Tales of the Traveller

Letting off steam

One of the great things about travel is the chance to occasionally enjoy a sauna or steam bath when staying at an upmarket hotel. Sure, you could do it at home on a regular basis but there never seems to be enough time or it’s just too much hassle. Oh, and the harsh reality that you cannot afford a home steam bath. Aaaagh!

So it was that I was dreaming about re-acquainting myself with the facilities at The Sheraton in Suzhou, China.

In the early morning I wandered out front and began my vigorous walk, up and down the hotel’s unique arched driveway that resembles the Great Wall. Half an hour later, I was ready for the cleansing comfort of some heat treatment and wandered down to the health club. Ripping off my gear and having a quick shower, I wandered round the corner to be greeted by a sauna whose door had been left wide open. An angry growl erupted from my throat but was quickly replaced by a howl of anguish as I noticed the steam room, too, had been violated in just the same way! How could anyone be so stupid or callously indifferent as to leave open the doors of a steam room and a sauna? You’d take ’em out and shoot ’em for a lesser crime.

A winged diaspora

Some two decades ago, Australia confronted a national crisis when airline pilots took-on the national government in a dispute over pay and conditions. A stalemate ensued which led eventually to a national strike by the pilots which crippled the country, to the extent that the air force was mobilised to conduct emergency flights. The government prevailed and many of the nation’s pilots were forced overseas to continue their careers.

As a consequence, it is not uncommon to hear a dinky-di Aussie accent (even if somewhat toned-down by years living offshore) boom out through the cabin as the pilot does his official welcome to passengers. I’ve heard these Aussie accents on numerous international airlines as well as several Asian regional airlines and even DragonAir internal Chinese flights.

It’s no reflection on the abilities of pilots of every other nationality but, when you are hurtling through thin air many miles above the earth’s crust in a tiny metal cylinder that is disobeying gravity by means unfathomable to the ordinary bloke, it’s just somehow comforting to think an Aussie is responsible for keeping it up there.