Having a friendly and knowledgeable guide can make the difference between a routine holiday and a great one. Which is why Audley hosts its annual Guide Awards to recognise excellence in this field. This year the event took place in Malaysia, from where Audley's Southeast Asia Programme Manager went along to report.
I should have mentioned that I have two left feet before agreeing to get involved. It gave everyone a good laugh and encouraged others to get up and join in.
Clinging on to the back of a Harley-Davidson as we whizzed through the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur, I wondered why I had let myself be talked into this. I closed my eyes, then opened them again very quickly. It was worse not being able to see and just feeling the heat of the exhaust against my leg.
We were in theory arriving in style to Audley’s 4th annual guide award ceremony, but I felt as though I arrived hot, bothered and more than a little shaken. Thankfully there was a hair stylist on hand to make me look presentable before we had to meet everyone.
Oh no, wait, the stylist was there, and he did a great job on my helmet hair, but everyone else was there too — watching and taking photographs. It was a good talking point for the rest of the evening — or at least it was until I tried my hand at belly dancing and some of the traditional dances from Sarawak.
I should have mentioned that I have two left feet before agreeing to get involved. It gave everyone a good laugh and encouraged others to get up and join in. However the evening was a great success.
Once a year we collate all the feedback from questionnaires sent in to our office by clients that have travelled during the year and use this feedback to select a winning guide (or guides) from each country to attend our event. We were delighted this year to be able to extend the event beyond just Southeast Asian guides and be joined by guides from India and China as well.
On the Friday night we were treated to cultural shows from the Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the belly dancing and a face changing act. There was lots of delicious Malaysian food, and of course the presentations of the Awards themselves (see list of winners below).
The following day we visited the Batu Caves just outside the city of Kuala Lumpur and which are renowned for being the focal point of the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. Climbing the 272 steps to the caves at the top was a bit of an effort, especially in the heat, and one of the Cambodian's found it even more of a challenge as he was scared of the myriad of monkeys running around everywhere.
Our next stop was the Royal Selangor Factory Museum and workshop where we leant about the history of pewter. We then visited the School of Hard Knocks to create our own pewter dishes by hammering a disc into shape. Lunch in the former home of a Malaysian film star was followed by a workshop and guide training session, and the whole event was rounded off with a fabulous meal in the Atmosphere 360 revolving restaurant in the 335 m high Kuala Lumpur Tower.
Thank you to our Malaysian agents for organising such a wonderful event, to all the guides who attended and who do such a great job for us, and to our clients for giving us their feedback and enabling us to reward the very best of our guides. Until next year...
Audley's 2014 guide winners
Mrs Truong Thi Hong Van - Hue, Vietnam
Mr Phung Viet Thang - Hanoi, Vietnam
Mr Dinh Nho Thang - Saigon, Vietnam
Mr Win Ko Ko (Robert) - Myanmar
Mrs Hnin Lae Khaing - Myanmar
Mr Li Yuxiang (Allan) - China
Mr Depandra Rathore Singh - North India
Ms Songsri Jiwaratanawong - Thailand
Mr Brasith Tep - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Mr Sareth Chan - Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Mr Narath He - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Ms Phally Lao - Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Ms Faridah Fatah - Singapore
Mr Alvin Wayne Anggi - Sarawak, Borneo
Mr Joseph Teoh - Penang, Malaysia
Mr Loo Shih Loong - KL, Malaysia
Mr Kampou Detxaykosin - Laos
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