Postcard from the Edge of a Palace

So my return to South Africa and to the Palace Hotel in Sun City, a member “The Leading Hotels of the World” chain and the only hotel where I have ever been robbed (I like to think of it as “The Thieving Hotel of the World”). This time, however, I was prepared and was equipped with pad locks, rope, and some thin leather gloves so as not to leave any fingerprints – it was pay back time.

The hotel itself has not changed much, lovingly crafted from chicken wire, fiberglass, molded concrete and a few coats of paint, its opulence stands unmatched as any hotel stuck in the middle of a half desert game park.

The hotel itself has some unusual characteristics:

  • Literally hundreds of staff that do basically nothing but sit around all day, such as the pool boys or the security staff (perhaps “The Leading Hotel of the World, for the staff”)
  • Huge quantities of ice in the urinals, and staff (with bare, ungloved hands) take the “used” cubes out and replace it with “fresh” ice.
  • Rather thrilling lifts (elevators) that peruse totally random courses. Never before have I been stepped in a lift with a 50/50 chance of going in the direction I wanted, regardless of which button was pressed.

I was presenting at conference along with some very prestigious guests such as Nelson Mandela and Baroness Chalker. The Baroness was very approachable, but Nelson had 6 body guards in constant orbit, which made a photo opportunity a little difficult.

On the final day, we had a couple of hours free so decided on a 3 hour safari. Getting up at 5:15 a.m. for a 6 a.m. start was not the easiest thing after the ice party the night before, but we made it. After driving around for about an hour and seeing only a couple of sleeping rhinoceroses disappointment started to creep in. But then after a tea stop, things started to look up (as things usually do). Lions, elephants, antelope, wildebeest, baboons and giraffes suddenly appeared, begging to be photographed. We also managed to get a shot of an original African zebra crossing.

On the way back to Johannesburg airport we stopped off at a traditional African side-of-the-road market, where everyone wanted to be my new best friend and offer me “a very special price”, especially after they realized I had Euros in my pocket. Still haggling the prices down proved to be relatively easy, and I obtained much African crap on this trip, along with some very nice crisp bed linens, he said, removing his gloves…

Raffles

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