“The Experience”

When I last wrote about “This Never Happened”, a lot of my friends spoke to me about “The Experience” and how in any field it was the only thing that mattered, the only thing that it all boiled down to.

I pondered over it I realized that all that I felt the same way. Whether I am out at a restaurant, visiting a night club, attending a music festival, at a store buying clothes etc.. the list could go on and on but essentially any interaction which has a user/customer/guest on one end and the product/service provider at the other end, what really makes or breaks the interaction is “The Experience”.

 I know this is not breaking news. In my early days as a Hospitality Trainer when I super specialized in Food & Beverage, I always told my trainees the exact same thing, the guest Is not paying 600 bucks for your sandwich because it tastes lip smackingly good (it could be ONE of the reasons) but it is most certainly not the only reason. I firmly believe that the day establishments realize that they are in the business of selling an experience and not a product or a service, there will be many more happier faces that they would be catering to.

When we talk about “The Experience” it is always the smaller things that matter. Most establishments get the bigger things right but the smaller ones- they are the ones that requires a little attention to detail.  Let’s re-visit the example that I shared in my last article about the mismanaged lines to get in to the venue.Creating an online portal to purchase the tickets was the easy part and one of the bigger things that they got right and honestly one would expect them to. However ensuring that those queues were managed effectively and efficiently so that everyone got in smoothly – that was the smaller thing that actually mattered more and in turn hampered the experience. When you read this you may think to yourself – “Isn’t that a given, shouldn’t have they known how many tickets were sold and hence how many people were going to be there and hence make provisions for the smooth entry of everyone”. Well Surprise Surprise, it did not happen and most of the times it does not happen, whether it be managing a queue, water being served at a restaurant without me asking for it or waiting half an hour to get the clothes billed because there are not enough cashiers.

Let’s take another example of a restaurant (my comfort zone :)) and talk about that Sandwich which costs 600 bucks. What’s going to make it worth my while, what’s going on to play on my senses?

What I see

Aesthetics– does the place appeal to me. Now I know this could differ from person to person but there are certain basics that one must get right. The colors, the furniture, the linen etc.. And it does not stop there, what I also see is what the staff is wearing (uniform), some of those Colour combinations and quality of uniforms, God save me!!

Grooming (how they wear it). Unironed clothes, dirty shoes, long dirty nails, Ugggg alert and someone tell them that those trousers can be worn above their knees!!!

Cleanliness-The general upkeep and cleanliness of the place is another thing that strikes me. I’ve walked into multiple restaurants with food on the floor, tables that haven’t been cleaned properly and dog eared menus. Oh and BTW menus that are not cleaned regularly have more bacteria and germs than the samosas you would have from a street vendor.

Smile-I’ve written earlier about smiling faces but once again if my server greets me with a smile, takes my order with a smile, serves me with a smile and sees me off with a smile, trust me more than half the battle is won there.

What I smell

I’ve walked into a couple of restaurants and baaaaam!! That smell…….turned the clock back to the visits to the fish market next to my erstwhile house at CR Park. Now this is not very difficult to get right, it’s just that I haven’t walked into a place in years and said “Wow that smells nice”. One would want a restaurant to smell of food, something that entices you and at the same time is not overpowering. Couple of Cafe’s do get it right though with the smell of ground coffee or freshly baked bread and have also managed to make it their signature fragrance. There are also the tried and tested diffusers that work pretty well, but then again the choice of fragrance matters. One would not want a restaurant to smell of lavender!

What I hear

Music-This tends to be an ignored area in most restaurants. Most of the times you would have some ambient instrumental music playing on loop. I remember when I used to manage an award winning Indian Restaurant close to 10 years back, we had one and only one Brian Silas CD with evergreen Hindi classics played on the piano. One month in and I knew exactly what song would play at what time:). Some restaurants truly make an effort-I personally know a couple of cafe and restaurant owners who painstakingly make Playlists that they even refresh every month or so. The “Worldspace” kind of concepts made their presence felt but never really took off. One hears that technology today can sense the mood of the people seated in the restaurant and play music accordingly (not at all surprising).

Communication-It also has a lot to do with how my server communicates with me. Is he able to tell me what cheese goes into my sandwich (menu knowledge), does he have basic courtesy and use the right kind of words (May I, Thank you, Certainly) and also not say “piza”.

Additionally

A friendly visit to my table by the manager of the restaurant would really help as well. Honestly I don’t understand or know what they do anymore. At most restaurants the only time I’ve seen the manager is when there is a complaint, otherwise the crop of managers these days don’t find it worth their time to visit a normal table. Initially  as a restaurant manager I also felt that being present in the restaurant, taking a round of the restaurant (more like aimless gallivanting), looking busy but doing nothing was what my job entailed. It was only over a period of time that I understand my “real” job and realised that I was the captain of the ship and where this ship went was completely dependent on me-I could let it go ahead hit that iceberg and sit back and enjoy the show or I could ensure that in the first place it was never heading towards the iceberg. Proactive behavior is the key word here- A reactive restaurant manager is now a stale commodity and very soon nearing their expiry date.

All of the above contributes to “What I feel”. The feeling that I walk out of that place with-happy, sad, upset, angry, elated, satisfied, delighted.  “What I feel” dictates “The Experience” when I walk out of that place. It helps me decide whether I will visit that place again, it helps me decide whether this was an experience to remember or forget.

So does it matter how that sandwich tastes-of course it does, but as you just read, it is ONE(of the many) factors that will contribute to What I Feel and in turn to “The Experience”

P.S: If I ever do open a place, I am now very clear as to what I would call it 🙂. No prizes for guessing though!

Kanav Mata

Ex-Restaurateur, Hotelier, Hospitality Professional

Current-L&D Consulting

Future-????????

 

“This Never Happened”-An “Experience” to Remember (Umm..Or Not)

It’s been a while, I know. Although what I don’t know is why.
Still tossing up in my head whether this happened because a very dear friend called “work” decided to walk in and take over my life or was it just because I didn’t find anything powerful enough to write about. I think that’s a conundrum that I’ll live with:)

Music plays a very integral part of my life, no I don’t play an instrument (even though my mother tried very hard) and considering that music is a part of her DNA, she kind of expected that one of her sons would follow in her footsteps – but it just wasn’t meant to be. Though, she now has high hopes from the Grandchildren :). I’m essentially an avid listener and as of today – Deep house and Techno are the two genres that appeal to me the most. Like most of us who listen to this kind of music – I’ve been through the journey of various BPMs of EDM that started with Trance/PSY, moved on to house music, then some commercial stuff with variations here and there till I finally found my comfort zone between Deep House and Techno (think I’m going to stay there for a while😊)

Late last year I started listening to an artist called Lane 8, something instantly clicked. Set after Set, track after track it was pure magic. After a very long time I heard music that I actually “connected” with. I searched and scoped online and think I would have managed to listen to every set/track that he had. I distinctly remember downloading one of the sets and saving it for a longish drive up to the hills sometime in December and boy was it worth it!! Nothing better than driving into the mountains with the windows down, the breeze cooling down, nature in all its splendour and music to make the journey one to remember. My friend in the passenger seat also became a fan.

P.S: He almost made the journey from Pune to Delhi for the gig 

I felt that someone up there was listening to me when Submerge Music announced that Lane 8 would be doing an India tour. I was naturally excited and eagerly waiting for this to happen. To add to it the concept of “This Never Happened” (wherein you are not supposed to click any photos or record videos once at the venue, instead immerse yourself in the music and enjoy the moment) was something that was right down my alley.

The damned elections meant that Delhi would happen on a Thursday rather than a Friday, but that now meant an uphill battle on Friday at work :), I was ready for it all.

The music turned out to be everything that I expected it to be and more-magical, pure, melodious, lots of highs and lows-the works. It was a great set!

Now, there is a reason that I used the term “music” and not “experience”. Reason being that the “experience” could have been far far better. Let’s start at the entry- we reached the venue at around 10pm, there was no line but there were just multitudes of people, some trying to buy tickets, some trying to enter with tickets already bought, some just hanging around and some just being Delhi (trying to use their influence to get in). There was no semblance of order and we looked at each other and said “We are never going to get in”. We figured that the only way that this was going to happen was by taking matters in our own hands. So not only did we speak to the people behind the counter and make them realize that they have a problem (which they seemed oblivious to) but a friend of mine had to also play bouncer to ensure that no one cuts the line!! Oh and BTW.. No separate line for women, that is also something that we initiated, so for all those who got in to the venue-you are most welcome:).

There were a couple of things inside the venue that could have been far better. For starters, it was like a furnace inside, was probably better outside (with the mist fans) but who wants to be outside when all the action is on the inside! I also personally missed the fact that there were no visuals which for me at least, enhances the experience.

“This Never Happened”-An “Experience” to Remember (Umm..Or Not)

Here is what I am getting at-Over the past few years organizations like Submerge, individuals like Nikhil Chinnapa have left no stone unturned in getting the best of artists to India, even Eric Prydz who has a fear of flying made the trip (missed that one) and Kudos to them for the fantastic job that they have been doing and continue to do so. They have literally transformed the music scene with respec to this genre in India. BUT, BUT where we have leaps and bounds go is the seamless execution of an event of this magnitude which turns it into an experience a music lover would never forget, for the right reasons!! What I have stated above is just one example, I also remember when Hardwell was here we could not get in to the venue because they mismanaged the queues, there was almost a stampede and by the time we reached the ticket counter Hardwell was saying “Bye Bye”!  I also know I’ve been kind of nitpicking but if you do have someone of the calibre of Lane 8, Hardwell coming then you might as well dot the i’s and cross the t’s…

So yes, keep them coming. It’s doing wonders for the music scene on this country and keeps many like me very happy:). But once they are here do try and make it an “experience” that people remember and not only walk away saying “The music was good, but…….”

No one likes buts (single “t” variety!!)

For now, see you at the boiler room, really looking forward to that one :). Oh!! And Yotto!!

-Kanav Mata

Hospitality and L&D Professional, Music Lover

Down Memory Lane-Family Time hasn’t “Run Out”

Today is not about Chilled beer, Poor service or the Palate Fest. It’s about Family, Bonds and Cricket 🙂

Let me turn the clock to about 20 years ago and tell you a little something about my brother and myself.

Sports formed a very integral part of our lives. Tennis, Badminton and Cricket being the front runners.Needless to say whenever we engaged in any of these sports it was against each other and both of us were fiercely competitive, trust me when I say this-neither of us wanted to lose-EVER!!

I’ll talk about Cricket as recent events in my present life have triggered off this memory. Like all kids growing up in the 90’s we played cricket everywhere possible-The park outside our house-where our parents fought with a section of people who wanted to turn it into an “ornamental” park and not let the kids play, the street outside our house-where hitting the ball into other’s houses made you lose your wicket and our driveway-where we emulated the greats of our time by playing full blown out ODI’s and even Test matches.

The driveway was my personal favourite, but we did face our challenges when it came to executing our game there .Our landlord wasn’t our most ardent supporter (maybe because we made too much noise), homework and exams were always a bummer and ate into our time, at times that damned car was parked in the driveway and no one to remove it was our biggest nemesis, the heat, the cold and the rain also played their part. Do you think any of this stopped us??? NEVER-we were willing to go to war for that game of cricket 🙂

At times we had company-my cousin brother, our friends from down the road. Depending on the number of people the kind of the game changed-from “numbering” to making teams and playing against each other. The rules of the game were pretty much similar to what all of you would have gone through at some stage in your lives-one tip one hand was out, only one batsmen batting at a time, crossing a particular line was two runs, cracking the neighbours window was out. You get the drift, right 🙂

Oh and did I mention-I cheated, like a lot!!!,Haha :). I was obviously NEVER run out, many a time I adjudged the ball to be too fast, many a time I claimed that I was not ready and if things really blew out of proportion I used to walk away with the bat and wickets because it belonged to me. Now when I look back I think I did it because I figured out that it really pissed my brother off :), he played by the rules and took pride in that.

I mentioned that recent events triggered this memory-we now play cricket AGAIN in our driveway (this one is longer as we shifted houses) and when I say we it is now the ENTIRE family-my mom, my dad, my brother(when he is town), my sister-in-law, the cook, the driver-EVERYONE. Oh!! And I forgot to mention one name, the person who initiated this entire saga once again-my five year old nephew-Ranveer. He  does not like to be given out, he gets angry if things go wrong, he has managed to set a rule where he will not be out on the first ball, doesn’t want his team to do well when he gets out and tries to cheat once in a while-I really wonder where he gets all of this from??? 😉

It’s a daily affair and everyone has to participate otherwise the five year old throws a tantrum(he can get away with that).Not that any of the participating members complain-they all look forward to it, they all give it their best, and compete like rock stars. It’s the one time in the household where everyone is equal-no father, no son, no cook, no driver-just members of a team playing cricket against each other.

Recently my brother was in town and he obviously joined us in our game of cricket. We were of course pitted against each other, that’s when it all came back to me-it seemed just the same like it was 20 years back, similar rules, the competitive spirit, the arguments on whether it was a wide or not and of course I still cheated 😉

It is fair to say life has come full circle-20 years ago it was a simple yet powerful game of cricket that helped me strengthen bonds with my brother and today it is STILL a simple yet powerful game of cricket born out of a five year old’s inclination that has probably helped the entire family strengthen their bond.

Come join us for a game one of these days!!

Kanav Mata

Self Proclaimed Cricketer, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer

 

 

 

“May I Have A Chilled Beer??”

A wise man once said: “Life and beer are very similar, chill for best results”.  Now we all love our beer (most of us!!) and we all love our beer to be CHILLED. There are also many people who are overtly particular about how chilled the beer should be, and they should be-have you seen how warm its already gotten-that damn beer needs to be chilled. A friend of mine has returned multiple beers at multiple places in Delhi NCR just because they were not chilled enough. She told me-“It’s a Saturday night, almost 40 degrees outside-the least they could do is serve me a chilled beer”. I nodded my head in affirmation and in my mind I couldn’t agree more to what she said.

Personally, I have gone to many lengths to ensure that the beer that I serve or drink is chilled-my friends can vouch for that. Whether at home or on a road trip or on a holiday I just somehow find a way-even if that means walking into a lake which has freezing cold water and holding that can of beer in the water for at least half hour-trust me it is worth the effort 🙂

Just the other day we were at “no filter” at SDA market, the place was packed to the brim and just by looking at the faces of the stewards (not many in number)-I could sense trouble-10 years in the F&B industry gives you superpowers like these ;). Sure enough, the steward serving us seemed like he had a train to catch and he committed the cardinal sin of not getting the temperature of the beer checked before opening it, you know where this is going now-the beer was but obviously not chilled enough. A couple of arguments later with multiple people who posed as managers we got the beer changed, but I guess the warm beer didn’t leave a great taste-so much so that we left that place and shifted base to Beer Cafe.

Beer Cafe was a pleasant change. Special provisions were made in order for us to get a table, the server was smiling, friendly and knowledgeable. When my friend mentioned that if the beer is not cold enough she would return it, he responded saying-“Why don’t you taste it first and if it’s not chilled as per your liking you can return it and try another beer”-Now that’s what I’m talking about 🙂

So what needs to be done in order to ensure that the beer you serve is chilled to perfection?? Surprise, Surprise-NOT VERY MUCH AT ALL!!! We are fortunate enough to have an invention called a fridge/freezer/chiller-it goes by multiple names, I am sure you all know what one looks like :).If you stack those beers in a proper manner and well before time(a watch helps you keep track of that) you are going to sail home a winner. And that’s not all, you don’t even need technology-a bucket, a slab of ice, and a sprinkling of salt work just as well. To top it all off you also have help-from the beer manufacturers that ensure the bottles are darker in colour just so that they chill faster.

I have been harping about the basics and how restaurants/lounges/bars/ pubs in Delhi don’t get it right. This is another one of those basics-A beer needs to be chilled, chilling the glass in which you will serve the beer also works well. You need to get the temperature of the beer checked before you open the bottle and if they don’t find it cold enough-you change that bottle, just don’t argue 🙂

A signage I came across sums this up all very well-“Our beer is as cold as your Ex’s Heart”-Now wouldn’t you walk in there 🙂

Kanav Mata

Customer, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer

“Feast on Fests”

The Palate Fest, Mini Palate, The GIG Carnival, The Grub Fest, The Asian Hawkers Market-if you are from Delhi NCR, chances are you have been to at least one of these in the recent past and if you haven’t been you would have most certainly heard these names float up during conversations with your foodie friends or with people who just went there to be seen;). Either way by now you know what I am talking about.

So picture this-30 to 40 of the best  restaurants serving their signature dishes, a fully stacked bar, live performances by some better known bands, all done in one place which logistically takes care of all of the above mentioned ingredients. Seems like a great combination- a place that you must visit, a place where you would have a great evening-I mean it has it all right-good food, alcohol, music and at times a great outdoor setting.

Well I wish that my above statement was a 100 % true. Now there is no doubt that these fests(if I may call them that) have changed things up for the people of Delhi NCR- it has given us a new form of recreation(weren’t we all bored of the same thing to do every weekend), some great food all in one place(the ability to have some Sushi and then hop on the next stall and have the Pork Bao and end it with a sinful plate of waffles  is every foodie’s delight), you could sip on a drink while walking around the place scoping the next thing you would devour  and  you can sprawl yourself on the grass and enjoy the band that’s performing on stage.

However I personally feel that this experience can be enhanced many folds.

Food: Now I don’t think anyone can question the variety on offer, from stand alone restaurants to signature restaurants at five star hotels to the small café that belts out the most amazing cheesecake-they are all there, but here is my problem-why in god’s name are you giving me gigantic/regular portions of whatever you have. The entire purpose of an event like this is for me as an individual to enjoy multiple places for their food offerings. I haven’t gone all the way to eat at one place and then be like, “You know what I am stuffed”, I mean if I wanted to do that wouldn’t I have just visited the restaurant. Mini portions, sliders, bite sized meals would do much much better. Secondly, chances are I have visited your restaurant before and I have had or seen what you have to offer on a regular basis. Now I am visiting you in a different setting so why not offer something new to me, something different, something that I haven’t seen on your menu before.

Alcohol: Just one problem-don’t charge me 400 bucks for a pint of beer. I get it that you want to make some money but hey, don’t make me start counting my money after just two pints of beer and without getting into the back end of it, I am pretty sure it is something that can be done without many people losing money;).

The Music: At the Mini Palate Fest recently the entire group of us were holding our ears shut because the guy was belting out songs, out of tune and at the GIG Carnival when the guy was singing on stage it was more like ambient music (more or less insignificant). Now we don’t expect all the acts to be mind-blowing but maybe have one of two acts that make you go-“That was great”, it does not necessarily have to be something that is commercially popular but just something that catches your ear, maybe something you have never heard before-new sounds, different sounds. Unfortunately I haven’t heard anything like that at any of the fests till now.

The Setting: The first Palate fest happened on the side of Nehru Park that is really beautiful and pretty, the old trees, the wide spread area enhanced the entire experience of the event. The recent Mini Palate happened on the opposite side of Nehru Park-which looked more like the park outside my house where I grew up 🙂 .The GIG Carnival happened at the area outside the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium and looked more like a mela. All I am getting at here is that if you are doing an event like this- do it in a place that actually adds to the experience and does not bring down from the experience.

All in all these festivals/fests/fests are most certainly here to stay and they are also a step in the right direction, not only for the people who attend these but also for the multiple outlets that put up their stalls-it’s a great opportunity for them to express themselves as a brand. Let’s just hope that with the passage of time they manage to get these things right as well 🙂

And if you haven’t been to one yet…Get your lazy ass up and make sure you go to the next one 🙂

Kanav Mata

Foodie, Tippler, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer

“The Magnetic Cocktail”

It was about a year ago at almost the same time, I have vivid memories of a dear friend showing me multiple videos on his phone, of music artists playing some crazy ass music, in an almost surreal setting – a beautiful palace in Rajasthan. And that’s when I had decided to not miss it the following year.

Cut to about a week back – my bags were packed and I was ready to brace the cold and above all – pitch my own tent 🙂 and experience Magnetic Fields 2015! We were a group of 15 of us (all convinced by ONE couple who went last year 🙂 ) who were all visibility excited. It would be fair to say that out of the 15 of us travelling together, there were just a few who knew what kind of music to expect from the festival, the rest were there for the experience more than anything else.

A 45 minute drive from Sadalpur (yes, I had also never heard of it before) gets you to Alsisar – the venue for the festival. The highlight of the drive was Bullet (pronounced as ‘Bult’) a super strong beer which had people singing and dancing after just a few sips :). The venue was beautiful –“Alsisar Palace”-the main grounds where the festival was happening had an imposing yet elegant feel to it. “The Bedouin Village” – a rather huge expanse of sand, where the tents had been setup, looked more than ready to welcome its occupants for the next three days.

The levels of excitement were on its peak, on the first day, and since we were there we wanted to make the most of it. There were some of us who preferred to sleep it out and conserve their energies for the evening whilst there were some who were mentally prepared that sleep is not something that we would be focusing on for the next three days :). The festival had three main stages:

  • One was located at the Bedouin Tent Village and played music from about 1200 to 1600 hrs in the afternoon
  • The second was in the garden area of the palace and played music from 1600 till about 2300 hrs
  • The third was in an open atrium kind of a structure in the palace and played music from 2300 till the wee hours of the morning

On different days the setup would shift to secret areas within the palace, like “the dungeon”, “poolside” or the “chill garden”- a fantastic idea I must say.

Day 1 seemed a little drab in terms of the music; I think the only thing that kept us going was the excitement and the fact that it was something new – having said that I still remember returning to my tent at 0400 hrs in the morning 🙂

Day 2 had a surprise in store for us at 1400 hrs at the stage located in the Bedouin Tent Village the schedule said “A Very Special” guest would be playing and boy was he special. “Soulclap” played for about a couple of hours and he had people bouncing, swaying and jumping to his happy tunes. So much so that we have a friend who does not get on to the floor till the time Bollywood is pumped-this guy was jamming to Soulclap for about an hour. When his set was over he goes he exclaimed “I’m calling this guy to play for my anniversary and all of you are also invited”. That literally had us in splitsJ. The music in the evening on Day 2 was better than the first day with “Objekt” belting out some good tunes but still I felt something was missing. This was ratified by the couple who attended the festival last year, they said that by the second day they were jumping on the floor-the music was that good. Once again all of that aside I returned to my tent at 0600 hrs.

Day 3 we decided to take it a little easy and wandered out to eat some local Rajasthani food. In the evening we decided to sit by our tents, light a bonfire and more or less spend the evening there rather than going to the palace grounds. It seemed to be a good call as we were all having a fantastic time. It also gave us the opportunity to make some new friends and connections with a people who were staying right next door. The evening seemed to be just perfect – lots of alcohol, some drinking games, some sentimental bonding, and a surreal setting – what more could you ask for. Actually you could ask for more :)! A few us decided to walk into the palace grounds just to see what was happening, .We reached the palace grounds and the garden stage was packed to capacity and an artist by the name of “Garden City Movement” was playing. All it took was five minutes for us to be transported to a completely different zone – we could not wipe the smile of our faces and stop moving, the same was the case with the next artist “HVOB”. It prompted us to quickly call the rest of the clan to the palace grounds and for the first time in the three days we were all together and each and every one of us was actually enjoying the music. Irrespective of whether we had heard this kind of music before, Irrespective of whether we had heard the name of the artist before, Irrespective of what our tastes in music were-everyone was having a BLAST. It was only then that I realized the power of music – the amazing ability that it had to bring everyone together :). Our friend who dragged us for this music festival called that moment as “Redemption” for himself because he was no longer feeling guilty about getting everyone to attend this music festival.

The closing set of the festival was played by “BLOT”- I have heard them a couple of times before in Delhi and always knew that they were good, but I never knew that they were very, very, very, very, very good :). They played a five hour set starting at 0300 till 0800 hrs – words to describe this set by BLOT are not enough.  A friend put it very rightly – “They got the crowd together with a couple of commercial well known tracks, once they had everyone’s attention it was like they were making a statement – This is what we are capable of”.

It was three days of sheer madness-a fantastic cocktail with the right ingredients (the place, the people, the music) in the right quantity, shaken for the right amount of time and served in the best possible glass with the most beautifully done garnish. 🙂

For all those who haven’t been-give this one a shot-no amount of hearing about it from others or reading write-ups like this will prepare you for what is in store. They say that such experiences can only be “felt”. If nothing else you will come back as someone who can bear the cold better. 🙂

Well done Magnetic Fields!!

Kanav Mata

Dreamer, Hotelier, Restauranter and Hospitality Trainer

Would You???

A recent trip to South East Asia -Cambodia, ignited certain pertinent thoughts that had already been in my head for a while now – this just made it stronger; strong enough to write about it.

Cut to Sihanoukville – a lovely beach destination in Cambodia which has its mix of peace, serenity, the happening shacks, watersports, some mind-blowing food and HAPPY Pizzas 🙂

The bus dropped us off at the main city centre and within minutes of us unloading our luggage, a foreigner came up to us (couldn’t figure the origin – but seemed to be Eastern European), holding out pamphlets for a “Zeppelin” hostel/dorm at 5$ a night, not something that we were particularly interested in.

We eventually checked in to a nice hotel that fit our budget and ticked all the other boxes for us. It was around 2100 hrs and we decided to visit the beach. While walking to the beach a British girl (very evident from the accent), rather excitable and jumpy walked, no ran up to us and went “Are you guys going to the beach”, and to our affirmative response, “Please visit Dolphin shack, we have a party all night there today, oh and get a free drink when you present this flyer” – she said to us while handing each one of us a flyer.  We thought to ourselves, “damn! We are lucky – free drinks”, and that was for the three of us, while the fourth was already in love with her! Anyway, while walking down the beach we crossed multiple shacks (just like our very own Goa), and what caught my eye was the fact that majority of these shacks were being run by foreigners (ranging from Italian, French, Australian to even people from the United States). In front of some of the shacks were signage’s reading “Western staff wanted – will give food, accommodation and hourly wage”.

Cut to Koh Rong – a 45 minute boat ride from Sihanoukville and arguably one of the most beautiful beach destinations I have seen in my life – white sand, pristine blue waters – a feeling of calm the moment you set foot on that island.

At Koh Rong, you get off the boat and either you walk to the left of the island or the right – and you will find plenty of places to stay – ranging from dorms, hostels to fancy bungalows.

We got off the boat and once again -approached by foreigners, all offering us a place to stay, walked down the length of the beach and again noticed the same thing- in fact here all the shacks were run by foreigners. Came out for a drink in the evening- and had these Australian boys manning the bar at one shack, you could make out that they were new at their job as complex orders made them struggle (also my rather annoying habit of maybe scrutinizing that little bit extra when it comes to anything related to food & beverage). Stopped for ice cream at the beach- a small little operation run by an extremely enterprising French gentleman, 0400 hrs extreme hunger pangs- the island has only one place that serves food and alcohol 24/7 (the food was to die for) run by an Italian couple.

By now I think you would have some idea of what I am getting at over here.  The five days that I spent at Sihanoukville and Koh Rong, and the multiple conversations at these shacks with the foreigners, gave me further insight. These guys had been here for a while- anything ranging from a month to maybe even a few years. They came with some savings and maybe with a plan to stay for a month, invariably no one did that-they all stayed on longer. The issue with staying on longer was not something like the Visa- Cambodia lets you get an extension-no questions asked, it was the fact that they had probably exhausted their savings. So now what to do?? Simple let me find a way to make some money and get a roof on my head, get some food to eat and still have a good time here. So where do they turn to-the shacks, the bars, the eating joints-cos hey-that’s where the money is (all tourism), start doing odd jobs over there and hence begins the trend which was up in all its glory for us to see. So much so that now some of them visit these places with the sole purpose of working at shacks, bars, eating joints for brief periods of time-just to get away, a change of scene, something different.

You know the part which amazed me the most- they all seemed happy with what they were doing and trust me they were not faking it. They were mostly doing jobs which were related to the hospitality sector and if you don’t enjoy it-this is one job you can’t do, whether its serving people, selling rooms, promoting a party and so on and so forth. They always had a smile, they were always willing to strike conversation and never in my short stint there did I see a foul experience or a disgruntled customer

I then asked myself a question- “Would I be willing to do this” – I still haven’t found an answer. A couple of friends who I was travelling with went like “I also really want to do this”, “I am going to do this for sure”-B****S****, the people in question also know that it ain’t going to happen. No offence to my friends in question here, but if you guys do actually end up acting on your word- Good on you.

In my head I still trying to figure out- what is it that’s holding me back? I actually seem to be the perfect candidate for something like this- I have no one who is dependent on me, fending only for myself, I have enough prior experience of the hospitality industry to handle any of these jobs with ease. So what is it that holds me back- is it our culture, is it the way we are brought up, is it what we see around us, is it rigidity, is it job security, or is it just me – I don’t know

So give it a thought,

Would you???

Kanav Mata

Dreamer, Hotelier, Restauranter & Hospitality Trainer