Super Sassy Mama Skye Wellington takes us through her options for turning 40 in Singapore, and it’s got us hankering for our next birthday!
The prospect of turning 40 is not filling me with feelings of fabulousness. I know a lot of people are down with the big 4-0 and are ready to breeze on in to a new decade but I’ve got more of a ‘kindly f-off forties and come back in ten years’ sentiment going on. Nonetheless, 40 is not listening and the months are marching on and soon this milestone will happen to me. In my head, 40 represents a great dividing range between irresponsibility and spontaneity on one side (which, let’s face it, are places I don’t get to visit very often now that I’ve got kids but I like to know they’re there – just like New Zealand and Wednesday nights at Donna Carmela’s), and the kind of predictability that dumps me in the category of people that say life begins at 40.
So, while most of me wants to crawl under the sheets and wait for ‘life’ to start with little in the way of fanfare, a small part of me thinks I owe it the other 39 years to be a bit reckless, a lot grateful, and celebrate a life lived so far with friends and family. Instead of lamenting the lines and the things I haven’t done (climb a mountain, master a second language, read an instruction manual, categorise an album out of millions of digital photos), I should embrace the lucky position I’m in to enjoy such a good life at my age, because lots of people are not.
With that in mind, my bid to settle on a suitable celebration led me to consult a focus group (successive drinks with friends on successive occasions), who, in their infinite wisdom, have helped to narrow down a few suitable themes: spiritual solo, physical challenge, mind-altering, pampering, and Paris. These categories have turned up some options that just might be interesting to others questing to mark a milestone. Or you know, just because…
Scale Mt Kinabalu (climb a mountain – tick!)
Okay, my mum’s done this. Recently. She’s 65. According to her, the trick is to cover it in three days rather than two. This combats the altitude sickness that prevents even the fittest of people from making the summit. However, it also helps to prep by walking daily for a few months leading up to the expedition, preferably on a route that features some hills. Apparently, I will be rewarded with views above the clouds, some toned calves and a feeling of accomplishment. But then I have to descend, which is apparently harder than the climb up. Hence the calves.
The Facts: Mt Kinabalu is situated within the World Heritage Site of Kinabalu Park and is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. It is home to over 5,000 plant species. Which is great but my mum brushed up against one of these and acquired a weird botanical rash that didn’t want to disappear for ages.
The Feeling: It’s an imminently conquerable peak (which I feel unqualified to state but that’s what the website says), so you can lay claim to a satisfying feeling of accomplishment without undergoing hardcore training. And it’s fun to do as a group. But don’t be surprised if your friends resent you for a while afterwards. It’s still hard.
Eye-opening experience at Ka Jok See
This party place is like an urban myth: hard to find, hard to get into and hard to recover from. But it’s very much real, hard to replicate and worth the effort. If you ever meet someone that’s been they’ll probably tell you it’s one of the best nights they’ve ever had but they’re not quite sure it actually happened. Masquerading as a quaint little restaurant in Phuket, it transforms into the ultimate night out even before you finish your food (which just keeps coming until you ask it to stop, as do the liquid concoctions). What makes it so good? Well you probably won’t get a straight answer on this from anyone. Suffice to say that the volume goes up, tables are moved back, instruments and props come out and your body gets down.
The Facts: Very hard to pin down since it’s a bohemian establishment that likes to fly under the radar. You must book. The proprietor can be selective and has been known to turn people away, booking or no. If you get in, dancing is non negotiable, anything goes and you may end up on a table and/or sans shirt.
The Feeling: Studio 54 anyone? People describe their experience here like a visit to wonderland. A memorable, hedonistic night with a group of friends should happen to everyone at least once. Rather than whip out your phone ready to snap pics, best to put down that mobile and live in the moment. Down the rabbit hole!
Quiet the mind with Vipassana
This is not for the faint-hearted. Ten days of silence and introspection is clearly confronting. But if the idea of entering a new era with a cleansed and body sounds uplifting, then this self-imposed exile conducted on nearby St John’s Island could be worthwhile. Personally, it’s something I considered years ago in the Blue Mountains but the timing wasn’t right. Now that I’ve got kids, being cut off from everyone for over a week sounds appealing. But when you read the fine print, you realise this course requires a big commitment. Vipassana is a meditation technique that employs silence to allow self-purification by self-observation. You wake at 4am daily to meditate and thereafter the day is punctuated by a series of group or solo meditation sessions in between meals until 9:30pm. All the while not making contact with anyone verbally, physically or through gestures, except at question time where you may ask basic questions to assist your practice or comment on your health or needs. This means you have plenty of time to examine some deep-seated thoughts and feelings – some of which you know about and some that you didn’t even know existed. Surprise! Pandora’s Box!
The Facts: While I realise as I write this that I’m not really selling the concept very well (there’s no camouflaging extreme navel-gazing leading to enlightenment as easy or pretty), people that have undergone the course are so rewarded by the experience that they fork out for others to do it too. So yes, it’s free, in a sense.
The Feeling: Excruciating? Yes. Lonely? Probably. Cleansing? Definitely. Not to sound glib, but who doesn’t want to be a Jedi Master and live in a highly evolved place where you banish negativity, epitomise calm and deliver goodness to the universe for everyone?
Party in Paris
Clichéd and obvious? Perhaps. Do we really care? Non. Being from the southern hemisphere, with trips to the City of Light a rarity, I permanently see the land of la vie en rose through rose-tinted glasses. And if Champagne, shopping, bistros, and baguettes ever get tiresome, that’s when I’ll know I’ve become the same. But that doesn’t mean doing the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Champs Elysses necessarily. With the 4-0 in mind, its got girls’ trip written all over it like a Stephen Sprouse for Louis Vuitton graffiti bag. As the love-locks weighing down the Pont des Arts are unshackled, that’s how I want to roll. I’ll save romance with the other half for the next entry (see below).
The Facts: We would pass up Airbnb on this occasion to stay at the magnificent Saint James. But realistically it would be a boutique hotel with a slightly more accessible price tag, like Hotel Recamier (shopping central in St Germain des Pres) or Hotel du Petit Moulin (designed by Lacroix, set in an old boulangerie and smack bang in the Marais). After touring in a vintage Citroen while sipping Ruinart bubbles care of Cedric’s Tours, we would stare in awe at Monet’s mural of lilies in L’Orangerie, shop the Haut Marais and Rue de Charonne (you won’t find haute couture but you will spot familiar faces like Isabel Marant and Repetto amongst concept stores and boutiques like So We Are), seek out unusual Paris sights like the tiny vineyard in Montmartre or the natural waterfalls in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, stop for an outdoor aperitif at Rosa Bonheur, and back up a fancy meal at le Restaurant de la Gare with a Pink Flamingo Pizza the following night. Bliss!
The Feeling: Ditto the bliss. Need I say more?
Glamping on Moyo Island
My ultimate glamping trip would be the Richard Branson-owned Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco but I’m more than happy to go with something closer to home. Amanwana on the Indonesian Island of Moyo would make for a special birthday experience with my partner in crime. In fact, with 7 different dive sites nearby, it’s so perfect for him that we might have to come back to enjoy this barefoot luxe commune with nature for his birthday, too (yep, he’s younger than me, which may explain a bit of my angst). Other than diving, should you need to do much else apart from passing out while reading a book on the beach, you can trek one of the seven trails criss-crossing the 350 sq km island and spot macaque monkeys and ospreys. The various environments to explore on foot include cliffs, jungle, bays and caves. The food is supposed to be pretty amazing too, which you can enjoy al fresco on the beach under the stars or onboard a luxury vessel.
The Facts: Owned by the Aman Hotel Group, Amanwana can be accessed by boat via Lombok, and the island is surrounded by the Flores Sea, home to sea turtles and reef sharks. There are only 20 “tents” (used loosely here – they’re pretty luxurious and have solid foundations) and you can choose a position by the ocean or in the jungle.
The Feeling: Different to the camping trips I took as a kid, this is a place to relax, recharge and do not much. The Jungle Cove Spa helps with this. As does the open-air pavilion bar. After a few drinks there I’m sure I can almost pretend to be Ursula Andress rising from the sea in a white bikini if the husband can be a young Sean Connery. Not happening.
So, there you go…. Some over-top, some active, some confronting and some relaxing ideas for a milestone birthday. But you know what? My birthday falls on a Sunday this year, so maybe I’ll just settle for a Champagne brunch. And that would be ok too!