BangTao, Phuket Province, Thailand
February 8-10, 2017
Room Rate: $282 USD
Thailand is essentially the ideal weekend getaway for folks based in Singapore. If you want the hustle, bustle and chaos of Bangkok – it’s a 2 hour flight away with a huge range of options to fly on and stay in. If you want the outdoors action of the mountainous north of the country, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are there for the taking via daily Silk Air flights. And if you want a healthy dollop of sun and sea, of course Thailand’s world famous beaches are there for the taking via a less than hour long flight over from Changi International Airport.
And the food – let’s never, ever forget about the beautiful, sumptuous food.
Phuket is probably the easiest jumping off point to many of the beautiful beaches of southern Thailand, other destinations such as Krabi, Samui and Hat Yai are also easily accessible. For this trip, given the short length of our stay Phuket was our airport of choice. I for one don’t care for the mess that is Phuket, so we booked the Outrigger in BangTao which is a ways away from the city, but is well worth the trip. Koh Naka (where the amazing Naka Island Resort, a Luxury Collection Hotel is located) and Koh Lipe are also other options, though are further away so not recommended for short trips. Koh Lipe is especially gorgeous, but is a good 5 hours away by land and sea – in fact the island is closer to Malaysia (Langkawi) than it is to Thailand.
So for the short two nights we wanted to rest and unwind, the Outrigger at BangTao was perfect for the cause. With properties in Fiji, Mauritius, Guam, Thailand and the Maldives along with resorts on every Hawaiian island, we knew this chain would be a good fit for us. They specialize on ‘beach’ and they do it well.
Being a boutique hotel chain, they are not tied to any of the larger loyalty programs but have one of their own, coined Discovery. What we found was that it was quite a generous program, and the hop off point of membership was a year long trial in their Gold tier, which is always appreciated. Benefits in this tier include free WiFi, on property discounts, free water and newspapers as well as complimentary breakfast. Further up the Discovery tiers are the Platinum (10+ nights per year) and finally Black (30+ nights per year) – additional benefits include 9am check in and 6pm check out, free nights and upgrades to suites in different classes upon check in as well ‘double upgrades’ for Black members, confirmed 48 hours prior to check in. All in all it seems like a solid program for folks who do indulge in Outrigger vacations several times a year. We’re thinking this is a popular program for people based on the US Mainland headed to Hawaii multiple times a year – they do have over ten properties on the islands, after all.
The Outrigger BangTao Laguna
Pool: 4 pools including a kid friendly one, a main pool with bar and a wrap around pool.
Concierge: Yes, 24 hours.
Spa: Yes, two on site spas with western and eastern treatments as well as on beach massages.
Make a Green Choice: Yes
Bar and Restaurant On-Property: Yes – swim up bar as well lobby bar, Italian restaurant, Thai restaurant, overwater Executive Lounge with tapas, lobby café (breakfast and snacks).
Room Rate Range: $200-$600 USD
Airport Pick Up
With the property being far out of Phuket town we decided to take up the hotel car service and use them to get to the hotel, at least until we got our bearings. After a very hassle free arrival we were met by an Outrigger representative just outside baggage claim who led us to a nicely appointed lounge to wait for our car. Cold towels, ice cold water and cold teas were dished out during our wait and before we knew it our car (Toyota Camry) had arrived, having been escorted once again from the lounge to the waiting car. The car was well stocked with chilled water and more cold towels.
Once we arrived at the hotel we were immediately escorted by no less than three staff through the beautifully appointed tropical open air lobby – our bags were tagged and taken and we were sat down while check in formalities were taken care of. During the short wait cold rose tea and orchid bracelets were given to us as well as yet another scented cold towel.
Oksana, the Russian hotel manager, came back to us with all the necessary documentation and went over the various details of the hotel. After a quick briefing she escorted us personally to our room – on the second (lobby) floor on the wing that was built over the lagoon.
I have no status with Outrigger so there was no elite recognition to speak of, but the service thus far was exemplary.
The open air layout of the hotel carried into the hallways, with all the ‘piers’ of the property jutting out into different areas over water, all of which had no windows. The breezy, fresh ocean air definitely added to the overall ambience of the hotel and made me ready for the beach right away.
The room itself was of course air conditioned but had a nice little patio closed off by a sliding door that overlooked the lagoon – we kept this door open through the stay to enjoy the fresh ocean breeze.
The design of the room also carried over from the hotel lobby – a rather fresh, modern design with distinct Thai touches throughout. It moulded perfectly with the ‘beachy’ vibe. The accents were clean and simple and again had local influence throughout.
We had ordered a double occupancy room so had two double beds – both of which were very comfortable and well stocked with pillows and accruements. There was a desk with the usual stationary (I doubt that desk gets much use at this property) and the usual 36 inch flat panel television with all your expected satellite channels, HBO included.
The mini bar was also well stocked and rather nicely presented in a branded leather box.
The balcony, whilst small, was functional and offered us nice views of the lagoon and the dock where the boat expresses to Phuket left from. A good vantage point for sunset cocktails and people watching. And also bathing suit drying, truth be told.
One of my favourite features of the room was the waterproof daybed, located in a cosy nook next to the balcony but still in the room – it was perfect to wind down after a day in the water and to play some games or have some drinks. There was a mini table that sat on the daybed that was obviously designed for this very purpose.
The bathroom itself was not the biggest but was well done – it had removable shutters though, and that did go some ways to make the bathroom seem bigger. There was a standard cordoned off section for the toilet, but perhaps the best feature of the bathroom was the bathtub/shower area. It was innovatively designed and I have to say I haven’t encountered this layout before. It looked attractive and was also very functional – again, perfect after a day on the beach. The sand easily washed out without leaving residue, was easy to take a shower but also doubled up as a large, recessed bathtub if you so chose.
Given the amazing food located just feet away from the hotel and on the beach, we decided to eat out pretty much every meal. In fact, what I have since decided were the best noodles I’ve ever had were being dished out so that’s where I was posted up for most meals. The seafood was also exemplary and service was great. Again, this was just meters from the room and essentially on the hotel’s beach (but not at hotel prices).
We did do room service for one ‘snack’ and it was served within 20 minutes of ordering, and was delicious. Of course we went for the Thai option and it hit the spot.
That said, breakfast included in our package and as with most breakfast buffets in Thailand, it was excellent. Choices were a-plenty with traditional American and European options, Thai and Japanese options sectioned off into different parts of the room.
It was perfect to get a hodge-podge of food to get your day started. Basically a random assortment of whatever you feel like. I’m not so much of a breakfast person so I tend to pick at things so variety becomes key – and this buffet was just that. The taste was great and we might have gone for seconds (maybe thirds) every day.
A massive list of types of tea and coffee were also available to be made on order as part of the breakfast buffet service.
Then onto the fantastic part of the buffet – the make your own Bloody Mary bar. Set up on the outside of the restaurant, it featured basically anything you would want in a Bloody Mary, even with some local ingredients thrown in (lemongrass, Thai limes, chili padi). This was a popular section of the buffet but one never really had to wait in line, and ingredients were replaced and replenished quite often. The vodka on hand was Smirnoff Red Label which is very good for an open bar situation.
Apparently this is a standard feature at all Outrigger resorts – one that we definitely appreciated. Given that Outrigger properties are almost exclusively beach side (Hawaii, Tahiti, Mauritius and Fiji amongst others), we see why this bar is so popular.
Staff and On-Site Amenities
I can’t compliment the staff enough at the hotel – from check in to check out pretty much every single staff member was on hand and eager to please. Language was not a problem and they knew everything inside out. They were all proactive and took initiative to anticipate our needs. Room service, when requested, was prompt and delivered with a smile.
This being a beachside resort, we sought a lot of time in the sun, be it on the beach or by the pool.
The pools were all beautifully made and were well maintained, albeit a bit crowded for my taste (Naka was much more tranquil). That said, we got our favoured pool cabana every day so it couldn’t have been half bad.
At sunset there was a daily performance of a Thai fire dance – and while some might find this cheesy, it was definitely suiting to the gorgeous background behind the performers. Drinks were also doled out while they performed, which were Mai Tai’s (seemed appropriate). Again, from what I understand this is another feature of all Outrigger properties – incorporating local culture to their daily schedule.
For those of you who want to imbibe in all the debauchery of Phuket, this hotel isn’t for you. It’s far off from the actual city of Phuket and is a quiet place in seclusion from the rest of the world. It’s nice because the resort itself has places to enjoy drinks and a walk down the beach will get you to some nice ‘chill’ beachside places, but Full Moon Party this vacation was not.
Basically this place was perfect for our two day jaunt out of the city and to the beach with all the amenities you’d ever want. I for one loved it.
Full marks. The aesthetic of the hotel suited my own perfectly. It was bright, airy and very clean with a distinct Asian (Thai) vibe to it. It was well maintained and very well and tastefully done. Sometimes this ‘outdoors Asian-modern’ vibe can get garish or cheap if done the wrong way. The Outrigger BanTao was the opposite of this and they pulled off the look perfectly and tastefully – paying homage to their home country but keeping true to the Outrigger design sense. The room was also a great balance of luxury and beach, and I felt very much at home.
Suffice to say I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Outrigger BanTao – it was everything I wanted and more. In fact, my opinion of the Outrigger chain has changed since this stay. I never really gave them much thought even during my multiple trips to Hawaii – either opting for Starwood properties such as the St. Regis in Kauai or the Surfrider or Royal Hawaiian on Oahu. But I’ll definitely look into Outrigger resorts in Hawaii on my next trip there – there’s simply something unique and ‘boutique’ about this chain. I do love that they only specialize on island destinations, but best of all their service sense and extra touches seem to match my sensibilities to a tee. A very welcome find of this trip.
Check In: 9/10 – a good balance of being doted on but not overbearing – efficient too.
Elite Recognition: n/a – I’m not an elite with Outrigger.
Room: 9/10 – It was everything I wanted in a room on a resort by the beach.
In-Room Technology & Entertainment: 9/10 – Free high speed internet (which worked throughout the resort) and all the bells and whistles I needed. No complaints.
Staff: 9/10 – Proactive, extremely warm and friendly and had that Thai charm.
Location: 8.5/10 – It all depends on what you’re looking for – but if its not the maelstrom of Phuket and something a bit more quiet and relaxing but still fun, this place is it.
On-Site Dining: 8.5/10 – The breakfast spread was a winner (thank you Bloody Mary!) and the room service was just as delicious.
On-Site Amenities: 9/10 – Multiple pools, spas and on beach treatments with a swim up bar and on-site boat transfers to Phuket. We were happy.
Hospitality Services: 8/10 – We noticed a wide array of services but we didn’t really avail of any of them and just did our own thing. We found that the staff’s personal recommendations worked out better which is always nice.
Hotel Appearance: 9/10 – Just my jam – modern Asian beach. The property not only incorporated a ton of Thai touches and accents but also took advantage of the beautiful surroundings, with warm beach breezes a constant feature throughout.
Overall Rating: 79/90 (87%) ★★★★★