“We should go all out for our anniversary.”
“But can we afford it?”
“It’s our anniversary. Let’s book into a nice hotel and sip cocktails by the pool all day.”
“Yeah, but, can we afford it?”
“Who cares, it’s our anniversary!”
This is a familiar exchange between a sensible person and their dreamer* (spoilt brat?*) other half. I’ll let you all guess who is who in this dialogue.
For our two-year ‘yay we haven’t murdered each other yet’ celebration we decided upon the less shrewd option, and booked ourselves into the Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa for two nights. Not only did they have a great rating on both Booking.com and TripAdvisor, but they were also offering the most reasonable rate for a five-star in Phuket.
So half-way through our amazing stay in Koh Lanta, we took a boat across to Phuket and then a very long taxi drive from the pier to the Renaissance. The journey took a gruelling five hours, and because of a tropical shower, we were both wet and tired by the time we made it to the hotel, and hoping for some special treatment.
After four months of being on the road, we were looking forward to a slice of luxury. We were also slightly worried that after living in the UAE for seven years, none of it would impress us too much. The hotels in Dubai are big, new and shiny. The Arabs do luxury and they do it so damn well that once you’ve experienced their version of it, everything else seems a little disappointing.
The Arabs do luxury and they do it so damn well that once you’ve experienced their version of it, everything else seems a little disappointing.
The Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa is located on Mai Khao beach to the northwest of the island. One of the beauties of this is that the beach is ridiculously quiet – even the section that’s located in front of the hotel – so it feels like you’re somewhere really isolated. The downsides of this is that there’s nothing much surrounding the property apart from a number of other five-stars, so if you’re hoping to stay in Phuket for longer than a few days and you’re interested in exploring, you’ll definitely need to rent a motorbike or a car.
The hotel itself has 180 guest rooms and suites, and 25 villas. They also specialise in destination weddings, as we found out soon enough…
Arrival and Check-In
Sadly, our arrival at the hotel was a bit of an anti-climax. We got there at around 6pm and found the lobby swarming with people – hardly the serene, tropical welcome that we had been hoping for. There were empty glasses of drinks sitting on the coffee tables, and all the staff were looking highly preoccupied. Upon closer inspection, it quickly became apparent that a wedding was just about to start in one of the restaurants.
Bloody people getting hitched and stealing our thunder.
One of the receptionists finally made his way over to us, asked us for our passports and also, bizarrely, a printout of our booking with Booking.com. I’ve never been asked for this from any hotel that I’ve checked into, so I found it pretty weird. When we told him that we didn’t have a printout, he proceeded to ask me to log into the hotel’s internet and send him a copy.
Yes, that’s right. After a tiring journey, I was just DYING to play around with a dodgy WiFi connection and long email address in order to do this.
After taking our passports and sitting for five minutes (no welcome drink – this is a first for a five-star!), we finally got the card to our room (and no, the email didn’t make it through to him, and no, it made no difference).
Not a great start.
We had been told during check-in that they’d upgraded us to a room on the top floor because it was our anniversary (yay number one) and that there was a surprise waiting for us there (yay number two). So we felt a little let down when we got there not only to find that the view wasn’t exactly spectacular (yes, there was some sort of jungle looking landscaping, but I wouldn’t think paying extra for it would be warranted) and there was no surprise. Ankit searched all the surfaces, wardrobes and draws as if he was hoping to find a pot of gold. I then broke it to him that if there had been anything, it would have been left on the bed.
Treasure hunt over.
Back to the room. It was massive, and decorated in what I can describe as a fresh and tropical style. In the corner, there was a window sofa, which I loved; as a writer, this was perfect for lounging around and working on while enjoying the view. The bed was queen sized and suitably comfortable. There was also a desk, two outdoor chairs and a coffee table on the balcony, a mini bar, free coffee and tea, iron and board, iPod dock and slippers.
We were starving hungry when we got to the room and sad to see that there was no fruit waiting for us (see what we mean about being spoilt for life – damn you, Dubai!). I got stupidly excited when I realised that there was something that looked edible standing in a glass container on the table. Free banana chips! Being the shameless fatties that we are, we ordered refills three times in the two days that we were there.
A massive bathtub and a rain shower make us happy. Ankit is something of a shower snob, and is the first to complain if there’s not enough pressure or if the water falls weirdly. And for me, well, after four months of staying in places that have a shower at best, I have high expectations of a bathtub. Fortunately, we were both relieved to find that our shower and bathtub needs were met (and slightly appalled at our ridiculous snobbery) And as expected from a five-star, there were nice toiletries by Tokyo Milk, bath salts, and bathrobes.
Ankit and I tend to rate a hotel on its breakfast (I have good reason to call us fatties). We were therefore gleefully awaiting the opportunity to go and raid it (we probably shouldn’t be allowed to stay in five-stars). On our first morning there, we made our way down as excited as kids on Christmas day, and were delighted to find food as far as our hungry eyes could see.
There was literally a little bit of everything; a juice bar that made fresh smoothies the way you like them right before your eyes; an egg station that included Eggs Benedict (their take on it had fresh crab and Thai kaffir lime leaf – interesting!); infinite choices of bread and muffins and all types of baked goods; the usual sausages, baked beans and other English breakfast yumminess; and a load of Asian options. The pièce de résistance, however, was the Bloody Mary station. Yes, there was fresh tomato juice, Tabasco sauce and a bottle of Smirnoff at our disposal to mix up a hair of the dog should we have wished to do so.
This hotel made their breakfast with me in mind!
Pool and Pool Bar
Ankit always makes fun of my penchant for lounging by the pool with a good drink in hand. Maybe it’s the Brit in me, or maybe it’s the lush in me (then again, I don’t think the two can ever be mutually exclusive?), but I just love it. The Renaissance has a really classy and understated pool; it’s a plain rectangle that has a funky shallow pool at one end, which also contains a jacuzzi in the middle. There are plenty of beds all around the pool, as well as many in the bit in between the pool and the gorgeous beach (powdery white sand and clear water. It was heavenly).
Although there were plenty of kids around, they were mostly well-behaved, so the area was conducive to reading and sipping drinks until our hearts were content (and I was as red as a stereotypically lobster-red Brit).
The pool bar serves the usual drinks and poolside food, like club sandwiches, burgers, a selection of Thai food, and stone oven baked pizzas. We tried one and it really was delicious. The mango and pineapple mojito not so much.
The hotel has the usual resort amenities: a ridiculously expensive spa ($110 for mani/pedi minus 17.7% taxes is extortionate in my eyes), a gym, five different restaurants and bars, and a kids’ club. We only ate Sand Box, which did really great pizzas and burgers.
All in all, we had a really relaxing stay. The room was massive and had everything you’d expect from a five-star. The staff were friendly, and the front desk helped us to book our transport back to Koh Lanta. We loved the pool area, the beach and the breakfast. However, there were none of those little extras that make some five-stars stand out from the crowd. Like when you find little treats left for you during turn down. Or when the staff somehow miraculously remember your name.
But considering the price of other nearby five-stars, some of which were demanding almost double the price, the Renaissance offers good value for money. So this is a great place for those looking for a short getaway with all the privileges of a five-star. Just don’t expect to be blown away, especially if you happen to live in Dubai.
Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa, 555, Moo 3, Mai Khao, Talang, Phuket 83110, Thailand