- Travel Topics
Burma and customer service generally don’t go hand and hand. I don’t think Vicky and I are particularly picky – we did sleep on bean bag chairs for three nights in Tokyo. Still, to me there are a few things I think of as a “no brainer” when it comes to running a hotel or hostel.
The first is that I expect adequate directions/address, and I like them in English, the local script (so we can show it to cab drivers), and lastly pronounced using Latin script (this is a bonus, not necessary). Surprisingly, this is quite hard to come by, even though it only needs to be done once and included on the website (or booking website). Hostels love to write directions in English (maybe), but if you’re trying to explain this to a cab driver who doesn’t recognize the hostel, it’s not very convenient .
The next thing is some decent phone service. People are pretty predictable – I don’t call the hotel to chitchat about random things going on in the news, I usually want to make a reservation, check a reservation, or maybe ask a few things about rates and availability. If you run a hotel that presumably caters to foreigners, I don’t think it’s asking a lot to have someone capable and willing to answer the phone. It’s amazing how often you get brushed off:
“Ya ya, sure.”
Heard it a million times before. Except it wasn’t really sure, was it?
And would it kill you to write the phone number both from an international and a local phone, for the times when we ask the cab driver to call you because the hotel directions aren’t clear?
The last thing, of course, is the price! I’m a big fan of the old adage – you get what you pay for, but what about, you pay and don’t get much? In Burma, most of the hostels we stayed with charged around $25 for a dungeon err private double, with no AC, wifi, etc…
Compare that to half the price in Laos for better amenities – sound fair?
OK, rant over.
Our time in Burma was not without our fair share of communication mishaps – but all of that came to a halt when we got into Mawlamine and stayed at the Cinderella Hotel (note, our stay was not sponsored or anything, I actually liked this place enough to rave about it myself, and others do too).
These people got it – plain and simple. They were professional, well-mannered, efficient – all those good words that inevitably fall under that customer service blanket. For the same price as we paid everywhere else in Burma we got a huge room, amazing A/C, TV with English channels, relatively fast internet, fully stocked mini-bar with prices comparable to convenience stories, and incredibly friendly staff. And the toiletry kit was equipped with real toothbrushes, toothpaste, and hair dryer. Oh and the breakfast was great too (included in the price), with snacks provided during the day and free coffee and tea.
We were so pleased, we stayed an extra day!
I suppose I should talk about the town a bit. Perhaps Mawlamyine is most famous for being where George Orwell lived and wrote his famous 1936 memoir Shooting an Elephant:
In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people—the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.
Luckily Vicky and I didn’t feel like we were the subject of any hatred. It’s a pleasant enough town to walk around in, by Burmese standards, which for me meant it was good for a day or so. It’s still filled with litter and there isn’t any awful lot to do with OK food options.
There is a decent sunset viewpoint that you can catch if you’re up for it. I will say that outside of Yangon it was probably the most culturally energized city we went to in Burma.
We enjoyed walking around the market in circles, observing the local way of life; women carrying baskets on their heads, men loading up motorbikes or pick up trucks, street stall vendors preparing meals, etc.
At times it almost felt like we had gone back in time. The atmosphere, the old colonial buildings falling apart, yet it didn’t feel out of place, everything was as it should be. As if we were passing through a Hollywood movie set, an old Western perhaps.