Golden memories Half a century ago, on July 17, 1966, a young man named Rathnayaka Mudiyanselage Punchi Banda started work at the Galle Face Hotel, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Now 71 years old, Banda is still employed there, happily greeting and waving off guests at the front door. Until a few years ago, such news – impressive as it is – probably wouldn’t have made it much further than the local papers, but it came my way via an international public relations agency.
The “local employee”, said the press release, is still “earning his keep”. Banda, it continues, has welcomed “many famous guests”, including late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, astronaut Yuri Gagarin and writer Arthur C. Clarke.
I can’t think of another industry that publicly celebrates pushing its staff well beyond retirement age (Banda’s predecessor was still working at the age of 94 when he passed away, in 2014) but it’s obviously an effective way of highlighting bygone celebrity guests. In Hong Kong, for example, The Peninsula’s PR department has for many years been convincing local and international media that its senior barman, Johnny Chung Kam-hung, was taught to make the screwdriver cocktail by Clark Gable when the American actor was here filming Soldier of Fortune (even though it was released in 1955, and Chung – according to the hotel’s website – only started work there as a 15-year-old messenger in 1957, and wasn’t employed in the bar until four years later).
Both Banda and Chung, however, are a whole generation behind Angkana Kelantanan, who, at the age of 93, is employed by the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Bangkok as guest relations manager. Her fond memories of attending to Marlon Brando, William Holden and Sidney Poitier helped add a touch of glamour and an authentic sense of history to the grand reopening of the hotel’s Author’s Wing earlier this year.
Pool with a view The Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong has just opened in and around the renovated Joo Chiat police station, in a heritage district that was once a centre of Eurasian and Peranakan (or Straits Chinese) culture.
In keeping with the Hotel Indigo policy of designing each property with a local theme, the new hotel features plenty of Peranakan-style décor, both in its 131 rooms and around its public spaces, and seems to already be getting very positive local reviews.
Perhaps the most impressive feature is the 25-metre infinity pool (above), which looks out over the local neighbourhood and across the city centre. Go to www.hotelindigo.com/singapore for a closer look and opening offers.
Room service You might think that browsing and selecting specific rooms, not just categories, would be a standard feature of hotel websites, but GLH Hotels claims to have just launched “the world’s first online booking site that lets guests choose the exact room they want to stay in”. Chooseyourownroom.com lets you search several categories including views, business, family and more, then look through several photos of specific rooms at a number of hotels.
Some of London’s best properties are managed by GLH, such as the Amba Hotel Charing Cross, The Grosvenor and The Royal Horseguards. These three, and five others across London, including some good mid-range options, are currently featured on the website, with another six due to come online next month.
Deal of the week A two-night package to Nha Trang, on the southern central coast of Vietnam, is on offer at TLX Travel, with some good hotels and resorts available, including the Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel & Spa (from HK$2,640), the Evason ANA Mandara (from HK$3,400) and the An Lam Ninh Van Bay Villas (from HK$3,950). Top of the price list is Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, where Hill Top Pool Villas start from HK$6,510.
These prices – quoted per person, twin share – will be available until the end of October, and include round-trip flights with Vietnam Airlines via either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. For more details and reservations, look for the Nha Trang Summer Family Fun package at www.tlxtravel.com.