It's pretty well-known that I'll go almost anywhere I'm invited if there's free food and booze, but some invites make more sense than others. Movie premieres, I understand. Art gallery openings, sure. But a meeting held by a package tour company to pitch their getaways to local travel agents? I mean, I don't make near enough money to afford African safaris or whatnot, especially since some of them cost as much as my rent for the entire year. And I'm fairly sure that most of you who pick our free paper don't have that kind of change just lying around either.
But, y'know, free food and booze. Plus I haven't been to Dana Point since moving to OC in March.
Anyway, the host company is called Travcoa, founded in 1954 with a penchant for destinations “far flung and exotic,” and according to president Randy Durband, they were the first to take U.S. Tourists to Easter Island, Mongolia, and Papua New Guinea. So if you live in one of those places and can't stand the tourists, blame these guys. It's for the affluent – European package tours they offer can be in the neighborhood of 14 grand for two weeks.
The way the conference room was set up, they had different little booths for different destinations – when I told the woman at the “Americas” station that nobody I knew could afford this stuff, she replied “We are not selling here, we are just informing...Sometimes people win the lottery, you know?” Hurley on LOST immediately came to mind.
There was no bar – one of the agents complained that presentations like this usually have a bar. Just some guy walking around with glasses of wine that didn't seem to be well-liked. But the coffee station featured rock candy swizzle sticks, which are the sort of thing that go to prove the rich really are very different from you and I.
The Malaysia table attracted me with lots of big picture of orangutans. That'll do it every time, even though real orangutans are kinda scary – growing up, there was one at the local zoo who always threw stones at the passers-by. They are in every way the redheads of the primate world. Part of the Malaysian tour is a place called Sepilok, where they have what they call an orangutan rehabilitation center. So if anyone ever asks you what the difference is between Amy Winehouse and an orangutan, now you know – the latter do indeed want to go to rehab, yes, yes, yes.
Knowing nothing about this whole business, I asked a travela gent how Travcoa compares to other similar groups – she said they rate at about 6 and a half out of 10, price-wise and value-wise (“you get what you pay for”). And those $14,000 European trips? Small potatoes compared to the top-of-the-line trip she's booked: a private jet trip around the world, for a minimum of 45 g's per person.
As for the food: cheeseburger sliders that were surprisingly dry for fancy hotel food. Decent pasta. Cheap sushi. But some truly kick-ass hummus.
Kick ass hummus (n) – [kik 'as hoom-uhs] LYT definition: A spread made from chickpeas that contains enough raw garlic to burn your tongue.
After two hours or so, I found out there were going to be presentations lasting another two hours, so I left. Did I do bad, mommy?
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So I went to the bar upstairs, and on the menu they had a cocktail that costs $1000 (“Just for tonight, I'll give it to you for $950” quipped the bartender). For that price, there should be cocaine in it, but alas – just Dom Perignon, Louis XIII Remy Martin cognac, Grand Marnier 150. and “complimentary” chocolates.
I just had a Booker's bourbon. Chris Penn would drink only that, but he's dead now. If I start to look like him, somebody warn me.
Gift bag swag: A Travcoa luggage tag, small metal “Malaysia” pin, a bookmark from China World Hotel, and a brass clasp that looks like maybe you could use to keep a newspaper rolled up. There's probably some better use for it, but I wouldn't know being all broke and unsophisticated.
On the way home, I stopped in a Toys R Us and picked up action figures of '80s wrestling stars Warlord and Barbarian. My night was made.