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Simon Grant (left) on a golf cart at Ao Po Grand Marina

Phuketwan Innovation of the Year 2008 Award

Saturday, January 3, 2009
Photo Album Above

WITH SPORT as the focus for the island's future, the Ao Po Grand Marina is the popular choice as Phuketwan Innovation of the Year 2008.

This makes it one all in the play-off between golf and sailing for the title of Phuket's most important sport.

The new hilltop course at Red Mountain was the winner of the first Innovation award the previous year.

Which sport, sailing or golf, brings in the most money to the island? If anybody knows the answer, please tell us all.

Of late, though, the sailors seem to be the ones clamoring for new facilities. The Ao Po Grand Marina came as a bit of a surprise.

We had no idea it was so far advanced until we went to the east coast headland to take a look. The marina is quite a sight, sitting at the gateway to Phang Nga Bay, and filling up fast.

Around it, a township of sorts is set to fill the void, with pool villas, a quayside retail and restaurant centre and an 80-room five-star boutique resort all part of the grand plan.

Ah, but golf strikes back in this sailing project. Golf carts are being used to ferry people to and from the boats.

With the marina complete and building set to begin this month on the marine offices in the village, Marina Manager Simon Grant is pleased with progress.

As it happens, he is the sole farang connected with the project, which has largely been driven by Managing Director Kasem Chiarasomboon.

We use the word ''driven'' here with caution.

Apart from having been a major player in establishing the Boat Lagoon on Phuket, Khun Kasem's distinctions include writing off a new Ferrari on a test drive around the island.

''We provide access 24 hours around the clock with zero tide restrictions, and we can accommodate superyachts,'' Khun Kasem says of the 140-rai project, which began in 2005.

''Phuket's future,'' he adds, ''is on the water.''

RIDING a golf cart with Simon presents fewer hazards than a Ferrari but it does add a spectacular amount of scenery, even on a soggy grey day.

''I am not planning to be the first person to put a cart in the drink,'' he says, encouragingly. Besides, the boardwalk is extremely wide.

Some superb glistening craft are already moored here, with numbers growing steadily. The marina has ideal accessibility for sailing Phang Nga Bay. Off-shore, it's complete.

Add dry-docking repair and maintenance and a sophisticated double-wall attenuator system to block the waves, and the Ao Po Grand Marina seems to have it all. Self-sufficiency is the target.

''Business is going really well,'' Simon said. ''We've had some big tour operators move out here. More and more people talk to us every week.''

He said that new boat sales were still high, despite the economic downturn.

While resistance has been growing to new marina projects on Phuket, mostly on environmental grounds, Ao Po is benefitting from its superb location and first-class facilities.

It looks especially magnificent from out at sea at night, all lit up. The future is bright, too.

Coming next: the pool villas and the five-star resort.

Did we get it right? Prefer another new idea? Tell us in Comment below

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Photo Album
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