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Permanent press or permanent loss?

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For reasons beyond my control, I have to stay at a pretty cheap hotel in Hanoi on this trip to Vietnam.

My hotel room is big, but the furniture isn’t practical: there’s hardly any closet space and no chest of drawers either. So I’ve spread out  most of my clean clothes on the spare bed in my room.

laundry bin or trash can?

laundry bin or trash can?

But what to do with the dirty laundry? There’s no place in my room where I can put it – except for a basket, which looks like a laundry bin or something along those lines.

Yesterday morning, I put my worn shirt, shorts and socks into the basket.

But to my surprise, I found the container empty when I returned to my hotel room last night.

Now I’m wondering: did room service take my clothes to have them cleaned? Or is the basket that I took for a laundry bin really a trash can?

I’m still hoping that I’ll get my shirt back washed, starched and ironed. That this is a case of permanent press, not permanent loss.

Written by Thorsten

March 21, 2010 at 5:03 am

Favorite Places in Macau: The Shows at the Wynn

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The 'Dragon of Fortune' show at the Wynn, Macau

The 'Dragon of Fortune' show at the Wynn, Macau

There’s heavy competition among the Macau hotels and casinos. So most of them try to be unique in some way – either through a special decoration theme, through opulence, technical gizmos or sheer size.

The Wynn in Macau tries to beat the competition through style and some automated shows.

Every fifteen minutes, there’s a show at the artificial lake in front of the hotel. The fountains are synchronized to music that ranges from classical symphonic favorites to Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding out for a Hero’.

It’s all very dramatic: sound and light, fire and water. Expect to get wet, depending on where you stand beside the fountain pool and where the wind is coming from.

When you’ve seen the fountain show, stroll through the hotel shopping mall past the Gucci, Armani and Prada stores to the mall rotunda.

The rotunda is home to two shows – one always starts on the full hour, the other at the half hour.

At the full hour, you’ll see the dragon show. As the clock strikes the hour, the lights in the rotunda dim and dramatic music sets in.

Below the rotunda’s cupola, an opening in the ground opens, fake fog seeps out and the ‘Dragon of Fortune’ appears.

The dragon is at least five meters high and completely covered in gold plate. As the statue of the dragon rises from the underworld, it slowly turns and the lotus flower which it guards lights up and opens.

Then the dragon slowly descends back into its cave in the ground. The lights come back on in the rotunda and hotel employees with vacuum cleaners quickly clean the place so that everything’s ready for the next show.

They don’t have much time because the next performance starts at the half hour. But that show is different: instead of the dragon, a gold tree rises up from below the ground and turns majestically. The leaves on this 33-foot ‘Tree of Prosperity’ are 24-karat gold.

Above the tree, the rotunda’s cupola opens (again to dramatic music) and a giant chandelier appears. Liberace would have loved it.

The ‘Tree of Prosperity’ show usually moves the Asian visitors to rounds of applause when it’s over.

I don’t quite understand why, but in any case all of these fully automated shows at the Wynn are good fun – and they’re free.

Written by Thorsten

May 22, 2009 at 10:04 am

Favorite places in Macau: 38 Lounge

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38 Lounge atop the Altira Hotel

One of my favourite places in Macau is ‘38 Lounge’.

It’s a rooftop bar that feels like it’s straight out of a James Bond movie.

‘38 Lounge’ is situated on the top floor of the Altira Hotel on Taipa Island, which is the island right next to Macau Island.

The islands are connected by a number of bridges so that it’s easy to go back and forth.

38 Lounge is purist and stylish

The Altira is all about restrained elegance. You feel it the moment you step through its front doors.

The hotel lobby is very minimalist. Some marble, some dark wood and some tall bamboo plants. There’s a pleasant scent in the air.

The view when you step off the elevatorA bell boy calls the elevator for us and we ride to the top of the building.

As we leave the elevator, we’re greeted by a breathtaking view over Macau Island.

After we’ve taken that in, another Altira staff member shows us the way to the ’38 Lounge’.

38 Lounge There’s an indoor and an outdoor area. Inside, you can lounge in comfortable white sofas and chairs, sip your wine and watch the sunset through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

What’s even better is sitting outside on the lounge’s roof terrace. The view of the skyline of Macau and of mainland China is breathtaking.

And another nice thing up here is that ‘38 Lounge’ has Macau’s longest happy hour. It lasts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Written by Thorsten

May 20, 2009 at 11:22 am

Welcome to paradise

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Beach restaurants at Serendipity Beach, CambodiaSerendipity Beach in the southern Cambodian city of Sihanoukville is a backpackers’ paradise.

Dive shops, a tattoo artist and a couple of massage places line the unpaved road from the town down to the beach.

They get you in the mood for the beach life.

Down by the waterline, dozens of bars and restaurants have put out rattan chairs and sofas.

Happy meals and happy hours

The international backpacker-scene meets here every night for “happy hour”. And “happy hour” at Serendipity actually has two meanings.

For one thing, drinks get cheaper in the early evening hours: a glass of draft beer will cost you 50 US cents, Sundown at Serendipity Beacha cocktail shouldn’t cost more than $ 2.50.

The other meaning of “happy hour” at Serendipity is connected to the happy pizzas or shakes you can order from the menu in many bars.

Happy in this case means that the kitchen has added a sprinkle of dope. This will usually cost you a dollar or two extra.

But I didn’t try that kind of happy hour. Honestly.

In any case, the happiness at Serendipity beach usually lasts well into the morning hours.

At some point during the night, when the backpackers are reasonably drunk and home-sick, the dj’s will play “Take me home, country roads” or Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” at full blast and everyone wil sing along and start feeling just a little bit melancholy…

From the look of it, large numbers of 20-somethings from Europe, the U.S. or Australia hang out at Serendipity for weeks on end. It’s a daily party. Beach, booze and bikinis. And the communal sing-along before turning in.

The original island getaway

If you feel you’ve had enough of the daily party (or if you’re no longer a 20-something), a trip to the islands off the coast of Sihanoukville might be a good antidote.

Boat trip to the islandsMost of the islands are small, barren and uninhabited. Just rocks and jungle, surrounded by some coral reefs that make  pretty good snorkelling grounds.

Local tour operators offer day trips to three islands just off the coast. The trip will cost you $ 15 (and that includes soft drinks and lunch).

If you’d like to stay on an island, you can also take the ferry boat to Bamboo Island, or Koh Russei, as it’s also called.

Bamboo is the only island with some very basic hotels on it.

The ferry costs $ 10 and leaves the mainland at 10 a.m. and returns at 4 p.m. every day.

What you get is pure paradise

Bamboo Island is small enough to cross it on foot in ten minutes. It basically consists of two beaches and a few no-frills bamboo huts where you can stay.

Bamboo Island, CambodiaDon’t expect comfort.

But if you’re willing to leave all luxuries behind, if you don’t need 24-hour electricity and hot water, then Bamboo Island can be like paradise.

The island’s beaches can only be called under-crowded. Xou’ll only see the few people living or staying on the island. And for a few hours around noon, they’re joined by the visitors the tour operators have ferried in.

But come four o’clock, they’ll all return to the mainland and Bamboo Island will fall back into its almost-paradise-tranquility.

A handful of tourists and locals, who are one with the sea, the breeze, the sand, the jungle.

Cows on the beachOh – and not to forget the cows, chickens and goats that belong to the locals. I’m afraid you’ll have to share the beach with them.

They cows, for instance, love to stroll along the beaches looking for food (e.g. left-overs from the picknick lunches on the beach).

I guess we’re talking about real beach animals here. And real Chicken of the Sea

Breakfast in the hall of mirrors

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Two walls in the breakfast room in our hotel in Ulan Bator are completely covered with mirrors.

The effect is that these walls of mirrors multiply the meagre offerings on the breakfast buffet to something that actually looks pretty impressive.

In addition, the mirrors also reflect your sleepy and crumpled early morning face back at you a thousand times.

Great idea. Just what I wanted to see before my first cup of coffee.

Breakfast in the hall of mirrors – yet another example of the refined Mongolian sense of interior design and savoir vivre.

Written by Thorsten

July 17, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Boozing in the broom closet

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On the way out of our hotel room, we spied into the open door of the broom closet.

The broom closet of our Mallorca hotel

The broom closet of our Mallorca hotel

The cleaning lady was out cleaning the guests’ hotel rooms and had left the door to the broom closet open.

Care for a little liqueur?

Care for a little liqueur?

What did we see but this bottle of booze and two glasses.

There it was, right between the rolls of toilet paper and the cleaning rags.

Ah well, nothing like a little alcohol to help remove tough stains…

Written by Thorsten

July 5, 2008 at 11:31 am

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