Friday, 16 July 2010

Back again...

Without excuses or my usual self-flaggelation for neglecting this blog, let's get back into it: nothing too radical has changed at Baan Bophut since I last posted fortunately, but I'll attempt a catch-up.

Bad news first. Receptionist and Baan Bophut stalwart Mia, finally lost her husband Pee Lek to cancer after his protracted illness. Lucy and the staff that could be spared attended the funeral rights at a temple in Suratthani. We shared Mia and her young daughter's grief. Here's a snap taken when I last saw her at Christmas.

Big Joe, (AKA John Bell) larger than life Samui character and purveyor of the finest homemade pies, sausages and much else was killed in a road accident on the mainland when he ran off the road, returning home from Pattaya, after overnighting in Hua Hin. Joe is very sadly missed, as both a generous and open-hearted friend and supplier of the tastiest breakfast sausages on the island.

We have also lost the pups, only introduced in the last post. Foxy's nocturnal raids on a neighbour's chickens meant they couldn't stay at the hotel if they were to remain safe and unpunished. After the aggrieved villager turned up with a machete, threatening to do the dogs in, unable to keep them at home and in the absence of any offers from friends to take them as a pair, a heartbroken Lucy donated the innocent and dopy Bonzo with wily culprit Foxy, to a local temple. They should by now have completed their metamorphosis from being wholly secular beach dogs, and hopefully, developed some respect for other peoples' chickens. Immersed in the monastic life, they might even have become vegetarian.

Do you want to guess which one is which?

Christmas and New Year were both enjoyable, but unremarkable. We cooked our traditional Christmas lunch for (I think) 25 guests and friends including the pictured, Sara and two companions from Tenby on a 'round the world holiday of a lifetime. We were pleased to get the stress of the catering out of the way to enjoy ourselves.

Lucy took herself off to Australia for a friend's wedding in March and although the hotel didn't fall apart while she was away, her absence was noted. "The hotel dropped the ball..." one TripAdvisor reviewer was correct to note.

Like many of the other businesses in Bophut we closed for most of May, traditionally a hot and steamy month on Samui with, not surprisingly, even less visitors about than usual and took the opportunity of redoing the decking, servicing ACs and conducted some maintenance in the rooms.

Thailand's political ambivalence still polarises the nation and the protests have a direct bearing on the hotel's occupancy, but hey! What's new? The Asian tsunami of late 2004; the ongoing separatist insurrection along the southern border, the asian originated SARS, H5N1 (bird flu), H1N1 (pig flu) viruses and Icelandic ash, each have had a similarly adverse affect on Thailand's visitor numbers over the years and the hotel trade as a consequence.

Although there's not been a hint of civil unrest in Koh Samui throughout the most recent months of protests in Bangkok and elswhere in the north, the island has not been spared and our own August bookings look pretty gloomy. I suspect some of this though, can be attributed to the financial situation, the affects of which will linger for quite some time. But it's good to see the £ strengthening, which might entice more Brits to venture our way.

I've not been completely idle these past months, having been engaged in writing over thirty pages of new website blurb that includes a Samui and regional guide to the beaches and resorts; the neighbouring islands, transport, and introductions to Thailand's food and exotic fruits. I'm hoping we can go-live with the website before too long, but we still have some work to do with the photo/layout and Dom's not totally happy with the Wordpress theme we originally chose.

I'm motivated mainly out of boredom to restart this blog after such a shameful period of neglect, but also in no small part by a desire to discuss the latest TripAdvisor review we've received. We never respond to reviews on the TA website, either good or bad, and are frequently amused by the 'Management Response' our neighbours' use to excuse criticism while simultaneously questioning the integrity of any negative reviewer.

Thankfully, we've not had too many bad comments, and we try to rectify any points subject to genuine criticism. In the latest review, however, while still giving Baan Bophut a 'Very Good' rating of 4/5, the reviewer describes the hotel in their heading as "...a teeny bit soul-less" and continues "it was a tiny bit 'international' for us - we might have wanted a bit less sleek modernity and a bit more of a Thai feel".

Thai feel? I thought at first reading that they might have the wrong hotel. Upon considerable reflection, I felt I could forgive their apparent blindness to genuine Thai architecture and the various stone panels depicting temple dancers and mythological Thai deities that adorn the hotel's facade and restaurant (itself a traditional style 'sala'), and fail to notice the presence of thirteen Thai staff and a comprehensive, mainly Thai menu. But I am curious to learn that if Baan Bophut exhibits "sleek modernity", what kind of dives had they stayed at before?

Most wounding (to my soul) was the accusation that our little hotel was "soul-less", even a "teeny bit". I would much rather have been criticised for concealing elephant turds in their mini-bar or allowing the ritual drowning of protected wildlife in our pool. At least we could do something about that.
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