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Newsletter » Letters from the past » Bali and China 1992
.......What started as a fairly mundane year to fill in time at Bali Hai Holiday Inn, and hopefully catch up on all my computer work actually ended up with hardly any time at home and a few more miles added to my flying total. Marg and I were fairly comfortable at the Holiday Inn in Bali, the work was not hard, we were developing a couple of new restaurants which was keeping me occupied, and after renting a Suzuki Jimmy, we were mobile and able to explore the island. Bali is actually a great place when you get out of the touristy areas, and there are many parts that are not spoilt by influxes of tourists. Added to all this was the tennis and the squash I was able to do three or four times a week and the odd diving trip, which Bali has some good dive sites. So what happened? Well, in early November, Marg and I decided to take a trip to Hong Kong for a week's holiday where we had a great time. We always enjoy this city, and have been through it quite e few times from our time in China. A little bit of work involved as the camera had to be fixed and so did the computer, but mainly it was a time of talking to Hospitality Employment agencies and relaxing. When your contract is about to expire at a hotel like mine was going to in March, then you have to start looking at least six months ahead for a new position, and even then there are no guarantees. Back to Bali it was a case of have the weekend off and then pack your bags for Bandung. Had a week there helping to get this older hotel converted over to a Holiday Inn hotel, (which has since reverted back to local management), and to redesign the kitchen and improve the quality of food served there. Not a bad time, but Bandung (Indonesia) is not the best city I've been in, and I can imagine it could become quite boring. Back to Bali with a week there and once again on a plane, this time back to China. Kunming, a new Hotel for Holiday Inns was opening, and there was strong pressure for me to go as the Chef, but both Marg and I did not want to go for the full contract. So, as our Hotel was quiet, it was decided that I should go to open the Hotel for two months, come back to Bali at the start of February for a large conference, and then go back to Kunming if needed.

The trip to Kunming went OK, if you consider lugging 50 kg of excess luggage around no problem. A couple more days spent in Hong Kong for the Visa and then into Kunming. Cloud cover most of the way, a quick drop in altitude and a detour before we hit the mountains, it was probably just as well I had forgotten in what location the airport was placed! I had been here before just quickly when I did a trip with a friend of mine to the Stone Forest plus to a couple of other places in China while I was working at the Great Wall Sheraton, but it was for a matter of over night. The Hotel turned out to have been in the process of being built for eight years, we were there one month before the planned opening, and the Hotel was a shambles. It required at least another six months to try and get things finished, but the owners (which was the Government) still wanted the Hotel opened on January 1st! A crazy situation! We stayed in a local Hotel, no heating, carpets etc., portable heaters not allowed, floor supervisors opened your door for you each time, and only a Chinese Restaurant to eat in. On top of that, we worked in the basement of the new Hotel, only bare concrete floors, dust every where, cold as all hell, as we were 6,000 ft up and it snowed occasionally, and power cuts every Friday and Saturday to put up with. Nearly all the expatriate staff came down with Bronchitis, pneumonia, flu's and a host of other ailments. It was just as well I was a New Zealander, as I only came down with a two day cold at that stage! It cannot really be described at this stage the problems, and if we thought it was going to get easier, we were wrong. Come opening day and we have two Restaurants open, 13 floors of unfinished Hotel, all our kitchen equipment is "live", all our drains are blocked and nearly every tap, pipe, drain, ceiling, wall, light fitting and fire hose is leaking!

The sprinklers were not turned on because of fear that the whole place would flood, and they weren't wrong because when the first fire hose was tested it burst after a minute of use! We finally got the equipment working so it didn't electrocute us, most of the leaks fixed, and a fairly good product served. We had the normal trouble with the local Chinese side, but for once we were able to fire him! Luckily he couldn't cook and the Chairman of the company ended up eating in the western coffee shop most times! Anyway, we got things working pretty well and the leaving date of February 1st came and went, then I was leaving in the middle of February, then 1st March with Bali on the 3rd. Then came a quick trip to Singapore on my way back to Bali for this job interview, and finally I was back to Marg on Mar 5th. As you might of guessed, Marg had stayed in Bali for all this time apart from the first trip to Hong Kong, and I must admit coped very well. Even my credit card had some money left on it!

Once back in Bali, it was a case of 10 days to pack and say good-bye, then we were up to the north of Bali for two weeks of no phones, TV radios or beach sellers for more than two dozen dives, and plenty of quiet time in the sun. Here was a coral beach with small fish coming right up to the water and very few tourists. A great time and very restful! Then it was back to Kuta ready to fly out a couple of days later and into Singapore and to our new posting and home.

We had a warm welcome here and have a couple of very nice rooms to live in, which are in the hotel, so will save us quite a good amount of money and makes it easier to work the fourteen hour days! A lot of work needs to be done at this Hotel as far as food quality goes, so it's keeping me very busy at the moment! We are right next door to Orchard Road in the center of town and once I collect my work permit, then Marg will also be able to find work as well. So we are very happy to be here and can see us filling in a good two or three years here. There is very little diving here but Malaysia is on the door step with plenty of coral there, my next project was to do sky diving, but Singapore has such a limited amount of air space it is not possible here, but flying is, so I may just learn to fly instead! Will keep you posted. In the meantime, still trying to lose those extra (middle aged?) kilos by running and swimming, and have entered a 24 hour swimathon that the Hotel is doing to support a charity, which they do each year. No, I don't have to swim for 24 hours but just part of it!

What else has been happening? With going to Bandung and Kunming I have met some more great people so my writing list is now a lot longer, of which I don't complain as I love to met people and hopefully be able to keep some of them as friends. I did meet a couple of people that I now class as friends, and a lot more that expands the amount of people associated with the trade. So, as you can probably tell, I am both pretty happy with how things are working out, but my attitude to life is also fairly easy, taking what comes and knowing that things happen for a reason and will finally work out in the end, so I don't usually buck the system, but definitely do things my own way which is not always the way that people expect, but I also get very few complaints with the product I serve, and a happy team to go with it. Marg is also happy to be here and is looking forward to not being in a third world country for a few years. No doubt Marg can write and keep you up to date on all her doings, but she is keeping herself occupied in the meantime with an Herbatology course from New Zealand and finding out what's what in Singapore. She certainly feels glad that she didn't come to Kunming as originally planned, for a holiday, after hearing about the "great?" life that we had to endure there. It would have been hell for her to sit there for a couple of months in such make shift conditions.......

Willi and Marg