So…I scoured every review in the last two years before booking Phulay Bay for our honeymoon and our first time in Thailand as it had to be perfect. There were a few worrying reviews, but we hoped that given the majority were positive or even excellent, we booked. I’m big on reviews, so hold onto your hats – feel I need to return the favour of all those who took the time to share their experiences and help us decide on where we stayed.
I cannot go on enough about the friendliness of the staff. Maybe some people feel they are over attentive but have these people actually BEEN to Thailand?!…it’s their culture and they are genuinely a lovely people who try to make foreigners feel welcome, so not sure what these people are expecting. Kuhn Bell was our butler and he was very sweet and thoughtful. On our first night, it was my husband’s birthday and they put us in a private room, decorated with candles, brought us a cake and even sang happy birthday (so cute). We didn’t feel well, so they packed up all our food, including the cake so it would last for a few days in the fridge and took us back to our room to rest. They made it so easy for us when we felt guilty for not eating what they had prepared.
Management is great. They all made a concerted effort to introduce themselves. Anuj – The Head of Food and Beverage was SO lovely. Greeted us personally on arrival, gave us his card so we could call him for anything we needed, and checked in on us almost daily. The GM even came over to introduce herself and congratulate us on our marriage.
About the room…….AMAZING. Really don’t get the reviews about poor up-keep? Not a BLEMISH, and I’m pretty particular. It was absolutely spotless and they turned down our beds for us every night and gave us sweets, put flowers in the bath tub and lit incense and oils. Divine. In case you are worried about getting a run down one, we were in Villa 16 (think it’s featured in a lot of the professional photos). There is a decent sized dipping pool in the front for a midnight swim and it genuinely made us feel regal staying in this villa.
The bed….oh my god the bed. It is quite literally two California kings put together as one and then topped with an amazing mattress and cushions and it’s actually unreal to sleep in. We have spent a lot of money on our bed at home and up until this trip we couldn’t find better. This was better and then some. Given the sheets are also amazing it makes it hard to get out of in the morning.
The Spa – So so nice, clean and the massage was very professional and they seemed well trained. We didn’t however indulge in anything else, as it was really hard to justify the prices given how cheap massages are elsewhere. That being said, any other Ritz Carlton in the U.S. or UK would charge 2/3 times what they do (massage is about 60/70 pounds for an hour treatment at Phulay Bay which is very reasonable for a 5 star resort in my opinion), but I reckon they are missing the trick a little bit by not competing a bit more with the locals.
The Cons (yes, there are some).
The food – This was very hit and miss. I must reiterate the Thai restaurant is VERY VERY good and up to “Ritz Carlton standard” in my opinion, however I agree with a lot of the reviews on the Pizza and a few other things. We had lobster one night at our dining experience which is about a 300 dollar dinner (BEFORE drinks) and the tail was literally INEDIBLE. We are not super picky eaters but it was so tough I almost couldn’t get through it with the knife. We had to spit it out. I’ve never had something like this in my life with seafood. Disappointingly, even though we let them know this when they asked how things were, we didn’t even get a few complimentary drinks as an apology, which we were surprised about. Given management’s attentiveness and thoughtfulness, it would have been a nice gesture. The pizza was average at best but luckily one of their less expensive menu items. It was a bit shocking the Ritz Carlton can go wrong on a pizza. Overall, we were justifying staying on the property to eat after these first couple disappointments and the prices associated with it (i.e. 15 pounds (22-24 dollars for a burger) We were annoyed that it was 25 pounds (38-40 US dollars) round trip to get anywhere else to eat as we felt a little stranded. That being said, if you can swallow the taxi cost, there are some great restaurants 20 min away in Ao Nang (not sure I’m spelling this right), and one in particular called Carnivore, which is run by a Belgian owner who ships in the beef from Australia and its divine and a third of the cost of the hotel (but this is a different review). That being said – I must say again that the Thai restaurant is VERY good and seemed consistent as we had 3 Thai meals during our stay and all were great. Also we really enjoyed their burgers and fries and were at least justified in the cost.
The Hong Island picnic – COMPLETELY oversold in the brochure. This was part of our honeymoon package (so we did really pay for it in an all inclusive way). The picture in the ad is of an empty beach with a table set up and some pillows to lounge on and everything laid out beautifully. The reality: a crowded beach (we could barely find a spot to sit, but granted we did go later in the afternoon at peak time) a picnic basket with boxed up food and not so much as a cooler with ice. Our helper for the day came with us but genuinely spoke absolutely no English so we couldn’t even ask him what we could do there. He put some towels in the sand for us, handed us our basket and disappeared for the next few hours. We didn’t know what to do at the end of the day as he didn’t check on us once so packed it all up ourselves and walked it back towards the boat on the other side of the island. I’m not a snob…I’ll sit in the sand and eat my lunch, but I didn’t need to pay for this. Also, if you enjoy an alcoholic beverage when beaching it, you’ll have to stand in the queue and order it yourself as no one even asked if we wanted to pack this in advance so had to get it from the local “refreshment stand” which consists of a few guys which caters to the entire beach of people and only sells cans of soda, water, and beer and they ran out of beer after about an hour of us being there. On the plus side though, we got our own authentic little ‘long tail’ boat to be taken over in privately and this was a nice experience as we could come and go at our own time and were not governed by a tour. My suggestion if you go to Hong Island – bring a cooler and your own drinks and food and be prepared it’s not going to be a scene out of “the Beach” as it advertises.
The booking Guarantee – so we are not millionaires, but live comfortably and could indulge in this holiday as it was our honeymoon but when we arrived they wanted to hold 5,000 pounds (8,000 dollars) on our credit card in advance. This was actually a bit more than the total cost of our stay and package for the full five nights…huh?! Normally a “guarantee” is a portion of our stay and it even specified we paid on departure in our paperwork so not sure why the guarantee would be the full amount plus another about 500 pounds in incidentals up front. They quickly changed it to half this (around 2,000 pounds) and charged my account for that telling me I could pay the rest on departure. It worked out in the end but it made me feel awkward and feel there should be a set guarantee agreed in advance. Maybe rich people don’t blink at this kind of money, but we need to keep track of it at least and it was all a bit “fly by the seat of your pants”.
So pros and cons considered, overall – absolutely loved this place – and had a great time for our honeymoon. We would definitely come again and cannot thank the staff enough for their friendliness, but next time we’d probably plan a bit more time away from the resort and venture into some more pocket book friendly/good quality restaurants and bars.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.