Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
- From a Dante-esque hell to the heaven of home - August 11, 2022
- Reigning Supreme at the Regal while discovering a new variant - August 7, 2022
- Discovering 5-star values in Phuket - August 3, 2022
Planes, trains and (now) cement-mixers. Starring Steve Martin Moodie and coming to a cinema near you soon…
Yes, I’m scripting a sequel to John Hughes’ smash-hit movie as my world tour, now into its 81st day, continues to produce some unexpected twists and, in the latest case at least, turns.
But first let me set the scene. I have just arrived in Phuket, Thailand, having spent the past few days in Bangkok recovering from my epic, 48-hour (though it felt like 48-day) Heathrow-Frankfurt-Stockholm-Bangkok flight, which did temporarily threaten to douse my rediscovered passion for international travel.
In Bangkok, I stayed at the excellent Pullman Bangkok King Power, a place with special memories for me. I had an unexpectedly extended stay there in February 2011 after being taken ill during The Trinity Forum with post-operation complications from my recent cancer treatment. It was a difficult time but I was treated royally at Bumrungrad International Hospital by the personal physician of Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who would later be so tragically killed in an October 2018 helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium in Leicester.
Later, while recuperating, I stayed on at the Pullman and can now testify that its superb standards then are matched to this day.
Being at the Pullman has allowed me some quality time with Antares Cheng, Chief Merchandising Officer at King Power Group International and Founder and Managing Director of King Power Group (Hong Kong), his daughter Karli and Eric To, who both play key roles in Antares’ increasingly diverse Hong Kong organisation.
The Pullman is, of course, adjacent to King Power Rangnam, one of Asia’s great travel retail locations. Alas it’s been a deathly silent place for most of the past two and a half years due to the pandemic’s crippling impact on Thailand’s tourism sector. But with the country now open again to the world, it’s good to see this beautiful shopping complex open again and tourists – albeit in modest numbers – returning.
King Power’s business has traditionally been anchored by Chinese shoppers and it’s that nationality that the retailer has its hopes set on for an accelerating recovery in 2023. The signs are encouraging that Thailand will be in the frontline of what shapes as a phased return to international travel by the Chinese.
My wife Yulim and I had a pleasant dinner with Antares, Karli and Eric at the superb Paste Thai restaurant, a welcome chance to talk about work, life and, at last, post-pandemic prospects. Last night, coinciding on the 80th day of my Phileas Fogg-like journey around the world, we joined Karli and Eric again in the evening, this time at the excellent Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant at Siam Paragon. Though we nearly didn’t.
Bangkok traffic in rush hour is not a place for the faint-hearted. Cars, trucks and motorcycles switch lane at bewildering pace in their respective drivers’ efforts to achieve even the smallest incremental gain in crawling along the clogged roads.
Our driver was inching ahead on what passed for the inside lane of a packed road heading towards our destination. Things looked a little clearer ahead on the right. And they were. Ahead that is. But not behind. You see behind – as in very close behind – was a sumo-sized concrete mixer truck.
In a battle between a concrete mixer truck and a Bangkok cab, there can be only one winner. The collision duly delivered that sudden sickening combination of a dull thud and a rasping metallic symphony that any driver who has been in an accident will recognise.
Given that I was sat right behind the driver and the point of collision was between the two doors, I was grateful that I had fastened my safety belt. Nonetheless my neck felt as if it had just been wrung like a chicken meeting its maker at the hands of the local farmer. A day later I have a modest case of whiplash but as one of my colleagues back in the UK pointed out, at least I’ll have concrete evidence for any insurance claim.
As we alighted from the cab, it was clear immediately that we would be seeking alternative transport to our restaurant. We set off on foot leaving a concrete mixer driver and a Bangkok taxi driver arguing the rights and wrongs of what had happened and my reputation for being accident-prone truly cemented.