This is Thailand. My son tells me there’s a hashtag for it: #tit
What it really means is: This is not the West. Where this really hit me was in my interactions and experience with the hospitality industry in Thailand. I’m not talking about the Renaissance – it’s a 5-star hotel in the most populous city in Thailand and it’s managed by European and U.S. management. And I’m not talking about the Thai people. They’re are unfailing polite, even when they’re telling you (a) whatever arrangements you have made, forget about them because they have; (b) whatever you thought was going to happen just isn’t and there’s nothing they can (or will) do to change it. There’s an attitude that as long as news of the problem is relayed, acceptance is assumed and nothing else need be done.
This is how I frequently felt when dealing with hotel staff post Renaissance. My son constantly reminded me to be polite and respectful, even as my frustration level multiplied. I tried – really, I did. But it’s difficult to maintain a level of calm when dealing with what I view as an unacceptable level of service. And maybe that’s a completely Western attitude. Thailand enthusiastically courts tourists (tourism contributed over 17% to the Thai GDP in 2016); knowing this, I expected a more Western approach from tourism-based businesses, especially the resort areas.
I’m not going to really fault the accommodations in Kamphaeng Phet. It’s a relatively small farming community. But our stay there was a glimpse of things to come. Shortly after checking in – my daughter and I in one room, my two sons in another – the boys discovered their air conditioning wasn’t working. They were quickly moved to another room. All was well. Later, my daughter showered. Shortly after she was finished, I went to take my shower and discovered that water had cascaded down the mirror, which was on the wall opposite our shower, and the ceiling was wet. I don’t know what was leaking, or from where, but since it happened shortly after her shower, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to risk a shower. Management wanted to move us to another room but we decided we were too tired and just wanted to go to sleep, so we said we’d move in the morning. The next morning, that’s what we did. Except the air conditioning in that room didn’t work, either. We were moved into another room. We were there for two nights and ended up moving rooms a total of three times.
From there, we went on to a resort in Krabi. We chose the Pakasai Resort because it was very close to the beach and it had a rating of 86% positive on Expedia. The pictures were lovely. This is where the real #tit happened.
When I made the hotel reservation, there was an instruction that said if we needed shuttle pickup at the airport, we should notify the resort at least 24 hours in advance. I messaged the resort through Expedia’s messaging system a couple weeks in advance, and made the arrangements. They had our flight information, time and date of arrival, number of people, a price was agreed upon, and they confirmed that we would be picked up at the airport. When we arrived at the Krabi airport, we went through the terminal to the point where all the hotels and resorts have shuttle personnel standing with signs. We saw no sign with our name, or for the Pakasai Resort. We went to the information desk and inquired. They announced something over the intercom. Nothing happened. Just as I was trying to figure out what our next move was, a very nice woman from another resort came and asked us if we were waiting for someone. She called the resort for us and they had no inkling of the arrangement to pick us up and therefore had not sent someone. She got us a taxi and we were off to the resort. This was the only problem for which the resort offered any kind of accommodation as an apology. They agreed to return us to the airport on their shuttle at no charge.
Because we checked in early, we left our bags and went and ate lunch. The good thing about Pakasai is it’s very close to the main street (? I guess that’s what you call it!) that leads to the beach. Then again, so are a lot of resorts. This street has all kinds of shops and restaurants. Finding a place to eat lunch was easy. As with most places where we ate, the food was delicious and the prices were (by U.S. standards) unbelievably low. Full, but now tired, hot and sticky, we trekked back to the resort, where we were told our rooms were available. Let me tell you about the rooms I picked: “Located at the top level of each chalet on hillside. Adora Chalet.” They weren’t kidding. Not just a hillside, but a steep hillside. Not recommended for anyone with disabilities or a heart condition. Or possibly young children. It was a lovely walk, but one I avoided as much as possible. My daughter and I followed the bellman up this hillside to our room, where I caught my breath and noted a problem.
I made reservations for two rooms (again, one for the females, one for the males), with two twin beds in each room. This is what I was looking at when I walked in the door. A king-size bed. One bed. Not that I mind sharing a bed with my daughter – I’ve done it before. I do mind not getting what I reserved, without any conversation or warning. I called the room boys’ room and asked them what they had and they said they had a king-size bed, as well. OK, that’s two rooms that aren’t what I reserved. Back down the hill I went, my printout in hand, to find out where the lines of communication got crossed and what could be done about it. Since it took me awhile to go down the hill to reach the lobby, I had plenty of time to repeat polite and respectful to myself many times.
This was the first instance where I experienced a flashback to Coneheads. They had absolutely no idea how I had made a reservation for a room with two twin beds, as they have no rooms with two twin beds. None. I showed them my printed reservation. Yes, they could see that I had made reservation for such a room, but there was no explanation as to how that even came to be a choice when I made my reservation. Because, of course, they have no rooms with two twin beds. (Or, as far as I could tell, any twin beds.) They showed me an alternate room, which I could stay in for one night but would have to move to another room the next night. This room had two twin (or double – I couldn’t tell) mattresses, but they were locked together on a king-size platform. I was told the two mattresses could not be separated. Because I was being polite and respectful, I didn’t ask why I was being shown this room as an alternative when it was not a resolution to the problem; and in fact, inconvenienced me even more because it was only for one night, after which I would have to move to yet another room. It also didn’t address the fact that I had reservations for two rooms, and they were only offering me a one-room alternative. As it turned out, there was, in fact, no resolution to the problem. I was seized at the base of my snarglies, as it were. I confirmed with the boys that they didn’t mind sharing a bed, then I politely and respectfully thanked the hotel staff. Again, because I was being polite and respectful, I suppressed my desire to point out that there really wasn’t anything to thank them for, and climbed back up the hill to the room with sleeping arrangements that bore no resemblance to the words printed on my reservation.
In Thailand, I encountered a hotel phenomenon that I’ve never seen before. My daughter tells me she’s seen it in U.S. hotels. The fact that I’ve never seen it doesn’t mean much – I don’t leave home all that often. At any rate, when you enter your room, you put your key in a slot by the door and the electricity gets turned on. When you leave, you remove the key (and they will only give you one). A few minutes later, the electricity goes off, thus saving the hotel money, and making things easier on the environment. I have no complaint with this, except that it makes it impossible to charge electronic devices while you’re out of the room. Suggestion to the hotel industry: have one plug-in bar at the desk that stays alive.
I mention this thing because of the next #tit that happened. Equipped with the best fins for snorkeling, we had gone on an excursion that day. There was a speed boat, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, sun, fun and lunch. It was a blast. We got back to the resort hungry and tired, changed clothes and went to eat dinner.
Will went to get a massage. The rest of us went to our respective rooms. All I wanted was a nice, cool room, a shower and an hour of two or reading before falling asleep. I was on the bed, reading, while Annie took a shower. She was done showering, but doing whatever it is we all do before we actually step out of the bathroom, when the electricity went out. I went to the little slot by the door and wiggled the key. Nothing. I took it out, waited a minute, then put it back in. Nothing. I wiggled it a few more times. Still nothing. I gave up and called the desk. I was informed that the electricity was out on purpose. The hotel was observing “Earth hour,” and therefore all “unnecessary” electricity was out for an hour. It would be turned back on at 8:30. Yes, ma’am, we had been notified. A notice was left in the room. As it turns out, this notice was left on the bed when they made it up that day, while we were out for the day. I think I saw it on the bed as we were getting ready to go out and eat, kind of wondered what it was, but didn’t open it and read it.
I don’t mind telling you that Will didn’t understand my beef with this. And maybe you won’t, either. But here it is. I would have liked, when making reservations, to have been notified of this event so that I could make an informed decision about whether or not I wanted to stay at that particular resort during a period when they were going to turn off the electricity and inconvenience paying customers As far as I could tell, they were the only resort participating in this “worldwide event.” And the businesses in the area certainly weren’t because 7-11 was lit up as usual. Absent that, letting me know when I checked in would have been nice, so I could better plan that day. Hell, if I’d known I was going to be without electricity for an hour that night, I would’ve gone to get a massage, too! Or made some other plan to be somewhere else for that hour. As it was, I felt as a paying customer, I should not be forced to participate in support of their cause, without my consent.
So Annie and I went down to the lobby. Apparently, continuing to run the business of the resort is a necessity, where actually servicing the people who are paying to support the business isn’t – but that’s another rant. There were lights and internet in the lobby. We wondered where Nolan was, as we’d heard nothing from him. Will saw us as he passed the lobby and stopped to see why we were hanging out there. At about 8:20, Nolan wandered into the lobby. We asked him where he’d been. He said “in the room.” While I’m wondering how he could stand the hot, stuffy room in the dark, he wondered what we were all doing. Apparently, the electricity in the boys’ room didn’t go out!
The appointed hour expired and I climbed back up the steep hill to our room, hoping to finally get my shower and possibly read for awhile, albeit with an hour less time than I’d had. I walked into our room and put the key in the slot.
Aaaaand…. nothing happened. I wiggled the key. Nothing. I took it out, waited a minute, then put it back in. Nothing. I wiggled it a few more times. Still nothing. In the dark, I walked over to the phone by the bed and, once again, called the front desk. Maybe they forgot my room (I have no idea how these things work). I was informed that it would be another 10 to 15 minutes before the power in my room was back on. What? I pointed out that the appointed hour had come and gone; in fact, it was now 10 minutes past the hour. Why was I going to be without power for another 10 to 15 minutes – what, exactly, was the problem? The woman at the front desk then said, apparently apropos of nothing and without responding to my question: “Thank you for understanding.”
That’s when I lost all pretense of polite and respectful. My snarglies (if I had snarglies) exploded; I had had quite enough of #tit. I’m pretty sure my teeth were clenched, possibly to keep my head from flying into pieces onto the ceiling, and my voice might have been raised when I said to her Do not thank me for understanding; I do not understand. I might have said a few more things in a tone of voice that wasn’t polite and respectful (but I didn’t swear!). I was still on the phone when the power came back on (20 minutes past 8:30) and she hung up on me, so she might have been a little upset with me.
Don’t get me wrong: we had a great time and I really enjoyed the trip. And, my son had warned me that plans made in Thailand don’t always (or possibly even rarely) come off without a hitch. What kind of did me in was the unexpected attitude about it, the complete acceptance that there’s nothing that can be done to avoid such things and we should all just accept that. I was left with the impression that there would be no effort made to see that no more guests were left standing at the airport, waiting for a shuttle that was never sent; no meetings would be held to determine if there was a better way of communicating with guests; nobody would review the online booking sites to see the information was accurate. I would absolutely go to Thailand again and stay at a seaside resort, just not that one. 🙂