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Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
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Reviewed January 16, 2014

Before I booked my vacation at Phulay Bay, I was really turned off by negative reviews on this website. There are complaints about:

- lack of beach
- location next to gypsum mine/loading zone
- poor condition of the resort/villas
- expensive wine
- bad food quality
- poor poolside service
- high cost of accommodation
- Hong Island (surrogate beach by free hotel boat daily) overcrowded
.. and even, not being secluded and too far from the airport

So unsurprisingly, when I checked out the prices of the villas (basic villas start at around US$800 a night and go skyhigh!) I was very hesitant..

Nevertheless, I decided to make a booking as the reservation agent was very helpful and I have always wanted to check out this resort due to its location in a marine national park. I stayed in January at Six Senses and that had some of the most divine views in the planet (this other resort faces Phulay Bay & shares mirror views - go read my review)!

So having returned from Phulay Bay, I can tell you if all the criticisms are justified (and whether you should pay up for this resort).. and the answer is..... ... yes and no! I hate sitting on the fence but I want to be truthful rather than just complain for the sake of complaining!

Now let's start with a positive perspective.. Phulay Bay Resort is beautiful. From the moment you arrive & walk through serene water-filled pathways to be greeted with orchids, to its stunning location facing the tiny islands of Ao Phang-Nga Marine Park, to its gigantic infinity pool that's surrounded by that infamous view, to the oversized villas.. many aspects of this resort are breathtaking. Those who complain about it's lack of a beach need their eyesight tested.. there IS a beach, albeit man-made. It's adequate for a handful of loungers and sunbeds. And if you do some exercise and use the complimentary canoes to paddle out, there is a sublime beach to the right of this resort where you can wade in ankle deep crystal clear water and enjoy the Andaman Sea.

So, criticism number 1 from many negative reviews is rubbish as there IS a beach. The resort cannot build a more extensive beach as this is a protected Marine Park. And criticism number 2 about the proximity of the gypsum mine is TOTAL rubbish! You cannot see the mine and only see the dock for the boats that come in to load up the mined rocks. The only negative here is the sometimes there are a few banging noises from the mine.. but this is very limited and you hardly hear it. And it's not at all nearby being around 1km away. For those who are going to complain that the view should be unobstructed then don't ever travel to the Mediterranean.. not only will you be surrounded by construction but there will be traffic, pollution, sky scrapers.. etc. For those who like to whinge, go complain elsewhere!

Thus far, I have seemed pretty positive in my review, no?? Yes, but I am about to get more critical myself (though I don't mean to whinge unnecessarily..).... the big question is whether this resort is worth all that $$$? Are those other negative comments unfair and just plain whingey? Answer is: no they aren't unfair. As much as I tried to look on the bright side of things, Phulay Bay sadly fails on a number of fronts. Here's my summary about the key negatives:

#1 issue: Poor Condition: the place is NOT well-maintained, especially for a resort that opened only a few years ago. I noticed a plank on a bridge that was rotten/dangerous, villas looked worn with stains & misplaced sockets (see my pics), sun loungers on the beach were dirty, and even the hammock had bird poo on it. I know this is the tropics but I have stayed at other similar resorts and you would never get this in an Aman resort. What's worse is that our villa was unclean in some corners/windows and had strange odors.

#2 issue: Average food & extremely overpriced wine: we tried a variety of food options including the Thai restaurant, breakfast buffet and private beach BBQ. Though service was always attentive, quality of food was average especially for these prices. For example, the Thai dishes at breakfast (eg: fried noodles/veggies) were bland & tasteless. Many other reviewers complain about the price of wine and that is totally true.. the cheapest bottles cost US$100+ and even corkage is US$80+ (don't even ask about champagne)!! Most wines are basic - so this is definitely a rip-off scenario for wine lovers!

#3 issue: Poor poolside service: as the beach is small, most people hang out by the pool. Yet, service here is truly abysmal. The pool attendants are all located in a corner away from most of the loungers and never check if you need towels, etc. Only once were we served water and some complimentary fruits. And when we asked for an umbrella, they had to construct a basic one as they had run out of them!! On many occasions, there were no pool attendants to be found at their desk.

So those are my 3 gripes, which mirror the complaints of other reviewers/guests. The other complaints such as lack of seclusion (it IS secluded sufficiently), long travel time from airport (go to Bali and you will travel twice the time to your hotel), and Hong Island being too crowded (what do you expect? this isn't Tahiti but Thailand!) are UNjustified!

But my final comment attempts to tell you why this resort is overall disappointing.. in my opinion it's all about management. Phulay Bay is no different to another other company. When management is good (eg: Apple), things go well. But when it's poor (eg: Blackberry), things go very bad. For instance, my biggest complaint above about the condition of the resort comes down to management. If management kept a watchful eye for wear & tear and addressed such issues, they wouldn't be so visible. Even the poor poolside service is related to management.

I know the managers of this resort seemed really nice, friendly & pleasant. But when it comes to running a 5 star plus resort, you need more. You need to be detail oriented, watchful, attentive, firm, and to listen to your guests. There are enough negative reviews of this resort to raise many eyebrows at the Ritz Carlton level... so Ana & Carlos.. please manage this pretty resort professionally and you'll get fewer negative reviews, happier clientele & repeat visitors.

Room Tip: Don't pay those crazy prices for the Royal Beach Villas.. they aren't worth the bucks...
  • Stayed: January 2014, traveled as a couple
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29  Thank Titillator
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 8, 2014

my family spent a very relaxing week here, rooms, bathrooms, the grounds and the staff are all fantastic.

the negative point - the buildings and pool deck could benefit from some care and attention.

the positive point - Carlos the ops director was ever present, always smiling , and was great. Chit by the pool made an effort to learn the names of my family the minute we got there, thank you for your effort Chit, you made it a great week.

Room Tip: all the rooms are great, an expensive beachside villa is not neccessary
  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with family
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Thank mark s
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 5, 2014

Concluded our family Christmas trip at this stunning hotel set perfectly to show off the sea and the limestone outcroppings - and even Coco, the baby elephant, comes to happy hour at the beach-side bar for bananas to be dispensed by all guests in attendance - much fun. The pool is huge with lanais and lots of chairs - great place for a relaxing lunch. And the spa - wonderful - so wonderful that I went three times for different massages, including the famous Thai massage. The hotel has butlers for each room, and they have an amazing system of knowing what activities you've scheduled for yourself - finish you massage and the golf cart is there waiting for you! Just super service. The New Year's Eve Gala was amazing - drinks at the beach bar with a fire twirling show, then an amazing outdoor buffet with a terrific band for listening and dancing, finishing with fireworks. The restaurants are so lovely with very good food. This was a perfect ending to our Christmas trip.

  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with family
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Thank Barbara S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 2, 2014

We stayed at Phulay Bay for the last leg of our Honeymoon. We were picked up from another resort and due to communication problems, thought we'd be taking a 15min trip by speedboat. Instead, we were picked up by a Long Boat and arrived at the Ritz 45 min later and soaked. The General Manager told us they were looking into options to procure a boat. We were disappointed that the Ritz didn't have its own boats since many other resorts do. You are also shuttled to Hong Island in a Long Boat. I expected something nicer from the Ritz.
Once we arrived, we were thrilled with the grounds and our room. The rooms are huge and have the biggest beds I've seen. Our room had indoor and outdoor tubs, and showers have seats, which are nice to relax on.
We did the private dining option at Sala Srichan (the welcome pavilion). We were happy with the food and felt that the experience was worth the money. Our waiter, "A" was very attentive and gave us a memorable experience. Overall, we felt that the food was good, including the complimentary breakfast.
Sadly, it rained 3 of our 4 days (as in nonstop rain). We were told it was worse than monsoon season. Our butler, Steve, was amazing and tried to make up for the poor weather. We wound up doing a half day kayak tour to the mangroves. Great experience- kayaking was fun and we saw amazing caves and cave paintings. Make sure you confirm details on trips...communication is not always clear with the Ritz and we were booked into a full day tour when we wanted a half day.
This is definitely the place to come if you want to be alone with your partner. The hotel wasn't completely booked when we were there so it was very quiet, but it seemed like a quiet place no matter when you go. You're also quite isolated there so not likely to go elsewhere for meals. Hong Island gets really crowded and you're stuck there for half the day so I wouldn't do it more than one day. The island does have some interesting relics from the tsunami and there's a trail you can walk for a break from the beach.

I'd go back to the Ritz, but would wait until December to have better weather.

  • Stayed: November 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank ADobs29
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 2, 2014

The good first:
- rooms are spacious, well kept and clean
- staff is super wonderful, friendly and willing to make guests feel great
- if you charter a private boat and go island hopping, there are gorgeous islands to see around (albeit this will cost you as much as your room for a decent boat); this benefit is not exclusive to this hotel but available to all hotels in Krabi so not really a "good" point for this hotel per se
- the manager, Carlos, is very friendly and tries to make up for all the shortfalls but there are far too many

The bad:
- food: apart from the Thai restaurant, which is decent at best, the food is simply APPALLING. The food quality is at best equivalent to the very average UK pub or the worst brasserie on Champs-Élysées, and it costs >$100 pp (without wine)
- wine: >$100 for a cork-less bottle of white (mouton cadet sauvignon blanc to be precise) that you find in discount stores in Europe for $5-10; need I say more? Basically you need to spend $300 a bottle to be able to have a drinkable wine
- location: 45 min from Krabi airport so you would think that you should at least be in a special remote location? Nope: you are really neither in a remote forest nor a beach...there is no beach, no forest, but you can enjoy from the pool the views of large ships loading by a gypsum quarry/conveyor belt 100 meters from the hotel, and some quasi slums behind the hotel grounds... Hong Island is a joke by the way; it's very crowded with all types of tourists and filled with boats. The hotel's daily charter boat is 15ft long tail quasi fisherman boat which for any 5 star hotel is a disgrace

Overall:Could not stop asking myself why we travelled so far to be trapped in this random location where there is no beach, no forest, horrible food ...and which costs you >$1500 /day for a family. The hotel has no real asset, so at least if there was an effort in making the food an enjoyable experience, it would have helped but unfortunately this was far from being the case. We got much more value for our stays in the Maldives or in Koh Samui

  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with family
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2  Thank Mosap212
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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