Hotels need to lighten up
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.