>Malaysia – hotel reviews III

>Penang

Parkroyal Penang at Batu Ferringhi

We had stayed at the Parkroyal several years ago and had a good time. But because its rates kept going up, we could not stay there everytime we went. This vacation however, I wanted to give the kids a treat, so I booked 2 rooms for a one night stay at the Parkroyal. The hotel had a promotion at RM345nett per room per night which included a free upgrade.

The rooms we were given were on the first floor, facing a tennis court and carpark which made me doubt whether they had actually upgraded us or not, but we gave the hotel the benefit of the doubt. The rooms (we had interconnecting rooms) were generously sized. One room had a King-sized bed with a single bed. The other room had three singles. Despite the fact that we’d been there almost 4 years ago, the decor still remained fresh and up-to-date and the beds, as generous as we remembered.

We had a swim in the lovely pool, tried walking on the beach but were terrorised by the parasailers, jet skis and odd pony. The pool, however, was very nice – a freeform pool prettily landscaped with palm trees and ‘islands’. The second pool had a well-utilised slide with a lifeguard watching over the users, and a netted area where ball games could be played. The hotel looked to be quite full and the pools were pretty crowded.

After the swim, we headed out for dinner, remembering that there was an open air food centre down the road. But here’s where the comedy began. After walking for about 10, 15min and probably about 1km or so, we still had not come to the hawker centre. The narrow pavements were further occupied by the permanent pasar malam stalls and clogged with pedestrians and hawkers. Not easy walking through that with loud music blaring from speakers, heavy 3-year-old who refused to walk and wanted us to carry, antsy 13-year-old who got distracted at every bootleg dvd stand and straggling smaller kids like Cait and Owain to keep up. We began to wonder if we were mistaken, if the hawker centre had been pulled down etc. So KH decided to walk back to the hotel to get the car. We waited at the side for the next 15min. When he came, we hopped in and drove off, only to find the elusive hawker centre merely about 20m away from where we had waited! So the poor guy had to do a u-turn, drop us off, had a nasty face-off with an older caucasian man who still thought penang belonged to the colonial masters, and then drive back to the hotel and walk up to the hawker centre. I felt so bad that he had to walk that distance 3 times!

Thankfully we were lucky in getting a table, the food was pretty good (or maybe we were hungry!) and all hungry kids gobbled their food in record time!

We made our back to the hotel where another problem awaited. By about 10pm, we realised that the airconditioning in one of the rooms was not working. Called maintenance who came, tried to fix the problem with no success. The guy told us that it can’t be fixed, that this was not the first time that room 158 had experienced this problem, that he had told the management this already but looks like nothing was done. So KH called the front desk. Front desk hemmed and hawed. There was no offer to change room. They insisted on sending a maintenance guy. The same guy came back and told us that front desk had told him off for being so honest with us about the inherent aircon flaw. We were pretty pissed to learn about that. Nevertheless, the aircon can’t be fixed. So called the front desk again. Then came offer to change ONE room. We said no because we needed interconnecting rooms for the children. Front desk said they were full that night – hemmed and hawed again. After some to-ing and fro-ing, a bit of KH frothing at the mouth, they agreed to change our rooms and said it was an upgrade – magnanimous of them!

So around 10.30pm, all kids in their PJs, we hastily packed up and moved up to the third floor. The rooms were nicer – facing the sea, with a balcony, a bathtub instead of a shower stall, and with more beds. One came with a King and a Queen while the other had two King-sized beds. Plenty of room.

We turned on the aircon and found to our dismay that this was happening again – aircon faulty. KH frowned at the thought of calling the front desk again, so we called maintenance. The guy tried to fix it and this time, it worked. But once the right valves were opened, in wafted this damp, musty smell of long clogged pipes! It was so strong it lasted till morning! But by then, it was past 11pm and we were in no mood to tussle with the front desk or change rooms again, so we made do with the stench.

My woes are not done because at the bedhead of the Kingsized bed I was occupying with Trin, an irritating mozzie was buzzing about. Despite my best attempts, I could not swipe it. In the middle of the night, I could see Trin scratching and tossing restlessly. The next morning, the evidence was there – 8 bites on her face and 5 or 6 on her arms. And because our friend was eczemic, the bites quickly swelled up, turned red and inflammatory.

Breakfast was chaotic and the place was super-packed. Lots of middle-eastern, arab guests. Good spread though with a nice penang char kway teow section, comprehensive selection of freshly squeezed juices, the usual egg station and a good salad section with alfalfa sprouts (usually not included in many spreads). But because the place was so full and so crowded, the staff appeared distracted and were very busy zooming off here and there.

Kids made the most of the pool and went for a post-brekkie swim. When we checked out, I told the receptionist about the mozzies, the stench etc. I even plonked Trin on the counter to show her the bites. She made cooing noises of sympathy but did not apologise, or make any proactive offers.

Overall, I’d say the place is posh, luxely done up, generously sized rooms and the better rooms had nice touches like bathrobes, balconies etc. But they have to do something about the airconditioning and the mozzies. Its only a basic requirement of any hotel, let alone a five-star one like this, to have adequate airconditioning. Its all about maintenance. No point having a swish facade but crap internal systems that fail. The hotel also has to up its service quality. The service here, particularly at the front desk, seems to have overtones of efficient snootiness. Yes, they are polite, but the smiles are perfunctory, the lines are brisk and rehearsed. The service recovery is poor. There was no concern shown, no acknowledgement or apology that the hotel has lapsed in service. Pity, because these little things have a nasty habit of snowballing. In today’s internet age, accounts of poor service can spread very quickly. Keep this up and the hotel’s reputation will be subtly eroded over time.

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 10

P/s: When I came home to Singapore, I wrote to the VP of the parent Parkroyal group, cc’ed to the larger UOL group. Within a day, I had a reply from the General Manager of the Penang Parkroyal. He apologised for the lapses, assured me that follow-up work will be done with the Chief Engineer and the Front Desk, and as a gesture of goodwill, offered me two nights’ stay at the hotel. Which I promptly thanked him for, and accepted.

This speedy response gains the hotel brownie points and my overall rating for the hotel is cranked up to 6 out of 10. In my opinion, still not good enough for a 5-star hotel and the prices they command, but let’s see how things go with my next stay there in June this year. I will post another review in June and hopefully, my overall rating will go up.

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