Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Avista Hideaway Resort & Spa: Beautiful and grand, BUT...

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Inside Vista, the resort's main restaurant.

With hundreds of hotels scattered all around Phuket, it was quite the task to choose where to stay. And although we were already set at staying in the island's tourist central, Patong Beach, picking a hotel was still a challenge. So we decided on splitting our 5-night stay in 2 hotels, the first of which was the wonderful BYD Lofts and the other one set farther away from the beach atop the hills--the 5-star Avista Hideaway Resort & Spa, where we spent a very short 2 nights.

Let me break our whole experience down into sections.

Booking
As with almost any hotel, Avista has an online booking facility although rooms are likewise available across several hotel booking sites. After a series of price comparisons, we ended up booking via Agoda.

Welcome and check-in
Our cab made a short but rather steep climb towards the resort's drop-off area. However, no one was there to greet us (or other arriving guests for that matter, as we noticed on our last day). It's supposed to be a 5-star resort and yet we were just standing there in the courtyard by the narrow entrance, blinded by the midday sun reflected by a gazillion tiny square mirrors on a fractal-like centerpiece structure. We didn't know whether to go right or left. We later figured out it was left. And yes, no one was there to help us with our luggage either.

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Interesting structure. This is the entrance at the drop-off point.

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The narrow entrance to the courtyard and the rest of the resort.

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In place of a fountain, this is what they have (though I'm not sure if it's a fountain since I haven't seen it spouting water). Water flows in between those triangular formations and although I haven't seen it myself, it's spectacularly lit up at night. It's beautiful but the midday sun reflected in all possible directions can be blinding, so look away or wear sunnies.

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The humongous and airy main lobby.

A huge, bright and airy lobby soon came into view. It was an open-air space that overlooked the surrounding hills and the Andaman Sea in the distance. Having come from the heat and humidity of downtown Patong, it was relatively a bit cooler up here.

We were handed welcome drinks made of tamarind juice that had a hint of lime or something in it. T'was good. Although the front desk staff were nice, check-in wasn't very speedy. Apart from the usual registration, we were also asked to fill up a questionnaire about our preferences regarding the mattress, the pillows, the food, and whatnot, though I wonder if any of those were actually followed.

It was already around 2pm--standard check-in time--but alas, our room wasn't ready yet! To be fair, however, we were asked if we wished to rest in a temporary room for the meantime. Tired from the heat, we took it.

Architecture and ambiance
I couldn't make out the resort's design aesthetic so I checked their website and it said "futuristic contemporary Thai," which only added to my confusion since save from the roofing, I was feeling more of a Middle Eastern vibe than Thai. But whatever, I liked it anyway.

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A section of the lobby. Love them lounge areas, don't you?

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Though I really didn't get to stay here that much, I love these lounge areas by the lobby and how the surrounding shallow water lends some upscale vibe to them. The section behind it is another such area, only it presumably gets visited by guests from late afternoon till evening.

The resort is composed of several structures built on a descending pattern from atop the hill. Because of this multi-level layout, not to mention the sprawling property itself, navigating the resort can get a little confusing. No, it is confusing.

You may see signs bearing a map and telling you where you are, but none of them ever tell you how to get from where you are to some other point in the resort. Though you can call for one, a buggy cannot directly access all areas of the resort, so you still need to negotiate most of your way on foot.

One night after dinner, we wanted to check out the rooftop bar but the complicated network of lifts, stairs, and corridors got the best of us. And since I was sick, we soon gave up and just went back to our room.

Aesthetically, however, Avista Hideaway is a beautiful resort. I appreciate the effort put on landscaping, especially covering various roof decks with perfectly manicured bermuda grass. But then the owners maybe should have also bought the surrounding land, as the supposedly nice views of the forested hills are marred by ongoing construction projects. I guess they, too, realized that it's a good location--at Avista's expense.

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I sure loved seeing a lot of green at this resort.

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Two of Avista's swimming pools. Too bad construction works are ruining the view down below.

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The infinity pool at night. Can't go any slower on the shutter since I didn't have a tripod with me.

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At the infinity pool area. Inside this building is Vista, the resort's main restaurant and above it is the rooftop bar Rendez Vue (love the play on that).

Our temporary room
I mentioned earlier that our room wasn't ready yet when we checked in, so we were put in a Family Vista room (from 4,900 Baht/night) in the meantime. If there's anything good about this delay, it's that I got the chance to see what this particular room type looks like. And it's actually a good room!

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Our temporary resting spot.

Fairly spacious at 55sqm, the Family Vista is fitted with one king-size and one double bed. The walls are painted in a light tone but with an accent wall in a deep blue hue, and accentuated with some pointed arc designs. There's a desk, a TV, DVD player, iPod dock, and then a minibar, electronic safe, iron and ironing board, bathrobes, and other things behind cabinets. The lighting is subdued, composed of hanging lamps and other lighting fixtures hidden from plain view.

The bathroom is exposed to the rest of the room by default, although the sliding window doors can be shut close for privacy. There's a bathtub inside, a single sink, and separate toilet and shower room. I got slightly weirded out by the colorful lighting in the shower, though.

The room also includes a balcony overlooking the Riverside Swimming Pool and where there's a couch and a small coffee table. I liked the room.

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Another view of the room.

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The bathroom, as openly seen from the bedroom. Doesn't the blue light in the shower feel a bit strange?

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Another slice of the bathroom showing the sink and the bathtub.

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The terrace. It's even better since this is a corner room.

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The pool, as seen from the balcony.

Our real room
After 2 long hours in the Family Vista room, our real room was finally ready. We got a Duplex Jacuzzi Suite (from 10,750 Baht/per night) after dillydallying with a Tropical Hideaway Pool Suite (from 15,250 Baht/night). The latter has a private plunge pool and boasts of 145sqm of space. Although there were really good last-minute deals available, we just weren't feeling it (for some reason we still love our "little Pansol" at Sala Phuket Resort and Spa in Mai Khao), so we settled for an outdoor jacuzzi over a private pool.

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The thinly veiled view from our bed.

Avista has 2 further types of jacuzzi suites. One has 70sqm of space on a single floor level while the Duplex Jacuzzi Suite, which we got, has double that amount of space at 140sqm on 2 levels but thankfully not double the price tag.

The bedroom. The suite's narrow entrance leads to the bedroom proper where a king-size bed sits right smack in the center, facing the curtained glass doors. As it's not set up against a wall, the bed harbors a desk right behind it, much like how it's laid out in our room at Sala Phuket. Meanwhile, the lights and air conditioning are all controlled by electronic switches by the headboard.

The room has that same subdued lighting and lamps as the Family Vista room but it feels darker here, maybe because the walls all sport a deep orange hue. Those familiar pointed arcs are still there, along with a TV, DVD player, iPod dock, and a minibar and electronic safe hidden behind wooden cabinets. This room, however, has a small kitchen sink and a microwave oven. The bathroom is also very open to the rest of the room and has basically the same amenities (bathtub, single sink, separate toilet and shower) and that weird colored lighting. There's a sliding folding door for some privacy, if needed, and a second sliding door by the hallway.

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The hallway upon entering the room. On the right are cabinets hiding the safe, minibar and other things from plain sight. Next to the spot where you rest your bags on the left are the sink and microwave oven.

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The view upon entering the room. That's the desk and the bed behind it.

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From another angle. The bathroom is very much in plain view. That arc, though, reminds me of a rocket.

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From floor to ceiling, it's all about indirect lighting for that romantic ambiance.

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The view of the room from the bathroom.

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Psychedelic lights for a psychedelic shower?

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This bathtub's quite deep.

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Snapshots of what's behind those cabinets by the hallway.

Outdoor jacuzzi. Right outside the bedroom separated by glass doors is the jacuzzi, set against some glass panels, partially filtering the view of another building's rooftop and of the forest nearby. Directly above the jacuzzi is a roof and a ceiling fan.

The jacuzzi is more than enough to fit a pair of lovebirds or honeymooners. It functioned perfectly well, including the hot water, but because of its size, it takes a little time to fill it up.

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The outdoor jacuzzi.

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Outdoor seating and the winding staircase to the roof-deck.

Apart from the jacuzzi, of course, the outdoor section also has a pair of chairs but the acommpanying coffee table is a tad too small for comfort. There's also a rack for drying clothes here.

The roof-deck. How the Duplex Jacuzzi Suite easily doubles the size of the normal Jacuzzi Suite is because the former has a roof-deck. Accessible via a spiral staircase from the jacuzzi area, the rectangular rooftop hosts a huge circular daybed, some chairs, two sun loungers, an outdoor shower, a mini-garden, a kitchen sink, and a countertop where you can have your meals. You can actually book the services of a butler to prepare dinner for you here, like a barbecue I guess.

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Let's just cuddle up here the whole afternoon, shall we?

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The view from the opposite end of the roof-deck.

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Just checking if our jacuzzi's filled up yet.

The roof-deck is actually a nice spot for lounging. Unfortunately, an ongoing mega-construction next to the resort has gravely compromised the view. With the sun loungers facing this very construction site, I don't think I'd be comfortable sunbathing in front of a huge crane. Too bad. Avista probably should have secured the adjacent land.

Wining and dining
Avista Hideaway has at least one main restaurant, another rooftop one, a poolside bar, a sunset lounge, and a rooftop bar. Too bad I got sick so we were mostly stuck with room service, although we got to dine thrice at the main restaurant Vista. We also tried to check out the rooftop bar but we got lost in this maze of a resort and gave up.

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Vista greets guests with grand first impressions.

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White walls, white ceiling, floor-to-ceiling glass windows--nice!

Vista. Vista wowed me with its design. Never mind that I felt more like I was in Dubai than I was in Thailand but I loved the restaurant's interiors. With stylish pillars, white walls and white ceiling, a shimmering blue accent wall, floor-to-ceiling windows that afford diners with a view of either the pool below or the Andaman Sea in the distance, Vista gives a grand impression, at least at first. Apart from air-conditioned comfort, outdoor seating is also available, as well as sections that can be closed out for private dining.

At night blue lights wrap the whole place. It may feel a bit weird because the lighting makes you feel like you're in a club more than in a restaurant but I like it somehow.

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Thailand or Dubai? Feels like the latter, don't you think?

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For lone diners, a view of the pool is in order. At breakfast, however, this section is transformed into one of the buffet tables.

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It's all blue at night here.

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Amid all this blue, there's still some "normal" yellow lights around to keep you sane.

This rather amazing first impression with the restaurant was unfortunately not sustained in what mattered most--the food. We tried some steamed fish, some stir-fried veggies, and pasta, among other things. They weren't exactly bad; it's just that with the prices they command, you'd be expecting a wonderful gastronomic experience. Breakfast fared a bit better, mainly because it's a buffet and there was a wide selection of baked goods, cereals, salads, hot dishes, cheeses, cold cuts, and more.

Service was awfully slow, to think that outside breakfast, there were hardly any diners at this restaurant. I later learned that they shared just one kitchen with the resort's other restaurant or something. The servers were nice, though.

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A sampling of Vista's menu. Not bad but for the price, we were a tad underwhelmed.

Room service. If service at the restaurant itself was already slow, room service was even much slower. First off, it was already difficult to communicate with whoever's answering the phone. Never mind the language/accent barrier but none of them seem to know what they're offering for their in-room dining. We were already quoting the menu word for word yet our order was still messed up. Take for instance a breakfast option that supposedly included bread, eggs, bacon, sausages, and a slew of other things. What arrived in our room were just bread and a variety of eggs cooked in different ways (i.e., sunny side-up, scrambled, omelette). No bacon, no sausages whatsoever.

Avista Hideaway needs to fix this, orient their staff with their friggin' in-room dining menu, have copies ready by their phone even. How difficult should that be? There's also something wrong with the number to call. On my first order I spoke to 3 different persons just to order coffee and a pie.

Facilities and recreation
Again, because I got sick I wasn't able to check out the whole resort. I just saw they have two main swimming pools, plus I've read there's a third one, presumably for guests staying at their Club rooms. They also have a spa, gym, game rooms, a kid's playroom, and a host of other facilities, including a library.

The resort also holds several activities like yoga and other wellness stuff for guests. Never tried any, though. As for tours, these can be arranged at the front desk.

Check-out
Checking out didn't take long although the buggy ride we called for took forever to arrive. The housekeeping staff who was to check the minibar consumption even came before the buggy.

Good thing the front desk staff granted our late checkout request. We reminded them we got in our room 2 hours late anyway. But the good stuff ends there because no one was there to assist us yet again. We called for a taxi and it was already there when we arrived at the drop-off area. We asked if our bags were already inside and he said he didn't know anything about our bags. So we had to look for a hotel staff since, as usual, there was no one in sight.

Our bags soon appeared but again, no one helped us load them into the cab--not even the driver. Apart from seriously retraining their staff, I think Avista should also reconsider the cab services that they're contracting.

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Bye-bye, courtyard. Love how that thing reflects light onto the walls and columns but not when it's reflecting light on your eyes.

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In hindsight
Despite the confusing architecture, Avista Hideaway Resort & Spa is a beautiful resort that evokes some sense of grandeur and opulence, and I love it. I'd look past the adjacent construction sites because there's nothing that can be done about that anymore. However, management should seriously consider the following:

1. Station someone at the entrance to welcome and assist guests, especially those who are just checking in. And those checking out, too. I think it's justifiable to say that guests expect some decent assistance from a 5-star resort like Avista.
2. Make sure rooms are ready by your standard check-in time of 2pm.
3. Aside from the maps, provide clear directions for guests so they can easily get from Point A to Point B. We're Muggles; we cannot apparate.
4. Try improving on your food.
5. Do something about the speed of your service, particularly in the restaurant and in-room dining areas.
6. Orient and re-orient your staff about your in-room dining menu. Simulate order-taking and provide copies of the menu by the phone, so they have a cheat-sheet of sorts.

In spite of everything, I'd still consider Avista Hideaway for my future stay, though I hope they'd be able to address the points that I've raised. It would be such a waste if they don't since it's a really nice resort. So for now, I'm recommending it for aesthetics but cautioning readers about other areas.

For more info or to book a room, go to hideaway.avistahotelsandresorts.com.

4 comments:

  1. Incredible Resort !!!! lovely pics .


    xx

    http://www.thetrendysurfer.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. A very beautiful place instead. Though I myself would get lost if nobody will guide me. hahaha.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Super cool spaces

    http://heyhadrien.blogspot.com/2014/05/winter-shop.html

    ReplyDelete

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