I should have been singing "Maalu Maalu Maalu den hadapu Maalu"
Instead "Cramped" was the first word which came into my mind as I drove into this much hyped up boutique hotel after seven hours on the road. Yes there was no proper place to park. The next few experiences I went through only helped to strengthen this assumption further. The reception area was quite small and so was the dining area. Especially the little nook where you had to serve food. If 6 people went in it was crowded and you were falling over one another. Even the cabanas themselves were tightly placed against one another on a narrow deep strip of land.
Even though I started on a negative let me assure you that this is a beautiful place. That is if you turn a bline eye to the narrowness. The cadjan theme is beautifully executed. The infinity pool looks beautiful and the beach is heavenly. Of course the sun is burning hot and its best to hit the waters during the coolness of the morning or evening. Even our lodgings were pretty comfortable. Since there were four of us including my kids I had splurged on a suite and the kids loved it. They had their own beds in a separate upper floor attic and it was cute. The bathroom was amazing. It was actually more spacious than the room itself and had its own Jacuzzi. Which was great fun. But I must confess the lodgings fell a little short of the amenities which were advertised on the website. For instance it boasted of a private plunge pool and deck. As well as a 24 hour butler service. The plunge pool was actually shared by four suites and the deck too was shared. There was nothing private about it. And there was no sign of the 24 hour butler. In fact when I walked in there was remnants of a tea service neatly placed under the stairs. And sometimes our room service dishes were cleared only the next day. What I was made to understand was that this hotel has been at 85% occupancy since inception. This means they have not been able to attend to the little details. For instance there are no bottle openers in the room. So every time you want to open a bottle from the mini bar you got to call the restaurant and they send you a bottle opener which they take back. Also there is no room directory, room service menu or entertainment guide. Due to the unbearable heat I spent a lot of time indoors. Reading and watching TV. Believe me watching TV is a luxury for me. Though they had Dialog sat connections only HBO, Nat geo and some of the news channels could be accessed. Even the remote of the desktop box did not work. Also there were no hair dryers in the room which is one of the standard facilities in this class of hotel.
I was also made to understand part of the reason for this is that the management’s primary motive is profit. And therefore they have staffed it with a lot of inexperienced people who are not properly qualified to do their job. Later on someone from Dialog told me the reason for the lack of channels was also due to cost limitations.
However I must compliment them on the food. It was good. There was a decent selection of seafood - I wished I had not spotted the Sigapore Chilli Crab station AFTER I had finished dinner - and even the Western food was palatable. I must not fail to mention that the best "pol sambol" I had ever eaten in this type of hotel was at maalu Maalu.
What I found absolutely lovely were the genuine smiles especially from the staff who were from the area. It was absolutely delightful to experience and one could easily overlook the minor short comings when you looked into their deep smiling eyes. Sadly only about 60% of the staff are from the area. I was talking to the manager of the hotel who says the locals are still trying to get used to a modern work ethic and needs to be handled with a lot of patience. Apparently they easily get upset and are quick to complain to the police for anything. He was telling me just that day one boy had not turned up because someone had held him by his arm a little too roughly. Also they are still trying to get over the war culture some of them are still scared to go home after six in the night.
There was something really bad which the management of the hotel was doing. This was selling water at 200 bucks a bottle during meal times. Ideally they should have offered the clients a choice of normal or bottled drinking water. I don't think any decent hotel should resort to this kind of low down practices. After all they were charging quite a high price for the rooms. Even the room service was a tad expensive 600 bucks for a plate of chips and 200 for a coke.
What I really found irritating was the sounds of the neighbors infiltrating into my rooms. Especially little kids screaming mommy this and mommy that. I couldn't help but go back to my recent visit to the Yala Mahaseelawa bungalow where I enjoyed a beach as nice and listened to the sounds of waves crashing in absolute silence. Now that was luxury.