasses. And its Italian cuisine. Another contrast.
Julio’s is a truly enticing place where the affable Executive Chef Simone Ariano works his magic which borders on art. My breakfast was an experience and not just a meal. It kicked off with the Chef’s Best Muesli served in a small square topped bowl. The presentation was stunning, a homemade granola infused with coconut, almonds, walnuts, a dollop of yoghurt, a sliver of Julio’s embossed chocolate, a sprinkling of fresh blueberries and topped with a carefully placed strawberry. Colours and flavours were intense. The rewarding taste amazing.
I felt a bit like Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) when my phone rang and the filtered message went out like this: “Solo Pasta. Mount Lawley. 3pm.”
I love surprises and this was not one I expected but it did make me go WTF!
Solo Pasta is the brain-child of Chef Gil Lewkowicz whose worldwide CV is not just interesting, it is notable. I had been primed through the grapevine that something was in the offing. I’d been drip fed tit-bits: pasta by the metre; new look; not Italian; international; a medley of flavours; freshly made. But it never dawned on me how brilliant his concept was until I was half way through my meal.
I’d ordered the tender chicken lime and coconut curry with coriander, peanut and caramelised chili without a second thought, because it had “Thai” emblazoned all over it. I was on autopilot. I love Thai food. But when my meal arrived, it was devoid of the usual culprits rice noodles. In fact, there was nothing very “Thai” about it at all on the outside. The whole meal was encapsulated in a plate of pappardelle pasta served by the metre, not a noodle or rice grain in sight.And that was the point.
Solo Pasta is all about flavours intertwined with freshly made pappardelle pasta. I could read the signature undertows of kaffir lime on the nose and tongue, the taste of coconut cream (not too overpowering) and appreciate the braised tender chicken because that’s what I do at home in my kitchen.
It was an instant winner.
Pasta is not owned by the Italians. It is owned by every household in the world: Italian, French, English, Chinese, Arab, Israeli, Spanish, Portuguese and keep going. What we do with pasta on our own patch is what Solo Pasta has tapped into and made Jamie Oliver millions. It is called comfort food, only this time, by the metre.
Solo Pasta is Gil in his element, unconstrained and homely. A massive homage to comfort food that has deservedly sunk so many pseudo celebrity chefs and the trawl of writers that kow-towed to them. What Gil gives you is naked and raw. There are no pretensions of grandeur. What he trots out is what we want. For a meal, our friends and family.
Solo Pasta delivers 30 stunning meals, every one of which is made from pappardelle, flat ribboned pasta that is either a classic, beetroot, or spinach consistency. You can pick what kind of pasta base you want: tomato, creamy or olive oil/jus based. And you can pick the length (I recommend the standard 4 metres…don’t let your eyes, overrule your tummy!) although I did go for the amazing Asian cabbage salad as a buffer too.
Buried in that huge selection is pretty much anything you could ever want from pork and kale meatballs, to basil pesto, Norwegian smoked salmon, chilli mussels and the old kiddie favourite, like my favourite classic, spaghetti Bolognese.
There is nothing simple about Solo Pasta. Every pappardelle strip is hand-rolled fresh each day. I was privileged to be there as the paint was drying on the old Monte Fiore site and the “new look” of Solo Pasta evolving. It was young and invigorating. I could see the Mount Lawley set warming to the place before the paint had dried. This was the “wine bar” I would have died for when I was 20-something. Trendy, happening and above all else, a place to hang out. With great affordable food. But if there was one thing I wished the genie could have brought me, apart from my youth again, was a take away tub and a fork. I could see myself traipsing down Beaufort Street with the best fix in town.
628 Beaufort Street
Mt Lawley, WA
T: 08 9227 9898
I rolled the dice and got a double six!
Yes, yes….I can hear your sarcastic groans, as you writhe over my awful cliché comment. But then, that’s the prerogative of a writer sitting on his side of the screen. He has artistic licence to lob literary hand grenades at the mooing crowds!
The first time I visited the Double-Six Luxury Hotel in Seminyak was on a whirlwind site inspection with 20 or so fellow travel experts. We were on the downward slope of a somewhat tortuous schedule and this one was at the “nether” end of the line and week.
I went through the property around 9pm with nodding motions that culminated in a mild, aching disdain and indifferent thoughts. My focus had not been on the hotel, but my weary body and hunger pains.
My second visit was five months later and voluntary. I happened to be staying a few kilometres away at the Downtown Villas near the Bintang Market. I wanted to see the Double-Six in a real light and without tired and aching blinkers.
On that lunchtime trip I experienced the token zing and pizzazz of the restaurants and bars. I saw the rooms…again. They looked so much better. I was in my personal mode, wearing an off-duty hat, not a professional one. I walked away with an incomplete feeling and an impulsive urge to stay there.
On my return to Perth, I booked a stay.
Bloggers Don’t Do This
My return visit was less of a gamble than a need. At itch that needed scratching. I had been particularly compelled by some friends who had raved about the Double-Six. “This may be the best hotel we’ve stayed in” was their conclusion.
This was totally contrary to my own, preconceived notions. And very soon I would be eating my own humble apple pie.
Arriving at the Double-Six Luxury Hotel
There’s no grand façade awaiting you or giant Corinthian columns dripping in acanthus leaves. Your arrival is quite surgical after the customary security bomb check and short, winding twist to the drop off zone.
“Mind the step,” I’m reminded, as I move out of my car and into the dark and massive el fresco lobby.
I take note of the staff. Cool. Very cool. Love the outfits. Guys in sort of 1920’s grey and white styled culottes, linen waist coats, plain tweed caps. Girls in light flowing, breezy outfits. Immaculate. They match. Colour, contrast and texture.
You scoot across a massive, shining, white marbled floor with the odd, inset butterfly. The lobby area is surprisingly dark. And then you are greeted by what I can only describe as nymphs: more super-beautiful people only this time, ones want your money!
I part with it…willingly. I’ve arrived in heaven.
This is my silent epiphany. A wiggle through the door and waggle past a corner and then into the most amazing space. It is hard to describe the moment when your eyes go from Ferrari, to snail. But trust me, it happens.
First impressions are everything, even when you’re downright sweaty, tired and desperate to unwind. You don’t really soak up the nuances and twists. But I did. And the funny thing is that I had actually been in this room two times before. As a kind of lemming being rushed through a semi-arduous industry process to “experience” it. As a travel guru that might bring business through the door.
Up until that moment, I’d never stayed at the Double-Six Luxury Hotel. And up until that moment, I had never wanted to either.
The Lounge & Bathroom
Two areas are clearly defined in the enormity of the suite: the bathroom to left; the bedroom and lounge to the right. The entire space is long and leading. It smacks of modernity. The pool and ocean views are compelling. The entire feel is soothing and rewarding.
As you turn towards the living space, a dark banquette creates delineation. It is a big dollop of space that is almost less interesting than the bathroom. But it is there. Bed and all. Staring at the ocean view.
The banquette is massive, but not functional. It is like a restaurant serving station but I’m not in a kitchen. But I like the simplicity and clean lines.
I look for the plugs. I always do. There aren’t enough. Where do I charge things? Phone? Computer? Camera? Such a big working area and so few outlets.
I’m annoyed. I see only one plug. In my mathematics one plug equals one device. The place is out-of-date. As for decoration, spartan springs to mind. A clever use of nothingness and yet everything. The sheer curtains are faux, yet they add body and volume to the carriage-like room. They may have no function. But they add style. The concept works especially at night when the touch of soft lighting adds a tinge of sexiness to the room.
And then there’s the bed. The view from the bed. Wow. Zzzzzzz.
If there was ever an award for bathroom space, this hotel would be nominated.
The contrasting dark mosaic wall tiles are countered by large swathes of white floor tiles and an imposing, rectangular ceramic bath tub. “His and her” washbasins are separated by a recessed and padded two-seater bench. A rain forest shower has no doors. The toilet has floor to ceiling clouded glass for privacy.
Everything in the bathroom seems to glint, but never too bright to be offensive: mirrors, down lights, wall tiles, chrome taps and towel rails.
The space may be angular and moody, yet it was neutral in tone and soft in outcome.
The pool wraps around the ocean side of the hotel, cut at intervals by two foot bridges giving access to the beach and road below. A smattering of umbrellas provide perfect shade, with comfy lounges. Troops of attentive staff bustle too and fro between the bar and restaurant. You want for very little, at any one time.
There is almost no noise or traffic emanating from the road; in fact I barely remembered it was there. And for the little relaxation time I did have to myself, I did choose to be by the swimming pool mostly. The beach is fabulous in the morning, prior to 9.30am, and then the sun and noise kicks in.
I’m never one to sit on my hands when I’m bugged by something and such was the case with the Double-Six Luxury Hotel. It had nothing to do with the hotel itself. It had everything to do with its surroundings. I was fearful that guests would be blighted by noise because of neighbouring bars and beach entertainment.
I know you don’t expect travel writers or bloggers to say this kind of thing, but I take my job very seriously. My comments and opinions carry enormous weight especially when they are read by over 20,000 people. My readers and clients expect the truth and not a fluffy fill for staying somewhere free.
My booking at the Double-Six was driven by a quest for knowledge. It was not a holiday for me. I was on a mission of discovery. I needed to know if noise was an issue. I did not book the hotel to sit by the pool and sup on fine food and cocktails. Unwittingly, my hotel room was a prime location to determine this. Thankfully, I have good news to report.
First of all, the balcony doors are thick glass and almost nothing penetrates through them. Sure, the beach is a hive of activity as the sun sets and the crowds dig into their bean bags and cocktails. Live music is pervasive and generally awful (in that the musicians cannot sing in tune). But it is not offensively loud. The double-glazed balcony doors filter out the music so effectively that you are only left with muted vocals. The bad news is that if they cannot sing in tune, you left with a free comedy show that sounds like muffled out-takes from the worst X-Factor auditions! The good news is that the live music does not last long.
I’m no longer the spritely teenager that parties late into the night. I tend to hit the hay early and at no time was I woken by anything more than the sound of waves crushing on the beach. Even that was mildly disturbing, despite the fact that I have my own beach house that is closer to the water and that too, wakes me up sometimes.
The loudest noise comes from the Coccoon Bar to the left, but you almost have to be there to experience the worst of it. You are generally shielded by the Double-Six Luxury Hotel as the Coccoon is recessed back from the road. Here they have a happy hour, two-for-one session, that is abrasively loud but does not last long into the night. But if you want to watch the odd drunk person wallowing by the water’s edge, knock yourself out. It’s not very inviting and I actually never heard the bar again during my stay. That being said, I still have this haunting image of a large, braided Irish woman, double fisting cocktails into her mouth and smoking at the same time!
Food & Dining
The Double-Six offers a good choice of dining venues. On this visit, I mostly stuck to the poolside for my early morning breakfast, as I had to film before guests woke up. I had the choice of eating on the level above, at the Seminyak Italian Food, but I did that before. What I can say is how good the food is at both locations. I’m a bit of a food snob when it comes to breakfasts and I rate the Double-Six in the top 10 places in Seminyak. The coffee was excellent, service impeccable, bread choices wonderful and every time, my eggs benedict cooked to perfection. Juices were ripe and fresh. What more could I ask for but a perfect setting which I got.
Rooftop Sunset Bar
I have mixed thoughts about the Rooftop Sunset Bar and that’s because I have been to so many great rooftop bars in the world. This, however, is not one of them.
Sure, the view is impressive, covering 1700 square meters, but where are the people?
The measure of a good rooftop bar is the crowd. This is the real litmus test.
On the three occasions I visited, the patrons would have dwindled into about 20 square meters. Even the ‘pods’ or circular seated areas (that you pay a premium) for were only 50% full. Mind you, I was always early (around 9 o’clock). At that time, the music was daggy and 80ish, and in some ways, so was the disco décor. The dance floor was always empty. Yet I could not help feeling that this was a good thing. Too many people would mean too much bustle and probably, excessive noise. I think I’ll sit on the fence on this one. May be next time I visit I’ll stay away longer to experience the night life.
I did visit the beach every night and I have to say I loved the chilled out, laid back vibe there. Colours fill the sands everywhere from the bean bags to bamboo poles and flags. But buyers beware, service is slow and you do get the token beach hawkers constantly trying to flog you trinkets or substandard paintings or neon, flashing toys.
I have learnt again, never to judge a book by its cover. If I ever had a negative thought before my stay, or preconceived judgement, they have all been dispelled now.
The Double-Six Luxury Hotel is a truly wonderful location both for privacy, exclusivity and access.
The beachfront offers tranquillity and calm and you never lose the feeling of privacy. It kind of sits in its own enclave, slightly raised above the road and you barely see or hear anyone approaching from the beach. I spent most of my limited time by the swimming pool, using the beach only for morning or evening walks.
The rooms are stunning and truly spacious. Bar the absence of electrical plugs catering for modern travellers, I found nothing to fault.The staff deserve significant and standout praise. From the front desk check-in and bellhops, to waiters, waitresses and pool staff, everyone was impeccably dressed, kind and courteous.
Double-Six offers free golf cart shuttle rides to Seminyak Square or further towards the Bintang Market (Downtown Villas). I advocate using them to experience more of the Seminyak area and to enhance your hotel stay.