Sunday, January 31, 2010

Feydhoo Pre-school!

Feydhoo pre-school – In collaboration with the Feydhoo Island Women’s Committee, Banyan Tree helped establish and develop a pre-school on Feydhoo island.

By building to the specifications of the local community and educational board requirements, Banyan Tree was able to provide a model facility to support education on Feydhoo.

After building the school, Banyan Tree also provided necessary teaching and school administrative equipment.

The first batch of 15 students graduated to grade 1 (Primary School) on 24th October 2009! Congratulations!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Banyan Tree Ungasan Road Clean Up

Prior opening Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali, all associates were invited to participate in removing trash and debris scattered along the way to the main gate of the resort, caused by construction and the waste disposal from the local population.

More than 30 associates from JG1 to Excom showed up in the event that was held on 6 November 2009, in the middle of a warm afternoon (30°C). Carrying large trash bags, and equipped with disposable hand gloves, associates started the 1km walk from the main lobby down the road at about 3.30pm, starting to collect many different type of non-organic rubbish such as beverage containers, plastic bags and cans, along the way to the main gate. For over an hour and a half, associates managed to gather more than 10 large trash bags full of rubbish.

As part of the CSR program we educated associates on proper waste management practices, to strive the importance of regularly maintaining the cleanliness of the resort and surrounding areas. This road clean up is the first one in many of upcoming similar activities in order to raise awareness among associates and the local community on environmental cleanliness, hygiene, and waste management.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Was in Mayakoba!

Day One - Arriving in Mexico

After a long, arduous swim through natural canals and lagoons, connected underground to the sea, I’m finally in America!

Met in the lobby by the Banyan Tree Mayakoba team of associates, I was told that situated in the eco-haven of Mayakoba, Banyan Tree is a harmonious blend of nature and luxury, and the first all-pool villa resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Our Mexican associates escorted me past the splendid banyan tree looming over the two-storey water courtyard to my lavish Garden Pool Villa. As I relaxed in the privacy of my own villa facing eco-landscape and enjoying the natural surroundings of lush nature, I could certainly see why Banyan Tree Mayakoba lives up to its promise as the most eagerly anticipated brand in the Americas!

A myriad of dining options are available in Banyan Tree Mayakoba, from the Mediterranean-inspired Tamarind, signature Thai cuisine of Saffron, modern Mexican cuisine from Oriente and in-villa dining. Being in Mexico for the first time, I headed to Oriente for a truly gastronomical experience.

Tired after the long swim and happy with a full stomach, I went to sleep almost as soon as I returned to my Garden Pool Villa.

Day 2 - Exploring Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Waking up to a beautiful day, I was eagerly anticipating the boat tour through the enchanting canals and lagoons. Bird-watching is one of the most popular activities in Mayakoba, with over 250 different vertebrate species coexisting in Mayakoba.

Hopping into the boat, which is electric-powered to avoid noise pollution, I observed many species of herons, a few neotropic cormorants, and midway into the tour, was even lucky enough to spot an iguana who obligingly posed for a photo!

After the peaceful, magical boat tour, the biologist brought me to visit the protected nests of baby turtles!

Banyan Tree guests are invited to help the little turtles out as they are hatched, and all of us protectively watch over them as they make their first steps towards the oceans.

Truly a magical experience, I hope to see many of these turtles return to Mayakoba when they are older to lay their own eggs!

Day 3 - Visiting a School
Waking up after a deep, restful slumber filled with dreams of birds and baby turtles, I had a huge breakfast at the Oriente, their buffet breakfasts are legendary.

After breakfast, the CSR team picked me up, taking me to “Vida y Esperanza” community, where we will be teaching the children art and ecology. I was told that this is would be the first class given to the 15 students from this community, by a Banyan Tree Mayakoba associate, so everyone is very excited.

There were smiles all around as the children drew native animals, trees, and learned more about the environment they are in. In addition, we also taught the basics of waste management, and why it is important to reuse and recycle instead of burning and disposing of waste.

Before leaving we visited a very special place in the community: an apiary that is going to be protected by the members of the community. The Mayan bees will live in this apiary; these amazing bees don’t have a sting so there’s no danger of being harmed.

These incredible, hardworking insects are endangered, and fortunately, Banyan Tree Mayakoba is working hard to prevent its extinction.

After my enriching day, I retired into my villa with a sense of peace and tranquility, inspired by the activities and efforts of the team in Banyan Tree Mayakoba, and hoping to visit again another day. Until then, I will continue to cherish the many fond memories, the new friends I’ve made and experiences I’ve gained.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Greening Communities 2009

The only hotel to plant trees in the city of Luang Prabang, associates from Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel, together with over 4,000 members of the local community from government offices, hospitals, and universities, planted 2,243 trees in Luang Prabang in 2009 alone.

Taking place during the rainy season from June to October, the tree plantings met and exceeded the group-wide target of planting 2,000 trees per resort per year.

Maison Souvvaphoum Hotel will continue to strive to plant 2,000 trees each year, in line with the overall group-wide Greening Communities effort of building awareness of climate change.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Packing for Lijiang!

Packing for Lijiang!

I can’t wait! I’m heading to Banyan Tree Lijiang, and winter is coming fast, so I packed my winter wear, including my favourite Shokay wool scarves and gloves.

On a side note, Banyan Tree Gallery’s Shokay wool line is an interesting story. The Shokay Company is a social enterprise using yak fibre to provide sustainable income for Tibetan yak herders while still preserving their traditional lifestyles.

Day One – Arriving at Banyan Tree Lijiang

Flying into Lijiang, I felt like I was like settling into a magical kingdom in the clouds. We flew in through majestic mountains, finally landing in the quaint airport 2200m above sea level!

I loved the scenic 45 minute car ride from the airport to Banyan Tree Lijiang. The picturesque drive cut through fields of sunflowers and corn, a “sea” of yellow rapeseed plants and grasslands. Cattle, goats, chickens, a family of pigs, dogs and people were all with lining the roads and valley.

As we approached the resort, I noticed that Banyan Tree Lijiang is nestled in a valley with a breathtaking view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and sits among several villages, including Suhe Old Town, only a nice 10-minute stroll away.

It was delightful to see Banyan Tree Lijiang fit so perfectly into this picturesque setting, obviously the resort was built to reflect and celebrate the cultural heritage of the area. With the exception of the three-storey pagoda, which was built in the traditional way by hand and without any nails, all other buildings on site are two stories or less, and mimic the nearby town and its Naxi architecture of curved roofs and flowing streams.

After talking with many of the team members at the hotel including Ms. Andy Lei, Banyan Tree’s CSR Champion for Yunnan, it became clear to me that Banyan Tree Lijiang has taken numerous steps for energy and water conservation. These efforts include the use of solar water heating panels, energy saving bulbs, and a rain water harvesting system for landscape irrigation. At the same time, another point of emphasis ensures that waste management practices are in line with conserving the environment.

I spotted many bird feeders in the trees in and around the resort, and it turns out this was a planned effort to help guests enjoy the company of our feathered friends. True to Lijiang Old Town’s roots, the resort also features many fresh water streams as well as a main pond teeming with gold fish and carp. This is one place you won’t find shark’s fin!

Because of the long day of travel, I took a quick dip in my villa’s private hot tub before settling down with a delightful Naxi hot pot meal served in the privacy of my own villa. Naxi hot pots feature the freshest mushrooms, vegetables and stock, without oil or artificial preservatives. Another highlight of the meal was the Naxi musician and dancer performing an ageless, traditional Naxi dance as I dined. WOW!

Day Two – Visit to Wenhai School and Tree Planting in Lijiang

Over breakfast I learned that Banyan Tree Lijiang has a long standing relationship with a local school, Wenhai Primary School, which associates from Banyan Tree visit twice a year. Wenhai Primary School is about a 90 minute drive from Lijiang, and has around 80 students with less than 5 teachers, limited facilities and equipment and a lack of drinking water facilities.

I was lucky enough that my stay in Lijiang coincided with one of the visits to Wenhai Primary, so I was able to help hand out books, stationary, toys and clothes to the students. No matter how often I see it, nothing is as touching as seeing happy smiles on children’s faces!

While in Wenhai Primary, I also learned that every Children’s Day (31st of October), associates of Banyan Tree visit the school with cakes, snacks, drinks, sports equipment and other gifts to celebrate with the students.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How To Knit!

Just attended a training on ‘how to knit’, organized by Banyan Tree Bangkok’s Human Resources and Training department!

Inspired by Alison Murray and Bangkok National Hospital, the ‘Let’s Knit for the Needy’ project arose as many people lack adequate warm clothing for the approaching winter season. Banyan Tree associates were knitting 15cm x 15cm square pieces that will be put together to create a targeted 111 blankets which will be donated to the needy.

Associates in Banyan Tree Bangkok honed their newly-acquired knitting skills during their lunch breaks with different materials, styles and exuberant shades.

Well done Banyan Tree Bangkok!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Banyan Tree Maldives - Underwater Gardens

Various coral and marine life conservation projects going on in Banyan Tree Maldives