Monday, 21 November 2016

Vietjet Thailand - Possibly the Worst Airline Service in Thailand?

Vietjet scores just 4/10 on Skytrax and 5/10 on airlineratings.com
Dear Readers

As you know my name is Stu Lloyd.

Only my mother calls me Stuart.

When she's angry.

But today is my turn to be angry.

You see, i've just been rejected by Vietjet Thailand to board my domestic flight because my assistant had inadvertently booked me as 'Stu' ... three whole letters short of 'Stuart'.

I've already explained that if another person by the name of Stuart Lloyd turns up, I am prepared to give up my seat for him.

Otherwise, in all probability that's me, not some cheap imposter.

Especially as I have a confirmation email, a passport, and a phone number which all tally with the information supplied.

"Even one letter wrong we don't board people," said the smug manager -- who'd I'd summoned in the vain hope of getting some sense out of -- with a sense of petty power and pedantic pride.

Understand, this is a new airline presumably looking to establish market share in the super-competitive Thailand market.

What I got was policy, policy, policy.

With so much seeming pride in her own disempowerment by process.

I asked her for other alternative solutions, but was stonewalled.

"So there's no other solution, possibility or alternative way to sort out this situation?"

"No, we are a low cost airline."

And that makes what difference to the need to delight customers???

When pressed on what other alternatives, options and solutions there were? Blank.

I asked her to call the most senior Vietjet person in the airport.

Then it escalated. Suddenly she's threatening to call airport police and they are here ... all -- count them -- six of them. Because I was "so impolite".

As I might well be, knowing I've been dumped from my flight, will lose my return tickets with zero refund, and will miss my specialist dental appointment that evening.

An interesting customer service strategy.

The officers are bemused when they see me: so THIS is your trouble maker??? The guy standing at the counter tapping out this blog on his laptop.

It seems she's most aggrieved by the fact that I took her photo which might identify her by her ID badge. (Which it didn't.)

The police ask me to delete it from my phone. Which I do right in front of their eyes.

She then, in Thai, accuses me of lying.

I surprise her by responding to her accusation in Thai, which rather shocks her.

"So now you're call me a liar. Fantastic! This just keeps getting better."

No wonder Vietjet scores just 4/10 on Skytrax and 5/10 on airlineratings.com

The standoff just kind off fizzles out, I glower at her, and return to writing this. The police shuffle off.

Net result: I missed my flight. That ticket and the return a few days later were deemed "invalid". (As worthless as the 500 Rupee notes I was issued in India a few days earlier.)

My assistant later spoke to the reservations department in Vietjet, who were a little surprised by that decision and action by their front liners.

And an airline veteran friend I spoke with laughed at the treatment meted out to me, incredulous that I should not be boarded, especially on a domestic flight, for that reason.

Anyway, I enjoyed a fantastic flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on Thai Airways, and returned with the super perky smiles and energy of Thai Smile.

I can also fly between Chiang Mai and Bangkok with Thai Air Asia, Thai Lion Air, Nok Air, and possibly others too.

So, Boo to you, ThaiVietJet. You clearly stated you did NOT want any of my future regular business, and you sure as hell will NOT get it.

And hopefully you, dear readers, won't support such behaviour either.

I may have been three letters short in my name. But I suggest VietJet is three letters short too ... in the A.R.T. of customer service.

#vietjet #thaivietjet #worstairlineservice #shitservice #vietjetthailand #boo




Sunday, 21 February 2016

Tuk Tuk Tales in Trang

Immaculately restored tuk-tuk  (R Eime)
The ubiquitous auto-rickshaw, known lovingly throughout Thailand as the tuk-tuk, is a cheap form of personal transport and taxi-cab. Its name is derived from the sound made by the little two-stroke motor, which in English would be more familiar as ‘putt-putt’.

Here in Trang, the vast majority of tuk-tuks are owned by their drivers as opposed to Bangkok, where the uniform colour indicate they are company owned. Many have been in the same hands for decades.

To demonstrate their much-loved place in Thai urban folklore,
bridal couples in the Trang 20th Anniversary Underwater Wedding Ceremony
were photographed with immaculate collector examples in prominent city locations.  (R Eime)
For the ‘spotters’ among us, the design of the DKA Midget began in 1957 in the Daihatsu factory in Japan. The idea was for a compact, economical vehicle for light duties in the many narrow streets of Japanese cities. After an appearance on a TV show, the idea took off and soon the tiny taxis were finding their way onto streets, alleys and workplaces all around the world.

They even enjoyed some limited success in the USA as a light freight and delivery vehicle. They were even used around large factory sites like Boeing for transport. The tuk-tuk taxi was marketed in the USA as the Daihatsu Trimobile AP (all purpose) ‘Safari Wagon’

1959 US sales brochure for the 'Trimobile'
Trang is one of the few places left in the world where you will easily see the early MP5-derived 'frog head' models that trace their history and design back to the originals from the late 1950s.

The tuk-tuk is powered by an air-cooled 305cc 2-stroke, single cylinder engine with a power output of around 9kW. In many places of the world, upgrades to LPG are available. This was in response to some congested regions where the little 2-strokes can get a bit smoky, especially if not properly maintained.

Kuhn San has owned his frog-head tuk-tuk for more than 30 years, diligently
painting and repainting it in the original factory colour. Kuhn San
 is not so meticulous about the trimmings, with a Mazda
steering wheel, Honda stickers and a Toyota bonnet badge. (R Eime)
While cheap and effective forms of urban transport remain in demand, you can expect to see tuk-tuks on the streets of Thai cities for some time to come.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Consuming Trang: A Tasty Bake


The famous sweet cake from Trang is a Thai nationwide sensation. Roderick Eime samples this delightful treat.

When Kuhn Yee Keng was just 19, he started baking cakes in the family kitchen in Trang. In 1956, the busy kitchen turned out just 20 cakes a day using tough manual processes. Now 60 years later, his tasty fruit cakes are sought after all over Thailand, not just in his home province of Trang.

Kuhn Yee now operates five stores across Trang, producing up to 800 of the 500g cakes on a busy day and helped by family members who must often ferry finished cakes from one store to another during busy periods.

DSCF7533

“Because we do not preserve in rum like many traditional fruit cakes,” Kuhn Yee tells me via my guide Suree, “they are best eaten within three days, but can stay fresh for up to a week.”

This alcohol-free process also makes the cake attractive amongst the sizeable Muslim population who live predominantly in the south of the country.

While the recipe was once a closely guarded secret, Kuhn Yee is now happy to share his famous recipe on one of his many TV segments on Thai television.

Main ingredients include eggs, sugar, butter and blended fruits such as mango, tomato, plum, raisins, banana and nuts like cashews.

These famous ‘tasty bake’ cakes cost around 50 baht and can be enjoyed any time of the year, but are an ideal complement to tea or coffee.

More information about travel in Trang (Official Site)

Related: Trang offers tasty Thai treats for food lovers


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Summer in Siam by John Borthwick





Summer in Siam by John Borthwick

"I walked out the door, a bit dazed. I had ten dollars and two not-quite diamonds, and it was summer in Siam." John Borthwick's first day in Thailand seemed far from auspicious — but it has been uphill from then on. Dropping him in the middle of everything from three-day tribal weddings, elephant polo follies and pristine islands to Pattaya's bacchanalian nightlife, Thailand has kept John and his pen constantly on the move.

One of Australia's leading travel authors, John Borthwick has gathered here the best of his years of Thailand adventures, plus a swag of vivid tales from his wanderings in India, Xinjiang, the Himalayas, Borneo, Bali, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Paperback
Bangkok Books
Bangkok 2006
232 pages 395 Baht
ISBN 974-85129-2-4

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Top 10 Thai Luxury Resorts



NZ Let's Travel magazine recently polled some of the top travel writers about their choice of luxury Thailand resorts. Here's their verdict:

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Two ways to do Phuket - Pool villas or resorts



While I have become a regular to Thailand, my visit to Phuket was the first time I'd stayed in this famously rumbustious resort town. No, I'm not going to dwell on the kaleidoscope of entertainment options assaulting you as you navigate bustling Bangla Road - there are better sites for that information - but rather on choosing appropriate accommodation to suit the kind of relaxation you, you partner and/or family have in mind.

The raucous New Tiger nightclub is one of the 'colourful' venues
along bustling Bangla Road (source: phuket101.net)

To illustrate my point, I stayed two nights in each of two contrasting properties. One, a sprawling 665-room resort, the other, a secluded 16-villa private sanctuary. And, as you can imagine, there are plenty of options in between.

Apart from selecting the style of property you want to stay at, location is another prime consideration. Taxis around the island can be exorbitant by Thai standards, so you don't want to be taking them everyday to get to your activities. If you want your action close to riotous Bangla Road, then there are several branded hotels within an easy stumble from the front line melee.

Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spaphuketarcadia.hilton.com

Set on a massive 75-acre plot, the 665-room Hilton is around 25 years old but has had numerous rooms upgraded as recently as 2011 in the Deluxe Plus category. Entry-level Deluxe are the same size without the recent decorative refurbishments, but are no less comfortable. Above that are the more spacious Junior Suites, but these are yet to undergo refurbishment. There are a dozen or so super-plush Hilton Suites, but I wasn't able to view these.

One of the seven buildings at that make up the
Hilton Arcadia Phuket (supplied)
The resort comprises seven distinct buildings and includes The Spa, children's club, tennis and squash courts (yes, remember them?), extensive business and conference facilities, a massive, scalable ballroom and a fitness centre. There's across-the-road access to upscale Karon Beach or you can swim in any of the three pools.

Refurbished Deluxe Plus room (supplied)

Access to downtown is via a 30-minute cab ride, not something you want to be doing every day. The resort also offer their own transfers, but these are not always available or practical.

While this type of resort is fine for families and groups, it might not appeal to honeymooners or those seeking peace and quiet. For this rejuvenating purpose, I would recommend something like:

The Bell Pool Villa Resortthebellphuket.com

Self-contained pool villa at The Bell.
Like having your own resort. (supplied)

You can insulate yourself from as much of the outside as you want, making this almost a Howard Hughes experience.

These fabulous 3-y-o villas are fully self-contained behind a high wall and gate with private (8x4m) infinity pool and cabana. Separate bedrooms, living area and kitchen means you can blissfully enjoy your own company (or that of loved ones) while you make your own meals or have them delivered from the kitchen. Need to get out a bit? Stroll down to Zhong, the in-house restaurant, or take the free shuttle to nearby Kamala Beach or downtown Patong.

Breakfast served in your private villa (supplied)
See more images of The Bell Phuket

Perfect for couples, but expandable using the separate bedrooms, each villa can be configured to accommodate up to six persons, seven at a pinch.

There are just 16 villas, 14 standard and two 'Presidential', the latter being able to sleep 8 persons thanks to a fourth bedroom. Watch a movie on the big screen TV or use the nifty Apple TV device provided. There's a private (chargeable) wine 'cellar', free Wi-Fi and spa treatments at the exclusive in-house salon.

So, take your pick. Join in the throng or find your own private hideaway, the choice is yours.

 ~~~~~~~~~

More information on Phuket and Thailand can be always be found at: www.thailand.net.au

Saturday, 24 May 2014

A luxury love nest near Lamai, Samui, Thailand.



"We are a hotel for lovers," says Khun Nok, with a cheeky sparkle in her eyes. Indeed, lounging in the airy reception area is a bit like watching something from Noah's Ark ... the couples come in two by two. No families. No solo travellers.

I didn't ask her what percentage would be honeymooners, but I suspect a lot. For Villa Nalinnadda is billed as a small luxury romantic hotel. Even the dining area on the sand near the pool has only two tables. And the hotel itself, only a handful of rooms.

The chaos and madness of Chaweng is a long way from this love nest. In a good way. This villa is just south of Lamai, 
which has enough bright lights, bars and restaurants for those who want to come up for air.

The dazzling white rooms are purpose-built. Centre stage are large four-poster beds, and a sumptuous tub. The top floor rooms 
feature a jacuzzi-style tub on the balcony. To lie there amid the bubbles, gazing into your lover's eyes - or even at the milky way
above - is a prelude to love and romance. There is no turning back!

"Some more conservative Thais complain about this," says Nok. "How can you make it so ... so ... obvious," she chuckles. But 
a seedy love motel this is NOT. All the fixtures and fittings are beautifully and carefully selected. Like the feather-decked curtains,
adding an indulgent orgiastic feel. I note, though, that the standard mini-bar supplies don't include condoms.

And breakfast can be served in your room, at the reasonable 
waking hour of your choice.Then the day is yours, recline 
around the pool, or to amble along the beach with resident
spaniel Pistacchio waggling along with you. 

Just nearby is the setting off point for Samui's famous fleet of 
squid boats, who dot the horizon at night with their green 
flood lights. 

A wry reminder that everything is "GO" at this villa. In a raunchy
red-light romantic kind of way.

www.nalinnadda.com


So you want to teach in Thailand? What you should learn first ...

Think of English teaching as a cultural adventure.
Thailand is a seductive place. No wonder then I get asked fairly regularly about staying on in Thailand, finding a job and living here. And the common place to start is teaching English. Many long-termers have all been there before, and they'd be lying to you if they said they’d never put a tie on and stood in front of a classroom of kids.

I did this once, with a room full of nursing students in Chiang Mai teaching them relative pronouns and split infinitives. But this is not a letter to Penthouse.

Those who are young, carefree and looking for a bit of adventure certainly can find work in Thailand, thanks to a healthy demand (and urgent NEED) for foreign teachers. The blonder and more blue eyed, the better here! The world of TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language), as it’s commonly known here in Thailand, has helped travellers live and work abroad for a few decades now. Here in Thailand, with its reliance on the tourist dollar, everyone wants to learn English, and you shouldn’t have too much difficulty landing a job.

So, how do you become a TEFL teacher? Do you buy a certificate at the Khao San Road? Or step into a classroom and wing it with some youtube inspired games? Not quite. The local ministry of education actually take things quite seriously. Afterall, the Thai teachers all have teaching degrees and earn $500 a month, so a scruffy backpacker shouldn’t expect to waltz into the classroom and demand $1,000 plus perks.

For one, you’ll need a degree (in any subject) before you can get a temporary teaching licence. If you stay longer than four years – believe me, many get 'stuck' here for life – you’ll need to eventually study for a teaching diploma to get a permanent licence. This you can do online, apparently there are several courses offered by foreign universities.

Here’s the funny bit, you won’t need a TEFL certificate. That’s because there’s no central governing body in the TEFL world I’m told. Some TEFLs are good and some are ‘shophouse’, if you know what I mean. The Teacher’s Council don’t make it a requirement, but chaps (and ladies) do yourself a favour; lots of hard working middle-class moms have paid good money for their cherubs to sit in front of a ‘farang’ face. At least go to the trouble of getting properly trained. The recruiters will pay much more attention to your CV!

There’s some two dozen schools offering the standard one-month TEFL course in Thailand, this is the benchmark recognised the world over. The online courses don’t cut the mustard, apparently. If it costs less than $1,300 then it’s probably too good to be true. If you’re going to spend a month of your life studying, don’t skimp (save on the Beer Leo's instead).

There’s some rival accreditations, CELTA is a well known but intense one, but some of the other international networks are just as good. The main thing is to check out each centre, what their reviews are like, how established they are, and whether they are connected to recruiters who will offer you a job as a rookie teacher. Be warned, there’s lots of hubris out there about ‘accreditation’.

Here’s five things to look for in a good TEFL course

1.   Well established with properly qualified staff, who have a track-record in training
2.   An accreditation that is credible and backed by some international organisation, not local
3.   Conducts proper class-room practicums and gives you a test at the end
4.   Capable of setting you up with decent job interviews afterwards
5.   Professional facilities, and accommodation assistance

Another consideration is where you wish to study. Remember, you’re coming over here for a month, the course is demanding, so choose a laid-back, comfortable place that doesn’t have too many distractions. And a ridiculously low cost of living. Chiang Mai - where I used to live and have blogged about lots - is clearly a good option for this. Uni-tefl Thailand is one school I’ve heard good things about (in fact I've used their training facilities before, for an unrelated workshop).

And finally, let’s not forget the most important part - where to find a job?

Jobs are numerous on Ajarn.com  

As a rookie teacher you can expect to start on 30,000 baht a month ($1,000), with the tiger’s share of jobs in Bangkok. Forget a gig at the beach or in Chiang Mai. TEFL job vacancies in these places are as scarce as a Thai Prime Minister who survives full term. If you’re up for a cultural adventure consider one of the many provincial jobs on offer, you’ll earn the same but have far greater chance of saving. Think of it as an internship among the charming country towns you wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. 



Tip of the Hat: Thanks to Andrew Bell for supplementary information and wisdom.