“It’s So Amazing!” Could This Be Australia’s Most Indulgent Quarantine Hotel Experience?

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This quarantine hotel in Perth is getting the thumbs up from this Aussie.

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Australian expat Michael Abson recently made the challenging decision to head back to home soil amid the spiralling coronavirus pandemic in London. His quest for safer ground and to be with his family is not without its hardships with previously enduring an eerie departure from London and confronting arrival in Perth. Currently, he faces solitary confinement and is not able to share space with anyone. Breathing fresh air is also a luxury of the past.

Still, his living quarters is what you may consider being one of the most indulgent quarantine hotel experiences in the country. From being fed gourmet eats to scoring bargain beers and lapping up the joys of a room far bigger than his shoebox London pad, Abson spills the tea on what life in lockdown is like to So Where Next.

How are you feeling about being locked up?

Overseas friends that love making fun of the fact that every Australian is a criminal due to our convict history. For the first time in my life, I really do feel like a bit of a local criminal although I wasn’t deported from Britain for stealing a loaf of bread! This is the closest I’ve ever been to incarceration and solitary confinement. 

What’s your hotel room set up like?

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My room at the Pan Pacific Perth was reasonably large and had all the regular fittings of a hotel room; desk, chair, table, king bed and a large TV. While unfortunately, the biggest drawback was the lack of open windows and no balcony, to take a deep breath of Perth’s fresh air would be a 336-hour waiting game. 

Thankfully my room had a view over the Swan River and got some decent sunshine in the afternoon, so my daily rhythm was quickly in-check, and I managed to get a good dose of Vitamin D, helping to shake that English winter glow. 

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Are you allowed any visitors? Your mum welcoming you back into the country at social distancing arms-length?

I wish! The only direct human interaction I have had was from the meal service folk that drop off food outside your door. The staff were always bright and chirpy in the morning and had that nice-to-be-home charm you miss from Aussie hospitality after being overseas.

Michael Abson’s mother keeping her social distance. Source: Michael Abson

How are you dealing with cabin fever with your quarantine hotel stint?

I’m confined to my room and only allowed to open the door to take in food and then place rubbish outside.

I didn’t know how I was going to take it at the start. Staying inside for 14 days sounded incredibly daunting, but it has gone by relatively quickly, and I’m usually someone who gets anxious if I don’t leave the house over the weekend. It’s funny how time flies while simultaneously standing still.

What have you been doing to keep yourself occupied so that time can fly by?

The first few days went by incredibly quickly as I settled into my new routine (mostly based around a knock on the door indicating food was waiting outside) and tried to adapt to a life living in 25m2. Thankfully I had lengthy catchups with friends which helped break up the days, and never really tired of different things to do. The toughest part was the beautiful weather in Perth taunting me as I longed to be outside!

All-in, I read two books (about 1300 pages), watched a couple of movies and just caught up on regular TV shows I normally watch. There was no extreme binging in this hotel room! I’d brought a Nintendo Switch with me, so spent a few nights racing around as Princess Peach, hurling red shells at Mario.

A room with a view. Source: Michael Abson

So going on a morning jog around the park is out. What are you doing to keep yourself fit?

You can constantly exercise, all day, every day, if it’s in the confined of your room. We’re not allowed outside for any supervised exercise or movement. I am thankful to have a decent-sized room where I can move the furniture to one side to create an exercise space. It’s all about being creative with what you’ve got – something that you get used to and try and make the most of when you can’t leave your room for two weeks. I have managed to burn an average of 750 active calories a day through a mix of aerobic, HIIT online classes and bodyweight exercises.

 I’ve improvised with resistance training – using my pretty hefty suitcase for weighted dead rows, the coffee table for bicep curls and mixing things up with incline/decline push-ups; setting myself a challenge of 200 push-ups a day!

I even got nominated to do a 5km run from some mates back home; that took 34 minutes and about 480 laps of the hotel room. I was dizzy after that, thanks guys! 

Good hotel room effort there! Source: Michael Abson

There has been some bad publicity about the kinds of food people are receiving in their mandatory quarantine hotel stint. What has your experience been like?

In short – it’s so amazing! 

I have to say an enormous thank you to the hospitality team as Pan Pacific for ensuring every dish was carefully put together and tasted just as delicious as if they were cooking for paying (or even voluntarily staying) guests. Lousy food, combined with the relative sensory deprivation of being confined to a room all day would’ve been unbearable. Delicious food has given me something to look forward to throughout each day.

Hello breakfast! Source: Michael Abson

Breakfasts (served from 7.30-9.30) range from mushroom frittata to scrambled eggs with smoked salmon which is most impressive considering the hundreds of rooms to feed. My favourite has been the poached eggs benedict with bacon – and we’re talking perfectly oozy yolks here! How they managed to cook them en-masse perfectly, then deliver them to the 16th floor is beyond me! Breakfast is always served with a juice box, piece of fruit, a muffin or pastry, and you have the option of additional cereal too.

Since we’re confined to our rooms all day, lunches (12.30-2.30) are usually a light salad, with a unique mix of flavours. One of my favourites has been a slow-cooked lamb salad, served with rocket, chickpeas and a yoghurt dressing. 

Healthy, hearty lunches. Source: Michael Abson

The third meal of the day is afternoon tea (4pm) which is either a cake or savoury baked snack. It has been anything from a Mars bar, cupcakes to home-cooked cheese scones. On ANZAC Day, we were treated to in-house cooked ANZAC biscuits, finished with a sprig of rosemary. Yep, definitely back in Australia!

Keeping true to tradition. Source: Michael Abson

Dinners (7.30-8.30pm) have been equally tasty and alternated between veggie and meat options. While there were two options, we haven’t ever been given a choice of which we’d like, however, I haven’t been disappointed and have been extremely happy to devour whatever was left at my door. Highlights so far have been a vegetable ratatouille with polenta, slow-cooked beef stew and mash, a spicy and fragrant Thai red curry and even a chicken and mushroom risotto. The Asian dishes always had an excellent spice to them, and western meals had perfectly cooked meat and a good depth of flavour. 

Portion sizes have all been measured to ensure we aren’t overeating considering our reduced calorie burn with being confined to our rooms.

Nothing like good local brew! Source: Michael Abson

Has your quarantine hotel stint been a sober affair?

I knew I struck gold with the hotel when I looked at the drinks list. I have been quenching the thirst in anticipation to get out of here as wine and beer is available to buy with lunch and dinner at standard bottle shop prices! It’s $15 for a bottle of local wine and $20 for a six-pack of West Australian beers.

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Can you use any of the hotel facilities?

The first thing everyone asks is, can you open your door and talk to neighbours? That’s no go. Can you go outside? No. Can you open the windows? Nope. Use hotel facilities? Nah-ah. I have not been allowed to step foot outside of this room since I arrived. And to stop me? The one person that is definitely having a more boring time than myself is the security guard sitting at the end of my hallway, staring down a beige corridor. 

All in all, mandatory quarantine has been a unique experience that I was initially terrified of and could have never imagined myself having the patience to go through with. However, this has ended up being nowhere near as boring or mundane as I expected it to be. 

I do have to say a huge thank you to the Pan Pacific Perth for putting so much effort into ensuring delicious meals were provided and treating us like adults and allowing us to buy a cheeky beer or bottle of wine. The best quarantine hotel experience I could only imagine!

Feature image: Nathan Hurst on Unsplash

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