Review: Trisara, Phuket

Trisara, Phuket
Room type: Ocean Front Pool Villa
Duration: 16th > 19th December`
Booked with: AMEX FHR

Pre-sales

I was provided the contact details of the GM, Anthony Lark, so contacted him and found myself amongst the biggest case of bromance since Seth Rogan and James Franco got onto that motorcycle.  Ok, I may have got a bit carried away; the reality is that he did respond.  In said response, he kindly guaranteed an upgrade prior to arrival from an Ocean View Pool Villa to an Ocean Front Pool Villa, as we were not in peak period yet.  If the naming confuses you, you are not alone.  What it means in practice is that one has erm, ok, I’m still not sure.  Something about the view.

Getting there

Just 20 minutes from Phuket airport, getting to Trisara is made all the easier by them doing a meet-and-greet from the airport departure area and driving us right away to the resort.  I was rather fond of the wifi instructions being stuck to the car windows, which was a nice touch to allow immediate connection to the Interwebs.  After flying from Bangkok, which subjected me to a whole 90 minutes of life without Internet, I appreciated the swiftness of being able to once again post pictures of my lunch.  The Internet is the best, although I often appreciate being offline, as it means the cyber bullying stops.  My parents truly can be cruel.

After arriving, I was taken straight away to our villa, shown the room, not given any information at all about the resort, then welcomed back.  Something felt amiss here.  Namely that I had never been to Trisara before.  It then kept happening with every new staff interaction: “welcome back”. Over and over again.  When the whole world thinks different, maybe you’re the crazy one?  Maybe I had been here before. Maybe this was a test.  I had spent time with the Russian military just last month.  Am I the next Manchurian Candidate?  To much surprise, no, this was not the case.  It seems that as I sent a stay list, they felt I had already stayed before as they knew my preferences.  A sign of things to come.

Setting

Trisara has gone for a much more modern, Alila Villa Uluwatu-esq design, that overlooks a private bay.  The only sense of Thai design comes from the furnishings within the room, otherwise it could feel like you’re anywhere.  Some may have an issue with this, but the style of design is actually to my liking and I thought the architecture was one of the best elements of Trisara.  There was and is clearly a lot of love put into maintaining some of the features, but even with all rooms being ocean facing and offering beautiful views, there’s something distinctively average about a beach resort with such a poor beach.  A beach resort, but with a beach that is only usable during high tide.  A beach that is narrow, rocky and requires a jetty for you to walk down in order to get to the swimmable area.  A beach resort, but with a tiny, crowded beach that offered plenty of privacy from those not staying at Trisara, but little from those who were.  A beach resort, where one of the last places you would want to spend anytime is on the beach.  A beach resort, where the Internet was more reliable in the car on the way there.

Reception to the left and right, main resort in front.

Stay List

There were some attempts with changing what was in the minibar, but the minibar was not free anyway.  The pillows were not changed, nor did anything else seem to have been altered based on the list.  One area that interests me is how other departments respond to the stay list, as it mentions my hatred of coffee and alcohol.  But Trisara continued to disappoint and I was frequently offered both of these during every meal.

Rooms

The rooms sold Trisara to me.  The style, the modern feeling and the 240sqm of space made the pricing look very fair and appealing.  Yet the photos really do it an injustice, as the villas did not work at all.  It had the feeling of a junior suite, as the living area was to the left of the bed and in the same room, so if one of you wakes up before the other and you don’t want to disturb them, your only option is to go outside – the place where the mosquitos were in demon mode. Deciding not to get mauled to death, your only other option is to go into the bathroom, but the bathroom is only divided between the main bedroom by a wooden cover that cannot even keep the light out, let alone any sound.  You could alternatively sit to the right of the bed, which is a desk area that looks like it was done as a last minute panic to simply include something in the room and the architect and interior designer had a fight and never made up.

The living area in the corner is too small to lay together, so your only real options to just lounge around are outside, but even without the mosquitos it’s not that comfortable due to heat or the chairs. Inside was too dark and lifeless, yet outside was too warm and uncomfortable, which then started making me feel like I didn’t want to spend anytime in the room.

It is no surprise that the majority of photos for Trisara focus on the exteriors, as that gives the best impression of it being modern, but inside is a whole other story.  Ok, so the furnishings are not my thing, but it’s the archaic tech that needs the biggest facelift.  Light switches that were impossible to fathom, including some where there was a missing button that was clearly by design; no plugs besides the bed; no bluetooth/wireless sound system (it does have a sound system, but of course it is now non-compatible with the iPhone 7s lack of headphone jack); a privacy system where you have to move a statue to the entranceway, no doubt something that they see as quirky, whereas I see it as effort.

Private pool, dining area and loungers.

Even the shower is just a shower head, which doesn’t have any shower gel in there, but a bar of soap.  Did I do something wrong?  Was I being punished?  Surely even Thai prisons are more gracious than this.  But no, it got worse.  According to their information guide, they “..try our best to keep the insects and mosquitos away without using harsh chemicals or destructive “hot-fogging”.  What does that mean exactly?  That they instead go out and have a quiet word?  “Please Mr. Mosquito, give it a rest, we have guests here”.  It seemed Mr. Mosquito and co were not in the mood for listening.  If at the next resort I visit they give me a gas mask and tell me they’re going to gas the entire area for the next 3 hours, please stay inside whilst we destroy all life as you know it and we guarantee you will not get bitten, I will sign the consent forms immediately.

Bathroom

The main benefit of the Ocean Front Pool Villas is the short walking distance to the main resort.  Even barefoot it wasn’t an issue to walk around, even though when I did, it was to the much apparent horror of all the staff, who frequently wanted to make sure I was ok and/or wasn’t some homeless man who fought his way onto the resort.  The road surface was so smooth that it never bothered me – only during early afternoon was it ever that hot that I started to wonder how good a compromise this was: not having to put shoes on vs having no feet.

By the end of the 3 night stay, I’m unsure if there was anything I liked at all about the villa, excluding – and I never thought I’d write this – that the pool wasn’t actually that cold, so I was able to go into it for at least 15 seconds.

As some other notable points:

  • The TV is only viewable from bed
  • There is an indoor table near the lounge area that has daily snacks (the white chocolate mango were incredible) and fruit replenished, but you could not eat there as it is too low.
  • There’s only one toilet, which is so low to the ground that I almost had to start kneeling.  It also had blinds on, so you could have someone look in on you, if you so chose.  I will not question what you do in the privacy of your own room, but for me this is not something I plan on putting onto my bucket list.
Ocean Front Pool Villa

Amenities

  • Tennis courts
  • Thai kickboxing ring
  • Boutique
  • Photography studio – a rather unique offering, where they can take model shots of you.
  • Beach with sports centre
  • 3 restaurants: The Deck, Pru and Seafood
  • Bar
  • Gym
Pool

Spa

Firstly, there is a spa.  So there’s that.  I’ve also only read complimentary things about their treatments, including their use of Sodashi.  That’s about all I can tell you, as I never had a treatment, nor did anything other than have a tour.  There were no jacuzzis, so I was never going to fall in love at first sight.

Activities

Thai kickboxing, tennis courts, jetskis, kayaks, etc etc.  All things available, but Trisara is not about engaging with the customers, but forcing you to do something yourself, so I never did anything.

Food

The food is one of the saving graces of Trisara, as it was remarkably good.  Almost every meal was enjoyable, but the desserts were particularly impressive.  Naturally the food prices were not that far off London prices, plus  the breakfast buffet was particularly small and the English breakfast tasted like an old sock.  But it genuinely was good otherwise.  Oh, and they kept running out of food, including a banana soufflé which was sold out for the first 2 nights due to popularity, meaning I, of course, had to, order it and find it easily the worst of their desserts.

French toast

Service

I mentioned in another review: “There is a big difference between employees who could not be more helpful and react to the guests vs the top-end resorts who have already thought of it well in advance”. Trisara’s staff were immensely friendly, helpful and caring, but they are not either trained or prepared enough to deliver a luxurious experience. Occupancy was around 50%, yet they cannot remember any preferences, any food allergies, any notes between the villa and outside, nor can they even remember our room number (on the last day I was still asked).

There is no proactivity in place, to the point that on check in they promised us a surprise on checkout, only for nothing to happen. If receiving a bill is a surprise, then colour me surprised. There must be some hoteliers guide to not promising to surprise guests and if not I will write one. I’ll even call it “Do not offer to surprise guests” and the first chapter will be “especially if you don’t actually do anything”. Hopefully it will become the next Harry Potter.

Previous luxury experiences are so often down to a few individual staff. The butlers at Aman-i-Khas, North Island and Iniala; the GM and Sales Director at Laucala; multiple staff and GMs at Aman’s and almost every department at The Connaught, which is only understandable due to the longevity of my stay. I cannot recall anyone at Trisara, as I do not feel they did anything beyond what they were asked to do. If not making me feel loved was a crime, than all the prisons would be fulll, but Ballyfin could do it, so could Amanzoe. Heck, even The Goring on a 1 night stay went someway to doing it. The staff at Trisara were so friendly, but at the same time it felt very robotic. The only real interaction I had with anyone was the FOM who spoke to me on departure, but due needing to catch a flight it had to be restricted to 15 minutes. He seemed very interested in my feedback, but less enthusiastic when I started to give it.  When I started discussing other hotels I had been to, he made the strangest comment: that it’s good I don’t have the same expectations everywhere I go.  It was like he was pleased I didn’t have any expectations at Trisara.  I’m sure that’s not what he meant, but I had an immediate eyebrow raise and thought it was most strange.

Communication was a big issue.  Housekeeping were always there when I returned from breakfast, which with jet lag often meant I wanted to sleep but could not; I never took the key with us, yet twice they locked me out and I had to get reception to let us back in; there is no signing for the bill, even though when I asked for the bill they went to get it for me, then came back 10 minutes later to say I didn’t need to sign anything.  I would receive different calls from different people at reception to see if we were ready for our buggy; have different waiters frequently check on what I would like to order, when I had already done so; housekeeping at 9:30pm to provide a departure note which was identical to one they had already provided and during checkout they asked if I were going to have lunch, so I confirm, yet then when walking past reception they ask again.

Where is the personality / the soul? It was never “how are things / your day?” But “what can I get you?”  Let me give some examples where minor changes would have made a big difference:

  • Proper introduction to management on arrival.  This is even more baffling that everyone thought I was a return guest, when all my interactions prior to arrival were with the GM.
  • Management going around the resort to speak to guests.
  • Have normal staff engage with the customers.  I was on the beach for an hour and no one ever came and offered anything.  I was playing football with some other guests right next to the sports centre and no one ever even thought to ask if I wanted some water.  My fond memories of Iniala are more focus around the fun activities with the staff, such as playing football, or kayaking and coming in so fast onto the beach that we capsized.  A good hard product only takes you so far.
  • Other resorts they’ve seen my mosquito bites and gone nuts with having the coils everywhere – here they saw my bites, asked if I was allergic and did nothing.
  • Include something to make guests feel special.  Where’s the unique features, like the bath running or the petals by the pool?  Don’t talk about surprises and then do absolutely nothing.
Main reception areas top left and top right

Worth Knowing

Trisara ticks the boxes of what luxury should be, but I could not help feel it was a box ticking exercise for them:

  • Large, private room
  • Plenty of staff
  • Significant choice with food
  • Spa with chemical free treatments
  • Housekeeping always leaving everything immaculate and even coming on the last day
  • Daily refilled snacks
  • Private beach

Yet if I dig deeper into each of these points, they all have their flaws. So what would I say constitutes luxury? Hard question, but a few things would be:

  • Privacy and exclusivity. Trisara does not feel that way, even with a small occupancy. This is because the resort is focused around the beach and main pool, but they are small areas so quickly get busy.
  • The room. The room was one of the biggest disappointments, as it is like so many things where it looks great to begin with, but quickly the facades fades away. More on that below.
  • The food. I will give them points here, as overall the food was very good.
  • The facilities. I cannot comment on this, as I never tried the spa or gym. I rarely go for a massage, but prefer to use the spa facilities.
  • The setting. The beach may be the worst I’ve seen in a resort. Only Amanruya could come close to being called a beach resort and having something equally as bad.
  • Architecture. The main area is very well done and maintained, but is solely focused on a single area, so doesn’t feel private or provide an area to relax in, without feeling the requirement to order something to eat.
  • The service. As noted above, there is nothing of note here. It is professional and what I would expect in a larger resort, but not one of this size where personalised service is what is being paid for.

The Good

  • The private pool was not freezing!

The Bad

  • Everything, except the food, is mediocre

The Luxurious

  • It’ll make for some great holiday snaps
Holiday snap

Conclusion

This review may sound negative, but they actually did nothing that would constitute any failings; they simply failed to live up to the price tag; they did not wow. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it.  I had an enjoyable time, but I would not return.  For a resort to offer something exceptional, having amazing food is not enough. For me, it has to be either an incredible room or amazing service. Nowadays, and for this price range, I would expect both in abundance. In a world with an Iniala, what is its purpose? Everyone tells me Trisara is a luxury resort, and if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s rarely a swan in drag. But given the choice, I would rather budget and spend 5 days in Iniala instead of 2 weeks in Trisara.

Perhaps this is because Trisara is the lowest end beach resort I’ve been to in the last 12 months. I don’t say that as an insult, just a matter of fact statement, as it is not in the same league as Iniala, North Island, Fregate or Laucala. It costs between 2-5x less per night, so expectations have to be set that it is not going to match them. But Ballyfin, a £500/n resort in Ireland, proved that money is not everything in terms of a luxury experience. So it’s hard for me to not compare it to the other resorts, and as a result it does pull into question for me as to what is exactly luxury and what is worth paying for. Trisara ticks all the boxes that you would want in a luxury resort, but it falls short of delivering on anything that feels luxurious.

Trisara will likely fit the needs of 99% of the people who go there. It’s likely good enough for you. Just not for me. For me, it’s just not worth my time; it has no purpose.  It is trying to be a luxury resort in a world now overcome with luxury.  And that’s me, Snobby McSnobFace, signing off this review, from Amanpulo…..which is also better than Trisara.

The beach during high tide

One Comment

  1. Another superb review! Thank you. Really curious about Amanpulo stacks up. A luxury smackdown, taking into account prices, would be interesting between Amanpulo, Luacala, North, Fregate and Iniala. I’d have to think the latter would win in terms of value/sheer design indulgence, but be the worst in terms of not being on a private island. Or maybe we’ll go back to Fregate now that the euro is getting cheaper–just a far better value in the shoulder season than North.

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