The week that was…3-7th July 2017

Singapore, weekend 8-9th July 2017

This week I want to share the dramatic events surrounding the opening of our latest project in Yangshuo, in the Guilin Mountains in China. What was supposed to be a glorious opening on which I was going to report after 4 years of hard work, turned into a dramatic and sad sequence of events for everyone involved. It sounds dramatic and it was dramatic…

In the days leading up to the grand opening last Saturday 1st of July everything was pointing towards a joyful opening and the start of a great success for the hotel. We fine-tuned the programming of the lighting controls, laid the last hand to some aiming and focusing of the lights and all looked great with everyone snapping happily away with great money shots. I had brought Kyra along who had done a terrific job with our corporate video to shoot video’s of the project on site, do day-night time shots and interview the key players such as architect, interior designer, operator and client. All felt good and the mood was that of well-deserved satisfaction of a job well done after so many years of hard work…Here are some of these money shots to give you a feel of the project before all the drama unfolded.


It is however the rainy season and the river had risen well above its usual levels with the pier already being partly under water, however that was nothing unusual, the designs catering for this water rises. All our lights were installed above the highest known and recorded water levels, just under the pool deck. It rained of and on and generally it was regarded as a sign of good luck with water representing incoming wealth…While water kept rising it all seemed under control and no-one was panicking. These are some earlier days views of the water levels…

On opening day we had some intermediate rain but nothing out of the ordinary and the ceremony unfolded under a very happy mood. A presentation of the project history with lots of laughter and memories going through the site pictures, the official and un-escapable lion dance and fireworks followed by unveiling the hotels name sign. We adjourned to the restaurant for the grand dinner and continued toasting to our success till the wee hours in the bar…we went to bed with a very happy feeling


In the morning things had changed…rain had incisively continued overnight and river levels were reaching its highest ever levels. We were however scheduled to leave for the airport to go to Shanghai for our next meeting on Monday, but half way to the airport we got stuck due to flooded highways…the airport was unreachable! We managed to exit the highway on to a bridge where we were stuck for a few hours after deciding that our best option was to return to the hotel which we did.

Once back in the hotel, the situation had dramatically changed and within a few hours the hotel was physically surrounded by the rising water, most surprisingly from the road side and putting up sand bag barriers had frantically begun to protect the hotel. A big truck managed to make a few runs bringing in sand driving through already knee-high water. Water levels were being monitored and after it reached the predetermined critical level the team had no choice as to start evacuation of all critical equipment from the basement. All furniture and equipment on ground floor level was also moved up to higher grounds…


Some people had arrived from the nearby Banyan Tree and Club Med properties that had already been totally flooded seeking refuge at our hotel…besides helping here and there, there was not much that we could do other than watching the river slowly rise…everything still seemed manageable and we went for our dinner in the restaurant…half way the dinner however the team announced that levels were dictating that power should be shut off in precaution and with a 10 min notice candles were brought out…it was kind of eyrie…

Close to midnight when we were about to try get some sleep in our rooms, staff knocked on our doors in panic instructing us to evacuate the building as quickly as possible. The enormous water pressure both from the rising flood waters as well as from the rising ground water had created unhealthy structural pressure on the building which made the team to take no risk and evacuate the main building. I took my wallet and passport but had to leave everything else behind…we all assembled outside in what was now ankle deep water with water gushing into the basement and lower building floors…in total darkness with no lights other than torches and the sound of flooding water and people splashing their steps in the water it was quite a unique experience, but at no time was there a feeling of panic really, as it was not a “tsunami” just slowly rising water. The consultants team was moved to level 1 of one of the villa’s were we anxiously waited for things to unfold…news was that water had peaked at midnight and that no further rise was expected…needless to say that we hardly slept and kept wake all night…

By daybreak we ventured outside to indeed see that the water levels were subsiding allowing to walk the hotel site now mostly dry…however the devastation caused by the flooding was heart wrenching. The reception building was flooded and the basement and carpark had water nearly up to the ceiling…so sad…as I write this blog I got word that the basement, the size of two football fields, was expected to be pumped empty by this weekend, allowing to assess the full damage impact from the flooding. Initial assessments predicting at least three months to clean and restore the hotel to re-opening state…

I have never dealt with something like this before but expect to be called back later this month to assess the damage done to the lighting installation and prepare a report for insurance purposes. As a sign of good luck the hotel insurance had kicked in on the day of the opening, the day before! Wow…

With the waters now subsiding we got word the highway had reopened and with some help and improvisation we manage to leave the hotel and make our way to the airport. The main thing for the hotel team was to get all guests out as with no water, electricity or food, guests were hampering the team’s ability to dedicate their attention to managing the hotel situation…I left with a heavy heart, my thoughts with everyone involved in the hotel, but with the knowledge that we would resurrect soon…

08. July 2017 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: Light and inspiration, light watch, lighting applications, lighting design, lighting design practice, lighting standards | Leave a comment

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