This weekend I spent on the island of Phuket in Thailand, where Marcel Ekkel married his girlfriend Siu Shan. I have known Marcel for many years already, and he has become a good friend even though we don’t see each other regularly (Marcel currently lives in Hong Kong). At first we met through the Internet, probably around 5-6 years ago. At that time Marcel was a moderator for some Yahoo Groups or mailing lists that I subscribed to (Do these things still exist? Amazing how quickly the Internet changes). I think I first got to know him there or otherwise through Ecademy (a business social network avant la lettre, that missed out on the boom because they decided to charge their customers. I tried to leave them years ago and they still keep spamming me, but that’s a different story).
I think we first met in real life in Shanghai where Marcel spoke at a project management conference and where we had dinner that night with a Dutch journalist – this was before Tudou and Spil Games, when I was still a consultant. Afterward we mainly met in Hong Kong when I was there for weekend shopping trips or for business reasons. Last year we trained for the Trailwalker together, and because of that we spent many hours together on Hong Kong’s mountain trials.
I probably knew before his wife that he was going to propose because we talked about it during the training for the Trailwalker, and I think he even announced it to me on MSN. So when I received his wedding invitation I immediately decided to go, even though Phuket is quite a long trip from Shanghai. My wife could not join because Elaine at 7 weeks is a bit too young to leave alone at home with the nanny, so I had to go without her.
The wedding took place in the Indigo Pearl Resort, a high-end resort on Phuket’s northwestern Nai Yang Beach. I was quite impressed by the resort, the design is amazing (see some of my pictures of the resort on Flickr) and the service excellent. The location on the quiet Nai Yang Beach is also great, although if you prefer nightlife this is not the right place to go: after 11 PM almost everything closes down.
It was actually my first time to visit Phuket, I have been to Thailand many times but mainly in Bangkok or on the islands on the east coast. Phuket is bigger than I thought, but even though it does not have the small island feeling I liked it. I rented a car and drove all around the island, checking out most of the towns and beaches. The west coast beaches are nice, but the towns were a bit disappointing. Mass tourism from Scandinavia, Australia and Russia ruined them, and I left the towns as soon as possible. Stay away from places like Patong Beach if you like a quiet beach vacation.
Phuket is quite cheap (at least at the moment) and most hotels and resorts seem to be fairly empty. This may have to do with the fact that it is low season on the West coast, but likely the unstable political situation in Thailand may also play a role. Not sure if the 2004 tsunami still has an effect on tourism, but last year’s closure of Bangkok airport for a couple of days by protesters certainly certainly did not help to attract more vacationers. So if you want to check it out, now is a good time. You can get rooms in 5-star resorts for less than EUR 50 per night if you do a bit of research. I had several meals in small restaurants on the beach, where you can get great Thai food almost for free. And an ice cold local Singha beer is not expensive either!
The wedding itself took place in the Indigo Pearl resort and was a very nice event. A lot of family and friends had flown over from England, Holland and Hong Kong (plus several other Asian destintaions) and it was an interesting group. After exchanging the vows and the rings in a traditional Thai house on stilts in a lake in the resort, we all had drinks with the newly wed couple. After taking pictures and writing the wedding guest book it was time for dinner. There were some interesting people on my table and we had discussions for hours while eating and drinking. During the speeches I learned a lot about the couple (for example, I never knew that Marcel met Siu Shan while he was a diving instructor on Boracay), and after the toasts were over we all headed to a bar for drinks and cigars. I think the guests all had a great time, I for sure enjoyed the evening a lot. Thanks Marcel & Siu Shan, I wish you a very happy married life together!