Monday, July 4, 2011

Honeymoon Day 21 – June 21 – Phuket, Thailand

During our first full day at Anatara, we managed (just barely) to get up in time for the free brunch buffet. Again, they had a huge assortment of foods from all over the world. They also had fresh lychee juice, which we decided was one of our favorite morning drinks. In addition to the buffet, they have a selection of made-to-order dishes that are really tasty. I had tropical waffles – waffles with diced papaya and mango on top, and Jeff had fried rice and prawns. We also had fried eggs. Again, it was a big, late breakfast that made it impossible to even think about having lunch a few hours later.

After breakfast, we went to the “Turtle Village” shops, which are just around the corner from our hotel. Jeff is starting his new job, and needs some new suits. It’s possible to get tailor-made suits for relatively cheap in Thailand, and Jeff wanted to check it out. The tailor seemed really good, and the price for a tailor-made suit was going to be about the same as an off-the-rack suit in the states, so Jeff decided to give it a go. He got a free tailor-made shirt and a tie using a coupon we got from our hotel. The tailor works fast, so he told us to come back that evening for a fitting.

From there, Jeff and I went back to the hotel to relax and read by the pool. We had two comfy lounge chairs, and again they laid out towels, put up the umbrella, and brought us free water and apples.

We also walked along the beach a bit – there are huge waves this time of year, and red warning flags flying all along the beach, so it wasn’t possible to swim, but we enjoyed the view, dipped our feet in, and watched all of the little sand crabs scuttle back and forth.

Then at 1:30pm, we had to go back to Turtle Village for an appointment. The next two and a half hours marked the only bad experience we had while we were in Phuket, and I almost hate to write about it, since everything else was so great, but here it goes anyway…

As a bit of background, you need to know what happened the day before when we got off the plane. You enter the airport, and there are lots of people jostling to get your attention, asking, “Do you need a hotel? Do you need a cab? Do you want a shuttle? Do you want to book an excursion?”  Someone asked where we were staying, and we said Anatara, and they pointed us to a little booth. In the booth, people were wearing nametags that said Anatara on them. They welcomed us, had us sit down, got us water, said they could arrange transportation, and asked us to fill out a form. Reading a little more about the form, Jeff and I realized that this booth wasn’t really for the Anatara hotel – it was for the Anatara Vacation Club – kind of like a time-share program that the hotel does. However, the deal was that if you sign up to go to the 90 minute vacation club talk (during which they’d be telling you all about Anatara resorts), you would get a free taxi to the hotel and a voucher for 4000 bahts (almost $150) to use at the hotel restaurants, spa, or excursions. So, knowing that this was the deal, we decided to continue filling out the forms. We paid a 500 baht deposit, which gets returned to you when you actually show up for the appointment the next day. But then, when we gave them the paper work, they saw that neither one of us was over 30 years old, which is apparently one of their criteria (maybe to keep backpackers from taking advantage of the free vouchers?) They said that we actually couldn’t do the deal and get the voucher. But since we’d already paid the deposit and they’d called the taxi, we should just take the free ride to the hotel, and then go at the 1:30pm appointment time to pick up our deposit and talk for a few minutes, but not go through the full 90 minute presentation.

So fast-forward to today. We went at 1:30pm, got our deposit, and then waited to be called to talk to the person that would give us the sales pitch. When she called us back, we explained that we were both under 30, so we didn’t really qualify, and we weren’t sure we could do this. She said she’d check with a manager, and then came back and said that it would be fine to continue. The woman – Lola – was friendly and nice and chatted with us about our travel style, about the vacation club program, about the Anatara resorts in general. The manager came in and gave us a price. It’s actually a fairly reasonable deal, and Jeff and I did think and talk it over. They also do all sorts of “first-visit discounts,” to encourage you to sign up immediately, but I know that I’m not the kind of person that can be happy making a big decision without sleeping on it, so I was happy to walk away from those discounts to have the luxury of thinking it over carefully (which they clearly didn’t really like).  When we finally had all the information and reached the end of the presentation, Jeff and I asked about the voucher. She said that we don’t get one because we’re under 30. I was so frustrated that I didn’t think I could talk without crying, so we basically just said ok and left. It just seemed to misleading that we had said we didn’t qualify for the deal, and she had said that the manager had ok’d it (which we assumed meant the whole deal - not just the part about listening to a sales pitch for an hour and a half). Then we got back to the hotel and saw a clock and realized that it was 4pm. We had been there for two and a half hours – almost double the 90 minutes that they told us. I was so frustrated, because I felt like we’d been tricked out of our whole afternoon on one of our only full days at the resort. We had diligently showed up at the appointed time, mentioned the age issue upfront, and then listened attentively to the whole presentation, only to find out at the end that for the time and attention we had given, we wouldn’t be given the advertised voucher, and we had been kept there for almost twice the amount of time they had originally said. Back at the hotel, I did end up explaining the situation to a manager, though I think the Anatara hotel people and the Anatara vacation club people are not the same. Still, she said she’d look into it, and the hotel did send us an apology letter and a voucher for 2000 bahts (half of the advertised amount, but more than nothing).

Phew – I feel like it takes a lot of mental energy even just to remember and think about that whole episode – so frustrating! If only I could just go back and have those hours relaxing and swimming at the villa, enjoying my honeymoon! But what’s done is done. So…

The first thing we did after the whole two-and-a-half hour sales pitch fiasco was go back to our villa and swim. It’s impossible to be too upset if you’re swimming in your own private pool at your beautiful villa, so things got better pretty quickly.

Jeff and I also decided that those big glass doors opening onto the pool from the bedroom were just begging to be used – so we opened them up and took turns jumping straight from the bedroom into the pool – technically no different than jumping from the deck, but it still feels awesome.

There’s a daily sunset happy hour at the hotel pool bar from 5-7pm, so Jeff and I headed down there. We sat on big bean-bag type chairs in the sand in front of the bar, and tried the two-for-one rose wine. Not the best wine I’ve ever had, but the view was unbeatable.

Around 7pm, we headed back to the tailor for Jeff’s fitting – it was incredible that the pants were basically done and the skeleton of the jacket was finished, too. Jeff tried them on, the tailor made some chalk markings and showed us the look of various lengths, and then we were done.

For dinner, we tried the second restaurant at the hotel – it serves Mediterrean and Thai food. We tried two Thai dishes – Massaman curry and pad thai. Both were pretty good, though not as good as the seafood dinner we’d had the night before.

We went back to the room to relax and watch another movie (The Fighter, this time – from the resort’s DVD library). Just to prove how mesmerizing the pool is, Jeff decided mid-movie that he wanted to take a break to jump in – Jeff! Who usually never wants to go in the water unless I plead with him!) And once I saw him jump in, there was no way I was staying out, so we had a romantic midnight swim.

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