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Let’s Get Luxurious

We woke up in an idling Toyota Previa in a ritzy neighborhood somewhere in the suburbs of Muscat, Oman. During our meandering search for a good spot to set up the hotel the night before, we had passed a Starbucks Coffee, positioned rather oddly in the middle of a causeway. We decided that rather than bash our heads against a wall and battle the morning traffic, visiting this place might be the solution to our morning needs.

It was, as all Starbucks are, unremarkable. The coffee was pretty darn good, and the pastries were expensive and overly sweet. However, they did have Internet, which we were able more or less to operate.

This was good, as it had been some time since we’d connected. So with stomachs full of American(o) style coffee and cold manufactured pastry, and our Internet lives in a slightly less in a state of shambles, we headed back out to the Previa, which was now positively cooking in the bright sun.

Now, unbeknown to you, dear reader, this whole time the illustrious Jackson had been cooking up quite a plan for us. We had, as you know, been sleeping in our van for the past few days and, as Jackson deemed it, we were overdue for a bit of Luxury. It seems we would be going straight up to the top on this one. Yes, I’m talking about none other the Al Bustan Intercontinental Hotel of Muscat.

Jackson had, through his many mysterious and illustrious connections, manifested for us a triple upgrade at this five-star hotel. This meant we could purchase their cheapest room, and would be automatically upgraded to their third- cheapest room, I felt quite sure would be overwhelmingly ballin’. In addition to the upgrade, we could check in early and check out late, plus some other perhaps yet-to-be disclosed perks. This was going to be magnificent. Jackson had been playing the Intercontinental and the Grand Hyatt off each other for the past couple days, working his magic and finding us the best room he could. Eventually we had selected the Intercon.

There was only one catch. It was a two-person room. It would be huge, of course, with plenty of space for all involved. But we decided we might be better off if, at least during the check-in process, the staff believed that it was only Jackson (a prominent Indonesian businessman), and his wife/weekend fling (Claudia) who were checking in the today.

So as we drove through Muscat, toward the opposite side of town, where the Intercontinental Hotel chain had bought up quite a giant swath of land, we hatched a plan. As we pulled under a large archway and into the grounds of the hotel, we entered a very un-Oman-like, and strikingly foliated world. It was all well watered and covered in grass, flower beds, and palm trees.  We drove by tennis courts and topiary gardens. Gardeners and grounds keepers were everywhere, struggling to maintain this unnatural greenery against the harsh climate. This was the place, for sure. We were in.

Well before the hotel itself was in view, we pulled over the car, and Jackson took the driver’s seat. Claudia took shotgun. We synchronized our watches, and exchanged wishes for good luck in the upcoming endeavors. Scott and I set out from there on foot, waving the rest of our team on toward the main facility.

It was blisteringly hot, and as Scott and I walked along the side of the road, we became soaked in sweat. Soon we came upon a large parking lot, across from which we caught our first glimpses of the massive hotel in which we’d be sleeping that night. It was a huge octagonal prism, a rather fetching mixture of an almost Soviet brutalism and traditional Islamic architecture.

We paused in the parking lot to chat for a moment with a fellow who was there washing cars. It’s always good to cultivate allies, here on AsiaWheeling.  It seemed that car washing was one of complimentary services of the hotel. The fellow spoke very little English, but was quite happy to see guests out strolling and sweating profusely. We idled in the shade with him for a while, exchanging non-verbal regards. Then it was time for him to work again, and for us to continue to move, always vigilant against detection.

Up ahead of us, across from the main entrance to the Intercontinental, was the beginning of a stretch of jagged rocky cliffs. These seemed the perfect place to hide out and wait for Jackson call. So we headed up into the lifeless rocky hills, to survey the terrain and bide our time.

In order to get there, though, we needed to use a kind of gardener’s drainage and wheelbarrow access trench. Three hundred meters down the trench, we found a rusted ladder that allowed us to scale a length of poured concrete wall and get up onto the base of the first rocky cliffs. Up we went, scrambling over the crumbling and jagged stone that made up most of the terrain around Muscat. From the top of the crag, we had an unencumbered view of the grounds. They were quite impressive: a large swath of beach, countless pools, hundreds of deck chairs with umbrellas, a few outdoor bars and restaurants, plenty of stark white uniformed employees, and from what we could see very few guests.

It was then that Scott got the call. He crouched down against the rocks and spoke in a ragged whisper. When he hung up, he looked at me through the boiling heat.  My pupils were so closed against the bright sun that his face was all but invisible, shaded by the brim of his Panama hat.  As he turned his head up to me, the sun spilled over his chin and mustache, exposing a toothy grin. “We’re going in.”

I gave a solemn nod and scrambled down the rock face. Soaked in sweat, we emerged like fugitives from the bushes that hid the drainage and wheelbarrow access trench from passers by and strolled across the parking lot up to the front gate of the Intercontinental. Jackson was there to meet us, leaning against a giant pillar just inside of the air-conditioning, looking at his watch. I gave him a tip of the Panama hat; he gave a slight bow.

We heartily shook hands, introducing ourselves, and exchanging AsiaWheeling business cards. “How was the flight?” Jackson asked. “Rotten,” we replied.

“Well, shall we get down to business?” he said, turning on the ball of his foot to lead us toward the elevators. We nodded, and with hands clasped behind our backs, we strolled behind him and up to the room.

Claudia had already made herself at home, and was deep into investigating the facilities. All our baggage had been brought up by the hotel staff, and had been placed in the massive luggage storage cubby near the entrance to the room. There were complimentary fruits and sugared dates to refresh ourselves after a day of traveling.

The room boasted a gigantic tiled bathroom with gold fixtures (including bidet), a kind of antechamber for the bathroom, where one might spend time getting pretty, an immense collection of complimentary potions, and a balcony with chairs, table, and a view of the pools, cliffs, and a bit of beach.

There was a mirrored cabinet full of crystal goblets, fancy teacups, saucers, silverware and the like for in-room picnicking. There was even an Ethernet cable sticking out of the wall, promising Internet.

It was this particular feature that Claudia was investigating at the moment we arrived. The hotel’s server seemed to be asking for a password and or some money. For one of the nicest hotels in the world, this seemed a bit of a nickel and dime. “No worries.” Jackson replied, “I’ll solve this.” And with that the illustrious Jackson picked up the room phone and began using a combination of tough love and Indonesian black magic to manifest a free Internet password for us.

And with that, we leaned back and began eating free fruit and generally relaxing. As we were munching and enjoying our new found surroundings we began to realize something: we would be here in this hotel room for the next 25-32 hours, and we certainly could not afford to eat at any of the restaurants nearby. This meant one thing: in-room picnic time. And for this we would need supplies.

Claudia and I grabbed the keys to the Toyota and headed off in search of supplies, while Scott and Jackson continued to relax and explore the hotel.

We arrived back in very high spirits, in part from our triumphant purchases at a giant Omani grocery outfit and positive interactions with the employees there, and in part from having just flown down the highways of Oman, windows down, grocery bags fluttering in the wind, and singing along to some old Presidents of the United States of America tracks. We loaded all the food into a Dahon folding bicycle bag and strolled into the lobby. The people at the front desk must have been quite curious as to why a woman, presumably Jackson’s wife, staying at such a fancy hotel would appear, sweating like a pig, out of the glaring heat, along with her husband’s business partner, toting a giant oblong black bag filled with what looked like loaves of bread, fruit, and thousands of jars of Arabic pastes, but could have also very well been a dead body. We flashed big grins at the staff and grunted our way across the palatial hotel lobby, eventually heaving the bag of groceries into the wrong bank of elevators.

It’s true. We were crazy. Just crazy enough to work.

When we finally opened the door to our room and threw down our load, Scott and Jackson were discussing an issue of some medical importance. It seems Jackson’s sunburn had taken a turn in the bizarre rash-like direction, and after some team consultation, the two of them decided to head out once again in the Previa, to seek some medical attention. But before that, it was time to have a little in-room picnic feast. Once we were all full, Claudia and I wished our dear friends good luck in their mission, and while they headed out into the city, we headed out to the beach.

The next three hours were spent swimming, wandering amongst tide pools, and using the free kayak rental service.

Part way through our kayak trip, a smiling and chiseled employee of the hotel was dispatched in a speedboat to kindly inform us that it was time to return the kayak. So we did.

As we headed back toward the hotel, we encountered Scott and Jackson, who had arrived back not long ago. Reunited once more, and relieved to hear that Jackson’s skin condition would be easily treatable, we all headed back to the room for a celebratory badam milk drink.

The rest of the evening was spent using the facilities of the Intercontinental Muscat to the greatest extent we could. And it felt great.

We swam in all the pools, used the towel service, sat and watched the sunset from the deck chairs, sang songs, and played ukulele into the night.

A luxurious experience indeed.


Comments

  1. Anjalina | September 13th, 2010 | 8:59 am

    Badam Milk Indian style drink is one of my favorite drink i will right now

  2. Mark/Dad | November 10th, 2010 | 10:41 am

    Part high rollers, part refugees. Quite a combination.

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