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Security tips before you leave home

With the excitement of packing your bag before you travel, make sure home security is a priority. Unfortunately in this day and age we have to be aware of who might see our home as a potential pay day so do ensure your home is not a possible target for break and enter.

Here are some ideas which I have found handy, for a month, a week or even for a weekend away. This is the time that great neighbours are blessings if they keep an eye on your home and even let you know if the kids throw a party; don’t forget to give them your holiday contact details. This works both ways of course as you can return the favour when they go on holidays.

To make your home look lived in:

  • red-letterbox-1414527-639x586Install timers on lamps around your home, there are ones that turn on at a preset time or when it gets dark. Even having a radio on timer will give your home the ‘lived in’ feel.
  • Outdoor lights ideally should be fitted with motion detectors, which trigger when someone is in proximity of the sensor, also great for security year round.
  • Place your mail, newspapers or deliveries on hold or have someone collect your mail daily. A ‘no junk mail’ sign on your letterbox keeps it free from filling up, although some junk mail deliverers cannot read! Australia Post can place your mail on hold for a small fee; make sure to organize this service well in advance.
  • If you are going away for quite awhile, have a friend or a lawn mowing service attend to your garden and water your plants.

Home safety tips:

  • Unplug all electrical appliances, air-conditioners, except fridges, but be careful… I recently unplugged the fridge by accident and came home to ruined food and a dreadful smell. This also helps to save electricity and to avoid problems with electrical outages.
  • If going away for over a week, turn off your internal water valve to prevent the risk of flooding from a broken pipe. These things seem to happen when you are not home! Lucky us, we had a call from our lovely neighbour last month to say there was water flowing down the front of our apartment, she turned off the water and called my son-in-law who discovered a burst pipe.
  • If possible, lower the heat setting on your hot water system to save electricity. Remember to turn the heat back up when you arrive home.

Security tips:

  • vintage-keys-1154925-639x954Lock all doors and windows; don’t leave keys inside in any locks. Do not leave a key hidden outside the house; chances are it may be found. Leave a key with a trusted person who can check on your home now and then.
  • A simple hint for extra security is to drop a rod into the tracks of sliding windows and doors.
  • Deadlocks are also a good idea, as it stops a burglar walking out the door with your TV…looks a bit strange to have a TV going through the window!
  • Stow away valuables, including hard drives with your valued photos or work.
  • Disconnect the electrical pad on the electric garage door, as a potential burglar may be able to figure out the code to trigger the door open. Instead use a strong lock.
  • Marking your valuable property using the ‘Police Property Identification System’ is also a good idea. Information is on the Queensland Police website, I am sure it is the same in other states and countries.
  • Make sure your home and contents insurance is up to date and that you have old for new or a reasonable amount that will cover purchase of new goods, how often do you hear of people that have not reviewed their insurance and then a flood, fire or theft happens and they can’t afford to replace the goods.

I find these simple ideas help me unwind and enjoy the excitement of preparation, the flight and my holiday.

Wishing you a fabulous holiday, you deserve it.

Happy Shopping


November 2015 Newsletter

I am so excited as the latest version of Hot Spots to Shop Bangkok has just arrived from our HotSpotsToShop-Bangkokprinter it is available to purchase from our website or as an eBook from Books Mango or Amazon.

In October I took part in the Nurses for Nurses Network Medical Tourism Trip to Bangkok, and while I was there for my knowledge of shopping in Bangkok I tagged along for the medical part of the tour as so many people ask me about the facilities available in Bangkok.
It was interesting to see how the Nurses’ perceptions about Medical Tourism and Service Provision in Bangkok changed as they visited both Bumrungrad & Bangkok Hospitals. Both hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), a US-based organization widely seen as the gold standard for top-level healthcare service providers worldwide so the treatment patients receive there is of the highest standard.
I have a Bangkok based friend who is receiving treatment at the over 580 bed Bumrungrad Hospital so while I was familiar with the hospital had not seen behind the scenes facilities and I certainly was impressed. The amenities were spotlessly clean with equipment and systems in place that were equal to if not better, than many Western countries.
The rooms were more like suites in a hotel, with many having a separate kitchenette area and dining and living area for family members. As I have written before there are onsite shops such as a 7/ 11 store, lovely deli and many restaurants. Interpreters are available if required but there was plenty signage and instructions in English and all staff speak English.
Both hospitals attract patients from the USA, Europe, Middle East, the Pacific and other Asian countries and are marketed strongly in these markets, Bumrungrad Hospital even has an office in Sydney.
Of course it was not all serious and I was able to show them around all my favourite shopping



haunts. As there were 21 women and a few men there was a wide variety in what everybody wanted to see and do. A few that had bought old pieces of jewellery so I was able to introduce them to local jeweller Fluke and I think I was excited as the girls when they received their remodelled pieces. Butterfly brooch
Many nurses visited tailors and dressmakers, shopped the markets, we saw the new malls, went out to dinner at a couple of venues and even saw the Calypso Cabaret situated at Asiatique (a great indoor outdoor market and tourism complex).
There is already talk of another Nurse tour in 2016 and perhaps a tour for teachers and another for keen cooks so I will keep you posted.
For the seond year in a row Bruce & I were thrilled when our country pub the New Royal at Rubyvale once again won the Queensland Hotel Association Best Bush Pub Award. Our lovely little pub attracts sapphire Bar photo by Fredafossickers from all over Australian and overseas. The town of Rubyvale is a speck on the map located 17 kilometres from the Capricorn Highway, which connects Emerald and Longreach. If you out that way and would love some beautiful sapphire do come and visit us.

During the year at Hot Spots to Shop we had tried to come up with some items that would benefit travellers so if you are looking for a Christmas gift why not a look have and you never know you may just win two nights’ accommodation at the Rembrandt. You can even buy QBE Insurance through the site at very competitive prices and go in the competition.
Christmas Facebook advert no2
Happy shopping & travels Wendy

Helpful hints for our next shopping tour

As we get closer to our departure date, here are some ideas to help you be well prepared for a beautiful time in Bangkok.

Check your passport. Under Thai Law your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the period you intend to stay in Thailand.

Make photocopies, of your passport credit cards and airline tickets. Keep copies at home and take a copy with you. Keep the copies in a separate place to the originals or keep in your cloud address.

You don’t need to organise a visa before you go. You will be given a visa on arrival if you are travelling on an Australian passport; it is just a matter of processing on arrival at Thailand immigration.

The key to successful packing. Lay everything out that you think you will need, and then halve it. Pack only a few pairs of comfortable shoes as you will be on your feet for long periods when you are bargain hunting. I also use baby powder in my shoes to prevent any blisters developing. If you have one large and one small suitcase, you can pack one inside the other for the trip to Bangkok. I have a cloth suitcase that I always take with me, even if only to pack my dirty washing in for the trip home, I have it shrink wrapped at the airport and it protects it and keeps it safe. Alternatively, suitcases are cheap in Bangkok.

If you want to have clothes copied remember you won’t be able to wear those clothes while the dressmaker has them.

Shopping. If there is a something in particular you would like to buy in Bangkok, do some research before you go, so that you have an idea of its cost in Australia. If you wish to have old jewellery or stones set in your own design, or clothes tailored made, take photos, sketches, and swatches of material or anything else that will make it as easy as possible to describe what you want to the vendor. Ladies dressmakers are not a real bargain in Bangkok although the workmanship is excellent. I am happy to introduce you to my fantastic little jeweller and I also have a brilliant men’s tailor, if your man is not coming, Raja’s will copy a shirt or trousers you bring with you and deliver the finished items to our hotel. If you want jewellery or clothes made please let me know on the first day so we can go there early and order and you get a chance to check jewellery or have a fitting for clothes.

Medical needs. Don’t forget to take sun block and plenty of moisturiser, although pharmacies such as Hong Kong chain Watsons and British chain Boots are spread around the city. If you take any medication, make sure you have sufficient supplies for the trip, and preferably a little extra in case of delayed flights. I always carry a copy of my prescriptions with my safe papers.

Relax, and smile. We are going to have so much fun, and Thailand is the land of smiles. If you show the people you’re happy, they will look after you. Bangkok, which has a population of more than 8 million, is both congested and polluted however I have never felt threatened. Of course, as with any other large city in the world, it pays to be sensible and avoid unnecessary risks. Most importantly, keep your sense of humour at all times, and relax and enjoy what is a truly unique experience.


The Thai people and culture. Thais are conservative people, although when you walk down Pat Pong, you soon realize that, for a Buddhist country, they have very relaxed attitude towards sex. When it comes to dress a strict dress code applies at sacred sites such as the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Budda and visitors must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves and socks if they are wearing sandals (!!). Women must be similarly modestly dressed which means no see-through clothes or bare shoulders. You must remove your shoes prior to entering a Wat so slip on shoes are a good idea

Bangkok enjoys a tropical climate, and we will be there at the end of the monsoonal weather, we may not get rain however if it does rain it will happen at around 4pm and it can be very heavy. Don’t worry; there are plastic rain-coats and umbrella stalls on every corner. Thais are very keen on “cool” air conditioning so it is a good idea to take a shawl in the evening. A shawl will also come in handy on your flight to Bangkok and you might need it on our trip to the River Kwai, as buses can also be super cool.

The Hotel. Electricity in Thailand is 200 volts and 50 cycles per seconds. The Rembrandt Hotel has power points compatible with Australian ones. There is tea making facilities in every room plus a hair dryer and a decent make mirror, as well as bath robe and slippers. I love their lemon grass scented toiletries. There is a PC in the Executive lounge for guests use but if you have a laptop or iPad you can get access in your room.

Tipping. Although tipping is not a part of the Thai culture customer service staff in hotels and at tourist destinations are now geared towards assisting tourists. I would make my decision based on the type of service you receive and what you would do in the same situation at home and tip accordantly. I always tip the door boys or girls at the end of my stay as they are always very helpful getting taxis and arranging the hotel’s tuk tuk. I also usually tip the equivalent of a dollar per bag for delivery to my room, but this is not compulsory; if you intend to do this make sure you have some small notes.

Phones and SIMs. If you have a spare phone at home take it and as you leave the departure area at Bangkok airport you can purchase a SIM card for your phone as it is a very cheap and a good way to stay in contact with your hotel, your travel companions, your tailor or jeweller. If you’re using your existing mobile, check with your provider that your phone is ‘unlocked,’ so you can use the temporary

SIM. The cost of phone calls between Australia and Bangkok are very high. Check out apps like Viber (free calls and texts) or Whatsapp (free texts) or set up a Skype account on your laptop or mobile if you want to stay in touch at home.

Banking. Let your credit card company know that you are travelling to Bangkok so they don’t think your card is being used without your knowledge. Most banks provide travel cards that you can load up with Australian Dollars and use as a Bpay option anywhere there’s an EFTPOS machine. There may be a minimal fee to generate the card, but it means you can pay in any currency you choose without fees or having to withdraw cash (which usually incurs fees). Ask your banking institution for more details.

If you have any questions I am happy to answer them, email me at

Happy shopping Wendy

Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy 2015

We are coming to the end of what has been a challenging year for me personally but I have great hopes for 2015. Things started to look up for us in October when our little country pub the New Royal at Rubyvale in the Sapphire Gemfields won Queensland Hotel Associations Best Bush Pub.

Wendy & Bruce at QHA Awards 2It was a gala night at the Convention Centre in Brisbane and it was great to have our little Aussie battler recognised among pubs, clubs, resorts and hotels from around the State. We came out to Rubyvale over three years ago now and took over the pub which attracts sapphire fossickers from all over Australian and overseas. Rubyvale itself is a speck on the map located 17 kilometres from the Capricorn Highway, which runs from Emerald to Longreach and is a small township and a minute epicentre vital to the Central Queensland Gemfields. At the 2006 census, Rubyvale had a population of 510.The Gemfields here are acknowledged as the largest sapphire producing area in the Southern Hemisphere and Rubyvale is easily found just 8 kilometres from the town of Sapphire. In the 106 years since our little pub was built, and then named The Royal Hotel, rather than The New Royal Hotel, its history and fortunes have mirrored those of the surrounding Central Queensland gem fields. Some years have been rich with good fortune, buzzing with visitors and activity and The Royal sparkled as the centre of attention in the region. In other less fortunate years for miners, and the years that stretched across the depression, war times and the ebb and flow of economic and social change, The Royal sat quietly, waiting for the good times to return. But always this quintessential Aussie Bush Pub has remained a place where travellers and locals alike can find a seat, a friendly word, cold beer, tasty meals, stories (lots of hilarious and doubtful stories!) and the kind of unpretentious welcome unique to Aussie bush pubs. Rubyvale’s infrastructure boasts The New Royal Hotel, a general store, a café, post office, and otherwise many proud locally run gem galleries and tourist mines. It’s a great area for sapphire fossicking and a friendly town where the locals like to welcome visitors. Designated fossicking areas are located in and around the township include the intriguingly named nearby areas of Reward, Scrub Head, Divide, Middle Ridge and Tomahawk Creek. The area can get up to 40’C during summer which has been most of this week, and can reach 0°C in winter and this year we had frosts which didn’t do our lovely garden a lot of good. The original pub was built in 1908 by an enterprising widow Kate Leahy and her son William who built a permanent hotel on the site of today’s hotel and called it Royal Hotel. They also owned a butchery and a bakery in the town. Local folklore says that Mrs Leahy did not have the money left over to furnish the hotel so borrowed crockery and cutlery from friends in the area and returned it once she had been give the okay to commence trading by licensing inspectors. Trade varied over the years with the rise and fall of the sapphire miners and in 1949 an ABC journalist reported that there were around 16 people living in Rubyvale but there was a hotel, two stores, a post office, garage, the hall and about 40 to 50 modest dwellings. However at the hotel there was no beer as there were not enough people in town on a week day to drink a five gallon keg. Eventually in 1961 the licence of the Royal Hotel was surrendered due to lack of custom. In 1982 a Royal Hotel 1hotel set was constructed behind the old storeroom for shooting of the film Buddies. In 1987 the original Royal Hotel, which was by this stage a grocery shop, residence and two gem shops burnt down! There was nothing the Rubyvale or Emerald Fire Brigades could do. In 1997 some ten years later, when the New Royal Hotel at Rubyvale was built over 700 patrons attending the grand opening. Subsequently the hotel changed hands in 2004 and due to the vagaries of business was placed into receivership in 2009. Bruce and I brought the New Royal in 2011 and commenced a heartfelt program of rejuvenation, maintenance and renovation, restoring the heart and soul of Rubyvale’s iconic pub and preparing it for its next generation of miners, diners, and visitors from throughout Australia and occasionally throughout the world!

Come and visit us and check out the local mines, Miners Heritage was originally a working mine but today the owners Kerrie and Kim conduct tours and they also do beautiful jewellery as they formally owned a jewellery shop in the Brisbane Arcade. Jane and Micheal who have the local motel, a jewellery shop and an observatory with a powerful 14” Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope, perfect for seeing the magnificent clusters and colours of stars which shine so brightly in the outback. In the little town centre Peter and Eileen run a lovely café and shop and Anne is just across the road runs a shop in conjunction with her husband, Dave who cuts gems and runs tours with his brother Keith. Bobby Dazzler mine and café is short walk from the pub and there are many really good jewellers dotted around the area and we have had many guests who have found their own sapphire and had it cut and made into lovely rings, earrings and pendants. Come for a weekend in 2015 and stay in one of our delightful log cabins set in  pleasant native gardens. .

Group in foyerI was in Bangkok last week helping some lovely shoppers experience the delights of Bangkok, we stayed at the wonderful Rembrandt Hotel, enjoyed a cooking class there and of course a farewell dinner at their fabulous Indian restaurant . We shopped up a storm and  we bought exciting Christmas gifts and experienced the twice yearly Jim Thompson sale at the convention centre.

We will have more tours in 2015 so why don’t you join us?

Meanwhile  trust you all have a wonderful  time with family and friends over the holidays and I hope all your dreams come true in 2015, do hope that includes some travel.

Happy travels Wendy

Newsletter November 2014

It has been so long since I have written but I have had a couple of health issues and also have been working very hard on my book Shop, Eat and Sleep Australia.

The book will raise funds for Ovarian Cancer Australia and Mater Research for further research and education into Ovarian Cancer. I have been lucky enough to have some well-known Australia women agree to take part and give their thoughts and secrets about where to shop, eat have a coffee or just enjoy their home town or an area close to their heart. We have some incredible woman in Australia, some great tourist destinations and I am really excited about putting these together and at the same time raising money for a charity close to my heart.

Also I am thrilled about our new website and services we are planning to add to our business in the future, I am adding a blog so you can keep up with that I am doing but more about all that later.

I was also privileged in October to travel to Vietnam with 10 lucky women to enjoy shopping, eating, sightseeing, having clothes and shoes made and just having wonderful time.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We all met up in Hanoi where we were shown the local sights by a wonderful guide I have used before Bel, not only did Bel show us the sights but gave us great insights into the lives of women in Vietnam. We shopped for the beautiful Vietnamese Lacquer ware and saw how it was made; pottery and pearls were also on the list of exciting purchases.

Bel also came with us when we travelled up to Halong Bay and spent a great night out on the water, sitting drinking a gin and tonic whist watching the sunset over the water, it was so relaxing and for me a highlight of the trip.    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hoi An came next, this lovely Cultural World Heritage listed area is a firm favourite of mine, with its 400 year old Japanese and various. All the girls made their first call the dressmakers, I use Yaly, it’s probably the biggest in town and maybe a wee bit more expensive but the quality of both the fabric and workmanship is excellent. They also do shoes so not only were the girls busy ordering shoes but boots for those from cooler climates.

We were lucky to be there for the Hoi An Full Moon Festival which is held on every 14th day of the lunar month. The Old Quarter of Hoi An ancient town switches off its electric lights and the brightly coloured lanterns come out, we had great fun setting our little candle lanterns out on the river and making dishes. We loved the markets with their array of spices and although the fish did nto smell all that brilliant it was still fun wandering through the markets.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 Not up to Angkor but the trip to My Son was magical and give us an appreciation of the ancient Champa Kingdom.

Finally it was Ho Chi Ming City and from there a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels where we wondered at the ability to live in such basic living conditions.

In between shopping and eating we managed visits to the Old Post Office, Reunion Palace and Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral. We finished our tour off with farewell drinks at the Sky bar looking out over the city.

On my way home I called into Bangkok, as your do, for a spot of shopping! There were very few tourists around, making access to shops and places of interest very easy, there were heaps of bargains. Nobody reported seeing any trouble so why not take advantage of the great prices and visit Bangkok for a drop of Christmas Shopping and a relaxing time prior to the hectic Christmas Parties. I will be there 8th till the 13th December and the Rembrandt Hotel has put together a wonderful package for all you fabulous shoppers.

Till next month happy shopping Cheers Wendy

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