Air-mile mergers

Some month back, the merger finally happened. Marriot has combined itself with Starwood, well more like swallowing it up. This is a mega consolidation and effectively

So many its confusing!

makes the behemoth that much larger and one more step towards an oligarchy of just a few large chains in the world.

All bad? Perhaps not.

First – if you are an SPG member or Marriot rewards card holder, you need to link your accounts to make sure that you harness the fact you can now earn points in one entity as opposed to different programmes. We used to fret over the fact that corporate arranged hotels in each city could differ, mainly because of proximity to the office. It fragmented the number of nights’ stayed on each programme and certainly splitted up the spend as well.

So far it has been a lose-lose proposition. Why would we care?

Unlike airlines,  we never got to Gold/Platinum levels for hotel programmes. Perhaps there is now light at the end of the tunnel. If they combine, then perhaps the spend and nights stayed will lead us closer, if not attain the coveted “elite” level. See, another mark of differentiation from the other plebian travellers… As we had written elsewhere (here and here), the human desire to be special and distinct still drives our behaviour. For us, it’s just another way to gain a couple of free nights’ stay.

What is your experience with air-miles programmes and do you assiduously accumulate miles only in one or a limited number of programmes? Have you spent any of those earned miles? Tell us!

Home of the Sun King

As a large and compact country in western Europe, France has always been strong culturally, exerting her influence on the rest of Europe. While Germany and Italy in the middle ages floundered under a fragmentation of political disunity, France enjoyed an integrity unheard of on the continent.

But it was in our (Mel’s) opinion that the advent of French culture, language and food began its true ascent during the reign of the Sun King – Louis XIV (read this for his Bio). Having inherited an absolute monarchy from his mother-regent, the Sun King set about to bring France to its zenith of power and prestige in Europe.

Colonies were being carved out in the Americas and Africa. And along with the massive taxation of the non-privileged classes, supported fighting wars across continental Europe. It also supported Louis’s quest for “face” (as the Chinese would call it), building the most beautiful, the most opulent palace in all of Europe. Just to awe the other European monarchs. Versailles as we wrote (read here), would be the centrepiece of this grand vision.

Louis wanted to demonstrate both politically and materially that his dominions were far superior to that of his peers. And in many ways it succeeded. One needs only to be in the capitals of many other European countries today to see palaces made in the likeness of Versailles. That is the true testament of how influential the Sun King was. You know you are fashionable when you have copy cats.

He may have inadvertently bankrupted a nation, but he bequeathed it a stamp of its own that till today fascinates. It’s no wonder the country is the most visited in the world. Have you visited Versailles?

What did you think about Louis’s creation?

We ordered wonderful weather for Tokyo

Heheh…the weather we ordered seemed to have been delivered as we wanted…sunny and cloudless skies and temperatures reasonably toasty at 3-4°C. So we cannot complain about it. You’ve read about our earlier post where we shared the “frenzy” of women preparing for the big Valentine celebration. We too had a wonderful dinner at one of them rooftop restaurants (no, not open air).

Today however we are sharing with you some wonderful pictures of the city, from the imperial palace to the Hamarikyu gardens (entry cost ¥300pp) …

Beautiful moat around the palace

Because it is too late to register online for it, Mel could only walk around the perimeter of the palace during lunch breaks (the office is near Tokyo station). So a nice stroll to get away from the office humdrum…but these views are already very nice!

Ah Tokyo Tower (¥900pp to the top). So many times we’ve seen it. Finally done it. Got to the top and spotted a glimpse of Mr Fuji in the distant. Ok, not quite like the poster where Mr Fuji looms large over the city. That one might be photo-shopped…either that or it’s another city. Definitely not Tokyo we think! LOL. Ok, it is really the angle and the place one takes the photo. Just don’t expect that from Tokyo tower or Skytree!

Finally Mel is done with pounding the corporate floorboard and we will soon be on the Shinkansen to Toyama where we will pound the accelerator of our rental car around the coast! Journalogs will follow. Ciao!

Do luxury toting folks get better service?

Do you sometimes feel that you get treated better if you dressed well? Or when you tote luxury bags and watches, spot expensive jewellery? There seems to be some finding that verify to some extent that this is all well true.

This experiment tested the “attribution effect”. Ok, social psychologists out there will definitely be correcting us. It’s officially coined as “fundamental attribution error“. Will be first to admit that Mel cannot recall this from his days doing that one semestral course on social psychology…Besides it was more than 20++ years ago. So be gentle…

Brand names seem to matter

Now we are not sure if a mere $4000 watch will get you a hit, but the examples that Matt referred to certainly happened to us. Well, at least to one half of us – ie Suan. You see, she makes a point to dress well AND put on a dash of jewellery (and luxury watch) but that is not in your face. She has had her fair share of being treated “differently” at restaurants, boutiques, even the local supermarket. Getting warmer huh?

Bvlgari boutique2
Retailers are keen to keep this up!

It all seems as if this cheap way of impressing actually works. Or perhaps it is the confidence that one exudes when you wear a watch that costs someone’s monthly wage? You see the article is right in quite many ways. When you are traveling, nobody can fathom that you live in a palatial mansion or drive a Porsche for leisure. And today a wallet full of banknotes is not likely to impress a lot either, unless you face is on it. Well, it depends on who.

So it boils down to other symbols that our pyschological state use to “size up” other folks. And none other is more obvious that the visual cues that exude from watches, jewellery and finally the clothes and shoes you wear. Surething, some of us laugh off such behavior perhaps as being crass, materialistic etc. But somehow we get the feeling that this is far more pervasive than we care to admit.

Of course demeanour plays a critical role too. Which service person would like a sour faced customer? I guess if you play nice, others mostly will too.

We shall not care what the article revealed about the 1%, since we are unlikely to ever rub shoulders with them in any shape, size or form. However we emphasize that the global luxury brands are keen to keep this game going. Just pick out a watch magazine at the bookstore near you. Will you be able to tease out the “levels” of prestige?

There you have it. Empirical evidence that you are what you wear. Perhaps this is confirmation bias but there we have a lot of personal experiences about this too. Perhaps try it out at the Eleven James (or equivalent) near you and let us know about it!

Corporate Nomad?

We’ve heard a lot about the digital nomad, you know the folks who are location independent working mostly (perhaps not limited to) on creative projects for their clients across time and space. While others claim to run product “distribution” companies that seem to be manageable from remote etc…sure…

But how about them corporate warriors?

So we decided to look up the term “Corporate Nomad” on the wordpress search engine.

Surprisingly there was quite a list of posts. But did the search results meet our desired outcome? Well, not really. You see, we were looking for corporate drones who are on the move frequently in their job roles and still found the time to travel and blog about it. No, not writing about their 2 week vacations, we mean actually living off a suitcase (temporarily or a short time) yet have the flair to write and share their moments of adventures with us.

Do these folks exist? If so, in what kind of job roles? Does any of the following fit the bill:

  • Management Consultants (eg the sort with the large consulting firms etc)
  • Project managers/consultants (building stuff)
  • Procurement/sourcing managers (buying stuff)
  • Regional sales or marketing execs (selling/BS stuff)

For Mel, he meets with the first kind alot. Usually on assignment for 3-4 months, these consultants/analysts work from the client’s office in various locations.So apart from the long hours in the office, they do have opportunities to explore a bit too (remember this post)!

And they actually do!

Do you know of any other job roles that may turn one into a corporate nomad? Tell us!

Special report Tokyo

Wow, we thought a few nights in Bangkok have humbled us…but it seems that even one day in Tokyo can drill some humility into us too! You see, we have arrived. In Tokyo we mean. After a nice afternoon journey, we had slept well. And the good weather we ordered came as expected (ahem), plus we had great meals…

Actually today’s special report is not about the tourist or traveler attractions that Tokyo has to offer. It has all to do with people and culture. We are quite sure that wherever you are, most if not all would have been ‘bombarded’ with reminders of the all important occasion that is on the 14th of February – Valentine’s day.

In Japan there are actually two such romantic days. The February date is also known as “red” day. On that day it is the women who will lead in the celebration of their appreciation of their male love ones. Conversely on 14th March, or “white” day – it is the reverse, the men get their turn especially if they received a gift in February.

Now we have not seen how things run at the malls on “white” day, but we certainly count ourselves as veterans when it comes to “red” day. Same time last year we were also in Tokyo to witness the crush of womenhood at all the confectionery outlets we visited in the city. It’s like a frenzy. To be honest it is easy to see why. How can you resist buying these delectable sweet chocolaty morsels for you man?

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Someone told us (can’t remember who) that some women actually buy this for colleagues at work – men or women included. There is said to be competition who brings in the most delightful creations to the office. Hmm…wow if this story is real than we might want to encourage it in Singapore too! LOL. Suan: that’s his opinion…

Isn’t this interesting? Our adventure continues…