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Review: Phulay Bay, a Ritz Carlton Reserve resort, Krabi, Thailand

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This is our review of the Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay resort in Krabi.

It is our second hotel review from my recent family trip to Thailand, following a stay at the St Regis Bangkok (which you can read here). Marriott Bonvoy very kindly provided the stay. We paid for all other expenses, including flights

The hotel website is here. Thanks to the hotel for helping to arrange my stay.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton ReserveJPEG

What is a Ritz Carlton Reserve?

Before we go on I want to quickly explain what a Ritz Carlton Reserve is, as it’s not a brand you have likely heard of. Ritz Carlton Reserve is a sub brand of The Ritz Carlton with just five properties worldwide, including Phulay Bay.

Ritz Carlton Reserves are an anomalies in The Ritz Carlton brand. It is one of just two Marriott brands that does not participate in Marriott Bonvoy. The other one is BVLGARI Luxury Hotels, before you ask.

That means you:

  • can’t earn Bonvoy points
  • can’t spend Bonvoy points
  • won’t have your Bonvoy status recognised

Basically, they aren’t part of Marriott Bonvoy and their only connection to Marriott is that they are bookable via marriott.com.

However, Ritz Carlton Reserves ARE part of the Marriott STARS program which lets you net various benefits during your stay if you book via a Virtuoso agent such as our partner Emyr Thomas. You can find out more about the benefits of booking Phulay Bay via Emyr at the end of this article.

Where is Phulay Bay?

Back to Phulay Bay, which is situated on the Andaman Sea in Krabi province in Thailand, around the bay from Phuket.

Phulay Bay location

This part of Thailand’s coast offers easy access to the many stunning islands on the west coast that are sandwiched between Phuket and the mainland, including Koh Yao Yai and Koh Phi Phi. Great beaches, diving and island-hopping abound.

Phulay Bay is just north of Ao Nang, a resort town 20 minutes away, and occupies a chunk of coastline along a stretch dominated by luxury resorts (a Sofitel and Banyan Tree are just round the corner.)

The closest airport is Krabi International in Krabi Town, approximately 45 minutes away by car.

Arriving at Phulay Bay, a Ritz Carlton Reserve

Unlike city hotels, which are constrained by plot size and the the need to build vertically, luxury resorts have a bit more leeway to be creative. And boy did the designers of Phulay Bay make the most of it.

The car port is an open air ‘room’ with four metre high plum walls:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve car port

From here you walk up a sequence of shallow steps to a pagoda surrounded by shallow water:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve pagoda

At night, hundreds of candles light up the walls:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve pagoda night

In the Pagoda you are greeted by the hotel staff including your personal butler and offered a refreshing cold towel as well as welcome drink and orchid-bracelet:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve orchid bracelet

and

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve welcome

Your luggage goes straight to the room.

You’re then escorted to a golf buggy that will take you to your room, via a series of spectacular open-air rooms in the entrance complex:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve lily pond

and

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay grounds

Check in is done in your room or villa by your butler and is super quick.

Villas at Phulay Bay

Phulay Bay has a couple of different room and villa categories. You can choose between beach and reserve villas or the pavilions which are more like a conventional hotel suite. Villas come with private pools or jacuzzis.

We were given a Reserve Villa which means you are in the garden part of the resort rather than on the beach front. Here is the entrance:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve villa entrance

…. and here it is at night:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve villa entrance night

Inside you are greeted by double-height ceilings:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve villa bed

The resort had put two king beds together for my mum and me, resulting in the longest bed I have ever slept in. It felt like we were on different planets! They were extremely comfortable.

In the corner, as you can see, is a TV although I doubt it gets used much.

Two large lantern lights straddle the bed, although annoyingly these cannot be individually controlled. You either have all the room lights on or none, although they can be dimmed slightly.

Connectivity is also rubbish – there are no plug sockets either side of the bed, so I had to unplug the alarm clock to charge my phone. Clearly the hotel was designed in the pre-smartphone era although I’m surprised additional sockets haven’t been added:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve bedside connectivity

The beds face out to the balcony, private plunge pool and ocean:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve pool villa

Behind the bed is a large desk:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve desk

The doors to the bathroom and shutters either side are custom-painted wood panels. Behind the right hand shutters is the mini bar:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve mini bar

Soft drinks and tea and coffee (Nespresso) are complementary whilst there’s an additional charge for alcohol.

(If you’re wondering what’s behind the shutters on the other side the answer is nothing. They are just there to provide symmetry!)

A gigantic bath tub is centre stage in the bathroom, although it is more ‘rooms’ than ‘room’!

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve bathroom

To the right is a dressing room with wardrobes, luggage racks and drawers, plus a beach bag, sun hat and suncream:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve wardrobe

To the left is the toilet and shower room, which overlooks the private garden:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve shower

The toilet features a bidet. There’s also a dressing table:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve dressing room table

Behind the bath, and facing the garden, are two sinks:

Ritz Carlton reserve Phulay Bay sinks

There was a distinct lack of towel rails, a pet peeve of mine, which seems common at hotels in Thailand, at least the ones I stayed at.

Amenities include lemongrass toiletries – which were divine – whilst for the bath you had an incense stick, loofah scrubber and bath salts:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve bath amenities

Phulay Bay also offers a bubble bath service once during every stay where you can ask your butler to prepare you a bath with orchids and candles. This is what it looks like:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve bubble bath

The garden is completely surrounded by tall walls which means it is completely private. It also features an outdoor bath tub:

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay outdoor bath

It’s all very impressive, apart from the lack of towel rails and bedside plug sockets.

Butler service?

Like the St Regis, you get a ‘sort of’ butler service at Phulay Bay, although it’s not quite as expansive. Your butler is your first port of call for any queries you have – you are assigned to one person – and they can arrange virtually anything you want or need, although apparently they won’t press or iron your clothes for you.

Having a single point of contact is a huge benefit and makes arranging things much easier as everything is much more consistent and joined-up.

Pool, spa and beach at Phulay Bay

A big reason to come to a resort rather than a city hotel is to unwind and do very little, which Phulay Bay more than caters for.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve sea views

Whilst it is located on the coast there is very little beach to speak of, so the hotel offers a complementary morning longtail boat shuttle to Koh Hong, one of the closer islands, where you can enjoy powder white sands. It’s a great option and well worth doing, although you can only spend 2-3 hours on the island.

There’s just one pool in the resort, a large semi-circular infinity pool:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve shallow pool

Whilst there’s no kids pool, there is a shallow part underneath the infinity ledge.

A range of loungers and sunbeds are dotted around the pool and the pool staff will keep you topped up with ice water as well as bring you complementary snacks every so often.

The spa is nestled amongst the villas away from the beach and has its own little oasis.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve spa lobby

There are gender-separated facilities which include a stunning plunge pool:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve spa private pool

…. plus a steam room and sauna as well as indoor relaxation area.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve spa relaxation area

At present, if you book a treatment you have exclusive access to these facilities in the hour prior. I’m not sure if this is a permanent policy or because the occupancy rate is currently low but it’s very luxurious.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve spa welcome

Dining at Phulay Bay

There are three main restaurants at Phulay Bay as well as a number of private dining experiences. Jampoon is the western restaurant whilst Sri Trang is the Thai restaurant. Lae Lay, a 22-seat restaurant, specialises in seafood.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve sunset bar

Near the pool you’ll also find the pool bar and restaurant as well as a casual lounge by the sunset bar.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve sri trang

We had dinner at Sri Trang, the Thai restaurant, where you can find all the Thai classics as well as local specialities. In Thai tradition, these are served collectively as each plate is ready and you tend to share.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve sri trang mocktail

We had Yum Pak Gud (fern salad) which I can HIGHLY recommend, as well as Tom Kati Talay, a coconut soup, and Pak Miang Phad Kai (stir fried spinach), Goong Phad Nham Prik Pao and (I think) Phad Phed Moo:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve Sri Trang

and

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve coconut soup

It was very delicious. For dessert, I obviously had to go for the mango sticky rice, which I adore:

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay mango sticky rice

Breakfast at Phulay Bay

Breakfast is served at Jampoon, the western restaurant, although you can choose from Asian and Western options. You can choose to sit indoors with air conditioning or outside on the terrace:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve jampoon terrace

The buffet is comprehensive without being completely over the top. All the usual things are available, including pastries and doughnuts:

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay doughnuts

Fresh fruit, fruit juices and prosecco (Atto Primo Brut):

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve breakfast champagne juice

Raw honey is also available:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve breakfast raw honey

As is a selection of yoghurts, salads and cold meats/cheeses and smoked salmon:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve beakfast yoghurt

Hot items include all the bits you need for a full English, an omelette station, as well as several Asian options including curries, congee and a noodle soup station:

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve eggs station

You won’t be going hungry, that’s for sure, especially because you can also order from a small a la carte menu that includes eggs royale and other breakfast classics.

Phulay Bay Ritz Carlton Reserve eggs royale

Conclusion

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay is an undeniably classy affair and it reminded me of one of my first assignments at Head for Points when I reviewed Four Seasons Langkawi.

Both resorts feature expansive grounds and private villas (although the Four Seasons is slightly more spread out) as well as impeccable service.

Four Seasons Langkawi is still one of my top resorts of all time and I would definitely consider Phulay Bay on par. The privacy, facilities and service are outstanding – at the end of the day, you really do get what you pay for.

PS. A couple of recommendations for Ao Nang:

  • If you are interested in diving or completing a PADI course I can highly recommend The Dive Ao Nang. I did my PADI Open Water qualification with them and had a fantastic experience
  • Try Thanya’s Kitchen for really good (and cheap), authentic food. Definitely the best place we tried in Ao Nang and we weren’t the only ones to think so.
  • The Dragon Crest hike in Khao Ngon Nak national park, which is just 5 minutes up the road from Phulay Bay, is well worth doing and will reward you with spectacular views of the scenery. It’s around 9km round trip, albeit with several hundred metres of elevation gain!

How to book Phulay Bay, a Ritz Carlton Reserve

Ritz Carlton Reserves do not take part in Marriott Bonvoy so there is no option to redeem free nights.

Since 2017 we have partnered with Emyr Thomas who runs Bon Vivant, a London-based luxury travel agent. He works with Ritz Carlton Reserve (amongst other luxury brands) as a Preferred Partner and is able to guarantee a range of additional benefits when you book through him, including:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Breakfast for two guests per bedroom
  • $100 equivalent resort credit utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary wi-fi

Emyr can usually match any rate offered via the Ritz Carlton website and get you the above benefits added on. You pay on departure as usual.  You can contact Emyr via our online form here.

Our partnership with Emyr has been going for five years now and you will regularly see readers praising his service in the comments. It is well worth dropping him a note if you have any high-end hotel stays planned.


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Comments (21)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • markd says:

    Sorry for the cut in
    Hi looking for advise my wife a Hilton gold member we normally go away together.
    But this time I have to go by myself can my wife a hotel with her with her points for me or does she have to be with me?

    • John says:

      Yes, but she can only do this on the phone with the US call centre. The hotel will see you as the gold member.

      You can put yourself as a second named guest online but you won’t get the benefits unless she is there.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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