Barefoot and beautiful

Sunset at Monty's
Sunset at Monte’s Reef Resort

The flight attendant calls us darl and signals that we’ve arrived in Queensland. We step off the plane into a different world. A world of wet heat, wide-open roads and the air-conditioner turned up full. It’s a two hour drive through squalling showers, cane fields and rotting old homesteads before we turn off the highway and head for turquoise water and white sand.

Monte’s Reef Resort is tucked away on strip of beach on the tip of Cape Gloucester. It’s about 45 minutes north of Airlie Beach, three hours by sea. This secluded tropical hideaway will be the backdrop for Justin and Brigitte’s wedding.

Judda was born and bred in St Arnaud. I shared a house with him in Melbourne for a year during our time at Uni. He’s a genuinely great bloke but back then I assumed he was an old man stuck in a young man’s body. It turns out he was just meant to be a Queenslander. The place suits him to a tee. Wake at five and head to bed at eight. Drinking mid-strength XXXX for breakfast. Singlet and thongs as standard pub attire. Fishing as part of the daily routine. Brigitte is from ‘broland but found her way to the Whitsundays where she met Judd. She’s smart as a tack, doesn’t mind a drink and calls Judd out on his bullshit. Yep, it’s safe to say that they are a match made in heaven.

Queensland has a different concept of time. It gets light early and the sun is set by six. Everything is more relaxed, there’s no rush, deadlines don’t matter. Things will happen when they happen, if not today then probably tomorrow. In the meantime, just enjoy the sun and the sand.

People have travelled from around the world for the wedding. Old friends, people who haven’t seen one another for years, catch up on old times. For others, introductions are made and new friendships are quickly forged. Judd and Bridgette’s big day is upon us before we know it.

It’s a cracking day, Shag and Gloucester islands provide a backdrop fit for any postcard. Smart casual is the suggested dress code. Shoes are optional. I consider throwing on a tie but the Chief Adviser wisely points out that one should never dress more formally than the groom. Shirt and shorts it is.

Guests drift down to the foreshore. It’s impossible to get over excited, the atmosphere is too chilled, but there is a sense of relaxed anticipation. People mill about, sharing beers and laughs.

The sun is high in the sky when the hum of the single prop engine signals the start of the shoeless formalities. A small speck on the horizon becomes recognisable as the seaplane arches around Shag Island. The bridal party glides gracefully through the middle of the bay then taxis into shore. Brigitte looks stunning stepping off the plane onto the sand. Judda’s smile is as big as Queensland.

Our friends commit to a shared future with the exchange of vows on the beach. We toast their health and happiness and the party begins.

Getting your toggs off in Thailand

Beach goers get their kit off in Phuket
Beach goers get their kit off in Phuket

Having done a lot of swimming in my time I was very comfortable with my Speedo wearing ability. I was quite confident on my ability to hold my own going into our trip to Thailand. Oh, how wrong I was!

When you go on a big trip it often gets to the point where you need to take a holiday from your holiday. That is what we headed to Thailand for and that is what the Thai tourism industry is banking on. Tourism certainly is big business there: according to the yellow bible (South East Asia on a Shoestring Lonely Planet) Thailand received 13 million foreign visitors in 2006.

From my experience, all of them like wearing Speedos. In the two weeks we spent lazing on Thai beaches (Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket) I was inequitably found out as a tin-pot dick-togg wearing pretender incapable of smuggling a budgie with any semblance of dignity.

Maybe, the lack of coconut and baby oil on my skin contributed to my incompetence. Maybe it was that I was loath to spend entire days frying myself in the sun.

Either way I just couldn’t compete with a dizzying multitude of European men wearing skimpy, high-cut, multi-coloured slug huggers all with clapt-out bog-catcher arses.

Not to be outdone, the women get amongst the skimpfest as well. It seems Thailand is the place to get your boosies out. And age is no obstacle, in fact it seems the older, more saggy and wrinkly they are the more likely they are to have their bits out. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great. I’m just too prudish to get amongst it.

With tourism being such a massive industry many of Thailand’s beach areas are super developed and westernised but it is still a great place to unwind from the rigors of Asian travel. It also provides the ideal setting to put your sun and skimp skills to the test against some really stiff competition.