Finding paradise in a troubled world

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Krabi bureau

I think I’m jinxed…

If losing my UK passport somewhere in/between Abu Dhabi and Bangkok wasn’t bad enough, I have also found myself sans suitcase in first Bangkok and then Krabi since I began a short but long-promised ‘post-Trinity Forum’ holiday on the beautiful southwest coast of Thailand.

This time [message to my long-suffering, disbelieving, assistant Mrs Earley], honestly, it wasn’t my fault. As the priority baggage from Cathay Pacific Airways flight 708 spilled out onto the belt at Suvarnabhumi Airport, I noticed a red case that vaguely resembled my own. I say ‘vaguely’. A cursory examination told me it was not mine. But I had an uneasy feeling in my old bones. Some 20 minutes later the same red case was still going around and around on the carousel. On its own. With mine nowhere to be seen.

I suspected the worst. Someone had picked up my suitcase by mistake. Having reported the missing baggage to a delightfully high-spirited gentleman (clearly a master in the art of de-stressing the distressed) who obviously enjoyed meeting people and thus had taken a job working at the lost luggage desk where he was guaranteed to, I headed off to Krabi owning just what I stood up in, plus my briefcase and New Zealand passport.

krabi airport

By the time I had taken the 45 minute van ride from Krabi Airport (above) to the Nopparat Thara pier (below) to catch the long-tail boat to my hotel, the 35 degrees Celsius temperatures were suggesting a pretty urgent shopping spree on clothing was necessary. And I’m not talking King Power Downtown Complex. Thai street markets are great things for the man in sartorial desperation and within minutes I was well equipped with shorts, shirts, hat, flip-flops and just about everything else I needed, all for well under US$10. I think Cathay Pacific may be able to afford my lost luggage compensation claim.

krabi pier

Sure enough, within a day of arriving at my hotel, my initial trepidation was confirmed. Some eejit, as my Irish mum used to put it, had indeed picked up my suitcase, kindly transporting it with them to somewhere ‘in the northeast of Thailand’. I could expect it back anytime between 24 and 48 hours from now. Perhaps.

Passport-less, suitcase-less, what’s a travel retail publisher to do? The answer’s pretty simple really. Nothing. So, from The Moodie Report’s extraordinary Interim Bureau at the Centara Grand Beach Resort (pictured top of page and one of those places you really should visit before you die), it’s time to kick back a little and reflect on the world around us. I supposed it could best be summed up in one word. Troubled.

krabi sunset

krabi rock

Last week’s Trinity Forum was postponed because of political troubles. As I write, the fast-deteriorating situation in Crimea, Ukraine is shaping as one of the most worrying crises of the 21st century. And in Kunming, China, an appalling mass knife attack took place last Saturday, carried out by terrorists from the Xinjiang region.

There’s hostility and hatred all around us, so much of it supposedly in the cause of religion or some cause. Always it’s the innocent that suffer. To just slightly misquote English folk singer Harvey Andrews, “And now you come knocking on my door, to tell me it’s your God who saves, but for 2000 years, he’s brought nothing but tears, and the blood that seeps from the graves”.

Our travel retail world seems trivial by comparison and yet it is heavily influenced by exactly such events. How often has tourism been the target of the hate merchants of the world? Let us hope that 2014 does not descend into more pain and outrage and that our business remains outside of their reach.

To brighter things. Before heading to Thailand I stopped in Hong Kong for two days and a packed schedule that culminated in the King Power Group (HK) annual staff dinner on Friday evening. Antares Cheng and his team know how to throw a party better than just about anyone in our industry but surely this time they exceeded even their own standards.


lion dance

This wasn’t so much a staff party as a full-blown theatrical performance, one that featured stage cameos from some of Hong Kong and China’s best-known actors and some of King Power’s management as you’ve never seen them before. King Power has a lower profile in duty free than it had a few years ago but it is still a thriving and dynamic force, particularly in the Chinese domestic retail market.

photo antares

[Antares Cheng as you never saw him before]

Cheng and his senior management retain a fondness for the duty free business, however, and don’t be surprised to see King Power make a major play for either or both of the forthcoming Sydney and Auckland airport duty free tenders. Besides being a generous and charismatic character, Antares is a canny businessman who follows the long game and when the moment is right, he will strike.

Krabi monkey business

Enough about duty free and travel retail, however. The locals (above) are extra friendly and the good news is that my suitcase has arrived. The even better news is that I’ve still got three days left in this particular piece of paradise to think about opening it.

photo kp best

chaps and stranger (2)

[Jonathan Holland of Jonathan Holland & Associates with an unknown… associate]


martin and pearl

[Martin Moodie with the precious ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Judy Yan of King Power Group]

lioin dance 2

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