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The pool at Cape Sienna drinks in sky and sea views

Cape Sienna Phuket Captures Chic City Hearts

Saturday, April 18, 2009
Best Resort of 2009 Contender: Take the Tour

HIP, hipper, hippest. That seems to be the general direction that trendy new resorts are taking on Phuket.

And if you have a deejay named Celeste making appearances, the hipometer certainly takes a hop or two.

Not that Cape Sienna, hanging off a hillside in Kamala, really needs a deejay to help it strike the right note.

(We could think of quite a few tired old traditional resorts that could use Celeste's kind of pizazz, but that's another story.)

The Cape Sienna story begins with arrival at the resort on a dramatic stretch of Phuket coast, the southern Kamala hillside.

Guests rise up in an shiny metallic elevator that deposits them in the lobby, overlooking the splendor of an uninterrupted seascape.

About now, the relaxation nodes in the brain should start to exude Happiness. Shake off your shoes and your clothes in the lobby, and the resort's terrace pool is just a few short steps away.

Hip, hipper, hippest. Cape Sienna is up there.

''The views are spectacular from anywhere on the site,'' says general manager Frank Dreist. ''Every room looks out over the sea.

''People are starting to hear the name and reaction has been very positive.''

Open for two months, the 146-room hotel spills down and across the road to the water's edge, where nine villas remain under construction.

There are more rooms still coming on-stream too, with the staff set to grow to 170 as the hotel is completed. A spa is also coming.

Celeste, appearing briefly at Cape Sienna as well as the White Box in Kalim, is just one example of the energy going into the resort's positioning.

Plum, the fine dining restaurant, Vanilla Sky, the rooftop bar, and the Poolside restaurant and bar already have their local fans.

A membership scheme is designed to give the resort the feel of a quality club, and the traditional marketing ploy for islanders who like to munch, the sunday brunch, is already bringing in new faces.

On the strip known as ''Millionaires' Mile'' along from Andara and the Rockfish, Cape Sienna offers, Mr Dreist says, ''something else, something different.''

The three and four-bedroom villas, each with large pools, were sold privately and are to become part of the resort rental program.

Room rates are around 3000 baht for now, but likely to rise to 7000 baht or 8000 baht by next high season. A villa might fetch 50,000 or 60,000 baht then.

The Bangkok rebellion brought ''a couple of cancellations,'' but bookings over Songkran were strong and Mr Dreist, only 38 and already a 15-year veteran of the island's resort business, is confident Cape Sienna will find a market.

Because the resort has Swedish backing, many Swedes were among the early guests. But Thais, Koreans and Australians are already discovering Cape Sienna, too.

The hotel is certainly urban chic in a dramatic tropical setting. Subdued yet stylish, it lets the sky and sea make the impact.

''Given its size I wouldn't call it boutique and I wouldn't call it grand either,'' Mr Dreist says. ''Perhaps boutique grand is about right.''

The four-star plus resort has six-star flourishes, with guests able to choose a favorite from four scents on arrival, cool towels delivered poolside all day, and overhead fans turning slowly on each individual balcony.

Sound and lighting systems are to urban chic standards, along with wireless broadband . . . and stunning views day and night.

Staff are young, mostly from Bangkok, recruited for their English and their attitude, then trained at the resort.

Cape Sienna may be new but some changes are already coming in the shape of a second swimming pool, and a tennis court.

It was thought at first there wasn't space for tennis. But now the management have figured there is room on the rooftop, and with an ace view.

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