7 Jan 2008
Laguna Holiday Club, Phuket, Thailand
Apartment
A$320/£143 week
8° 0'11.90"N 98°17'55.39"E
1 bedroom
Timeshare rental

 

We hadn't planned on coming to Phuket as it will be full of Europeans on Christmas holidays until the middle of January, but we couldn't let this one pass us by. It's been a while since we had some real luxury, and despite our misgivings over the location we decided to go for it. At this price we would have been daft not to.

The Laguna complex is very similar to Nusa Dua in Bali. Reclaimed (I think tin mining) land on a lovely stretch of beach made pretty enough to build a swag of 5 star hotels, lots of residential houses (mansions) and a world class golf course, all around a canal system. Like Nusa Dua, the grounds outside as well as inside the hotels are guarded and manicured to within an centimetre of their life.

Unlike Nusa Dua, there are no tawdry 4½ star hotels, just the 5 plus. LHC is the newest opening in 2006, part timeshare and part very expensive apartment-hotel. Also unlike Nusa Dua, where a 10 minute walk would get you out of the tourist area and into cheap eats and mini marts, Laguna is a lot more isolated. It's a good 35-40 minute walk to the Police Station on the main road from where you can eat, shop, get buses and everything else. But walking is the only option unless you want to pay the extortionate taxi rates.

There are very expensive restaurants and shops within the complex and just outside, but they take the tourists for complete suckers. Examples - a motorbike cost BT150 per day in Krabi. They wanted BT400 here. A tub of pringles costs BT38-50 on the streets, they were BT95 here. There's mark up and there's inexcusable profiteering. A 2 hour Thai Massage in Trang cost Peter BT200 - they wanted BT300 for one hour, no discount for two - and that was at the massage parlors outside the complex. The hotel spa's don't even bother quoting in Thai Baht - when you see US$ you run.

We got off the bus from Krabi at the Heronries Monument on the main road, and waited for a local bus. A taxi driver kept coming up to us and telling us BT500. He eventually dropped to BT400, but it was still about 4 times the rate. We got a bus for a few cents and they told us to get off at the Police Station and pointed. We knew we would need a bike to do some grocery shopping, so rather than messing around with taxi's we looked for a hire shop. We found one, but he wanted BT350 per day, which we knew was so far over the top it wasn't funny. I gave him the look and said we're not paying that and started to walk away. Peter said half day and agreed on BT200. This is the reason I hate coming to places like Phuket. Every where you turn, someone is trying to rip you off - not a little bit, a lot.

So up we roll, to this magnificent refined establishment on a scruffy old hired motorbike, with me on the back clinging onto my bag, skirt riding up my legs because I wasn't expecting to be on a bike. Peter had to leave his bag at the shop and go back for his as there wasn't enough room for all of us, then we went shopping. Two trips, as we needed enough food to last the entire week. At least he negotiated a lift back when he dropped it off. Location is the disadvantage to Laguna, and that's where they've got you.

Apart from the isolation (which probably suits most people who want to come to Thailand but not actually have to look at a Thai who isn't squeaky clean, educated and speaks good English - why else would you choose here) I have to say the place is magnificent. The toiletries were unreal. Toothbrushes, a tube of Colgate, mouthwash, very good quality soap, shampoo and conditioner, razors and shaving cream, 6 bottles of drinking water every day and more for the asking. As well as the dressing gowns, indoor slippers and poolside flip flops, the most comfortable bed and pillows we've had since leaving home and ceiling fans as well as air conditioners. The lounge furniture was very comfortable, a dozen or so channels on the satellite TV's in the lounge and bedroom and a good kitchen - not too many utensils or pans, but enough with the microwave and mini oven/toaster. Cleaning standards were immaculate as you would expect from somewhere of this caliber.

The swimming pool has been described as small, but it was OK to me - plenty of seating and beds around it with shade, and a gym which was given a big thumbs up by Peter.

Internet access was available in the room for some price I chose to forget, but WiFi was free in the lobby (where there were power points so you didn't run out of juice).

There is a fleet of free shuttle buses which take you around the resort area - interestingly you can use the facilities at any of the hotels and charge it back to your room, which is probably a good thing if you don't want to eat in your own hotel every night and don't carry money. (I think a lot of the people staying here are the kind who don't carry money). The LHC is off the beach but only a 10 minute walk or a quick shuttle bus ride away.

Don't know if we'd come back - it really is good to have those touches of luxury when you've been roughing it for so long, but even at the price, the location is not good for anyone who doesn't want to eat in hotel or expensive tourist restaurants every day. Next time it comes up for rent, we'll see how desperate we are for a bit of pampering.