Since the trip to Mexico back in summer 2011, I finally got the occasion to travel again. Destination South Asia; more precisely to Sri Lanka, the island country located in the northern Indian Ocean.
Compared to (still and always comparing, some things never change...) my central-american experience, this adventure has been a real backpacking trip including endless bus rides trough the srilankan road anarchy, sweat-soaked t-shirts (...), mosquito battles as is right and proper,...
Backpacking is the art of knowing what to leave behind.
Back to basics has been the slogan on various levels. In a country with 20.277.597 people living , in our understanding, under absolutely "poor" conditions, one must admit what a comfort zone we live in and though we do complain much more than these guys. Buddhism is the most prevalent religion in Sri Lanka and even if you do not know much about it, it is famous for its minimalism and being a less greedy concept.
Besides the lack of needless luxury on a day to day level, you also get a reminder of who and what really matters; which unfortenutaly, in our cosy comport zone, we tend to forget ways too often. In the end, it's not only on a material level that I got to know what to leave behind.
Back in Mexico I found paradise (remember "heaven & hell can wait"); all the pictures were colorful and festive. So is the beginning of this post, all bright and full of light, though in the last pictures a certain darkness dominates. They are not ugly, just different and real and in a certain contrast to the ones before. Sri Lanka is nor heaven nor hell, it is it's own kind of paradise, if it was a person, it would be a beautiful mind.
Why do I say so ? Of course I have been amazed by the beauty of the temples, the miracles nature had to offer,... but formost I have been touched by the simplicity, gentleness and gratitude of the people we crossed. Therefor it is picture N°7 of this blogpost, with the two girls sharing a bottle of water and sharing a smile, that ended up being by favorite one.
You are exactly where you are supposed to be. All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry, all forms of fear are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence.
La honte! (...) is the least one can say about my inactivity on this blog; it has been one month since my last post and more than 9 months that Chapter 6 has been penned. Since, 3 seasons have passed by. In my defence, I do have a solid alibi explaining my absence.(where is my lawyer when I need him?) Further to all the recent "marketing spam", some may have noticed that the past 6 months have been about completing a Master's degree an major career changes. Puis, they were about really arriving in Paris (depuis le temps...), and new upcoming projects. Bref! they were about letting go a job, and old love, fake friends,... and making room for the new. After 6 months of studies in Brand Management I should be able to promote my own brand (not!). So, here's the new, here's the real, here's the life you wished you live, now here's the new girl taking on the world tonight... After 6 months of hard work on a professional and personal level I find myself with an overdose of information in my brain (fortunately I let go enough so there was enough space) and an upgrade on various levels: Herewith I am lucky to finally introduce the photography website matching this blog with a selection of my best pictures including a few previously unreleased treasures :
Entering a 5 star luxury hotel always has something magical. By stepping into these splendid creations the customer gets transcended into a world where perfection is norm. I experience the same pleasant state of mind everytime I pass their doors. You'll find me enjoying the impressive interior design while catching the fragrance of the place, getting taken away by the background music and foremost slowing down on the outside and inside, telling myself that I can calm down and relax for a little while in this comfort zone...
... until! (would have been to good to be true), until a very well trained staff member allows himself to burst my bubble in less than a second by disturbing my absence of mind by imposing his service to me.
Herewith I am officially not the easiest guest but definitely not the only one feeling bothered by fuzzy customer service. Though, none of the employees wants to be annoying. Quite the contrary; they follow a well defined code adapted to the luxury industry and each company's values and missions in order to make the guest have the best quality stay. As a former hotel management student with experience within a few of such hotels I remember myself in front of this bible of 227 rules and quotes that I was supposed to follow and preach. Obviously, these standards are supposed to complete this striving to perfection but on the other hand don't they entail a very impersonal level of interaction, turning their guests into a dime a dozen?
Previous summer I finally made a very different experience. The Hyatt company seems to have noticed this consumer insight and has developed a distinguished concept: the Andaz brand. I had learned about the launch of the brand years ago during my internship at the Park Hyatt in Paris, so while planning the weekend trip to Amsterdam, I did not think twice about where to stay.
I must admit, with their very casual approach , Andaz brings the customer experience to another level. At a time where many actors are still having a hard time with emotional marketing and still think in B to C (business to consumer) instead of H to H (human to human), Hyatt managed to lead the way with this innovative concept.
It is not just the open-space architecture, designed by Marcel Wanders, that enables the feeling of freedom. This principle runs like a red thread trough the entire stay. From the check-in to the departure, they let you be yourself. Instead of throwing all the information at us at the arrival, the receptionist (if you can call him a receptionist as there is no real reception in the lobby) noticed how lost we were on a geographical level and invited us with "hey folks, have a drink at the bar while I'll do your check-in and explain the entire map to you!". He made this moment even more casual and brought it to a personal level by letting us know his opinion and giving some really tailor-made advise. Probably they just let him be himself and his does not have 227 quotes to remember under his pillow (...).
During the entire stay nobody would ever come and disturb us. At the same time they provided excellent customer service and went the extra-mile when we requested their help. Isn't that true luxury and real perfection ?
Simplicity always will be the ultimate form of sophistication.
NB : The pictures above are the evident proof of them letting me be myself; I was feeling so free end ended up picturing the entire hotel, thus combining my passion for the hotel industry and branding with the one for photography. For two entire hours it was just the two of us : the Andaz Amsterdam and myself.
I now understand more and more my emotional marketing class, where we study the love for a brand. I am only dedicating this review to this hotel because of my love towards the place (no commercial post ;) ), a result of their respect and personal interactions with me, during and after the stay. It's not just the place - it's the people.
Yet, another post in the collection of "make your life memorable!".