I am in Melbourne now – waiting to board my plane back home. I have spent three nights in Melbourne for the AMSRS Conference – the last one in my capacity as the State Chair for South Australia. I had a great time meeting old friends and contacts – as well as making new links through LinkedIn and Twitter. How times have changed in just a matter of years. In the past, I would be armed with a stack of business cards and then awkwardly conduct the business card exchange ceremony. Thesedays, it’s easy to just ask whether they are on LinkedIn and then connect! Voila! Or even, if I know their name and somehow we are connected through mutual contacts or groups, it’s easy for people to connect. It’s also easy with Twitter to capture and voice out the things that we learn from conferences: a new way to take notes as well as to advertise our existence!
All in all, I enjoyed my time in Melbourne – the city is just in the early stage of Spring although the air is still a tad nippy. The buildings are still pretty, the laneways are as buzzing as ever and the people are generally polite and helpful. This time around, I booked a hotel that is relatively close to the conference venue. The conference was held at Grand Hyatt Melbourne but my budget didn’t allow me to book a room there so I picked The Hotel Windsor instead. It’s an easy ten-minute walk to the conference venue through the “Paris end” of Collins street. At least thanks to the location, I discovered Egon’s Cafe Bakery as well as the quirkily named cafe (and overpriced coffee), the Church of Secular Coffee.
When I arrived at The Hotel Windsor, I was really impressed with the building and the atmosphere. I tweeted that it was like stepping into a Hercule Poirot murder mystery scene. It was to my great surprise when I returned back to my room on the first day of the conference to find a copy of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” accompanied by a note from the hotel. Whoa. You only heard such personalised service on the Internet and then it happened to you. I never received such a simple and yet meaningful gesture from any of the hotel chains that I’ve stayed with (admittedly pre-Twitter days – haha). I quickly tweeted my appreciation, which was picked up by several fellow Twitterers and retweeted around. The power of the social media!
Being in Melbourne I also got the chance to enjoy a quick walk around – a quick stroll along the Yarra in the evening, and on to the jam-packed Swanston Street. As much as I love Melbourne, I would enjoy this street in the future – way too busy, way too hectic for me. I did enjoy a stroll along the quiet lanes, including having two dinners at Shalom Indonesian Restaurant at 474 Little Lonsdale Street. I may think and act like an Aussie, but I am still Indonesian in my tastebuds. Haha.
Now back to the Hotel, throughout my stay, I was impressed with the non-intrusive staff who are ever polite but not overbearing. It’s a perfect mix of old-worldly charm and contemporary efficiency – including when I called the Concierge to help me arrange the hotel pick-up for my airport transfer.
On the last day, I deliberately got up early (at least for a weekend standard), so I could go for a walk to Lygon Street, Carlton and buy some biscotti from my favourite spot in Melbourne – Brunetti. I even got time to have breakfast at Thresherman’s Bakery. A good spot in Carlton to have a cheap and bountiful meal that is often visited by students and scholars alike. It was a university professor as well who introduced me to this place.
Walking back to the Hotel, I noticed that I still have about 30 minutes to spare before I was due to be picked up. I arranged a 10 o’clock pickup so I’d have enough time before my flight at 12.10 and before the official check-out time at 11.00am. It was to my surprise when I returned to my floor that the Hotel was in the process of cleaning and vacuuming my room. My bags were already placed in the trolley (thank God that I packed everything before I went out for breakfast!). I was annoyed as I was planning to use the bathroom and just have a 10-minute rest before I leave. This is the first time ever in my journeys in different places around the world that I was locked out of my room – hahaha. There’s a first for everything, perhaps!
So, I would’ve been gushing with my Agatha Christie book experience had it not for that last sour note. I would’ve gone left and right telling everybody how charming the hotel is. In the scheme of things, being locked out early is a trivial matter but it is still very annoying and rude. So unfortunately, that would be the twist of my story if people ask me about my Melbourne experience this time around.
I can chuckle about it now but this incident illustrates how fickle the service industry is, parallel to the saying in the workforce that you’re as good as your last project. All considered, I will return to the Hotel when I’m back in Melbourne, but I will do triple requests for the hotel staff not to clean up my room and put my stuff out before check-out time. It’s a good example of an Indonesian saying, that “Every ivory has its crack.” Sometimes you want to a full fairy tale, but even a good fairy tale has its twist.
Have a great weekend all!