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Les 3 Elephants – from dream to reality

Les 3 Elephants is a project, a dream, an adventure, a story, a philosophy.

Les 3 Elephants

Our project, another place, another life, a young Parisian couple deciding to change everything. We left Paris, France, habits, friends and family in September 2006. We left with two suitcases, the money we got from selling our flat, dreams and hopes. Our project, creating an eco resort in Cherai Beach, Kochi, Kerala, South India, Asia, the other side of the planet…

Dream of a new life, creating a place to meet, share, love, discover another pace, the rhythm of nature. New life, slower life. Escape western madness…

True adventure, jump in the unknown. I am an artist and a philosopher. My wife is an anthropologist, specialised in performance art studies. We had to learn everything from zero. New culture, new people, new business… Our will and desire were strong, strong enough to overcome many obstacles. We opened Les 3 Elephants, Beach and Backwater, Boutique Eco resort, the 25th of december 2011. Our best Christmas…

The adventure will be told in this blog. Piece by piece. As non linear as life is. It took us 5 long and incredible years to achieve our goal: joy, despair, luck, struggle, surprises good and bad. We don’t regret anything. The adventure just begins…

Philosophy of creation, creating our life.

Reviews: the unfortunate happy/sad theorem!

Tripadvisor, Booking.com, Holidayscheck, etc. : the happy/sad theorem image It’s not always sunny on the beach!

Dear friends,


In a few words, let me share a sad lesson, that we have learned the hard way on the job:

 

Our extremely rare unhappy guests always find the time to post bad reviews.

On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of happy guests go back to their happy life, and usually forget about writing a review.

As too often in life, when it comes to guests reviews and online reputation, “bad” talks a lot louder than “good”.

 

Let me develop:

We have very few disappointed  guests. Except for exceptional cases of pure bad luck and ill-fated circumstances, bad experiences are due to the fact that guests have misunderstood the kind of experience we offer.

For instance, recently, an Indian guest has complained about seeing a small lizard on the outside wall of his cottage (these “pali” are harmless little friends doing a great job at praying on annoying insects, including mosquitoes). This guest had probably no idea of what is an eco-resort when he booked with us. If a lizard is enough to ruin his holidays, he shouldn’t ever again book a room in an eco-resort.

He made sure to share his disappointment online…

Worse scenario: A couple from Poland reached our resort under the heavy rain of a late monsoon. They had booked a non-AC thatched roof cottage. The wife complained notably about asthma and allergies. The humidity level in monsoon is extremely high and only the use of AC succeeds to dry up the air. However, the couple refused our free upgrade offer to a freshly renovated top category AC cottage. They did not even agree to see the room, made a scandal, refused to pay their bill and tried to blackmail us with writing bad reviews… We were helpless facing their anger, did our best in vain…

Back home, still ruminating their anger, both husband AND wife posted the most possible damaging reviews.

Following this saddening and so discouraging experience, my wife has lost sleep for a week.

We are extremely grateful when happy guests take the time to post a positive review, we would never expect them to post as many excellent reviews as possible…

Once in a while, also, in a way that is still quite a mystery for me, some guests with the strangest conception of holidays, just seem to enjoy complaining…

They never miss an opportunity to post their complains online.

This might sound like we have plenty of bad reviews. It is not the case, we have very few of them, but each one hurts. And the recent two examples I have cited have been particularly painful.

But the sun is back on Cherai Beach, today we are full and everyone is happy. The positive feedbacks make your worries vanish.

However, the “happy/sad reviews” theorem is still lurking in the dark…

YOU can level the game.

If you have been happy with us, or anywhere else actually, please share it online, help the good make some noise, because the bad is always loud.

Just click on this image:

 

Tripadvisor Help!
Big thanks in advance,

Benjamin

Meanwhile, at Les 3 Elephants: Unikrishnan and the miracle of emergency…

Unnikrishnan

TIME IS LATER. URGENT IS NOW.

As many expatriates, we often complain about the very different way of considering the question of time in India, compared to our western world. I actually already posted about this so central matter :

https://les3elephants.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/time-for-a-tea/

I would like to add some interesting, and quite encouraging nuance.

After a very heavy moonson, we are now completing the maintenance of Les 3 Elephants, to be ready for the long season to come. Despite being in deep off season, we have a lot more guests than expected. Good news sure. But a big headache for the maintenance process. Especially for painting the rooms, as not only we need the time to paint them, but a few days extra for drying and properly aerating.

By experience, we were extremely worried that the peaceful pace of our painting team would put us in the most unpleasant situation of having to cancel some bookings, as it is out of question to have guests staying in an half painted chemical smelling cottage.

We explained the situation to our chief painter, Unikrishnan (see picture). He understood and, as usual, said “Don’t worry”. So, of course, we worried even more 😉 !

And then, the miracle! Unikrishnan came at the fixed date, on time, with a team of five painters (we had never seen so many on our site!). They worked fast, well, being even careful of protecting the whole area with plastic (which I thought until then was absolutely forbidden by state law or religion!).

All the rooms have been painted, one by one, according to the strict schedule dictated by our booking book. And everything with a nice smile and perfect discretion to avoid any disturbance to the guests.

So first of all, I want to say a big THANK YOU to Unikrishnan. And then adding this little comment about the conception of time in India: the notion of emergency exists here!

Emergency was obvious and our problem really complicated. In some situations, solidarity comes first. This miracle was not about Uni and his team suddenly being westernized super professional painters, but more about people helping other people out.

Another short example: our local tailor, Lalu, can take six months to complete a set of shirts for me. I am not in a hurry, he knows that I live here and that I have already plenty of shirts! But when we ask him to do some work for a guest in the resort, who will check out the next day and take a plane back home… the same tailor always completes the job during the night and takes his bike to deliver it himself on time!
Price is the same, emergency is different.

If my shirts take six months, it’s just because everyone else insist that his work is more urgent!

So, the big lesson is: if you want to have things done around here, never say you have time. Having time falls in the vague cyclic Indian concept of time and duration, it can last forever. Communicate, make up a story if necessary, but insist until you get shifted in the emergency box.

Time is later… Urgent is now.

Tripadvisor: power and responsabilities

Tripadvisor Help!
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“WITH GREAT POWERS, COME GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES!”

As Uncle Ben famously warned Peter Parker… This cornerstone of Spider Man’s mythology should apply to Tripadvisor’s reviewers…

Web 2.0, as they call it, refers to the recent evolution of the internet towards social networks. This shift is giving power to the people, for the people, notably through the whole “reviews” system. Complaining about this situation would be as useless as complaining about the rain or the cycle of seasons.

In this context, Tripadvisor is probably the most radical example of power given to the reviewers. It has considerably impacted the hospitality industry. Hotels and restaurants live and die with their reviews, in particular the small properties, with a tight budget for marketing. According to the statistics, more than 60% of the travellers consult Tripadvisor before planning their trip or going out for dinner…

Tripadvisors reviewers have nowadays an incredible power. As Peter Parker and his amazing spider powers, when you are granted a great power, your responsibility should be to use it wisely, and for the good of others.

THE LIBELLOUS REVIEWS!

Recently, a couple, disappointed about their stay with us during the strongest monsoon witnessed in Kerala since 30 years, decided to take revenge using Tripadvisor.

As we usually do during the off-season, depending on the availability, we had upgraded them, in their case up to our best AC cottage, with private garden, large sit-out directly on the backwaters, glass ceiling showing the beautiful bamboo structure of our traditional thatched roof… They did not complain during their stay, smiling and polite with the staff, but showing dark angry faces the rest of the time. The rain was heavy, almost continuous, as you can expect during the monsoon in Kerala, yet, as I said, this year even stronger than usual. Thus, for some reason (I suppose meteorological…) they apparently decided that we had somehow fraudulently spoiled their holidays. I would have gladly offered them january’s sun and perfect temperatures, but well, I could not. And for this failure, their revenge has been merciless!

Back home, each of them registered on Tripadvisor, with the clear concerted intention to inflict double damage. They wrote two almost identical libellous incendiary reviews. Besides extreme denigratory comments, and a few plain lies, they openly accused us of fraud. The husband accused us of having paid to post “fake reviews” (100+ positive ones!) and the wife of having published a “fictional description” of our resort on Tripadvisor. They deliberately used the power of the reviewers to hurt us as much as possible.

Of course this is bad for business. But it is also shocking, in a deep intimate way. Small properties owners, and staff, are for a large majority sincere dedicated professionals, who do their best to satisfy their guests. Very very few of them, if any, deserve to be treated like this. Defamation is sad, humiliating, and very difficult to fight. A small resort in South India has absolutely no legal option against libellous accusations made through the internet…

After reporting these reviews to Tripadvisor, explaining what I could in the very few words allowed by their system, the husband’s review has been removed from the site (after a week of damage). Tripadvisor being very touchy on the matter of fake reviews, I had good hopes that they would in fact protect their own reputation… But the second review is still standing, and being slightly less extreme, and thus more insidious, I am unfortunately quite certain that it will remain on Tripadvisor, for the whole word to see us violently denigrated and libellously accused of frauding the system.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

This post is thus partly a call for help. Like in many defamation cases, our only defense is to call for witnesses to plead for our honesty and proper professional ethic. In fact, on Tripadvisor, following the web 2.0 logic, good users have the power to fight the bad ones! Please believe that I would not ask for help to fight any bad review, but I feel that this one is particularly unfair and deliberately damaging.

So, if any of our valued guests, having enjoyed their stay at Les 3 Elephants, and written a review on Tripadvisor (or willing to do so) happen to read this lines, it would be a great help for us if you could spare a little more of your time to follow this link:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g2647335-d2467634-r170672531-Les_3_Elephants_Cherai_Beach-Cherai_Beach_Vypin_Island_Kochi_Cochin_Kerala.html

Read the review “Not as good as led to believe…”, make your own idea, and if you agree with me, please report the libelous nature of the “fictional description” accusation. It is easy, just click on the “problem with this review” link at the bottom right…and well, testify that there is nothing fictional about the description of Les 3 Elephants provided on Tripadvisor. The malicious review being in fact a lot more “fictional”!

I, and all my team, would be extremely grateful.

OPEN LETTER TO ALL REVIEWERS

This post is also the occasion for me to speak in the name of all my hospitality colleagues around the word, mainly the independent ones, who live in a constant fear and feudal dependence to Tripadvisor and other massive Online Booking Operators:

To all users, please be aware that a few minutes of instant vengeful gratification you may obtain by spilling your frustration on the internet, will cause damages for months, sometimes years, to real, honest and hard-working persons, potentially even to entire communities.

Websites like Tripadvisor give a huge power to their users, so please be responsible and remain always very careful not to misuse it.

If you like a place, share it with others, it is the best way to say thank you.
If you are disappointed, feel free to share it also, but in a proper, decent, constructive way.
Don’t worry, the best places will still be at the top of the list, and the bad at the bottom.

Please do not add anger, violence and meanness to the world, there is enough of it already.

Love is always better than hate, for you, for others, for everyone… even on the web 2.0.

 

UPDATE: BIG THANK YOU!

We received a lot of support following this post. The libellous review has been erased from Tripadvisor. I have no doubt that our readers support has been very helpful to set things right.

I know that we cannot please everyone, and that some bad reviews will come again. As long as they are honnest and constructive, we’ll of course accept them and use them as a way to improve ourselves.

We are grateful for the warm support received. Thanks again.

Coup de coeur : Projet “Follow Me”, par Murad Osmann

“Follow me” , beautiful project by russian photographer Murad Osmann. You can see more of his work there:

http://instagram.com/muradosmann

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The Golden Rule of Hospitality

http://www.3elephants.in

Great hospitality is all about caring…

Airport hotels, business hotels, one night stays: hospitality is not always about creating an emotional relationship with the customer. Sometimes delivering the right, expected service, with a good value for money, is enough. But, as soon as we are talking about holidays hospitality… There should be more.

I am not sure whether this is a normal english terminology in the hospitality business, but here, in India, the clients are called: guests. I find this extremely relevant. Clients should always be treated like guests in a perfect traditional home, they should be taken care of the best way possible.

There is a tradition in India saying that anyone coming in your home should be treated like a God (as he may very well actually be a God in disguise!)

To my taste, I should say “to our taste”, as my wife is in fact more concerned than me in this matter, nothing is worse than staying in a hotel where the staff – sometimes up to the top management – obviously doesn’t care… Whatever the facilities available, even if the service expected is strictly correctly provided, when nobody is willing to make the extra step to make you feel personally welcome, then the whole stay gets this disappointing bland taste of ready-made industrial food.

As we have built, and are now running our resort, Les 3 Elephants, according to our taste, we want to combine high level international standards of service and comfort, with a personalized homely caring experience. And I have to say, proudly, but I think also honestly, that my wife revealed amazing qualities as a host. Above all, she really, genuinely, cares.
This is not about business, this is something difficult to fake, guest satisfaction is for her a sincere concern, and a precious reward. Not only is this obviously directly good for customers, they feel welcome, acknowledged, taken care of. But also it is setting the right example for the whole staff.

Marjorie’s caring is so deep, nice and obvious, that all our staff members are motivated to follow her lead in that direction, and make guest satisfaction their main goal, a duty as important as welcoming respected relatives in their own house.

I am aware that this post sounds like some blatant self promotion! But, please trust me and don’t read it wrong, this is mostly a loving tribute to my wonderful wife…

Meanwhile, at Les 3 Elephants… Gibson.

Front desk manager, Gibson

Always smiling and efficient, Gibson is our very professional front desk manager. Many other hotels or travel agencies would like to steal him from us… For good reasons.

So we make everything we can to keep him happy, hoping that our very caring family atmosphere will retain him long enough, for us to offer him higher responsibilities.

If everything goes according to the plan, Gibson’s various qualities will have the opportunity to blossom further in one of our new projects currently in development.

Anyway, with or without us, we wish and predict for Gibson a bright and succesful future.

3 Elephants Art Project

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Project in progress… Not sure which form the project is going to take, but the general idea is simply to use Les 3 Elephants as art material, in any and every ways that would come to us.

Some kind of residency might get involved.

If you have any idea, don’t hesitate to contribute.

Thank you in advance…

So, one day, I decided to be happy. (6)

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So, I found happiness in a dead pigeon…

It could have been something more romantic that this bad looking half rotten bird lying in the gutter, I suppose that I was just ready for a change, unknowingly waiting for the pivotal shock that would change the way my world was spinning, from the vicious to the virtuous circle. I had finally digested the nihilist initial stupor, necessary condition to move on beyond the cold philosophical empty sky truth…

What did the dead bird told me?

The dead pigeon told me that, to a very large extend, I create the world I live in. Instead of walking with my head high, open to the world, I was closed, looking at the ground. in return, I received the dead bird instead of he Spring sun. More, I had not been in this dark mood, I might have seen the dead pigeon, but without noticing it. It was not sucu an ugly sight that anyone would stop and end up traumatized, it was not a dead person or a dead puppy! I let the pigeon strike my consciousness, ruin my day and the following night.

Creating the world. Nothing magic there, the world is what it is, external, multiple and chaotic. But we create our vision of this world, like a cameraman or a photographer. Where we turn our eyes, what we focus on, how long, all this defines our personal world. Everything is out there, the best and the worst, it’s basically up to us to choose what we fill our perception with.

It’s quite obvious… It was not for me. In the constant foggy storm of our feelings, lucidity is not the normal state of mind. I realized that day that it was up to me to change my world. Waiting would not bring the change, I had to be proactive. Change yourself, change the world.

That day I decided that I had enough with sadness.
I decided to be happy.

I realized that it was in my power. Not only did I understand how much I was creating my reality by the way I was looking at the world, but also I had the intuition of something more. The dead pigeon brought to light the whole sadness vicious circle process, by logical deduction it told me that the opposite should work as well.

Sadness brings sadness, happiness brings happiness. There are two aspects. The first trick is to deliberately focus on the “bright side of life”. This is the hard part, a daily exercise, at first a conscious effort, which gets easier with the time, like any positive habit you want to acquire. The second aspect is the greatest part of this road to happiness story: the world has a very strong tendency to send back what you project. Bring sadness to the world, you’ll most likely get it back in return, bring happiness to the world…

I am glad to have finally reached the turning point of this happiness series. Time to turn our eyes away from the dead birds and look up at the sunny spring days. Next posts will be about the various tools, tricks and inspirations that helped me in my process toward happiness.

One day, I decided to be happy. I succeeded, but it did not happen in this one day. I had to work for it…

Origin of Kerala

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The south-west Indian state of Kerala has several nicknames. The most famous is “God’s own country”, in the tourism business everybody says that the nickname is well deserved because this is such a beautiful place (it is, honestly, from North to South and West to East). Actually, it’s more related to some mythological stories about the creation of this land.

The most famous myth is “the retrieval of Kerala from the sea, by Parasurama, a warrior sage. The Brahminical myth proclaims that Parasurama, an Avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of Kerala arose, and thus was reclaimed from the waters.

He was the sixth of the ten avatars (incarnation) of Vishnu. The word Parasu means ‘axe’ in Sanskrit and therefore the name Parasurama means ‘Ram with Axe’. The aim of his birth was to deliver the world from the arrogant oppression of the ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. He killed all the male Kshatriyas on earth and filled five lakes with their blood. After destroying the Kshatriya kings, he approached assembly of learned men to find a way of penitence for his sins. He was advised that, to save his soul from damnation, he must hand over the lands he had conquered to the Brahmins. He did as they advised and sat in meditation at Gokarnam. There, Varuna -the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi – Goddess of Earth blessed him. From Gokarnam he reached Kanyakumari and threw his axe northward across the ocean. The place where the axe landed was Kerala. It was 160 katam (an old measure) of land lying between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari. Puranas say that it was Parasuram who planted the 64 Brahmin families in Kerala, whom he brought down from the north in order to expiate his slaughter of the Kshatriyas. According to the puranas, Kerala is also known as Parasurama Kshetram, i.e., ‘The Land of Parasurama’, as the land was reclaimed from sea by him.” (Cf Wikipedia)

This myth echoes the geological creation of Kerala. At first, volcanic eruptions created the mountains, but then most Kerala itself is the result of huge and repeated landslides coming down the mountains, as if the giant axe had cut the side of the hill to create a new piece of land.

I had no plan for this little mythological/geological interlude… I actually wanted to write a post about coconut trees! Another Kerala’s nickname is “the land of coconut trees”, and the coconut tree is a really amazing kind of tree, so amazing that it will be worth another post… Until then, enjoy your life 😉

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