Yesterday I shared a review of the lush boutique hotel, SALA Samui. Today, a review of its sister property, the SALA Phuket!
For those of you not familiar with the SALA group, they operate 7 luxury resorts in Thailand. Next to open is the SALA Ayutthaya, an old Thai capital and close to the UNESCO world heritage site of Ayutthaya Historical Park.
The SALA Phuket is a welcome addition to Phuket’s many large scale resorts. Here one of my favourite J&M reviewers, Ralph, shares why you should pay it a visit!
Who went (ages of kids)
Ralph, wife Ginny, and little baby Nathan (around 4 months old at the time of travel).
When did you go?
We went during the first week of August for a 5-day getaway.
How was the weather?
We were warned prior to booking the trip that going to Phuket during the summer would involve some risk of rainy weather; however, we thought (hoped) that any rain would just be short showers followed by clear skies. Unfortunately, what we experienced was 4 consecutive days of torrential rainfall. It was not until the last day when we saw any clear sky.
How did you book the hotel? What did the rate include?
We typically book our flights and hotel separately to preserve maximum flexibility. We price-checked the hotel rates with various sources such as online via Expedia, in-person via Travel Expert and directly through Sala. We ultimately emailed the General Manager of the hotel and received a fantastic offer – it was not only the cheapest amongst the sources we checked, but also the most generous in terms of other “freebies”. For example, our rate not only included daily breakfast buffets, but also two 1-hour massages, one free a la carte lunch from the restaurant, one free a la carte dinner from the restaurant and private round-trip transportation to / from Phuket airport.
How did you get to the hotel?
Upon exiting the doors at the Phuket airport, we were greeted by the Sala driver with a sign. We were transported in a private car to the hotel and which took approximately 15 – 20 minutes.
Did you request any baby things in advance?
We requested a crib to be set up in advance and it was delivered as promised. The crib was placed in the main bedroom area with a mosquito net as well.
What did you think of the room?
We reserved a One Bedroom Pool Villa Suite. This private villa (building, pool, plus private area) was quite large at over 2,300sf. The private pool was very large as well at roughly 10m x 3m.
The bedroom (with king bed) and living room area (with full size daybed) was divided by a revolving door. The room had all the necessities that one would typically need, ranging from two flat screen TVs, DVD player, mini-bar, air conditioning and ceiling fans, coffee and tea makers, etc. The private sala and sunbathing deck was also quite large, with an L-shaped sofa and two lounge chairs.
One important point to note, as this may work for some but not others, is that the bathroom is outdoors next to the indoor living area. The vanity area, double sinks, shower, toilet, everything – all located outside. While this didn’t bother us per se, it was at times a little annoying when you’re stumbling outside to find the bathroom at 4am or when you’re swarmed by mosquitoes when all you really want is some privacy…
How were the facilities?
Overall, compared to other larger nearby hotels such as the JW Marriott Phuket, Sala does not have many other on-site extracurricular activities. There is a small gym, two large infinity pools, and a spa. There may not be enough entertainment on-site for older kids. Overall fit and finish was still in very good shape.
There is one large restaurant (with indoor and outdoor seating) and a bar / lounge area with large round daybeds. We really enjoyed this set up and it was very easy and relaxing to dine there.
How was the food?
Overall, the food was actually much better than expected (we had lowered expectations from reading reviews on Trip Advisor). We ate all our meals at the hotel so we tried everything from the breakfast buffet, to a la carte lunch and dinner, to themed dinners, to room service. We were pleasantly surprised. Naturally, their Thai cuisine is better than their western cuisine but overall everything was quite decent.
If you get bored of (or dislike) the food at Sala, you could also go to restaurants at other nearby hotels (within 3 – 4 minutes drive) such as Anantara Phuket Villas and JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spas. Sala provides complimentary rides to and from these hotels.
Were the staff friendly?
The staff was very friendly, especially those that work at the restaurant and room service. They were very attentive and managed to get all of our (many) picky requests correct. Most importantly, they were extremely friendly and helpful with our son. Many of the restaurant staff eagerly volunteered to hold him during our meals so that my wife and I can actually eat our food and enjoy our meal. That was one of the most pleasant surprises of our trip. We were initially concerned about what to do with our son during meals since we did not bring a stroller or car seat, but that concern was quickly alleviated after our first meal.
What stood out for you?
We received excellent personal attention from the moment we arrived at the hotel – from personal notes to complimentary champagne to very customized service throughout the resort.
No major negatives for us other than the outdoor bathroom set-up as described above.
Would you recommend this hotel as family friendly?
Overall, absolutely. Especially with the excellent and baby-friendly service as described above.
One point to note, however, is that the majority of the rooms at the Sala are private pool villas. Thus, if you have little ones who are crawling / walking / running, it is a potential risk factor to consider.
Would you go back?
Absolutely, we would (and plan to) go back and stay at the same resort. We stayed at the Anantara Phuket Villas a few months earlier and while the Anantara was a more expensive and higher rated hotel, we enjoyed our experience at the Sala much more.
In retrospect, coordinating with hotel management to get the right room is very important (i.e., in terms of location, type of room, etc.). The Sala has different types of rooms and villas ranging in price and size from:
(i) “Deluxe Balcony” – these are just regular rooms in a big concrete building
(ii) “Garden Pool Villa” – these are semi-private pool villas on the bottom floor of the building with other guest rooms on top
(iii) “Sala Pool Villa” – these are independent villas in a private enclosed set up with own pool
(iv) “One Bedroom Pool Villa Suite” – these are larger private pool villas (about twice the size of the Sala Pool Villa) with private pool
(v) “Two Bedroom Pool Villa Suite” – these are the largest private pool villas, with separate buildings for each bedroom and overall the indoor space is about twice the size of a One Bedroom Suite
Location of the villa is also quite important. There is a main walkway with lots of foot traffic for guests / service staff so try to avoid the villas facing this main path. We specifically requested a quiet room so our villa was nicely tucked away in a quiet area of their compound.