Thursday, November 15, 2007
End of a trip
And so I have arrived home after six weeks on the road. A trip that has taken me to North America, South East Asia, India, Europe and back again. The mileage is somewhere around 58,000 and I have been keeping close track to make sure those miles are credited.

I have been through Changi Airport in Singapore at least three times, and I can easily see why it has won Business Traveller magazine's best airport award 20-odd times. To be sure HKIA is good, SYD is well managed, MUC is clean and efficient, but for my book, Changi in SIN just ticks all the right boxes.

From a decent smoking lounge (there are still some of us who like a quick drag before we fly), to the boiled sweets at immigration, this is one airport that is run with the passengers in mind. And not like the old joke: it would be a fine airport if it wasn’t for those pesky planes...

In East Timor I saw at first hand the work being done by the United Nations integrated team (you can see that in this month’s Quest for Peace). In Sydney of course it was the A380. Tokyo was Business Traveller, Japan Now! and so on.

I also enclose a picture that just about sums up why I love to travel. I took it a few hours ago as my Lufthansa plane made its way back from Delhi to Munich. We were over Afghanistan and I took the picture from the window of the A340-600. (By the way I saw the downstairs toilets on the LH A340-600 in economy. Interesting! First time I have seen airlines building into the hold for passenger use. So the 747 and A380 aren’t the only planes with stairs!)

This picture isn’t exceptional. It’s not even remarkable. It’s simply our world as I flew overhead. And for the chance to have seen it while enjoying the superb modern technology in the air (the plane, not the toilets), I am grateful.

This week takes me to Cairo. It will be my first trip to Egypt. Can you believe that? I am attending a conference. Watch me slip out and see the Pyramids. This is why we travel.

Richard Quest, CNN, over the English Channel
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Peninsula's latest
New Peninsula hotels don’t come along that often. While other chains are adding new sites by the dozen, Peninsula takes its time in deciding where and when to open one of its luxury hotels. The last was five years ago in Chicago and the latest, the Peninsula Tokyo, opened at the beginning of September. So when I got the chance to stay there, it was an opportunity too good to miss.

The hotel is small both in room numbers and in standing: a triangle in Ginza with stunning views of the Imperial Gardens. You can only see the palace roof in the distance, you won’t see the Emperor wandering about the garden.

The good

The rooms are exceptionally well furnished (as you’d expect). They have perfected the bedside control panel so it looks less like Mission Control and actually allows you to turn off the lights when requested, rather than opening the curtains, calling the valet or something else unintended. They have looked carefully and learned from other’s mistakes.
The bathrooms are a treat. I could have spent all day watching the automatic toilet seat raising and lowering itself. Or deciding which of the “specialised” nozzles I preferred – the lighting can be full, mood, or spa. The glass doors are a bit fierce in closing, and I suspect this will cause trouble in the future.
The dressing room was large, too large I think, you are apt to put things down and forget you have left them there.
All in all – the rooms are a delight.

The bad

The lobby and the lobby restaurant. You walk into the hotel and straight into the restaurant. Without walls, potted palms or nooks and crannies There is absolutely no privacy for anyone sitting here. Everyone coming in and out of the hotel will walk right past you. In some cases literally next to your table.
This wouldn’t be so bad if there was another, more private lounge to meet besides your room. But during the day, there really isn’t. In the country of the discrete, many top business people will shudder at the openness of this. It was a big negative for me.

The tests

I put the hotel to several tests. Firstly I asked The business center to scan documents and store them on my disc – and then left them to it. It was done correctly, quickly and efficiently. Top marks for this.
Second, as I left the hotel I asked the front desk to retrieve a shirt from my room and put it into the laundry. This was done, but they also put all the other dirty clothes into the laundry despite me asking for just the shirt.

Finally, I broke my shoes during the trip and asked them to have them repaired. The only reply I got was it would take three weeks and cost 20 thousand yen. Not a suggestion about where I might buy more, or did I need to borrow a pair to get me through my trip.

Interesting oddities

Look inside the atrium cavity opposite the lifts. This is “dead space” required by law. They have put the most amazing fibre optic sculptures (I thought they looked like long legs) and are a truly different.

The staff

Well-meaning, ultra-polite and usually rather inefficient. The hotel training needs to be more rigorous about “getting the job done” and not just “bowing and scraping.”

The food

Being the new kid on the block, this is the in-place where Tokyo’s Ladies do Lunch and Afternoon Tea. They often line up for more than an hour to get a table. It’s fun to watch. Guests don’t have to wait.

The restaurant on the roof is excellent and not too expensive. Stunning views over Tokyo. A bit soulless in atmosphere but that will change.

Room service was fast, efficient and extremely tasty. It was not cheap.

Peninsula Hotels are expensive and a cut above the rest. The Tokyo hotel is their new baby. It is still teething. In a year or so it will grow into a fine, strapping specimen … but at the moment, like all other toddlers, I would let someone else suffer the growing pains and stay somewhere else.

Richard Quest CNN Tokyo
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