Ho­tels need to lighten up

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

I SPENDa lot of time in ho­tels. There are the hot properties I re­view for The Aus­tralian’s WISH mag­a­zine each month, the air­port ho­tels be­tween flights, the lovely lodges in ru­ral re­gions, the re­sorts and sa­fari camps, and un­pre­ten­tious fam­ily-run B&Bs and farm stays.

No mat­ter the type or tar­iff, most places have much to rec­om­mend them, yet so many get the small de­tails wrong. I love to read in bed and in­ad­e­quate or poorly placed light­ing is a tremen­dous bug­bear. I have fallen out of bed while hold­ing a hard­back un­der a fee­ble ta­ble lamp and, once, at a div­ing re­sort in Van­u­atu, I moved a stan­dard lamp from a far cor­ner and took it to bed. I was up to the last chap­ter of a thriller and it was a case of needs must, so I re­moved its bob­bled shade and laid it next to me, like a wooden but none­the­less fas­ci­nat­ingly bright com­pan­ion, for at least an hour.

My new ho­tel room dilemma is too many lights con­nected to the kind of tech­nol­ogy that only 12-year-old space cadets can un­der­stand. At a re­sort in Bali a year or so ago, there were 37 switches (yes, I counted them) in my multi-pav­il­ion villa and switches in one room would work lights in an­other. I never did dis­cover how to turn off the star­let-style bath­room mir­ror lights, so craftily, I thought, I draped a towel over them for the du­ra­tion. Ditto the tele­vi­sion in the bed­room the size of a drive-in screen, which de­fied its re­mote con­troller and stayed on all night (wear­ing a fetch­ing batik bed­spread, in the end).

Some ho­tel groups, such as The Penin­sula, have spent loads of money on in-room tech­nol­ogy and there are con­troller tablets (of the techno kind and not the likes of Panadol, al­though the two com­ple­ment each other in the case of this guest) to op­er­ate ev­ery­thing from cur­tains and tele­vi­sions to elec­tronic do-not-dis­turb and make-up-room signs.

In th­ese pa­per­less rooms, it’s com­fort­ing to find a hand­writ­ten note from the gen­eral man­ager, a morn­ing news­pa­per by the door and, at any of the Penin­sula ho­tels, a shoeshine ser­vice per­formed by peo­ple, not ma­chines. I have heard that some ac­com­mo­da­tion groups are even re­plac­ing those top-drawer Gideon Bi­bles with pre-loaded Kin­dle e-read­ers.

The mod­ern gue­stroom has a me­dia hub, dock­ing sta­tions, ex­ces­sively com­pli­cated taps and shower con­trols and gluten-free veg­e­tar­ian soap made from yak’s milk and hand-milled by chant­ing Ti­betan monks.

You can dial in-room din­ing (once known as room ser­vice) from a hands-free phone and or­der low-fat, ve­gan and nut-free meals. There are dock­ing sta­tions for all known por­ta­ble de­vices and menus of spe­cialty pil­lows, from soft­est goose­down and mem­ory foam to buck­wheat and laven­der. There are cot­ton sheets wo­ven to giga-zil­lion thread­counts by Egyp­tian seam­stresses.

But still the lights are ei­ther un­con­trol­lable or so enig­matic you can’t blink­ing well see what you’re do­ing.

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