Pulau Perhentian: "Loosen Up? My Bad Luck"
July 15 2006
TO: Resident Manager
Perhentian Island Resort
I know that in Southeast Asia it is considered outrageously insulting in the extreme to raise one's voice in anger. I know that it is considered quite rude to complain.
So, instead I am writing you this letter to tell you about my "bad luck."
My guidebook describes the Perhentian Island Resort as "the island's most luxurious option. The resort overlooks the best beach on the islands - a beautiful half-moon bay with good coral...comfortable bungalows and a first-class restaurant." *
I called to make a reservation for a three-night four-day stay. The hotel operator said they do not take reservations and gave me another number to call.
I called the second number (I assume a central booking office) and completed the reservation procedure. The agent promised to send a confirmation to my email address.
I checked my email in the evening; no confirmation. I called the office; no answer. I called the hotel; no answer. I called the telephone company information service. They gave me the number I already tried. I tried again; no answer.
Feeling optimistic, I took a taxi from Kota Bhuru to the pier at Kuala Besut. At your office at the pier they had no record of my reservation. But the agent there took my name and passport number, gave me a voucher for the ferry, and told me to just go to the hotel.
On arrival at the hotel, about an hour later, the receptionist still had no record of my reservation; nor did he have any communication from the office at the pier.
After a few uncomfortable moments, I was assigned to Room 306, a quiet room per my request.
I unpacked and got organized for my weekend rest....The toilet doesn't flush. The telephone doesn't work. I walk back to the reception area. They said they would send a maintenance man. He arrived thirty minutes later. He could not fix the problem. He called the office. I was asked to move just next door to Room 305. No problem. I cheerfully moved my belongings.
Later, when I tried to re-enter Room 305, the key would not open the door. The maintenance man returned. Somehow he managed to open the door. But my room key still would not work. His response, "Change room." My response, "No! Fix lock."
I marched to the reception area. I told them, "I am going for a swim. I expect my door lock to work when I return." It did.
Now by Malaysian standards, by Southeast Asian standards, I am paying a premium price for my room. Yet, there is no plug in the sink, the water groans when I turn the faucet, the toilet seat will not stay up, and the flush is incessant unless I jiggle the handle. The terrace furniture needs serious attention.
Now, on the bright side, breakfast, lunch and dinner on the terrace overlooking the sea are delightful. And the food is pretty good. The mixed vegetables are always crunchy; the Asian style chicken and beef entrees are tasty and clearly designed for a Western palate - more chili please. I felt adventurous and sampled your "four local pickles." Pickled garlic clove, pickled mango, pickled bidara (something like a small apple) and my favorite, pickled white grapes. Sedap! And, the coffee is always strong.
The open-air dining hall reminds me of Ten Mile River Boy Scout Camp Ranachqua Unit C - Nianque with the high arched wooden ceilings and large family style tables. Scandinavian, Malaysian and Chinese kids run helter-skelter. To be fair, I am assigned to a small table. My server has kindly placed a large sign on my table reading "Mr. Jan."
Everyone was a little uncomfortable last night. I know that you had no control over the torential tropical thunder and lightning drenching downpour wind storm. But your staff seemed unperturbed.
Today it took only two calls, at 1:30 and 3:30, to have my room cleaned. The young Indonesian man was quite accommodating.
In fact all of your Malaysian and Indonesian staff are friendly, gracious and well-trained. They are happy to greet and serve "Mr. Jan" and I am happy to chat with them.
I am enjoying the powdery golden sand, the clear turquoise surf, the restful scenery and the casual grounds of the resort. Can you imagine my astonishment as I nearly tripped over what seemed like a 1.5 meter long iguana sunning himself on the path near my bungalow? I spotted squirrels and geckos and bats last night. So far I missed the gibbons and pythons. Hey, I am on a jungle island in the South China Sea. I must make allowances.
Frankly, Mr. Manager, I don't envy you your job. The map says I am in Asia, but I don't feel like I am in Asia. Some of your guests are friendly Malaysians, but most guests are couples or families from Europe - "sour-pussed" Europeans. They seem to be happy and they tolerate each other. Yet when I nod or smile or say hello, they mostly ignore me or look at me and...nothing. A dead pan expression. What's wrong with these people?
I have stopped caring. That's why I choose to live in Asia. That's why I am looking forward to the mainland to continue my travels in your country and happily to meet your countrymen who are more than happy to smile and chat.
I feel...well...lucky, after all.