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Thoughts About Peninsula, Bangkok and Pimalai, Koh Lanta

Thoughts About Peninsula, Bangkok and Pimalai, Koh Lanta

Mar 29th, 2004, 12:09 PM
  #1  
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Thoughts About Peninsula, Bangkok and Pimalai, Koh Lanta

Just returned from a week in Thailand. I always find this forum so helpful I thought my experience might be of interest.

We stayed at the Peninsula for two nights. We booked with the hotel directly and purchased the River Retreat Package for $180++.

It is a beautiful hotel albeit a little "sterile." It is a tad bit dark, a tiny bit dated and a very little bit worn. The rooms are very thoughtfully laid out and the bathroom is the best I have ever seen. The service is wonderful. The breakfast buffet is special, although I missed my favorite fruit - mango.

We were offered an upgrade to a room with a balcony for a slight additional charge. We did not decide to do this and can't imagine I would have been any happier.

The "inconveniece factor" of being on the "wrong" side of the river is a consideration. The old teak boats used by the hotel to ferry you across are charming. We knew what to expect because this was our fifth time to Bangkok and we wanted to try the Peninsula.

All said, would we go back? Probably not.
Two years ago we stayed at the Regent (Four Seasons) which suited us better. (Not a high rise, more of a Thai feeling, centrally located, and cheaper.) Let me know if you have more specific questions.

On to the Pimalai Resort on Koh Lanta. We flew into the Krabi airport and then were met by the hotel van to be shuttled (about one hour) to a pier to take a boat to the resort (about one hour.) So far so good until about 1/2 hour into the boat ride the weather started to change and the boat ride became quite rough. A few of us got soaked and it was harrowing for my friend who was quite scarred (she doesn't swim.) The boat was really hitting the water hard and bouncing around alot! The crew tried to go faster either to end the misery or to get ahead of a storm but it seemed to only make matters worse.

Finally the island was in sight except that there is no stationary pier at the resort. The boat is tied up to a "floating" pier of rubber interlocking pantoons. It is hard to imagine if you have never seen one. You had to walk a fair distance from the boat to the shore on this waving, rocking floating thing. When I say it was like "Fear Factor" for my friend, I am not exaggerating! We were not prepared for this and it took everything she had in her to get to shore. I was afraid that the rest of her trip would be spoiled in fear of having to return the same way we arrived. The staff assured us that this was an unusual day and truth be told, the rest of the week the water was as calm as could be. (No joking, her husband was ready to explore hiring a plane or something to remedy this. We learned there is a stationary pier on the other side of the island that could be used.)

Upon arrival, we were escorted to the reception area where one of the four of us were offered a drink. We booked a two bedroom villa for five nights directly through the hotel. We were quoted one price at first and then when we went back to confirm they said that they had made a mistake and the rate was of course higher. When we arrived, we learned that a large group had booked and the resort was sold out for the weekend. I am left to presume that the price went up when this happened although I will never really know.

The facility has everything to make it five star. Some of the details and service slips just don't quite take it to that level. The room was very nice, spacious, clean and tasteful. But then the plugs in the room are in the wrong place, and you have to get up out of bed to turn the overhead lights off. There is no clock in the room and no one knew how to make the radio work in the sitting room. Turn down service was forgotten one night, the next night, the room wasn't picked up. I could go on but I think you get the picture. The inconsistencies, the little things that could make this place stellar aren't in place. In the five nights and six days that we were there (and only there because there is next to nothing you want to leave the resort for - another story for another time if someone is interested in my journey outside the resort )I didn't get any feeling of management presence. I don't feel there is strong direction (having worked in the hotel business for many years, I feel qualified to say this.) The staff were as pleasant as could be but they don't know how to make the small accomodations (I misplaced my room key and had to go to the front desk instead of them coming to me...) and oversee to the little things (cold water at the pool, an extra towel...) We were paying around $600.00 US a night and I expected more.

The beach is beautiful, the property well maintained. Would I have been more satisfied in the hillside rooms at $150.00 night without a view of the ocean and having to climb a few stairs, yes! Have I been spoiled and my expectation risen to a very high standard, yes. Would the average person be satisfied, probably.

I must give kudos to the wonderful Belgian chef who has only been there around five months as I understand it. The food was wonderful. We ate every meal in one of the three restaruants and I can't say enough good things. I was delighted to have fresh mango every morning at the breakfast buffet. The coffee was delicious and there wasn't a thing I could want that wasn't there. Service was good. We especially enjoyed the seafood barbeque one night and the grill buffet another night. There was a good selection between Eastern and Western food and I loved the little cookies (biscuits) served with the coffee and in our welcome amenity. Hats off to him! (I saw a lot of him at all times. He is very hard working.)

If anyone is interested, I did go snorkling through the hotel one afternoon, we used the spa and I did venture out one afternoon. I would be happy to answer any particular questions.

I hope this helps if you are considering the Pimalai. The bottom line is to keep your expectiations in check, go for the standard rooms and eat lots of cookies!
kismet is offline  
Mar 29th, 2004, 06:44 PM
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i am shocked with your observations about the peninsula...i have alsways found it to be perfectly maintained...never even a paint chip on corners...

it is now getting to the age (about 5) where it probably needs some updating i suppose...i will look hard in june when we visit...

as a hotel person you look for things that we mere mortals overlook...i do the same in my former line of work...maybe that is the difference...

i do however always find the 4 seasons much more expensive than the peninsula in price...as much as 30%...
rhkkmk is offline  
Mar 30th, 2004, 07:03 AM
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The last time I went to Koh Lanta the trip back was straight out of a Steven Spielberg Movie! Last boat, just starting to get dark, once under way black clounds 'appeared' and emptied what seems tons of water right on top of us. A companion who works in the Movie industry commented 'Wow, even the Visual effects guys could not have done better!!', not very pleasant.
You need to realise this especially between May and October when the rain if accompanied by high winds and rough waters.
JamesA is offline  
Mar 31st, 2004, 08:41 AM
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And I thought I was a picky person! Gosh!!!
Tere is offline  
Mar 31st, 2004, 09:52 AM
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I just returned Sunday from Thailand.I cannot speak about the Penninsula.I have travelled every where but the Far East.I just want to say that if it is in your budget, book the Oriental.We got a River Wing room for 269.We had a butler on call. They filled the room with flowers, fruit, newspapers,free wine and even a gift for my wifes b-day.This was better service than the best hotels in Europe.Lord Jims is a world class restaurant for lunch and dinner.
citiboy50 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2004, 06:43 AM
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I am looking forward to trying the Oriental Hotel next time, hopefully next year. I have stayed at the Shangri-la and as I said the Four Seasons Regent.

I think the Peninsula is older than 5 years. I believe it is closer to 7 or 8 years old. This is usually a time when hotels start to refurbish (carpets a bit worn, time for new bedspreads etc.) This is what I mean when I say the Penisula is a tiny bit tired. I didn't mean to imply it isn't beautiful, just that after all the SE Asian market has been through since this hotel opened, I am sure that these kind of improvements aren't as timely as they might have been. This hotel opened at a very difficult time. I heard that they had projected an average room night over over $300 US and they still aren't averaging near $200! That is quite a hit.

This doesn't mean that I didn't have a wonderful time and wasn't well cared for at either place. I am just giving a perspective that some Fodorites might appreciate. I know I always do!
kismet is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2004, 07:18 AM
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I believe the Penninsula opened in 1999.
I stayed there in July 2001 (in a suite) and it was wonderful! I plan on staying there again this August. I think this hotel offers the best value in Bangkok. Our $225 suite (then) was stunning and would be over $600 per night here in the US.
You can see pictures of the hotel on my website:
http://www.wired2theworld.com
Go to the travelogue for Cambodia and Thailand.
Kristina is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 07:24 AM
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I stayed at the Pennisula once, and it will be my last time. I didn't have a good experience.

The hotel was supposed to meet us at the airport. When we got out of customs I couldn't find the hotel staff. It took the people from the Crown Plaza and then the Oriental to run out and find the "greeter" for us. He was too busy talking way down the hall to bother standing with the sign at the appointed place.

I think they are hurting financially, as somebody else mentioned here. I really felt that a lot. They were trying to money gouge us every chance they could. First they tried very hard to "upgrade" us to a suite for $75 more a night. We declined. Then they came up with the line that they couldn't put a roll-away bed in the room we reserved, so now we'd have to use and pay for two rooms. (This is after I dealt back and forth with their reservations office and was told the type of room we reserved (without balcony) would be fine. We told them no, we want the one room because the bed will fit. And it did.

Next when we went to have a little bite to eat in the outdoor restaurant. We didn't order much. When we ordered the waitress screamed at us. "Is that all you want? And all SHE wants is just coffee??" Yes, I answered. "But that's not enough food. You have to order mnore." I said we aren't that hungry and if we want more we'll order later. She went off in a big huff.
Next we wanted a taxi, they told us to take their hotel car because the taxi wasn't a good idea. (Read that as the hotel doesn't get any money.)

That was 2 years ago, and I am not sure if they are still trying to gouge customers because they are hurting. I didn't like the feeling there. I have never experienced such pushiness in any of the hotels I stayed at in Bangkok.

Plus, the location is on the "wrong" side of the river in more ways than one. The hotel building blocks the pool from the sun in the afternoon so that pool ends up in the shade.

The room was fine as far as accommodations go and the buffet breakfast was o.k.. But all of the prime hotels in Bangkok offer a lot of excellent appointed rooms and lavish breakfast buffets, so the Penninsula doesn't stand out in my mind. I've had better experiences and breakfasts at much cheaper Crown Plaza even. (Not by the river though.) The Sheraton while old is more convenient, the pool stays in the sunshine, and the staff aren't money hungry. If you can afford it, the Oriental is spectacular.

Babiron is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 07:50 AM
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very interesting observations...i have stayed at the penn several times and have seen none of what is described above...they have been nothing but 100% professional (hate this word but it applies here) and co-operative...

as for being in trouble financially---i doubt this as they have maintained their rates this year and have won numerous prizes and accolades, again making them #1 in bkk and all of asia...

as far as a comparison with the crowne plaza, that is the last straw which convinced me that this poster has an ax to grind....THERE SIMPLY IS NO COMPARISON BETWEEN THESE HOTELS, EXCEPT THAT THEY ARE BOTH HOTELS....!!!!
rhkkmk is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 08:15 AM
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Yes, I do have an AX to grind and it is with the very "unprofessional" staff and treatment that I encountered when I was at the Pennisula. I am glad to hear that your stays were great. It is a nice hotel, but I didn't care for the staff. It all kind of didn't work out for me. I guess I wrote this because never before or since have I encountered anything like that one time at the Pennisula. I rest my case and wanted to share this experience, since someone wanted to hear about the Penninsula.

If I can say one thing, though, even cheaper hotels like the Crown Plaza have professional and courteous staff that make up for the rudeness that one can experience in the most-plush accomodations such as those at the Penninsula.






Babiron is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 08:17 AM
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This is all so funny. I've been posting on this board on and off for a long time and this debate (Pen vs Oriental) is always such a hotly debated topic.
Babiron-It really sounds like you had a poor experience. That's unfortunate, but it can happen anywhere. I'll never stay at the Oriental for much the same reason. Like restaurants, hotels only have one shot to make a good impression. My experience at the Pen was much different.
Rhkkmk-You're right, there is no comparison between the Crowne Plaza and the Pen. That said, I've stayed at both (the CP in 2000 and the Pen in 2002) and the CP did have a wonderful buffet breakfast (much better than it's rooms!)
Kristina is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 08:29 AM
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Kristina,

Sorry to hear about your "Oriental" experience. I guess those worst-stay nightmares can happen any place, and the more you travel the more likely one is bound to occur. And it's not just hotels, but restaurants and airlines too, as you said. It is funny to hear such opposing views about the same hotels. Interesting reading. Let's hope such bad experiences are few and far between.
Babiron is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 02:51 PM
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I cannot speak of the Penn. As I am an experience traveler and have stayed in the best hotels in the world, I think there is no better choice than the Oriental. The service in the hotel, restaurants and bars was supberb.There is nothing to complain about.They speak geat English and everything was on time. The service getting us in and out of the airport was incredible.Do not miss this hotel if it is in your budget.
citiboy50 is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 04:45 PM
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Well in Sept 2003 I stayed at both Pen and Oriental. I have to say Pen is FAR superior than Oriental. If the Pen feels run down then you have to experience Oriental's water filtration system. Basically I tried to take a shower and the water was YELLOW. They REFUSED to change a room for me and kept on saying it will get better, Well, after a whole night of frustration it didn't and I moved back to the Pen the next day. When I booked the Pen initially I requested a higher floor. When I arrived I was upgraded to a balcony suite. ENOUGH SAID!
996tt is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 09:10 PM
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Kristina is right!!!! The Penninsula Hotel opened up in 1999. I stayed there in 2002 and loved it. Great value. This Hotel is not 7-8 years old Kismet.
poppie is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2004, 10:18 PM
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I am staying at the Peninsula next Summer and it's the first time I hear anyone complain about it. Until now I only read great raves about it. I could be staying at the Oriental for a bargain in a suite because I have a friend who is best friend of someone in the Oriental management and I refused because I WANT to stay in the Peninsula. I am sure I won't go wrong and won't regret my choice.
Tere is offline  
Apr 4th, 2004, 06:12 AM
  #17  
PJKeay
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I stayed at the Peninsula a couple of years back and it's a wonderful hotel. I would, however, suggest that the service is perhaps not quite as friendly as the Shangri La and Dusit Thani (which for my money is the most Thai 5* hotel in Bangkok).

Babirons comments on the CP are interesting. Its worthwhile noting that through my travel agent you can get room at the CP for about a fifth of that at the Peninsula. (£26 is the best i've seen). Whilst I don't think there's many who would genuinely put the two hotels in the same category I have eaten at the CP's Indian restaurant and have taken the opportunity to have a mooch about. It's an absolute superb hotel for the money.

 
Apr 7th, 2004, 06:24 AM
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I have been to Bangkok 5 times now. Our latest trip was March 3 - 14. Stayed at the Peninsula and loved it. Very convenient with the boats taking you right across the river and never waited more than a few minutes. Hotel was not very "Thai" but it was very nice and the buffet was fabulous. We found the staff to be extremely friendly. We stayed for $125 a night and this included all taxes and breakfast - a steal if you ask me. I have no desire to ever stay at the Oriental. I felt that it was extremely pretentious and snobby. Maybe they are friendlier to the people who are overpaying to stay there?
I would also highly recommend the Regent. Fabulous rooms and pool.
In Phuket - loved the Chedi. a perfect retreat.
BeccaD is offline  
Apr 7th, 2004, 10:17 AM
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BeccaD---where did you get that fabulous rate for the peninsula?? the best i can do now is $160++ for june...thanks
rhkkmk is offline  
Apr 7th, 2004, 10:18 AM
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Maybe you just had a bad day. The water is clear and not yellow. The Oriental rates with the best hotels in the world.I do not understand what happened.
citiboy50 is offline  

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