Saturday, 25 August 2007

Carpe diem

Why is it that all of my little discourses come with some sort of pre curser?

Well this one should be no different. With that sorted I would like to move on to go over the little business trip that I made to Thailand a couple of weeks ago.

I do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly I want to silence my critics who think that it was nothing more than a junket and that no actual work was preformed. Well you know who you are people. Yes you, the one who thinks I just get my holidays paid for. The second and probably better reason is to show the lengths that we go to make sure that our customers are well serviced. I am a pro! That’s it. I know you do not get to see it very often but I am living and breathing. A walking talking Pro! Bask in my glow. Or not, your call. We did a lot, so I am not going to get out of this with a few words. Best get comfortable and read on…

So after the little episode of the disappearing camera, see below, I left home in the back of a taxi. I do not think I said a word to the driver. My thoughts were chaotic. Seemingly in the blink of an eye we were at the airport. I bundled out, checked in, checked out of the country and sat down at the café/bar where one can enjoy a beer and a ciggie in quiet comfort. It took two of each before they called our flight. I waited for the crowd to disappear and be lined through and onto the plane. The trip was uneventful. I sulked and dozed. On getting to Singapore I made my way to the Skytrain that joins terminal 1 with 2 and went to terminal two. I checked in at the transit hotel and bid a pretty average day goodnight.
Woke at 6 and showered, made my way downstairs, collected a coffee and headed for the camera shop. Good thing about airports, they are wide-awake at 7am. So it was at an hour where most of Singapore still slept that I purchased a new Nikon Digital SLR. The D80.

Met up with the Techmexicans, Scott, Domino and Shirley then the 4 of us flew to Bangkok to start our MS OEM tour.

We arrived and headed to the Bangkok Hilton, I think there is a song about that. Though this Hilton is a brand new glassy structure with the full groovy interior. Was awarded an executive suite for my troubles and after I checked the toilet, bath and view, not in that order I don’t think. I scooted downstairs to have lunch with the others. We buffeted for an hour or so catching up with John then site inspected the Hilton. We looked at a couple of their restaurants, their meeting facilities and a couple of their rooms. We looked at their executive level, their pool area (worked out how to have a great cocktail reception their) and then their spa. We finished around 3.20pm and the hotel arranged a boat for us across the river to look at the Shangri-La. Actually we were to look at a mock-up room for the Shangri_la in Chiang Mai. In all my years of inspecting hotels I have never been taken to the carpark, walked down a level taken over to some timber walls and then asked to remove me shoes before proceeding into this complete hall mock-up of the hotel they are building in Chiang Mai. It was weird and interesting all at the same time. Very Shang! The style of the room, not being led through a car park.

I had a bit of time so I made a Be line for the Apple Store where I needed an Apple power point, I had put mine in the front of my camera bag and now someone else owned it! A$25 later I owned one that I can only ever use in Thailand, handy! I was a little depressed; I had some time so I thought I would window shop some. Ambling along gazing around this glass edifice I wandered past a Ripcurl shop to find that they had a sale on. There was obviously something in there I needed, though I just didn’t know what. I am thinking Retail Therapy here. I mumbled hi as I passed the threshold. I thought the girl behind the counter was sitting down then she came round my side and I saw she was only 4’ something. Amazing, she was perfectly proportioned.
I was standing by the watch cabinet when she came up beside me and told me they were all reduced 30%. Really! I replied looking down at her. I oogled the tide predicting watches that could tell you when were and how big the tide was at 1000 pre-programmed beaches for the next 99 years, handy! Hmm handn’t I just had a similar thought?
I then asked for a look and this petite Thai lady again amazed me as she dragged the solid Titanium watch from the case. She used both hands to carry it. The therapy was going well until I caught view of the price tag, Geez! I could get someone to text me the tide everyday for the rest of my life for less than that!
I gave it back telling her how fab it would look on her arm, better yet, she could wear it on her upper arm. She wasn’t amused. To dodge the dagger eyes she was sending I shifted my gaze back to the cabinet and it shifted down a shelf and then another. There on the 3rd shelf was a similar, though this time a stainless behemoth. The real difference, not only the steel, was the workings. This one just told you when high and low tide were. The price was a lot easier to swallow and I told her that she was an amazing salesperson and if it weren’t for her incredible personality I wouldn’t have brought it. Penny dropped around then and she smiled. She realised that I needed to purchase this as part of my therapy. We parted, we had to. It would never have worked out. I was married she was very tiny.
I joined the parades of people and made my way towards the taxi stand. The therapy had worked a treat and I was heading back to the hotel. It was getting late and we were looking at a offsite dinner venue called Dome.
Back in the hotel I showered, shaved and put on glad rags. I tried to wear shoes but my left foot was still a mass of scratches from the surf trip. This would prove a problem later on…
We went to Dome. It is on top of the State tower, about 55 floors I think. You get out of the lift in a Bar called Distil. You can go upstairs to their ‘fine dining’ experience, catch the lift to the Dome their function room or out onto the balcony to Sirocco, the highest outdoor restaurant in the world. If you get a chance to eat there do! It is a lovely experience and though not everyone raved about their meals, the scallops were lovely! Day 2 and breakfast in the executive lounge, The view out the window was amazing. About 270 degrees of the skyline is visible up here. It is a city that stretches from horizon to horizon, even this high in the sky. We viewed a couple more of the rooms that were not available to us the day before, checked out and headed to the airport. Flight TG 1213 arrived in Phuket at 15:25 we were met with a van and we checked into the JW Marriot. We had the obligatory cool towel and juice (one of the better juices on the whole trip). We dropped our bags grabbed our bits and commenced the site visit. We looked at a number of room types, conference facilities and their spa. We also wandered the extensive grounds looking at areas suitable to have dinners for the 150 people that will attend our event. John had a massage booked for him at 5pm and the rest of us met in the coffee shop. Scott and I had a beer while the ladies had softies. It was Domino’s birthday and I ordered a chocolate tart with a candle in it for her. Ulterior motives, I wanted to try the tart! We retired to our rooms, showered cleaned up and met transport in the lobby to take us the nearly hour drive into Phuket town. We were booked for dinner in at Baan Rim Pa. Our table was a cantilevered section of the veranda hanging out of the rocks. Waves crashed on them below us and a constant 10 knot breeze that made both brushing your hair and mozzie spray redundant.
We went into Pantang after dinner. Again I oogled and after one beer we were on the road heading back to the hotel. I was in bed before midnight.
Woke, went back to sleep and didn’t wake again. I then woke at 9am right when we were suppose to be checked out and heading to site recce the Sheraton. I dove through the shower, threw everything in my bag and off we headed to the Sheraton over at Lagoona Bay. Oops!
We wandered around there with the event Manager Gordon. He knew his stuff and even though the place is massive by 11am we were back in the mini bus for the short hop to the Banyan Tree. This place is lovely. The group that is renown for their spas has some lovely accommodation as well./ All of it is villa style. It ranges from very expensive to astronomical. We were driven, golf cart is de rigueur, from villa to villa being more and more amazed. There are a couple though that have a view across some water at a building site (They are building new villas) you would be unhappy if you paid your US$2.5k a night and got those ones! The villas either look over the lagoons or the golf course. We were then taken into the spa, which is where it all began for Banyan tree, we viewed a couple of consultation rooms and lunched around the pool. Yummy! We had to eat quickly as our van departed for the airport at 2.40pm. We scoffed it and ran. The plane was late. We sat bellies bulging back to Bangkok airport. Now this is weird. You pull up at an umbilical come out of the plane, are led down the stairs to a bus, driven over to domestic arrivals, go up transfer to Chiang Mai, go to a gate down to a bus, driven to another umbilical walk up the stairs through the tunnel and onto the aircraft! What the &^%#!
So we flew off to Chiang Mai. We arrived and were driven to the Mandarin Oriental (MO) Dhara Devi. This was the bit of the trip I had been looking forward to., I had done a gig at this place in April, but had not stayed there. This was 6 star. I wanted to see what gave it that one star difference.
The place is beautiful. The rooms, we were in Colonial Suites, John had a villa. They are finished to a level of detail rarely found at peoples homes, let alone a hotel. I logged on and did some mail, washed and made my way to the Akaligo, which is the Italian restaurant they have inhouse. We had to go to the horn bar afterwards for Mojitos and some banter. We breakfasted and started the site inspection at 9. This place sits on 68 acres and it was raining at different points during the day. It took awhile. We finished off the site inspection with Lunch at the Chinese Restaurant there, the Fujian. Impeccable, Peking Duck is not to missed. A highlight for any trip for me! From there we were going to the Shangri-La, remember the car park in Bangkok? To do a Hard Hat inspection. Weird going into a hotel when it is 5 months away from being finished. But looking at even the unfinished shell one is immediately impressed with it’s conference facilities, it’s number of room styles and the sheer size of the place. It’s big!
We returned to the MO and for the first time in a coupe of days actually had an hour to myself. I made he most of it and went for a swim. As I dove in and did a slow breaststroke along the bottom of the pool towards the distant end I suddenly realised that the pool had speakers in it. Aqua speakers, man it is cool to swim under water and listen to vibes. Pity they do not do diving courses in there.
That night we ate Thai at their Thai restaurant, Le Grand Lhanna and afterwards let off a number of hot air balloons. This is great fun and can be done by anyone at the tourist destinations in Chiang Mai. We want John to experience it as it is very different. These things are big! After that we retired to the Horn Bar and stepped up the pace from the night before. I remember wrestling Scott to throw him the pool but I do not know the time. It was early!
We left the hotel at 9, I was not at all well. We headed up into the mountains for Elephant Trekking. It is pretty cool, but when you are dehydrated and nursing a head ache well lets just say I wanted to click my heels together, say there is no place like home and Puff, be gone.
Wasn’t to be and I suffered silently through the 2 or so hours atop the wilderbeast.
I drifted off to sleep in the back seat of the mini bus as we drove to the MO. We lunched, collected our bags and made our way to the 4 Seasons. Funnily enough we had just driven past it coming in from the Elephant ride. Duh!
We checked in, quickly and begun our recce of the establishment.
Love a good buggy ride, round and round we went. The 4 Seasons is a lovely 5 star place and we all had our own separate villas. Again built on a sprawling block of land and catering for rich to richer it somehow still wasn’t enough to spark my interest after having stayed at the MO for the last two days. Funny how we become immunised to this stuff. But, reality check we were there to do this very job. We looked, sampled, and photographed all of them to be in a position to make an educated decision.
We finished the tour at about 5.30pm and John once again made his way to the spa and the massage. One of us had to try them all, hard job. Hey if I was the client I would have made it my task as well. The rest of us got freshened up, changed clothes and made our way to the Elephant Bar for sevensies. We were invited by the manager to the cooking school with some other guests to watch the chef make some tidbits while we sipped wines or cocktails. Once he finished we ate the canapé type offerings. I thought it was a wonderful idea and will use it for an event one day. We made our way to the restaurant overlooking the rice paddies for dinner. I had a lovely risotto with wild mushrooms. Yum! We retired back to the Elephant bar where I set up my laptop and we watched South Park on the deck there until we one by one drifted off to bed.
Morning saw me heading to the Spa at 8.30am for an hours massage, ahhhh, ooooo, eeeee. I had been waiting for my turn. Though the hour could have been better.
We met in the breakfast room and began the digging through of places. Dissecting one resort after the other. Fitting the 4 events John had to run n the space of a week into each city and then into each hotel.
Finally an order of events was confirmed and the hotels came after that. While I would love to tell you which ones we chose I think it prudent to keep the information confidential for the time being.
That afternoon we boarded our last mini bus for the airport. We flew to Bangkok. There the ladies left us and kept on heading to Singapore. John, Scott and I got off at Bangkok.
John was to fly out at 6am the following morning so Scott and I thought we should at least keep him company. The MO Bangkok, had kindly provided two rooms for us, I shared with Scott, they were completely full otherwise. We just had to do one more recce of the hotel. Sort of paying for it in kind. The Oriental is the O in MO. The Mandarin part was the Hotel in Hong Kong. They joined forces and the Mandarin Oriental group was born. The manger of the Oriental is this amazing 70-year-old bloke who had been there for the last 40 years! Imagine that. Working and living in the same hotel for so long! I had never heard of it.
We met some friends of Scott’s for dinner atop the Banyan Tree Hotel, which was the highest outdoor restaurant until Sirocco was opened up the road. Bugger eh?
The food is better and it isn’t so full on. Lovely meal, nice wine good night. We then took John to Patpong Road. Something one should always do once in their life. We went to a bar and funnily were not hassled too much. We drank a beer and then perused the markets. We went home and were off before midnight. Weird!
Next morning we checked out and rode in the back of a seven series to the airport. I read newspapers, Scott mail on his phone. We checked in and lo and behold were upgraded to business to Singapore.
Got on the plane and into the big seat only to have Scott hassle me to help him with some plans he needed for his house reno in Adelaide. Just as I finished said plans, oh and I fitted in a lunch of Beef Cheeks too, yeah I drank a couple of glasses of champagne and a glass of a lovely French Chardonnay, just before I was about to do something fun, then the seatbelt sign came on and we got ready for landing in Singapore. Drat, drat and double drat!

So we pulled into Singapore. We went through customs and then I had to go back to Terminal One and go back through. Jetstar/ValueJet are low cost carriers and will not pay the money to have your bags forwarded by other airlines, hence I had to clear customs! No biggie, I had time to kill. Perused the shops for a while, grabbed the obligatory bottle and boarded what would be the last leg of this whirlwind trip.
I arrived home almost exactly 7 days after I left. I had stayed in 5 hotels and seen another 6. Caught 8 planes had 14 meals in restaurants and probably drank about 40 mojitos.
Not for the faint hearted this is hard work people!


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