My experience has shown that hotels in Asia and around the Indian Ocean are different that hotels in the United States and most of Europe. The are focussed on pampering and entertaining guests. In the United States, I had the feeling that I was on my own to find entertainment and, often, food. A hotel provides a room, sometimes a restaurant and bar, occasionally a pool, and not much else. One can find something to do, if one is willing to pay. Service is available, but collecting tips seemed to be the main impetus. Disney hotels were an exception in the entertainment department, but not is the payment area.
Resort hotels in in Asia offer many activities, some free and some for a fee. Just about every hotel has a kid’s club, to keep children busy and out of parents’ hair. There is always enough to do without digging any deeper into one’s pocket. Most resort areas offer endless variety of tours or activities to entertain guests that are not happy to merely read a book and enjoy the ambiance. The extreme are the club hotels, where everything is included in the price. Of course, these are not for me. The most I might do is use a diving mask to stick my face in the water to look at colourful fish and use the fitness studio to stay in shape. I do not need tennis or scuba diving or sailing or kayaking, etc.
Anyone, like me, that has an interest in Asian history (or any history not taught in schools) and has read a bit, will find the following book review interesting. I might even buy the book, but the piece provides some interesting details (some of which I know from past reading, but are unknown to most Americans).
Although most people see Asia as a huge mass of short people with black hair and slanted eyes, I have learned of many differences between nations and peoples.
Then again, differences can be difficult to spot...
I spent my early years in one of Boston’s wealthier suburbs. I would guess that my family was lower middle class in a town bursting with upper middle class and beyond. The town featured no wrong-side-of-the-tracks, because the railroad, which was still a feature of daily life in those days, sliced the town in half. I recall stories of “one hundred millionaires” residing in that town. I had no idea what a millionaire was...other than someone with an unimaginable bunch of money. There was a television program about some rich guy, who gave away one million dollars anonymously. The show was entertaining, but provided no clue as to the value of that amount.
At that time, one’s relative prosperity in the United States was not as big an issue as it is today. “Things” and brands were less dominant. Other kids’ parents might have a nicer car, but we still had a car. And, I had a bicycle...and toys...and clothes...and we ate well. I felt no different from my peers. What more could a kid want?
I can recall my first glimpse of poverty. I might have been seven or eight. A friend invited me to accompany him on a long weekend in autumn to their summer home on Deer Island in Maine. I’m certain his parents wanted someone to play with their only child. The island, which I recall as being sparsely populated and rural, was reached by ferry. I remember driving with his father to a farm that sold pumpkins and then visiting someone’s home, which was little more than a shack. What I remember most vividly was the dirt floor, because no house in Wellesley, Massachusetts, had such a floor. That was the first, and last, time that I set foot in a poor person’s home in the United States, but the look and feel of dirt left a lasting impression.
About the same time, I became aware of a different kind of poverty. Some summers, we drove to Virginia to visit relatives. I recall seeing shacks of dirt poor Black “farmers” beside the road (no Interstates at that time) in Maryland and Virginia. The structures were so different from the houses on the streets of the well-to-do in my town...and even the less well-to-do. When older, I noticed details, such as the shacks being on blocks (no cellar as in our house), a dirt track leading to the door (not a drive for cars), no power lines, missing windows, etc.
I run across such poverty until I traveled to Asia, where non-Western standards are prevalent. I noticed that people were more cheerful and less down-trodden than the poor of America, perhaps because they do not have foolish dreams of a better life and follow a religion that promises more than the choice between heaven and hell.
One has a completely different sensory experience in Asia. Sitting at dinner in the hotel garden, evening breezes wafted contrasting fragrances past my nose: perfume from the next table, fried garlic from the outdoor grill, each meal, or incense from who-knows-where. At home, fragrances tend to be unified, with little variations. But, like everything in Asia, fragrances can change suddenly and frequently. This makes life more interesting, because even unpleasant odors do not linger and are quickly replaced.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.