We drove up from Phuket on 20th Dec, we did this trip last year, it takes about 90 minutes although we kept stopping to look at the views so it took a bit longer. We stopped for some lunch once we arrived in Khao Lak, we had a very fresh shrimp salad and a Phad Thai, plus 2 smoothies in Bussaba. We used to go to this little place quite a lot last year when it was just a small café/coffee shop and was surprised to see it had turned into a full blown restaurant. We were very impressed and actually went several more times during our stay.
We were staying at Le Meridien again and had booked an Ocean View Suite in the Spa Wing. However, the suites on the Spa Wing side weren’t available so they put us in the Family Wing! Our room was fine (or so we thought at the time), but it overlooked the children’s pool, play area and a bouncy castle! At nightime the noise was awful, children and adults shouting, slamming doors, heavy footsteps, children running around above us, there was no chance of an early night or a quiet night in! Our room also sprung a fairly substantial water leak which was coming through the light fitting on the ceiling! This was actually a blockage somewhere in the air-con system, it was fixed, but only after 2 attempts by engineers!
By now, we were pretty fed up with the noise so we asked if we could move/upgrade. After some toing and froing at reception, we upgraded to an Ocean View villa for an extra £45 per night. What absolute bliss this was! It was a beautiful villa with a small pool and a decking area right on the beach which gave the most fantastic view and sea breezes. Being in a villa also meant we could have our breakfast in the thai restaurant rather than in the main restaurant, which became extremely busy, due to it being the Christmas period.
As has been mentioned before on TA, this hotel does have some staffing problems. Most of the staff are very young and none of the restaurants appeared to have any managers, so they are run with just young, and sometimes inexperienced staff with noone in charge. After the Banyan Tree in Phuket where there are always managers around asking if you need help or just stopping for a chat, this was very lacking at the Meridien, which was a great shame. Most of the staff were extremely friendly, kind and helpful, however we did encounter 2 members who were just downright rude for no reason.
However, our villa became our sanctuary and we had a fantastic time – until our last day! Because we had an early start the next morning and needed to pack etc, we decided to eat in the Indian restaurant at the hotel. When we arrived we were firstly ignored at the door, finally shown to a table and then ignored again for 45 minutes holding menus! By now, both my OH and I had had enough and decided to leave, but not before speaking to one of the (young) staff, explaining the problem. They did apologise. However, this reinforced our original view of how the hotel is not managed well.
Bussaba – we really liked this restaurant and ate there several times for lunch and dinner during our week and never once had a poor meal. The service was always consistently good and the food and cocktails were excellent.
Phu’s – I didn’t find the food here as good as last year. Mr Phu has extended the seating area and it was always busy every night, the service was good and the food was inexpensive.
Pinocchio’s – great restaurant for pizza, pasta and a glass of wine (or 2). This was a busy restaurant but we got there early and really enjoyed our pizzas. Friendly service and a nice atmosphere with the open kitchen so you could see the pizzas being cooked.
Jai’s – rustic restaurant, but inexpensive with good food and good service.
Ruen Mai – again rustic, but great food and good service.
Pancake lady – she is outside the supermarket on the main road and cooks pancakes from her motorbike – fantastic banana and coconut pancakes, but not if you are on a diet!
We did get some laundry done by a little place just close to the hotel entrance, on the left hand side before you turn in. The lady spoke good English and for about £2 did 10 items of laundry for us. They were all ironed, folded, bagged and smelt lovely!
I do feel let down by the hotel however, as I feel the whole place could be absolutely perfect if only they would have managers overseeing the running of each restaurant. It isn’t a small boutique hotel with only one restaurant but a large hotel with several restaurants and having seen first hand in many hotels around the world on my travels, it makes a huge difference both to staff and guests knowing that there is an overall manager in charge to whom you can ask advice and sort out any problems. Rant over!
Despite my rant about the hotel, overall we had a great time, we love Khao Lak and wouldn't hesitate to return.