Dispatch from Bangkok

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Cabbing in style in Bangkok

Landed in Bangkok this morning. Took the 7am flight over from Hong Kong. What I miss most about this city, above all else, is the smell – that pungent mix of burnt tires and incense. It reminds me of a family trip we took to Phnom Penh, Cambodia some twenty years ago when the country was just coming out of a deep, isolated depression after the Khmer Rouge had ravaged its once bustling economy. No, Bangkok’s stench is headier, more fragrant.

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Street life in downtown Bangkok

We made our way to Central World where the Agoda operation is headquartered, and waited in what could only be described as a rather nondescript reception area – a small white 100 square foot area with a pair of corporate branding posters on the walls – I had heard that Agoda was expanding aggressively across Asia and really was expecting a little more.

Our contact welcomed us and led us into the main office area, and as I stepped past the reception counter and rounded a corner, I saw the true scale of this rapidly growing web company. Before us were a sea of people arranged in long rows, each with multiple monitors, a few hundred people, perhaps more, in one huge column-less office space. “This is the business development team,” said our contact, “customer service is on the sixth floor.” There was apparently another floor somewhere else too, and this is only the Bangkok office. All of this to maintain and manage over a hundred thousand hotel relationships, and a mind-boggling number of daily bookings.

He shared in confidence an estimate of the total number of affiliate sites – sites like the one we’re building, large portals in and of themselves, that feed off of Agoda’s vast database and funnel bookings through their servers for an affiliate commission – I can only say that the number is staggering, even if one takes off several digits to account for inactive sites and a bit of marketing exaggeration.

Off to Yangon, Myanmar tomorrow. More about our project soon. Stay tuned.

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