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




Monday, 1 August 2016

Elephant Polo: Is this the biggest thing in Thailand?



Editor notes: The sport of elephant polo attracted a lot of negative attention after inhumane practices were observed at the 2018 event. As such this article is provided for historical reference only and makes no endorsement or otherwise of the event.

A sport of massive proportions, this rampaging ball game is not to be taken lightly. Roderick Eime takes a wild swing at elephant polo.

Hanging on for dear life as my mount sprints down the field at full gallop, I prepare to swing my long lance-like weapon at the tiny object on the ground. I raise the shaft and with all my strength, unleash a mighty blow on the little rolling target. The heavy mallet head strikes the turf and messy tufts of grass go flying as if propelled by an exploding hand grenade. The ball, however, rolls pathetically toward its objective with barely a fraction more speed than before.

The royal and lavish sport of polo is, by reputation, reserved for kings and the wealthy elite, not some clumsy suburban ring-in. But I have an excuse. Sure, this is the first time I have ever played polo and the level of difficulty (or should I say ungainliness) is elevated somewhat from atop an elephant.

True, here in Thailand the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is now a permanent fixture on the social calendar, attracting the well-heeled and the well-coiffed from the world of business, finance, leisure and luxury consumer brands. Instead of the rapid patter of frantic hooves and the panting of thoroughbred steeds, it’s the thud of massive pachyderms trampling their way up and down the pitch, occasionally trumpeting their enthusiasm or challenging an umpire’s decision via trunk call.

The commentator calls the event with all the enthusiasm and dry wit as if it’s a country cricket match, but despite the obvious comic element, the royal sport of elephant polo is a serious affair. The field is festooned with salubrious brands like Anantara Resorts, Audemars Piguet, Mercedes Benz, IBM, British Airways and American Express. Big money is at stake and the cast of celebrities can (and has) include New Zealand All Blacks, Miss Tiffany Thailand, Isabelle Fuhrman, former Thai PM Aphisit Vejjajiva, supermodels Cindy Bishop and Lukkade Methinee plus proper royalty like Prince Carl-Eugen Oettingen-Wallerstein and his wife Princess Anna and daughter Princess Joanna.

The money raised, however, does not line the pocket of some rich sheik, instead it goes to charity projects that help the elephants themselves including an elephant ambulance, the rescue of mistreated or neglected street elephants and even an elephant hospital in Krabi. Since the tournament was introduced to Thailand in 2001 by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, it has grown to become one of the biggest charitable events in Thailand that has raised almost US$500,000.

“We strive to make each new tournament bigger and better in terms of teams, fun and activities,” said Mr. Bill Heinecke, CEO Minor International and owner of Anantara. “But we must never forget the true meaning of holding the event and that is to make a considerable donation to the conservation and welfare of the Thailand elephant population.”

The event has gone from a small two-day event in 2001 to one of Thailand’s major and internationally best loved events. The 2012 tournament featured 12 teams encompassing over 40 players. A celebrity auction has also been held with international celebrities including Olympic 100 metre Gold Medalist Linford Christie, Grammy Award winners Lady Antebellum, UK fashion designer Anya Hindmarsh and Korean Pop Star Park Jung Min.

To the casual observer, there appear to be no rules. But there is even a World Elephant Polo Association, formed in 1982 and based in the Royal Chitwan Park in Nepal. From this lofty pillar, the august body oversees the sport which is played also played in Sri Lanka.

To throw some light on the method behind the monstrous mayhem of an elephant polo match, each team comprises just three animals played on a 100m pitch using a standard polo ball. The player sits on a saddle behind the mahout (elephant handler) who controls the animal according to player’s instruction. Each match is divided into two 7-minute “chukkas”, or halves, with an interval of 15 minutes. A goal is scored, clearly enough, when one team hits it between the goal posts.

Early games were attempted with a soccer ball, but the naughty elephants would get great fun from popping the leather ball, so that idea was changed. Foul play includes having your beast sit down in front of the goal mouth or pick up the ball with its trunk. You could even try bellowing your own commands at your mount, but unless you are fluent in elephant Thai, your most ardent instructions will go ignored.

Every tournament is attended by either a vet, an elephant behaviour specialist or both. Any animal that stops enjoying the game is allowed to go goof off and just muck about in the big enclosure out the back. Naturally, with any activity that involves the training of animals there are those who decry the sport as cruel and unnatural. Without seeing the training, I can attest that the animals do actually seem to enjoy the boisterous game. I visited a few of the resting elephants in their “green room” between matches and each seemed quite relaxed, standing quietly and gently enquiring of me if I had a banana or apple on my person with a quick examination of my pockets. A far cry from the pathetic animals I recall from my childhood, chained up behind the circus tent.

Tourism dollars flow into the host locations which have included resort cities like Chang Rai and Hua Hin. The 2013 event returns to Hua Hin from August 28 -September 1 and promises to be every bit the spectacle of previous years. Put on your best shirt, wear your fanciest watch, sip Blue Label and hobnob with the glitterati. Just mind out where you step!

Getting There: THAI flies 42 times a week from Australia to Bangkok.

For the latest special fares and promotions, contact travel agents or visit thaiairways.com.au.

Hua Hin is currently not served by scheduled airlines and can be best accessed by private road transfers or coach.

Staying There:

Anantara Hua Hin www.anantara.com Or InterContinental Hua Hin Resort www.ichotelsgroup.com/intercontinental

Playing There:

More on Thailand: www.thailand.net.au

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