Funny, sad, or frustrating freebie travel stories…
For example, there was the time, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I’d been visiting Bangkok for a week or so, and wanted to go north. On a very strict budget then, I opted to take an overnight bus: killing two birds with one stone- transportation and hotel. There was a VIP class bus (even higher up the luxury scale than first class), and it came with air conditioning, a bathroom, fully reclining seats, a small meal with beverage, and even a hostess on board, and of course the ubiquitous tiny TV screen that showed terrible movies from different countries, all with the volume too loud. All for $19 U.S.
The bus also came equipped with a driver, who like many there, drove extremely fast, so I arrived in Chiang Mai a few hours earlier than expected, and wondered what I would do before dawn, long before official check-in time. Then an idea came to me.
At 4:20 a.m., still in the dark, I hopped on a local tuk-tuk at the bus station, and asked to be taken to the Westin Chiang Mai.
In full backpacker gear, and looking rather bedraggled, I strolled past the doorman- who was sound asleep, went up to the reception- where the front desk clerk had also nodded off, lightly tapped on the counter and greeted him good morning. Then I stated, with all the nonchalant confidence I could muster, “Hi, I’m a Starwood Preferred Guest Gold member, and I have early check-in, so I’d like to do that, please.” And for a split second, he looked at me in slight disbelief, as if to gauge whether I was serious or not. I smiled as serenely as I could. And then he continued, very warmly, without batting an eye, “Yes, Madame, right away. Let me show to your room.”
Talk about taking advantage of a benefit!
If you have a funny story about your experience with a free flight or free hotel, please share here.
Khob Kun Ka,
And on another note, check out this sign over the awning of a small Cuzco restaurant.Some businesses believe in marketing transparency rather than in deceptive advertising…
Not all food related businesses in South America are as upfront, though. Despite recently being branded as one of the hot new culinary capitals of the world, (which I think is quite a stretch), and hopefully not because of MSG, the pervasive product is now everywhere in Peru’s cooking, too, but I’m not so sure everyone there knows that.
It bothers me a lot that the most popular brand of this troublesome food additive in Spanish-speaking countries is called “Aji-no-moto”, which is the name of the global powerhouse of a company based in Tokyo that produces it and other unsavory cooking chemicals. (Just read a little of the company’s recent history, to get a taste of what I’m talking about.)
Why do I find the name disturbing? Because in the Spanish language and for many of Hispanic descent, aji is an innocent, flavorful, and popular little red chile pepper. How opportunistic then, of the Japanese behemoth, to peddle its bad goods in Latin America under a conveniently misunderstood brand label name…