Most of us going on a weekend jaunt choose a place to switch off, disconnect and hop off the social grid for a few days. White beaches, calm turquoise seas and a sense of Crusoe isolation are the norm. Well, that and just enough Wi-Fi to post a picture on Facebook of where you’re staying.
But there’s a new holiday craze about to sweep the globe; the tech’cation. It’s about filling your case with as many electronic things as you can (adding all the various chargers and adapters you’ll need too, so you can’t even lift it) and heading off to download and experience a new piece of technology.
For my first tech’cation I packed my 15-inch laptop, iPhone, Dictaphone and DSLR and plugged into the Aloft Hotel in Bangkok, one of the new, super-tech-savvy hotel chain from the Starwood Hotels group (the people behind W hotels, the St. Regis and the Sheraton). Aloft Bangkok is in the hip area of Sukhumvit 11, right opposite Bed Supperclub, and was the first Aloft to open in Asia. Its older Paris and Harlem cousins quickly became the darlings of trendies across the globe, so it seemed the perfect introduction to tech holidaying.
On my arrival I was greeted with microphone tests, lighting men dragging cables across the entrance and a lot of people with clipboards looking frantic. It was opening night and a big party was planned. Luckily, the frantic buzz and humidity outside was sealed behind me (I was disappointed that the doors didn’t close with the “fsssh” sound like they do on the Star Trek Enterprise) as I strode into the cool and cavernous expanse of the Aloft lobby.
Concrete floor, exposed building parts and low sofas? Check. That’s how you know it’s modern. Super-helpful staff, key card and attentive baggage-handler? Double check; the service is very good. And finally, a rain-shower bathroom that’s bigger than the king-size bedroom it comes with? Checkmate! I was onto a winner.
After the opening night party (a baffling combination of über-cool Western house tunes and Thai chintz), it was time to discover why the Aloft chain is the chic geek’s resting place of choice. Taking a wander around the w xyz(SM) bar, I crunched down a smoking cocktail frozen with dry ice and headed over to the three free-to-use Mac stations to watch in amazement as the spindly fingers of true technophiles danced across the keyboards. But believe it or not, the cool décor, rooftop pool, novel self-service canteen and fusball table weren’t the highlights. A new technology called Fingi was.
When you book a stay at Aloft you can choose to stay in a Touch Room. Everything in this room is controlled with a hand-held device you’re given when you check in. The touch-screen mobile is your room key, light switch, air-conditioning and TV remote control and safe locker. You can even use it to order room service and log into your iTunes account to stream music to the Apple TV in your room. Outside the hotel, you can use it to make calls at local rates, browse the internet, check in or out, or extend your stay.
By the time I’d used it to flick the lights on and off, request a salad then change my mind, rent a movie and open and close the blinds a dozen times, I was truly impressed. I finally got the point of a tech’cation; it’s fun! But I have to confess, I did also sneak off to Chatuchak Market and Terminal 21 for a Bangkok shopping fix. But apparently that’s allowed – because I took my Fingi with me!
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