I'm heading to MNL today and staying at the Shangri-La, Edsa. Wherever the hell that is.
My normal hotel is either "the Pen" as in the Peninsula. Or the InterContinental.
But I have a new client, and apparently, there is a large workshop taking place and I have to go and watch and listen. And behave. And not talk too much. Which is a bit like asking Tom Cruise to sit still on Oprah's sofa.
Before I bore you with these details, I had better tell you that I recently received a visit from the Queen. Of FT. Actually, we are supposed to refer to her as the "Community Director" because for all intents and purposes, she is The Boss. Of everything. She is the real deal "She Who Must Be Obeyed".
Or something like that.
Community Director sounds sort of weird, don't you think? This is hardly a community. Full on freak show is more like it.
It sounds like the title you might give someone who runs a sheltered workshop. Or a social out reach program. Or a non-profit, staffed by hundreds of volunteers, which really does make money and is actually owned by some vodka swilling tyrants.
That's FT in a nutshell.
I'm kidding. The people who own FT don't drink vodka at all. They drink bourbon. But I digress.
Anyway, I receive this email from SanDiego1K, telling me that she was going to be in Singapore with her better half and could we catch up. I thought of calling my attorney, thinking that I was surely going to be presented with some sort of lawsuit, given my tirades of late.
Sadly, the CD just wanted lunch. Minus alcohol. Which I can do. It is possible. So we went and ate our bodyweight in steamed dumplings. Had a very nice time, I might add. They were staying at the Conrad and as you would expect of our very own Community Director, they had access to the Club Lounge - which we decided to go and test.
Truth be told, we needed a bit of a lie down after our marathon lunch session.
The lounge however, was just getting ready for afternoon tea. So more eating and drinking. Well, let me clarify. We all did the eating part (slowly at first). And I did the drinking alcohol part. I think CD+1 just watched me for entertainment value. I mean, I didn't want to offend any of the staff - so when a cute little wait person came over and offered to refill my glass every 2 minutes, of course I said yes. And then I started eating quite a lot of cheese.
Because I am a relative newbie to FT, I amazed when I meet people like SanDiego1K who have been on this site for 10+ years. So we shared stories, spoke about work stuff. And family. You know the normal stuff adults talk about. Harmless banter really.
Actually, I made that last bit up. FT'ers don't waste time on chit chat. No one cares how many kids you have - much less wants to see a photo of the ugly things. We don't care how many times you've been married, where you live or if in fact, you're sleeping with your sister-in-law. Nor do we care what you really do for a living. All we want to do is just talk about travel. Airlines, Hotels, Mileage Runs, and anything to do with status. As it should be. I reckon we should extend the FT philosophy into a speed dating site. Chat between members could go something like this.
eightblack: "1KMM, EK Gold, QF LTG"
eightblack: "RTW with me?"
jessica-alba-baby-oil: "As if, loser..."
eightblack: "What about EK F Suites, Or SQ R?"
jessica-alba-baby-oil: "Go away moron"
eightblack: "A380 EK Shower?"
jessica-alba-baby-oil: "Security, security, help, help, help!"
Ok, maybe I need to work on my pick up lines. But you get the general idea.
Where was I?
Right, this client. Their travel policy may tip me right over. Actually, to be fair, their travel policy is fine. It's the people who manage it.
I shall elaborate. Just this once.
I think I might have explained previously that I suffer from a mild case of OCD when it comes to all things travel related. I like to book everything online and take care of everything myself.
So when this new client came knocking (and my contact is a guy who I have worked with in the past) told me "don't worry, someone will take care of all the travel and hotel bookings for you", I immediately panicked.
See, that's where it went wrong. Pear shaped in fact.
You'd think that arranging a simple 3-hr flight from Singapore to Manila would be child's play. Plus some accommodation. And it is.
Normally, I would take the cheapest option to Manila. Which is Jetstar. It leaves at o dark hundred in the wee hours of the morning. But the schedule is convenient as it gives you a good start to the day in Manila. And at S$200, how could you really complain?
But my client is a hardcore SQ flyer. So we're flying SQ - at three times the cost. Which is fine by me as its their money and as a wise man once said, the people with the gold get to make the rules.
Or something like this.
Sadly, the flight and hotel bookings started to go downhill from the time the poor, hapless Admin person started to get involved. I wont mention whether or not this assistant was a male or female - because i will be clearly labelled as a misogynist pig if I say a woman. And labelled as homophobic if I say "man".
After she screwed up the bookings by booking everyone on separate flights then the fun started with the hotel. She had booked us all into the Horizon Club floor at the Edsa Shangr-La. Now, this aint cheap. But worst still, everyone was on different rates.
My new boss, who would probably have a resting heart rate of 12 (despite the fact that he has a 14-year old daughter) started to turn red and foam at the mouth. But rather than create a scene in the lobby - we decided we would wear the hotel staff down over a series of days. Which we did.
Wait. I forgot to tell you about the flight. Now, I'm not about to include pictures of SQ's Y regional product. I would rather watch paint dry. But I suppose if you have to fly Y somewhere, then SQ probably is right up there. IFE is good, meals are edible, they actually serve wine out of bottles, the hot towel service is a nice touch and the 3-3-3 config in Y is not quite as claustrophobic as EKs zoo class.
I don't typically fly on SQ much - because i reckon they do bugger all for their frequent fliers. And I lost my PPS status years ago, when I moved countries. But recently, I re-joined KrisFlyer as I am trekking down to Cambodia a lot. And it looks like I'll be spending way too much time in Manila for these crazy Germans.
SQ's regional product is about as reliable as your teenage daughter telling you she is going to keep her cellphone bill to a minimum this month. Its hit and miss which aircraft configuration you'll receive.
SQ run 4 x777's to MNL every day. Which is quite a lot. 3K run 2 services a day. Plus a slew of indirects (ie TG, CX etc)
The Singapore locals call the flights from SIN to MNL "the maid express" because the plane is typically filled with FDW's (Foreign Domestic Workers) traveling to and fro. Or old male westerners with Filipino girlfriends. Or old single males who are going to the Philippines to look for a girlfriend. But I digress. A story best left for another time perhaps.
Boarding is a shambles. Trying to get luggage into the overheads is worse. Most of the passengers have zero clue about airplane travel. And given that everyone is around 5 foot tall, it resembles a trapeze event at the Olympics for the vertically challenged.
Because most of the patrons are not the sort who might typically complain, SQ must roll out whatever config they want.
But the seats. Let me tell you about the seats. Man, the cushion must have been designed by someone who had serious issues. With something. Actually the older 777 config (the one without KrisWorld on demand) - has better Y seats than the newer config if you ask me.
I know its only a short 3-hour hop, but I kid you not - it would have to be the worst Y seat to sit on I know of. And I've sat on some shockers. I think it gave me bedsores. You've got no idea how much I had to drink when I got to the hotel before I felt normal again
Anyway, the meeting in Manila involved the typical project team. This new client is a German company. So for this workshop, we required 2 techie types from the head office. They decided to be quite possibly the most humorless 2 individuals ever created.
Now I know we shouldn't generalize here on FT - a site heavily consumed with the truth and all things factual, but if you met these German guys - you would just about try and slit your own wrists with a butter knife. Or stick your own head in the toilet until you either passed out or drowned. I would like to think that even at my age, I still have my sense of humor, despite a 12-year marriage, 2 children who treat me as a walking ATM machine and a cat who insists on urinating in all my shoes. A lot.
Obviously, my 2 new european friends weren't let out of the little town they lived in very often.
Apparently, home to them is a quaint little german city, north east of Munich. Sort of like Fargo, North Dakota. Except for the fact that the last time I saw a movie about Fargo, North Dakota, some deranged lunatic was stuffing his parents into a wood chipper. Or was it his wife. I cant remember. Maybe it was his wife and his mother-in-law. No wonder I enjoyed the film.
So Hans and Olof (the 2 German guys) had flown into Manila on KLM (via Amsterdam) and wherever the hell in Germany they connected from. An Indian guy who is a VP of Strategy flew in from London, the Consulting Director (another Indian) based in Singapore, was told to be in Manila for the 3-days (but promptly ignored the request) and decided to just come when he did - which was 1 day later. And my new boss (an American) who has lived in Singapore for 20+ years. Oh. And me.
So six in total. All staying at the Shangri-La on the Horizon floor. All paying different rates. See - this is whats wrong with big business. No one cares. I was starting to wave my arms and hyperventilate, but then the bar opened in the lounge and I calmed down as soon as I realized you could make your own Bloody Mary's.
But to the hotel's defense, they treated us very well. And I did my best to get maximum value from happy hour in the lounge, which was from 6-8pm in the evenings. Except I would be there at 4 o'clock, looking at my watch rather pensively and inquiring "goodness me, look at the time…it's nearly 6!"
So here I am. Actually, this is the second trip to Manila. Because as we were leaving last week, my new boss turned to me and asked "when can you come back, next week?"
It's Ground Hog day.
More to come…