Well - where to start. This is going to be a bit of a mixed review as myself and my boyfriend have just completed an 8 day stay at Frangipani Tree and there were things we loved, and others we didn't. Let's start with the positives first:
- The general aesthetics and vistas of the property are fabulous - it looks as good as it does in the pictures. The villas are minimalistic but comfortable, and we really liked the furniture (think modernist cool). The pool was stunning, as was the beach.
- Despite what a few recent reviews say, we didn't have any problems with waiter service - the three chaps that served us were all polite and friendly, and if you asked for something, they'd bring it to you. The room service team were also good and inobtrusive, noting when you were out by the pool / having dinner so they wouldn't disturb you when it was time to make up or turn down the beds. Everything is immaculately clean at Frangipani Tree, from the rooms to the pool. They appear to work hard at keeping up these high standards.
- The breakfasts were (again, despite previous reviews) very good - you get tea and coffee included, then fruit and buffalo curd & syrup, followed by your choice of eggs & sausages / bacon in any which way you like, or pancakes, and the big plate of breads, butter and jam. You can also try the traditional Sri Lanka breakfast which includes hoppers, curry and eggs etc. I don't think either of us every walked away from the table feeling hungry!
- If you love nature, you'll love staying here as the place is a magnet for wildlife. If you watch the roaring waves for more than a minute you'll the at least one turtle popping up for a breath - it's a delight to watch. Every evening thousands of starlings (or a variant of them, they are pied) arrive to settle in the palm trees of the property - this is a spectacle in itself to watch, but also rather fascinating is the local moggies who scale the palm trees trying to catch them! Other birds are also an attraction - the lawns were reguarly patrolled by elegant egret-like birds, who do a funny waggle dance before snatching up unsuspecting ants for a snack! Insects and mosquitos weren't ever really a problem. I was particuarly worried about getting an onslaught of bites every time I used the outside bathroom, but apart from the odd ant, it really wasn't a problem for a bug-aphobe like myself!
So - those are the good points, here are the things we did find a bit disappointing:
- We found the manager of the place (Angela, a german lady) to be an awkward sort of person and it was clear the staff didn't really like her. She was neither proactive nor helpful, and the saving grace was a nice Polish chap called Harvel, who is there on an internship, who did everything he could for us and was far more personable. I couldn't put my finger on what the problem with the manager was, but I didn't feel very confident in her abilities when everytime we approached her for help with something, she looked either very confused, or looked at us like we were idiots, or a combination of the two, then flew into a bit of fluster about it. Very odd indeed.
- On a penultimate day at the hotel, the Sri Lankan tourist board came to review the property and service. I believe they have to approve every establishment before it can operate to tourists, and it appears their findings fell short of expectations. For the price per room ($250) per night, they identified a lot that needed to be improved. We were inclined to agree.
- The little touches that you'd expect for such a high cost (which is more than we've ever paid for a luxury boutique hotel in Asia before) were found completely lacking really. For example, in the information pack in the room, it would have been really useful to include things like the menus available from the restaurant, tours and excursions, what to do in an emergency - but it contained the bare minimum and when we enquired about tours and attractions we could take in at reception, it was a really struggle to get anything tangible to look at (they gave us a Luxe guide to read through in the end) and I'd normally expect at least some information in the room for us to peruse through.
- There also aren't any of the usual conveniences you'd expect to find in a hotel of this price. No robes / slippers, no in-room telephone (which is really annoying when you want to order a beer to have on your balcony and have to walk all the way to the kitchen to ask for one, as the waiters don't usually hang about), obviously no TV in the rooms, but all of these things would actually make the cost justifiable if they stepped it up a notch and spent some money to bring the amenities in line with customer expectations. They have cleverly passed off the sparsity of technology as an 'escape' from the stresses of day to day life, but I can't help but feel this is an easy way out of speccing up the rooms to a standards befitting a luxury hotel.
- Drinks are relatively cheap (a large 675ml beer is about 2 GBP) but food is expensive compared to other properties of a similar standard. We went to Apa Villa two doors down for dinner one evening and the mains were about half the price of Frangipani Tree. We're currently in Colombo in an exclusive, luxury hotel and the costs are again, half the price. The standard of the food is good, but the menu is quite limited so we tended to eat out as much as possible.
- The position of the hotel on the main road did sometimes make it quite a noisy place to be. The sound of the waves cancelled out most of it (the in-room air con is also extremely quiet) but it was annoying when trucks blasted their horns for 30 secs as they sped down the road very early in the morning as you can hear this in your rooms and even on the beach. What was also very annoying was the bread van that went past very regulary - it plays a tinkly ice-cream tune at top volume and only has two songs - 'Moonlight Sonata' and, for some reason, 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'...! I tired of this very quickly....
All in all, we did have a nice time staying here, but couldn't help thinking things were a little... lacklustre. Profit clearly comes first at the moment, rather then guest satisfaction, which is a real shame as it's not a suistainable model - clearly why the Tourist Board obviously had concerns at the current state of affairs. They have a consultant there at the moment looking at ways to improve things so hopefully this will be a short time problem. For now though, as long as your expectations aren't very high for the price you pay, you'll have an OK beach holiday with stunning views.
A few useful tips:
-The plugs are standard UK in the hotel. This would have been useful to know in advance and they should add this to their website.
- The biggest rooms appear to be Hawksbill 1 & 2 (we stayed in 2) and the upstairs Olive Ridley rooms. Leatherback looks considerabley smaller but we didn't actually go inside so couldn't really judge specifically.
-The safe in our cupboard in the bathroom was secure and free to use - we didn't experience any thefts and security is very tight - they patrol the grounds overnight.
-The beach outside the hotel is not really safe for swimming. Those that did try said it had a very strong undertow and the waves are a bit wild. Wijaya Beach has a lovely safe lagoon and you can either turn right on the beach and walk for 10-15 mins (but you will need to climb over a few rocks) or walk / get a tuk tuk along the road. Watch the tides though as when its high you can get dragged along the beach a bit by the currents if you stray to far along the lagoon to it's 'opening'.
- We dined at the following and were impressed by the service & food: Why Beach (Italian in Thalpe, also has two guest rooms and very stylish), Apa Villa (general menu for external guests is quite Western though), Pedlars Inn Cafe (Galle - varied menu and very good value for money)
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- Also Known As:
- Frangipani Tree Hotel Unawatuna
- Frangipani Tree Galle
- Frangipani Tree Hotel Galle