Monday, July 14, 2014

Extremely good year for Bali tourism

While booking hotels for a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia, I was shocked to find that all my favourite hotels were fully booked well in advance. 

I ended up at a new hotel in Nusa Dua which must have at least 300 rooms plus private villas costing upwards from US$200 a night for regular rooms with breakfast. It was pleasant, everything you would expect of a new high-end resort hotel. But when I wanted to extend my stay, I was told that ALL rooms and villas were fully booked. Tried other hotels in Seminyak, again all costing upwards of US$200 a night, and I met with the same answers. 

I checked Agoda and and found that most of the high-end hotels and resorts had limited availabilities while the less costly ones presented plenty of options. 

Well done Bali, I thought! Well done, Indonesia too! They have gotten rid of that Bali associated as being a backpackers' haunt to one befitting of the Island of Gods. 

Arithmetics kicked in. For every 5,000 rooms charging US$200, the island makes US$1 million each night. And US$200 is just about the starting point per room-night at high-end hotels and resorts.  

With all that money flowing into Bali, I am surprised they haven't done more to improve on tourist experience overall, especially after recent renovations at the Ngurah Rai airport. 

One still has to walk or take the bus to the terminal after de-planing from a domestic flight. The Customs lanes are scarce although passenger gates have increased. Baggage carousels are designs from the 1980s. The limited travelators at Departure are narrow, often spoilt or not switched on. The car park is haphazard. Passenger drop-off at Departures and pick-up at Arrivals are chaotic and inadequate. So much for an airport greeting the thousands of high-spending tourists arriving each day. My guess is corruption is the culprit for this incomprehensible absurdity; for they had well-trained Indonesians and expats behind the multi-million dollar design and planning of this. 

Island-wide, traffic is chaotic like all other cities in Indonesia. Taxi drivers can, and do, stop anywhere to negotiate with tourists (who still think they need to bargain), while traffic behind that cab tails back at least half a kilometre. 

At the seemingly high end hotels and resorts I stayed in, wifi internet were free but I struggled to view clips on Youtube. Even emails with large attachments required a lot of patience.  

What is the mystery of this Island of Gods, where tourists are charged prime dollars for services which fall short? Why would idiots like me flock here, whenever a few days' break crop up in the calendar, I asked myself?  

My conclusion? It's everything that Bali is. 

I remember that moment many years ago when I stepped out of Ngurah Rai airport and a total sense of relaxation hit me when I breathed the Balinese air.

Being Asian, I love the food in Bali, especially the chili. My family loved the sun and the carefree atmosphere. The hospitality and the smiles -- although you will soon realise that you're talking to air hats once they attempt to respond, hotel staff and waiters/waitresses being the biggest culprits. The shopping's great especially for those who are from, or used to, $-denominated economies. 

When I look back at my grievances, Bali isn't that different from Bangkok or Phuket in Thailand, or Port Dickson and Langkawi in Malaysia, or the Gold Coast in Australia. Even my recent travels to the UK and Europe had their share of disappointments when it came to money spent versus perceived satisfaction received.

My only conclusion from all these is that it's an impossibility to please fellow human beings 100% of the time. Our moods change, hence tolerance levels. What we like one moment may be detested the next. 

Pleasing fellow human beings is an impossibility, I concluded. 

Unfortunately, I am stuck in hospitality industries, and can only look to my disappointments for pointers as to how to run my operations better.   

Friday, April 10, 2009

Motor cycles in the Lion City

I'm surprised that motorcycles are allowed to whiz around cars on highways in a normally well disciplined Singapore.

If its Jakarta, or Bangkok or Taiwan, I can expect the millions of motorbikes on the road each day to do what they like. But not Singapore.

In Singapore, they are less numerous yet they post a much greater hazard on highways. They ride on road shoulders or islands, they weave in between lanes often within inches from the sides of cars going at 90 or more kph. No wonder there's been so many fatal accidents involving motor bikes in Singapore. But what is the government doing about it?

Not a lot from what I can see.

Other than those weaving in and out of traffic and lanes, there are also those who ride too slowly especially before exits, trying to conserve their brake pads and slowing down to a crawl - relative to other traffic speeds - about 50 or more meters from the exit. This causes cars who are going a lot faster to keep overtaking them all the way to the narrow divide where they must exit. Dangerous is a modest description. Don't the motor cyclists even think?

I believe we should give motor cyclists the same road space as cars. But from what I've seen these last few months, it is them who do not want to be given those privileges; it is them who prefer to use those extra surface of roads between lanes just so they can get to their destinations a bit sooner than cars. I can remember once when I was trying to filter left, my left wing mirror was clear but when I took a 2nd look just before moving into the left lane, I saw something emerge from the corner of my eyes. To my horror, a motorbike had been on my blind spot for those few seconds I glanced at the wing mirror!

Hopefully it won't take too many more fatalities for Singapore's bike riders to learn to behave in a more responsible manner on its roads.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Things we do in life

This isn't so much about common things which everyone else understands and appreciates - its more about those which may and do often appear beyond comprehension.

There are things we do under duress (most of the time). Peer pressure, parental pressure, "ego-induced/feel good" pressure etc. But then there are also things which we really want to do for ourselves - this is not the go talking, be rest assured.

Many a times, I've left things undone or unsaid as doing or saying something about them would mean some form of inconvenience or "fighting" which translates into having to explain and justify the deeds to someone I consider totally out of my world. But there are time when I just cannot NOT do those things even if it means having to practice my skills at getting others to see them in the same light I do.

The rest of you would have encountered this at one stage or another. Some of you may be called rebellious. Others probably eccentric or words more unkind than that. End of the day, who cares! Its our OWN lives which we own. And we owe it to OURSELVES to do what we want - short of killing the neighbourhood bully or inconsiderate brat.

The sense of achievement from doing what one wants to do for oneself, rather than what others would like to see you doing for yourself is something immeasurable and indescribable. Have you tried it? You should!

"Life's filled with indiscretions", I was told. But who's to judge what falls beyond the line of indiscretion? I'm not talking about faithful (supposedly) spouses or lovers cheating on their counterparts. Neither am I talking about those who drink one drink above the legal limit and hoping that they won't stray into the path of the police spot check.

At any or some stage in our lives, we must feel like doing something which is against the norm, or rather the norm at that moment we carry out those deeds. Like holding a girl's hand fondly when we're walking out of the schoolyard, something like that. What constitutes the "norm" anyway? Did we conjure and convince ourselves that "that" IS the norm? Or is it something we "think" others will accept as the norm?

I'm ot trying to preach rebellion. I'm just asking all of you who're are reading this to think a bit harder about the implications on trying to "conform" with norms. Does that mean giving up on our obligation to live life to its fullest?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some things in life will never be forgotten

My late mother passed away just over 10 years ago, yet I still dream about her.

She looked like what she was before she left us but the event of that dream was something which had just happened a couple of days ago. The people in that event were people my late mom hadn't even met when she was alive. This is truly beyond comprehension.

Was she somewhere where she could see each and every of our daily activities? Was she trying to send me a message? Or is my mind playing games with me?

The dream occured totally out of the blue. I hadn't been talking about my late mom with anybody in this recent couple of weeks. That event which happened a couple of days ago hadn't even bothered me since then or wasn't even on my mind today - so I thought. Yet after analysing the dream, I felt that sub consciously, that event did refresh itself - briefly - today. The human mind is truly a mystique.

I can't help but concur that my late mom was trying to send me a message that I should start taking steps to prevent that same event from recurring.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What I hate and love most in 2008 ?

I'm sure some of you would share some of the events worth entering the "Hall of Hatred" in 2008.

Soaring fuel, food and commodity prices for a start. News of natural disasters like the earthquake in Beijing. Plight of the North Koreans, Burmese and Tibetans and others perhaps from Africa suffering in their own countries. The mixing of politics and sports which marred the Olympic torch relay. The demise of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie, Freddie, AIG, Merrill and more. Piracy off the Somalia coast. Terror in Mumbai where innocent civilian lives are lost for nothing. And similarly terror in American schools and homes where unwarranted, unprovoked killings are meted out to the innocent. The continuing civil strifes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka which also resulted in the loss of innocent lives. The politicking in Thailand and Malaysia. I'm sure we can name more.

But to pick one which can be deemed the most hated event is something I can't do. Everything which happened had a cause and a reason. To be on one side of the wall without realising what happened on the other presents no grounds for us to term one event more hateful than the other. To be knowingly misled by sensational media coverage is not something any prudent, intelligent (even if somewhat) and objective human should fall for. For if we do, then news of Sarah Palin's wardrobe and extravagance, or Britney Spears' indiscretions would have qualified for inclusion in our list of hated news stories or events. Or perhaps even the Ferrari team's bungles in the course of the F1 circuit in 2008 would have featured somewhere too. I would rather leave the hating to the activists and the naive and move on.

On the brighter side. What were the events worth remembering and loving?

There're soaring stock markets which some of us may or could have capitalised on. There are plenty of bargain counters up for grabs. China successfully hosted one of the best-ever (or rather, one of the most impressive) Olympic games so far. Formula One had it's first night race in Singapore which opened eyes both in Asia and Europe, and perhaps the rest of the world too. A rookie from a minority race winning his first World Championship in F-1. The Fed's rescue and stimulus package for the American banks and economy in general. China's and Taiwan's making up. North Korea's return to the negotiating table. The birth and implementation of Asean's charter. And, the top news (and most covered) will probably be the first African-American President-elect in the biggest economy in the world!

But this time, I can pick a "most".

The most loved event to me in 2008 is the realisation by all major governments around the world that this financial and economic crisis isn't localised; and all countries, and especially, all major economies, must do their little bit to pull the world out of this crisis, depression or recession whichever way you wish to call it.

The USA was forced to act because the meltdown was happening in her backyard. The Europeans had to act because the fallout from across the Atlantic could and will cause a backlash in their own backyard. China had to act as their foreign revenues are set to shrink. Japan has to act too for their own good.

This is different from the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98. We don't have the IMF chief standing with arms folded while a leader of one of the most populous countries in the world sign away control over her economy. We don't have IMF and World Bank hotshots zapping around in First Class seats telling impoverished Asian economies what they should be doing about their economies jsut because they can afford to dole out support funds contributed by rich nations. We don't have Western bankers strangling their counterparts in Asia so that their bonuses will be equally fat, if not fatter, at the end of their financial years. NOW, we have a whole world working together to solve the problems which originated from short term greed and indiscretions. That is certainly something we should all be happy about and proud of. Hence the reason for my naming that the "most loved" event in 2008.

Carry on the good world, nations. For we, on this planet need you all to buck up and lead us out of this mess.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Everyone needs to do this once in a while, I feel.

Introspection accords us opportunities to evaluate where we stand in life, where we are in the eyes of our friends (and foes), what we've been through and what else we should expect from then on, and most importantly, it accords us the opportunity to correct what is wrong without having to wait for the next New Year resolution.

If you need an excuse to do that, year's end is the best excuse.

In the process of introspection, I often find myself to be an arrogant prick; an inconsiderate boss and person, an insolent brat plus all other bad things or traits I succumbed to. But we can't be negative with ourselves all the time, can we? Hence when I go through the process of introspection, I also take the positive aspects into perspective, such as being a loving person to my family and friends, being friendly to this earth and its energy resources, being eco-friendly in saving on the use of paper to save trees which provide the oxygen and carbon dioxide at the right time of day, being appreciative of all who came into my life and rendered help and assistance when I had to call on them, and more ....

Introspection is not about feeling sorry for what one has done, Nor is it an avenue for one to blame others for one's failings and/or omissions. Maybe I've read a lot of Buddhist teachings and teachings of worthy philosophers and great men who graced this planet. Perhaps I've managed to overcome my pride. Perhaps I've had enough of ups and downs in my life to realize all those things I now feel about introspection - both the positive and negative aspects of that process.

I consider myself truly lucky to have an understanding family, tolerant staff, colleagues and peers in my line of work, and most of all, I am grateful to my parents, grandparents, teachers, lecturers, mentors, friends, and all those who've helped shape my life, my philosophy of life, my thinking and my will to think and to change.

One need not feel sorry about what mistakes we've made in life. BUT one has to look forward to what else we are capable of doing in life so as to enhance our own lives and to help enhance the lives of those around us.

This is a farewell message to 2008 and all the years I've left behind.
I hope the rest of you will write the same farewell message as you see fit.

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells Jingle Bells
Ka-ching all the way
Oh what fun is there to ride
When your bank could close today
Hey Jingle Bells Jingle Bells
The sham of bankers' ways
O what fun is left for us
when the world's haywire today