The dazzling beauty of Phuket Island, Thailand, captures the imagination of the visitor long before the ship anchors about five hundred or so meters from Patong Beach. The island – a convergence of tropical beauty, enticing beaches and exotic culture – is a popular holiday destination for lovers of leisure from around the world. The beach bustles with the ceaseless clamor of tourists and locals, the latter either peddling items or calling out with promises of the best Thai massage. The beauty of the silky white, palm-lined beach seems unfazed, even with all the commotion.
The Superstar Virgo, a floating five-star resort, had arrived at Patong mid-morning, having left Singapore 2 days earlier. The previous day, we had a three-hour stopover on the west coast of Malaysia at Penang Island, the “Pearl of the Orient.”
And this trip almost didn’t happen.
On the start of the day a few months earlier, I had opened my mail and stared at the computer screen, horrified at the endless stream of emails, mostly spam. It had taken me a brief moment to expunge the unwanted emails. At times, I have unknowingly discarded genuine emails in the process of cleaning up. On this occasion, one of the emails I was about to delete caught my attention. I quickly scanned it and then hit the delete button.
Several days later, a follow-up email arrived. It met the same fate. Delete. Another reminder landed in the inbox a few days later. I couldn’t resist reading it. Perhaps I was more tolerant on this day. The email looked authentic. I mulled on whether to respond. Then, I hit the reply button. After a flurry of correspondences in subsequent weeks, I was airborne to Singapore. Was I walking into a snare?
After going through immigration and customs at Changi Airport, Southeast Asia’s aviation hub, I got to the arrivals section. Indeed, someone had been waiting to welcome me. The lanky, with hanging shoulders and eyebrows knitted together, was waving a placard with my name printed on it, his face wearing a thin grin. I could take him on if need be; I reckoned. He gave me a warm handshake as I introduced myself. Tan Wee then offered to carry my luggage to the waiting silver Mercedes-Benz E350 sedan. Why am I getting such a VIP treatment? I hoped that I wasn’t overplaying my caution.
Tan pulled up at the Holiday Inn on Cavenagh Road, where I was meant to stay overnight before sailing the following morning. We entered through the automated sliding doors and as I strode to the reception on the west side of the airy lobby, I saw familiar faces, industry colleagues from different parts of the world. As it turned out, we all had near-similar narrations of the invitation. We had taken the risk and now, we were about to embark on a time of our lives: business and leisure during a four-night, five-day cruise.
As I reflect back, I recall days when it was commonplace to put trust on people at the speed of light. Regrettably, that seems to be a fast-fading art.
Notwithstanding, when the deal is too good, think twice, it could be true.
Copyright ©2014 David Waweru