E-MAIL MICHAEL  PRINT  2008 COLUMNS  ARCHIVES  SEARCH ARCHIVES
OF SERVICE FAR BEYOND THE NORM
By Michael Matthews
October 15, 2008 -- One of the most pleasing aspects of writing this little column is hearing from readers. More than 500 of you have kindly written to me recently, asking advice or just reminiscing about hotel stays long passed. My last several columns brought the most E-mails and I thought you'd like to hear what your fellow readers had to say.

First off, let's look at what you wrote to me about Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok. You will remember that I had an unfortunate visit in Bangkok after breaking my hand in an accident in Cambodia. About 24 hours later, I was being patched up at Bumrungrad.

Several readers reminded me of their visits to Bumrungrad and said they, too, were amazed at the skill of the doctors and the incredible service. One reader wondered if I had tried the McDonald's in the lobby. No, I didn't, and I did think it was a little incongruous. It must be the only McDonald's in the world with polished marble floors.

(I will admit it now: I have never had a McDonald's meal, be it a Big Mac or anything else. In my will, I request that the epitaph on my grave read: "He never had a McDonald's." This should cause the anthropologists of future generations to nod their heads and perhaps lead to a dissertation from some future doctoral candidate.)

Another reader said that he has his annual physical at Bumrungrad. Even including the airfare from the United States, the price was less expensive--and he felt the physical more thorough--than at the Mayo Clinic. He added that he also got a vacation in Thailand thrown into the bargain.

My wife is thinking of having some cosmetic surgery--not that she needs it. (Instant brownie points for me!) She has priced it out and, for those thinking of a little nip or tuck, you'd be well-advised to check out Bumrungrad's prices.

I also heard from the director of Bumrungrad, thanking me for my kind words about his hospital. He even informed me that, many moons ago, we had worked together. I wonder if I had anything to do with instilling in him his passion for service? I'd like to think so!

And to those who also sent their kind wishes for my speedy recovery: You will be pleased to know I am now 100 percent fit.

Meanwhile, declaring that The Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong was now my favorite hotel and the best I'd stayed in for many moons also brought considerable mail.

A reader said that I'd forgotten to mention the binoculars in every room and said he'd had fun looking across Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour at the venerable Peninsula. He was trying to spot their friends who where staying there. Indeed, there are binoculars in every room and I used them.

Another reader wrote that the Mandarin's Captains Bar was the best in the world "and I've drunk in most of them." He also agrees with me that a San Miguel draft beer, served cold in a sterling silver tankard, is pure nectar from the gods.

Another reader had a fascinating story: He'd had a suspected heart attack and was rushed to Matilda Hospital on Hong Kong's Victoria Peak. And after a battery of tests, he awoke to find a uniformed bellman from the Mandarin by his bed with a pair of silk pajamas, slippers and a huge basket of fruit. Each day of his stay, the same bellman returned with more fruit and the good wishes of management for his speedy recovery. On returning to the hotel, by one of the hotel's Mercedes, he found that he had been moved to a suite. To this day, he says that he wears the pajamas. And, like me, touts the Mandarin as the best hotel in the world with service beyond the norm.

(Another reader wrote that he was sick with flu-like symptoms during his stay and the Mandarin delivered to his room a bowl of piping hot chicken soup. It was, he said, "better than my Jewish grandmother used to make!")

The Mandarin Oriental's concierge, whose nearly 30 years of service is soon to end, also garnered some mentions. One reader wrote how the concierge managed to get him tickets to view the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese and was seated only a few rows from Prince Charles at the ceremony. Needless to say, that was nearly an impossible ticket to get.

Tremendous service, be it at a hospital or hotel--or anywhere for that matter--is something one always remembers. My wife and I will never forget our visit to Bumrungrad and, later, the Mandarin Oriental. I hope you never need to visit the former (unless it's for a nip and tuck) and will try the latter when next in Hong Kong. You won't be disappointed.

Finally, please keep those cards, letters and E-mails coming in. I answer them all and they are all appreciated.
ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2008 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.