Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Frangipani, the recycled hotel

It’s 6.55 am, 15th April 2009. Sitting outside the little “chalet” on the beach in Chennai, Langkawi. Woke up before 6. Couldn’t get back to sleep so decided to take a walk on the beach at 6.30 am. Our porch light was switched off by someone in the middle of the night. That’s good ‘cos this hotel claims to practice 100 green ways. But it’s too dark to walk along the path ‘cos all the lights have been switched off except for two dim lights in the distance. So I walked along the beach, with the waves pounding and the moon shining, reflecting on the sand to guide me along. It took only 20 minutes to walk the whole stretch and back. The air is cool but there’s hardly any breeze. Not a single leaf is moving. You sweat a lot here.

Of course there’s air-conditioning but the architect or designer of Frangipani really has no idea what is good beach architecture in a tropical island climate. Matthew says its just a box. Further down the beach I saw one resort which looked really nice.

So if the design is so lousy what are we doing here? Certainly not the price. The sea-view rooms are reportedly priced about over RM800 per night. And the one’s further inside are published at RM400. The one they gave me originally looked into an unsightly “backyard” from behind while the front balcony looked over the rooftops of some “chalets” and no seaview. If that was RM400 a night, that totally was not worth it. But of course they gave us a package which is below RM300 – but it still is not value for money. So we called the manager who tried hard to please us. So I am in a seaview “chalet” with the beach just 30 metres away. And the sunset yesterday evening was spectacular. Say, anyone knows why the sun seems to get sucked down very quickly once it “touches” the water?
Can you hear the sizzling?

Matthew wondering whether he should have my share of the fried bananas.

Four of us (out of 7) requested for a room change. We all got our rooms changed. But the others are not so lucky because they got rooms that are no better then the earlier ones – and they had to put up with the hassle of moving their stuff. Janet got her bags moved – but without her clothes and stuff. Lean Heng is pushing for a better deal – she says hotels always bully their government clients because we don’t know how to negotiate with them. I totally agree. I don’t like the negotiation part. So, I don’t know where this story will end. We will be here until Friday, working on our APEX University People-Led Agenda (and so far I am very happy with the energy and team spirit).

The meeting was another hassle. It’s a huge ballroom but there’s only 7 of us. Lighting was an issue. We took down one of the layers of curtains to allow more natural light in. Ventilation and air-conditioning was an issue. So we moved our working top closer to the air-con unit and open the glass doors for ventilation. We had to ask for drinking water. But to their credit, the staff respond very well and are very friendly.

Green. What’s green about the rooms. Well, you can go check their website of the one hundred green things they do. But when I first received the email (forwarded by my boss) and checked their website, I sent an email to the hotel owner asking about drinking water in the room. One of the things they claim is that for meetings, they don’t provide water in plastic bottles. Hurrah. But I asked – what about in the rooms? I said I have issues with boiling water in electric plastic kettles (if you must know, we have switched to boiling water in a metal kettle using gas at home). So I asked, what is Frangipani’s solution? What do you think? Plastic electric kettle, what else. And drinking water in plastic bottles? Yah, there are there too in the rooms. Talking about plastics. When the tea was served, the fried bananas and cut fruits came in plates – shrinked wrap. We advised them to stop doing that (as of yesterday, 16th April, two days after we arrived, the food was still shrink-wrapped).

So we turned out to be bullies too. Some of us are real picky about food. Me included. Lean Heng wanted brown rice (or something other that white rice). No, they don’t have brown rice. How about yellow rice? Nah, that’s just white rice with tumeric. Got vermicelly (tang hoon)? Yes, they have. And out comes a plate. Oh, but it’s just boiled. Not fried ah? Nevermind. We will try it with the beef curry. Turned out it was quite good.

Ah, we even invited the cook, uncle Tong, for consultation. Uncle, the fried chicken is damn (sorry) good. But a little too salty. Wait, wait, wait – but it’s perfectly ok for us, said Nasir, Kabilan and Zol.
Damn good kampung chickens!

(stopped at 7.30 am for breakfast. Now 9.00 am, waiting to start the storm again. Lean Heng, Janet and Yoke Mui are rearranging the layout to reduce reflection on the white board and so everyone faces the projection screen.)

Ah breakfast. Usual fare – nasi lemak, sausage, pancakes, cordial, fruits, cereal, bread … but no porridge. Asked for 2 half-boiled eggs, my little indulgence when staying at hotels. And horrors, I saw two Mat Sallehs (Caucasian) doing tau pau (take-away) – guess what type of containers? The White Coffin!! Hhmmm. This isn’t going well is it?

Now back to lunch yesterday. On the table were home-made placemats providing information about plants and chickens and ducks on this hotel. It seems the chicken we had for lunch was “free-ranch” (kampung) chicken – organic lah! And it was damn good. According to Janet – no smell lah! The dragon fruit and mango is also organic from their garden.

OK, got to stop now. 9.11 am. Got to go back to work. Will put pictures and other stories later.

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