Saturday, October 01, 2011

Thailand hotels and Melbourne restaurants...

Introduction.


A lot has happened since my last update.
This post was supposed to cover many places.
However, it was too much writing in one go, so I will only do 2 for now.
Venues covered:

  • Banyan Tree Bangkok: Deals.com.au $399 voucher for 3 nights.
  • Outrigger Koh Samui: Cudo.com $850 voucher for 5 nights.
Venues not covered in detail, but summarized at the end.
  • The Greeks: Olive Grove (Spreets), Mamacas (Scoopon), Santorini (JumpOnIt)
  • The Olive Grove on Urbanspoon Mamacas Mediterranean Kitchen on Urbanspoon Santorini Hawthorn on Urbanspoon
  • The Indians: Bhoj (Ouffer), Carlton Curry House (Star Deals), Shiraaz (Star Deals)
  • Bhoj Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon Carlton Curry House on Urbanspoon Shiraaz on Urbanspoon
  • The Italians: Campari House (Scoopon), Sapori (Spreets)
  • Campari House on Urbanspoon Tutti I Sapori on Urbanspoon


How I went to Banyan Tree Bangkok.

I had been planning to go on a holiday for quite a while, when I saw the offer for the Outrigger deal on Cudo.  I bought the deal, locking my holiday destination to Thailand.  I then kept an eye out for other deals for my Thailand destination, when I saw this one.  The part that was most appealing about it was the Booking Guarantee.

Primary offering
Banyan Tree was the best Hotel I've been to in my life.  I've been to a number of 5 stars, but this one blew the rest out of the water.  I'm not sure what to say about it that I was so impressed with, so would recommend the rest of you readers to give it a whirl and try to figure out what I liked so much.

Primary Offering Score 9.5/10

Secondary offering

Best Hotel Buffet Breakfast ever.  What can I say?  Most hotel breakfast become bland and boring after your 2nd night.  Here... I still want to go back.  Menu changes daily, with a huge variety that only Sheraton Grande gave a run for its money (Banyan Tree was still better IMO).
The service was excellent as well.
They have a complementary tuk tuk service at various hours of the day to a variety of destinations.  One day, the tuk tuk driver was running a bit late.  As an apology, they took us to the scheduled destination in their Mercedez S class limo.
A key thing to note is that this was the only hotel in Thailand that did not rip us off with Taxi fares.  This is one of the many reasons I will go back - with another deal if available, or paying full price if not - when I am on holdiay to Thailand in the future.
Secondary Offering Score 10/10

Value

Banyan Tree is quite expensive, for a hotel in Thailand.  At about AUD$250 / night, this is around 3 - 4 x the regular rate of most 4, 4.5 star hotels in the area.  However, it is also around the same price as a 4.5 star in Melbourne.  And let me tell you that the service and quality you get for the money does not compare even to the best 5 star in Melbourne.
Full-Price Score 8/10
Fantastic.  $120 / night for this is just fantastic.
Coupon Score 10+/10 (I want to give it more than a 10...)

Coupon experience

We actually checked in early (7am) due to things happening faster than expected at the airport... and an EARLY ARRIVAL (who knew such a thing existed?)
They were happy to take us in early, free of charge, even though I was willing to pay some penalty.


I saw no discrimination between coupon users and regular users.

Coupon Experience Score 10/10

Overall recommendation.

If you are in Bangkok for business or pleasure, and can afford the rates, I would strongly recommend staying at Banyan Tree Bangkok.  I was so impressed that I am actually planning to try out their other estates if I travel to those areas.
However, it is a bit hefty in the price department, so if you have a restricted budget, then I would recommend alternative arrangements.
Full-Price Score 9/10
Fantastic value for a fantastic experience.
Coupon Score 10/10

How I went to Outrigger, Koh Samui.

This deal popped up on the Cudo site literally 2 days after I decided I wanted to go on a holiday to a relaxing tropical destination.  I had not decided on a destination at the time.  It was sort of lucky... sort of not.

Primary offering

Nice poolside room, very large with a huge bathroom and a WET KITCHEN IN A HOTEL ROOM. (both thumbs up)  Coming from Melbourne, this was a very impressive room.
Good thing or bad? there were Geckos running wild everywhere.
Also, some furniture was initially missing from the room, that was present in the others.  When requested, it was promptly delivered.
There was no study desk, so obviously it is not a good room for business travellers.  I couldn't get much work done because it was uncomfortable using the computer.
Primary Offering Score 7/10

Secondary offering

I can mention a lot of good things about this place.  But as far as good things go... it's mostly just the building itself.
They have a daily shuttle to Chaweng Beach.  However, the timing of the shuttle is extremely shit.
When arriving at Chaweng at 10am, none of the shops are open, and it's too early to eat lunch.
And then the shuttle picks you up at 3pm... what to do in that hot sun, out doors, with all of the shops shut for half of the period?  Most of the shops opened at around noon at Chaweng.  And there is a dinner shuttle that goes out at 6pm and back at 9:30.  I think you would want to stay out more at night, in the everyday party zones than during the day when everything is bloody shut.  12noon - 2:30pm; 5pm - 11:30pm seems much more sensible to me.
Furthermore...
The restaurant food was crap.
The wireless internet was flaky.
And they took a part in rip-off taxi syndication so rampant in Thailand.
Secondary Offering Score 2/10

Value

I think the full price fare is a rip off.  A complete and blatant rip off.  They charge 5 star rates for what is a 4 star hotel.  Furthermore, it's quite far from Chaweng, and the service is not that good.  You could get a decent room in Chaweng Beach for less than what you would pay at Outriggers.
Full-Price Score 1/10
If Outriggers did offer a 5 star experience as advertised, then I think the coupon would not have been bad.  However, $850 is more than what I would pay Wotif for a room delivering 4.5 star experience in Thailand.
Coupon Score 1/10

Coupon experience

Most of the guests I met there were coupon users.  So I didn't get to see much of what full fare users were getting.  However, I did note that on our departure date, we were denied from purchasing (at a rip off price) a  ride to Nathon because "they were fully booked for trips to the airport" (which is on the way to Nathon).
Coupon Experience Score 2/10

Overall recommendation.

If you want to stay in the hotel, and enjoy the sun and the pool, without having to deal with many people, then this might be the place for you.  But then would you pay this much for it?  You can find a better room, better service and a better deal elsewhere.
Full-Price Score 1/10
Even at coupon prices, you can definitely find better through wotif.
Coupon Score 1/10


Melbourne Restaurant Summaries

As promised in the introduction, I promised a brief summary on a number of venues.

  • Olive Grove: Decent food and good service.  I actually went there a number of times using spreets vouchers, and each time reaffirmed that my initial impression was correct.  The value is not too good, since it's a bit expensive, and the portion sizing is rather small.  I would consider going back full price, if I was really aching for Greek food, but otherwise it's too expensive. (8/10 food, 8/10 service, 5/10 value)
  • Mamacas: Portion size is tiny.  What they call a "seafood platter for two" was actually what I would consider a combination seafood meal for 1 (and is exactly that at the lobster cave).  Misleading advertisement, combined with bad service, difficulty to book and the high pricing (even the voucher was quite expensive, at $59) gave a foul taste in my mouth that's not easy to erase with the decent food. (7/10 food, 2/10 service, 1/10 value)
  • Santorini: First, there was difficulty confirming my bloody booking.  Second, they sat us in a dangerous area right near one of the "dips" near the door.  Third, the food was not impressive at all.  The only positive this place has going for it is the portion sizes.  Very large.  However, the service and food (bread was nice) just doesn't cut the mustard. (4/10 food, 1/10 service, 1/10 value)
  • Bhoj: One of the more expensive indian places in town, but I quite like a few of their curries.  I'd been to the Templestowe branch a few times before the offer, and was happy to try the "other branch"... but Docklands is still annoying to get to.  I will stick with the Templestowe branch for my fix of Indian until I find something else I like better. (7/10 food, 7/10 service, 6/10 value)
  • Carlton Curry House: Wholesome food at a value price point.  It's not the tastiest curry... but for the price point they sit at, it's good. (6/10 food, 6/10 service, 8/10 value)
  • Shiraaz: Good service, and decent food... at a price point comparable to Bhoj.  I prefer bhoj, but that is because I prefer better food to better service.  If service is your thing, then you are better off at Shiraaz than Bhoj.  (6.5/10 food, 7.5/10 service, 6/10 value)
  • Campari House: One of the better Italian restaurants I'd been to, and the coupon was fantastic value.  It was also very easy to book, unlike a number of other establishments.  It is the #1 contender of this group of restaurants for getting my full-priced business. (8/10 food, 9.5/10 service, 7.5/10 value)
  • Tutti I Sapori: It's a deli where they serve crap food and some cold cuts.  At least the macaroons and ice cream were nice.  A pity that they weren't actually included in the voucher! (2/10 food, 5/10 service, 3/10 value)

Winner of...
The Greeks: Olive Grove (Spreets).
The Indians: Bhoj (Ouffer)
The Italians: Campari House (Scoopon)
Winner overall of restaurants covered today: Campari House.

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