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PHUKET: A fourth s has been added to the sun, sand and surf required for success among resorts in Patong, although it's probably not what you are thinking. Yes, the new s is shopping.
Mind you, when it comes to s words, size does matter, no matter what anybody says. Who has the biggest in Patong?
Well when it comes to swimming pools, the new Novotel Phuket Vintage Park does.
The pool swirls over 2000 square metres, at the very heart of a resort that probably says it all about what four-stars are expected to offer in the most competitive part of a holiday island where resort rivalry is an art form.
The ''Vintage Park'' bit does leave a few people scratching heads, though. Vintage? It only opened in April, across 10 rai in Patong, where a property of that size is not easy to acquire.
Set on Rat-U-Tit 200 Pi Road, just a block back from Patong beach, guests are greeted at the new Novotel in a grand manner through a vaulted lobby entrance beset with exotic gilded cultural imagery.
Unlike Patong's existing Novotel, which is tiered down a seafront cliff face, the new Novotel makes the most of a flat piece of real estate with six storeys around the central pool and wonderfully untra-wide passageways, built for wheelchair access.
What's essential these days in a four-star resort that seeks to set the pace? Clean, crisp lines, and functionality.
The old days of gouging guests are gone. Internet Wi-Fi here is free. The mini-bars are also a thing of the past, with the resort's own convenience store offering drinks and snacks at competitive prices.
There's also a stack of swimming pool floaties from which to choose.
Another essential: Private balcony with pool view. This is an urban resort devoid of luxuriant jungle growth, so the pool is the view.
And there's a room view, too. The see-through glass panel between bedroom and bathroom appears to be essential these days, adding to the feeling of extra space in daylight and probably extra fun at night.
And the Square Restaurant just has to be competitive. Patong is a paradise for cheap eats - or at least, eats that are as cheap as they come in what is Phuket's most pricey destination.
In keeping with its location, the resort offers 24-hour room service, and a Night Blooming lobby lounge that operates until 1.30am. Patong's prime shopping mall is an easy walk away, and so is that notable Patong walking street, Soi Bangla.
''With so many performance venues now available across Phuket, we expect to cater for families and couples as well as singles,'' says General Manager Herve Duprat.
''There's so much to do day and night on Phuket that the audience these days is unlimited.''
Indians and Koreans and Aussies are already a strong part of the resort's guest mix.
The Novotel has 303 rooms in four configurations, with the direct pool access variety likely to prove popular among those who like to slip straight in for a dip anytime.
To us, the Novotel seemed to be pretty much right for Patong. All it lacks is a shuttle bus to take you shopping.
Sitting in the lobby, Mr Duprat did confess to one problem of the kind that usually only come to light after the opening.
''There are more than 400 bulbs in the starburst chandelier in the vaunted lobby,'' he said. ''It's a long way up. What we have yet to figure out is how we can change them.''
A bright idea will probably light up between now and the Novotel Phuket Vintage Park's grand opening in August.
The Novotel Phuket Vintage Park is a candidate for Phuketwan's Phuket Resort of the Year 2012