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A voyage to Koh Lon begins at Chalong pier

Phuket's Taj Exotica Makes Genuine Start

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tour The Taj Island Above

THE TAJ Exotica is still planned for Phuket, despite the world economic downturn and a terrorist attack at the beautiful Taj hotel in Mumbai in November.

Hotel representatives called a meeting today at the Bang Kontree Mosque community centre in Rawai to assess progress and inform interested parties about plans for the development.

As several glossy property-related magazines have noted, the Taj will probably set new standards in exclusive luxury accommodation on Phuket.

The Taj is to go on Koh Lon, an as yet undeveloped island surprisingly close to Chalong.

The 121 villas, to be set across 136 rai, could reach new record highs at a cost of $900,000 a key, according to those who have seen details of planning. That will be sumptuous accommodation.

But first, all the regular environmental impact surveys and discussions with local people have to be negotiated.

Phuketwan has visited Koh Lon many times and it's a fascinating place. But the small island community of 80 families has been losing its young adults to the tourism industry.

So the modern pressures of earning a good income have left the island with elderly residents, and the very young. The local school has been under threat of closure for lack of students and teachers.

A resort of the right kind could be just what the island needs. It could bring back local villagers to local jobs, and reinvigorate local culture.

Wild pigs and bats are just a couple of the attractions that already make Koh Lon an ideal homestay destination, just 15 minutes away from Chalong Pier.

The villagers are friendly and keen to grow their own kind of tourist industry. Homestay suits them.

A coral reef nearby is still intact. So is the local Muslim culture, despite being so close to downtown Phuket.

Will the Taj change all that? The right resort could be a boon. But only the community can judge whether the Taj is the right resort.

In a brochure in the Thai language, handed out today, the Taj management spells out its reasoning for choosing Koh Lon, and why it could work to everyone's benefit.

Once work starts, the brochure says, building will take two years.
(if you believe the breathless glossies, the Taj is about to open any minute.)

An Environmental Impact Assessment study is the first step.
The brochure says Taj management is concerned to prevent landslips, waste water pollution in the sea and any other negative effects the project might have on the environment.

Major changes to the terrain are not anticipated. Waste from the construction project is to be transported to Saphan Hin, under an arrangement with the tessaban council of Phuket City.

Retaining blocks up to 2.4 metres high will prevent erosion into the sea, the brochure says. Tree-lopping will be limited and much of the area will retain its present foliage, the brochure says.

Shipping to and from Chalong will be done at high tide to avoid damage to coral, according to the brochure.

Benefits to the locals will come with jobs and more tourists to generate local income, and some of those benefits will stay on Koh Lon.

Project designers hope to be able to limit water traffic to a new pier on Koh Lon, the brochure says.

At the public meeting today were representatives from Rawai tessaban Vichitt tessaban (both local councils) the Phuket Marine Biology Centre, the Royal Thai Navy, the marine transport office, leaders of the local people on Koh Lon and on Phuket, the Tourist Authority of Thailand and Taj representatives.

The firm that will make the environmental impact study was also represented.

Despite what the glossy magazines imply, no permission has been issued for construction to begin. Due process has to be followed before a timetable can be set.

About 50 people were at today's gathering.

A representative from the Taj said that 80 percent of residents within a five-kilometre radius of the proposed project had expressed favorable opinions about it.

The result of the favorable survey has been passed to Rawai tessaban.

However, at today's meeting, some local residents clearly within five kilometres of the project expressed surprise and said they knew nothing about the survey.

The Taj representatives said they would look to make the next survey more thorough and all-inclusive.

A proposal for a marina close to the Taj Exotica is being treated as a separate project. It will require its own environmental impact study.

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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Get the balance right, Morison. In one of your recent stories about a luxury resort you appeared to repeat the company's promotional blurb about beach frontage with pool and outstanding views. But in this story, your condescending remarks about ''glossy magazines'' seems way hypocrital, especially as you've written this kind of equally breathless stuff for a hotel or two yourself!! Hope you enjoyed the free plug for your services just then, but maybe you're just p*ssed that you didn't land the deal to produce the Taj brochure.
Editor: There's a fair difference between a rave review of a completed resort, which I am happy to write where it is deserved, and a rave review in advance for a resort that is just beginning the approval process. I am surprised you can't tell the difference.

Posted by Simon Treen on February 12, 2009 13:25

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Is there room for this?: "Waste from the construction project is to be transported to Saphan Hin" I think not.

Posted by Vivien on February 14, 2009 11:46


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