Saturday, August 25, 2012

Going On Vacation and More, without Leaving Town

Recently Kevin and I were planning on taking a vacation during the Raya holidays, since he had the entire week off from work. Since I started looking for a place to go a little late, the cost of all flights departing from Malaysia skyrocketed. This is busiest time for Muslims traveling for the Raya holidays, so my choices were limited. I decided to look for a nice hotel at which to stay and just relax and be waited on for a few days.

We have heard a lot of good things about the Hard Rock Hotel so I booked a room there. I chose the Kings Club Seaview room. It was a bit expensive, but I figured I didn't have to pay for airfare. The day arrived for the start of our vacation and we didn't have the stress of going to the airport, standing in line, checking in and security checks. When we got to the hotel we were led to the top floor of the hotel where our room was located and checked in there. No lines. No waiting. The room had a great view of the ocean and the beach. But what amazed us what the service and the benefits of staying in a Kings Club room.

There were 8 rooms on the floor and there was the King Club Lounge to serve the guests of the floor. Breakfast was served here in the morning, complete with eggs made to order, pancakes, porridge and pastries. At 2 every afternoon high tea was served, with not only just tea, but soda, wine and beer offered at no extra charge.  At 6 the cocktail hour was observed. During the cocktail hour , besides the wine and beer, all sorts of spirits and mixed drinks were offered and once again at no charge. There was a great selection of pastries, Chinese noodles and dim sum. Another surprise was that soda, beer and wine were served from 11 AM to 11 PM every day. All absolutely free. There was actually no reason to leave this lounge to eat or get a drink, since it was all included in the room charge. This definitely made up for the higher price of the room. One would spend much more having to go out to drink, if they paid a cheaper price for a room at other hotels.

We did, however, visit the restaurants in the hotel. We especially loved the Pizzeria. They have the best pizza I have ever tasted in Penang. They also served spicy potato wedges, which I became addicted to. The rest of the food on the menu was great and reasonably priced for a 5 star hotel. Beside the food, we enjoyed the spas, the swimming, having drinks served to us in the water of the poolside bar and the  great music, which was in every area of the hotel. The service was excellent and the staff were extremely friendly and attentive, leading to a very relaxed atmosphere. At some high end hotel resorts the staff are very formal and even snobbish, which makes relaxation a bit difficult at time.

When I first went to the Hard Rock Hotel I had no intention about posting my experiences, but a couple of things changed my mind. It had nothing to do with the hotel, the staff or their services. There are two things a hotel cannot guarantee. One is the quality of the weather and the other is the quality of the guests. As everyone knows Hard Rock Hotels are high quality 5 star hotels, located all over the world. One observation I made was more in the line of an oddity than an annoyance. I noticed one of the rooms at the lagoon level while swimming. I counted 17 people, including children occupying the room. I could plainly see a huge pile of blankets and comforters, about 5 feet high, while there was another pile of  trash consisting of KFC buckets and McDonald's trash. Even on our floor we could see the remnants of trash from KFC, McDonald's and outside hawker stands. I thought this was strange that people would even think of bringing outside food in.

The other incident was not an oddity, but more of a series of disgusting incidents. As I have said before there was a daily cocktail hour with light snacks being served. At cocktail hours alcohol is served, primarily, and thus children, according to tradition or etiquette, are not involved. If people do not drink alcohol there is plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available. We were seated at a table next to a very nice Australian couple having gin and tonics. There were about 4 or 5 children under the age of 9, but they were quite well behaved, if not out of place. Suddenly the calm and peaceful atmosphere was shattered when a couple of families, consisting of adults and teenagers entered the room like a desert storm sweeping over the area. These people were not locals or Europeans, and I really do not want to mention their nationality because I do not want to make generalisations. These people by far were the most rude, obnoxious and disgusting people I had ever observed. One teenage boy took a bottle of wine that was on display and insisted he wanted to take it back to his room. People from his country do not drink alcohol, which made this incident rather bazaar. The manager finally explained he could have wine, but it must be served by a waitress. After the boy yelled and screamed at the waitress and manager he finally gave up. The women, who were seated at a separate table with the small children, went to the buffet table and literally cleared the table of pastries to give to the table of men and teenagers. At one point a new platter of pastry was brought out and was immediately taken by the women and given to the men, who proceeded to poke at it and pull it apart to see what was inside. The didn't eat it. They just played with it. One of the moronic women had the nerve to bring the ravaged platter back to the buffet table for others to eat! I had thought I had seen it all, until one of the women reached into the chaffing dish of Chinese noodles with her bare hand instead of serving tongs and grabbed some noodles to put on her plate. After the men did not want it, she put it back into the dish. In another incident at the cocktail hour they demanded to have the staff prepare eggs and chicken for them.  When they were told it was not possible they continued to verbally harass the staff. It was quite obvious that the young staff were terrified and intimidated by these animals, but as well trained service staff they endured the appalling behavior. These same people were seen refusing to let hotel staff on the elevator, even to the point of pushing them off. These people treated the staff, who were Chinese, Indian or Malay, as objects of ridicule. A few times we saw a couple of the lounge staff, almost in tears. The other guests just looked at these uncivilized creeps in contempt and tried their best to treat the staff with sympathy and the utmost of respect.

Much of my travels have been in the US, Europe, China, Vietnam and Thailand and had rarely, if ever, had contact with people from this country. I knew of several incidents back home in Boston, where students from this country smashed their Ferraris or Maseratis in alcohol related incidents and were immediately rushed home to avoid criminal charges, including vehicular homicide. Since living in Malaysia I have seen this type of ignorant behavior a number of times before and always directed towards the local people. They may be of the same religion, but they certainly don't show any respect to people of a different race. I know the hotel could not do much to remedy this situation, without being accused of bigotry and I do not blame them. I sincerely hope that not everyone from this un-named country behaves in a like manner when they visit other countries and interact with people from different races and cultures.

A few photos of an otherwise great vacation. Sorry no photos of the disgusting guests.

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