Luxury resorts in Phuket offer Hong Kong expats a second home
The construction of MontAzure is the latest in a series of high-end residential developments and hotel projects in Phuket
Hongkongers seeking to escape the city have long looked to the Thai island of Phuket.
While the island has been attracting its share of tourists, it’s also drawing a different crowd – those looking for a place to retire or as a location for a second home. And luxury is always key.
“I ran into [Russian billionaire] Roman Abramovich the other night,” says Karl Langenskiöld, a long- time resident who runs the Twin Palms Resort near Phuket’s serene Surin Beach.
Abramovich was holidaying on his yacht, moored off the beach. Others, including Hong Kong’s Allan Zeman, drop anchor more permanently. Zeman built a villa on what is known as Phuket’s Millionaires’ Mile, on the island’s west coat, so named because of the luxury villas that dot the hillside.
This is a far cry from more rowdy places on the island such as Patong, an early centre of tourism in Phuket.
“They are separate developments, ” says Langenskiöld. Even as places like Patong continue to go about their business, other parts of Phuket have turned into high-end destinations.
The island’s west coast with its perfect beaches and crystal clear water is at the centre of this development.
Langenskiold’s Twin Palms Resort is a case in point, as is the Millionaire’s Mile, and a number of new and ongoing residential developments and hotel projects. The most notable is the MontAzure, an integrated beachfront resort and serviced residential community, which includes 73 condominiums and custom-made villas.
It’s in Phuket’s last remaining prime west coast location, just a few steps from the white sands at Kamala Beach near Millionaire’s Mile.
Apart from the seafront, Mont Azure also includes an expanse of virgin forest ascending into the mountains.
“This property comes with a great responsibility,” says Roland Bleszynski, who is heading the project.
“I’m very protective of this area,” he adds. “One reason is that I am resident in Kamala myself. I am building in my own neighbourhood.”
To do the beautiful location justice, Bleszynski considered the eco-elements of the area.
This means that the virgin forest remains untouched, while it is made accessible for walks and recreation. It also means that the houses stay below the tree line and blend in with their environment rather than dominating it. The complex generates its own drinking water, and the food is organic and locally produced.
This sort of development – construction on MontAzure begins this spring – makes sense on Phuket. There is a growing number of expats, some retirees, some who commute to work in Bangkok or Hong Kong or who keep a second home on the island. Phuket has an international airport, so this is manageable.
Others base their families on the island while they work in Singapore, easily done as Phuket has seven international schools - a high number, given that the island has little more than 300,000 inhabitants.
But high-end resorts and second homes are not the only option. Another extraordinary destination is the Thanyapura, a large sports, health and educational complex.
More inland and secluded than Twin Palms and MontAzure, the Thanyapura operates two resort hotels. It also runs an international school.
But its defining feature are its sports facilities where, literally, Olympic champions come to train, most recently the Dutch swimming team. Chris McCormack, a four-time triathlon world champion, acts as executive chairman of the Thanyapura. If you are looking for something more than fine dining on your holiday, this may be the place to go.
Tennis courts, excellent gyms as well as medical and wellness facilities are also part of the Thanyapura. Then there is the Thanyapura Mind Centre, a place for yoga and meditation. Its chairman is Alan Wallace, a scholar of Sanskrit, who served as interpreter for the Dalai Lama. You can’t get further from the madding crowd.