sojourneys


Scenes at Nusa Dua Beach, Bali, Indonesia
May 27, 2007, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Bali, beaches, Indonesia, Nusa Dua

Bali boasts some of the best beaches in southeast Asia.  It has black sand beaches with volcanic content, and the more vanilla white sand beaches.  Nusa Dua is one of the finest white sand beaches on the island, flanked by large resorts such as Grand Hyatt Bali, Ayodya Bali, Melia Bali, and Westin Bali. 

Here are some video clips I took on Nusa Dua.



The Ayodya Resort Bali, Indonesia (formerly Bali Hilton)
May 23, 2007, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Ayodya Bali, Bali, Bali Hilton, holiday, hotels, Indonesia, photos, resorts, reviews, vacation

The Ayodya Resort Bali (formerly known as the Bali Hilton) harks back to the grand dames of the eighties, with sprawling grounds, verdant gardens, and a multitude of specialty restaurants, all in a single, expansive property.  However, the Ayodya Resort Bali is one grand dame in dire need of a major makeover.

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The grounds are charming for sure.  It boasts a vast central lagoon which provides a habitat to a variety of birds, lizards, and fishes.  There is also a team of cleaners maintaining the estate in as pristine a condition as they can.   Step inside, however, and one can’ help but be disappointed.  The standard rooms, for example, are starkly basic, with carpets suggesting much wear, sheets hinting stuborn stains, air damp with mildew, and an underpowered air-conditioning system.

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The decor at the restaurants (and it looked like only three of the eight or so were open) looks extremely dated, and the menu was uninspiring.  Quality of food, with exception of the Japanese teppenyaki, was dismal.  The Balinese theatre themed buffet dinner (usually a money-spinner) was canceled without a sound.  The disappointing choice of dining option and quality could be due to the low occupancy (bell hops and restaurant staff said it hovered at about 30 percent but it seemed lower), would be a poor excuse for a lack of quality.  Equipment at the gym looked like they had never been replaced since the inception of the hotel, and a distinctly musty smell permeated the air.

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The pluses of the hotel would have to be its sense of space, old-world charm, a large swimming pool, and the fantastic Nusa Dua beach.  However, the same can be said for numerous other Bali properties of similar age, but have nonetheless reinvigorated their brand and upgraded their facililities to keep up with the times.

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All said, the Ayodya Resort Bali would not be a hotel I would return to unless substantial upgrading was done.



The Erawan Shrine, Bangkok, Thailand
May 9, 2007, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Bangkok, Erawan, Erawan Shrine, holiday, Thailand

The Chinese often refer to the statue as the Four-face Buddha, and countless devotees of all races and creeds flock to pay their obeisance at the Erawan Shrine (Thai: ศาลพระพรหม, San Phra Phrom), one of the most popular and potent religious embodiment in Thailand.

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Contrary to popular Chinese parlance, the Erawan is a Hindu shrine, housing the much-revered statue of the four-faced Brahma or the Pra Prom, the Hindu creator god.  The current statue is also not the original.  On March 21, 2007, a mentally disturbed ex-soldier climbed over the low metal gates wielding a hammer, and proceeded to shatter what is one of the most venerated religious symbol in the country.  Religious and legal proscriptions notwithstanding, 27-year old Thanakorn Pakdeepol was assaulted by onlookers until he was comatose.  He died on the way to hospital.

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The shattering of the four-faced Brahma was seen as a portentous omen for then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a military coup in September that year. 

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The Erawan Shrine’s omnipotence can be attributed to the role it played in the 50s when the Thai government set out to build one of the city’s first luxury hotels.  The project met with repeated setbacks from cost overruns to worksite injuries.  The final straw came when a shipload of Italian marble meant for the hotel’s lobby sunk offshore.  After various spiritual consultations, a shrine to Brahma was erected, and the accidents ceased.  Word of the the Erawan Shrine’s prowess spread and its place in Thai spirituality was sealed.

Here are some clips of worshippers and tourists at the Erawan Shrine, nestled under the city’s towering skyscrapers and meandering skytrains.

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Clip #3



Holiday Inn Bangkok Ploenchit, Thailand
May 5, 2007, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Bangkok, holiday, Holiday Inn, hotels, photos, reviews, Thailand, vacation

The Holiday Inn Bangkok Ploenchit is out of expectations on two counts.  First, a typical impression of a Holiday Inn is that it is functional but nondescript.  The second has to do with the façade of the building. It is concrete, grey, and drab. The Holiday Inn Bangkok Ploenchit on the inside is sleek, freshly contemporary, with installations and ambient lighting accentuating its modernity. Have a look.  First, the façade of the hotel.

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The grey concrete face masks a modern, hip interior.

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The rooms are well-designed, and quite plush. 

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The pool is small but quite popular with guests.

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The gym is in the basement and hence is a little dark, but the equipments are new and adequate.

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Overall, the hotel has the hip factor without being overly pretentious. And the service is fantastic. The location cannot be better, with the Ploenchit BTS literarily at the door of the hotel, and the shopping shrines of Central World, Siam Paragon-Siam Center-Siam Discovery Center trinity, and the popular MBK all within walking distance.