Recently stayed at The Cape Panwa and there is very much a two-tier system in operation on a number of levels. On arrival we were allocated one of the old rooms. It was reasonable, but frankly not up to the standards of a Thai 4/5 star hotel. The whole room was in serious need of a facelift with shabby furnishings, ripped upholstery and a very outdated and dirty bathroom with mould and rust staining, not very good. For the second week we were upgraded to one of the new suites and the difference was quite incredible. The old rooms are all being turned into these and this is where the two-tier system operates. The hotel has a huge number of repeat visitors and it is these people that get the priority on the better rooms. The hotel is in process of upgrading all rooms but for the time being a number of these older rooms are still being used and frankly, should not be as they seriously let down the entire resort. If booking here, ensure you are allocated a new suite as the old rooms will disappoint. Our balcony had a revolting day bed that was ripped and cracked. Not that you would want to sit out on the balcony too often as the design is such that your neighbours can easily see onto your balcony and there is also a somewhat unpleasant odour of sewerage there.
The suites however are a different story altogether. Huge rooms, spotlessly clean with a modern bathroom, 47 inch flat screen TV on a wall bracket that can be pulled out on a bracket in order that you can view from either the bed or from the seating area. Attached to this is a DVD/CD player that features its own audio output so that you can watch DVD’s with great sound quality as well as your own CD’s. Also, if you have a Sony MP3/4 player you can also plug this directly into the USB input. If you have an iPod or iphone then this can be plugged into the bedside alarm clock which has a docking port, brilliant. With regards to DVD’s and CD’s, you can either bring your own or better still purchase some for 80 bahts from the lovely man down in the “village”. The hotel can get them for you too but needs 24 hours notice, maybe they should have some sort of lending library for this. Also in the room is a decent sized fridge as well as tea and coffee making facilities. These rooms are very good indeed. The private Jacuzzi on the balcony is the icing on the cake.
The rest of the hotel is of an equally high standard. Food everywhere is excellent, with special mentions to the “Top of the reef” fine dining restaurant and the “Panwa House” beach restaurant. Both of these had excellent food and tremendous service. Please note that the “Top of the reef” restaurant and the adjoining “Otters bar” are quite classy places and shorts for Gentlemen are not permitted and entrance will be refused to those wearing them I am glad to say. The prices here are more expensive than outside of the hotel, but not in any way exorbitant. In fact service everywhere was nearly always excellent. The exception to this was at breakfast where it was often lacking. Having said that, I would be grumpy if I was grunted at by the arrogant Russian guests each morning. On occasions, getting a table at breakfast was problematic and on one occasion I actually gave up as the table clearing did leave a bit to be desired and no help in finding a vacant table was offered. The beach bar was also good, tasty food ranging from burgers and pizzas to Thai was reasonably priced and either eaten on the terrace or brought to your sun bed. Free Wi-fi internet is available here as it is in all public areas. A 24 hour pass is issued by reception and must be renewed each day, something of a chore. If a lower quality hotel can give free Wi-fi to all guests in all places, I fail to understand why such a better class establishment feels the need to drip-feed its guests this service, this is a bit poor in my opinion.
The only part of the hotel which mystified me was the Lighthouse bar. This place is great if you want to drink flat beer whilst viewing the car park through overhead electric cables whilst being accompanied by the charming aroma of urine. What it’s doing there I really don’t know, but some people appeared to enjoy it.
There is an issue with regards to the sister hotel down the road, and this is another example of the two-tier system. All visitors to the Kantory bay hotel are permitted to use the facilities of the Cape Panwa, and this is where most of the long term repeat visitors stay. This would not be a problem if the Cape Panwa was able to cope with this influx of numbers but it cannot. On a number of days we could not find a single sun bed at half past ten in the morning. It seems as though a form of repeat apartheid was in operation and beds were saved for long term visitors from the other hotel leaving those of us who were actually resident in the hotel, and having paid top dollar for the privilege, bed-less. During our stay some more beds were repaired and added to the collection but it still remains an issue, as does the ridiculous practice of people “reserving” beds and parasols and then just plain not appearing until the afternoon and then only stopping for an hour or so. Many of these people actually reserve more beds than they can actually use, seeing four beds reserved by two people is not unusual, and these selfish individuals often have two or more parasols too, very selfish indeed. These are in reality only minor gripes, but when one has paid the money we had, the access to a sun bed should be the least we could ask for. Priority for a number of things does seem to be given to the repeat and long term visitors. Whilst I appreciate that such visitors should be rewarded for their loyalty, it should not be to the detriment of other paying guests. One day these people may not be able to return and new customers may have been deterred as a result of the way they were treated. A very short-term policy if the management is not careful.
The Kantory bay connection does provide one plus point. A shuttle bus, driven by exceptionally friendly staff, connects the two and takes two minutes and forty-five seconds between the two hotels going over a hill that Chris Bonnington would be proud to climb. On the other side of this hill lays the “village”, home to the sister hotel as well as a number of restaurants, tour sellers, a bar, a mini-mart, coffee shop, tailors, opticians as well as massage places. There is also a small market at night serving up the usual souvenirs and the like as well as a number of small hawker stalls selling delightful snacks such as satay and the like. A special mention here to a number of recommended places. “Sawasdee” restaurant is always consistently good Thai food. The “sunset bar”, run by the friendly Russell and his staff is always a good place for a drink and a chat, as well as being a mine of information on the area and a place to get your football fix as his TV is always showing a game, including live PL games. Also worth a special mention is the rather unassuming Indian restaurant. The food here is wonderful, cooked by an Indian chef and run by a charming couple and always excellent. Also down in the village is the Aquarium which is very reasonably priced and well worth a visit, especially with it being so easy to get to from the hotel. I cannot say the same about “Uncle Nans”, the Italian restaurant; this was the only poor meal we had during our stay. The “village” area itself is very quiet indeed. Emphasis here is on eating and laid back drinking, don’t visit here if you are looking for night-life and the other things that unfortunately Thailand is famous for.
One small negative of the Cape Panwa is the level of English spoken by the staff. In many cases it was truly awful and making yourself understood could be a real chore. I realise that English is not an easy language to learn, but maybe the Hotel should make more of an effort to recruit staff with a decent command of the language or enrol them in some sort of training programme. How the French, German, Swiss, Belgian and Scandinavians make themselves understood is beyond me. The Russians obviously do not have this problem; they just shout and are abusive to the staff. We were lucky that on most days of our visit we could speak to Tim, the guest relations manager, who spoke Thai and was able to translate for us. Thanks Tim, for all your help. Many people have commented on the age of visitors here and whilst the average age is probably quite old, this is no old folks retirement home with everyone having a very young outlook and there were also quite a number of younger couples and families during our visit.
All in all, this could be a truly great hotel, but to be a truly great hotel things have to exceed expectations and to be honest this hotel doesn’t.....yet. I do feel that they are going in the right direction and we will be returning and I fully expect these problems to be ironed out by the time we return.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.