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Pantisa Hamgmarat, whose batik is a Gateway attraction

Phuket Gateway Says 'Hello' To a Makeover

Monday, September 29, 2008
THE VAST car park in front of Phuket Gateway is usually empty. :Laden with tourists, cars and buses arrive on Phuket by road and trundle straight past it, to the beaches or to west coast resorts.

The Gateway facility, built as a Phuket landmark at a cost of about 50 million baht, never has achieved many fans.

Pull up there, perhaps by mistake, and your vehicle is likely to be all alone. The place is nearly always empty.

But in the small car park at the rear of the impressive structure, at least one vehicle turns up every single day.

The car belongs to Pantisa Hamgmarat, who runs a small business selling tourist souvenirs from the Gateway.

She goes to work every day, regardless of whether there are customers, and she has done so most every day since the Gateway opened on September 9 last year.

''The building doesn't work because the local people had no say,'' Khun Pantisa said. ''I would like it to work. Perhaps one day it will.''

Yes, indeed. Perhaps one day. A new manager is due to step in on October 1 to see if the Gateways' troubled history can be reversed.

For its entire short life so far, it has remained a monument to good intentions.

In the planning stages, someone must have thought that tourists were noble people, that they would welcome the chance to spend some time learning about Phuket, its character, its culture and its history before having a swim, taking a shower, having a holiday drink, or eating a meal.

Fat chance. Everybody knows that tourists are hedonistic creatures who cannot wait a minute longer than absolutely necessary before commencing their holiday indulgence.

Anything in their way is rapidly bypassed.

So the Phuket Gateway, a beautifully designed monument, with much to recommend it, celebrates good intentions gone wrong, in splendid isolation.

The agony of selling souvenirs from a place that nobody visits even has a bizarre twist.

Some tourists who like Khun Pantisa's goods when they see them at a friend's shop in Jungceylon have been unable to pick them up on the way to the airport.

Phuket Gateway? They just can't seem to find it.

Serious efforts were made from time to time to attract the attention of the passing parade.

At one stage, an inviting trail of sculpted turtle eggs was laid along the roadside, until someone pointed out they were a serious traffic hazard and the wrong shape for turtle eggs, anyway.

The eggs and a large turtle shell are among the attractions at the Gateway, along with 29 seven-meter-tall concrete pillars, each carrying a passage explaining a little about Phuket and the region.

There is also a 21.8 metre granite sculpture.

And behind the row of pillars, up a few stairs, is Khun Pantisa's shop, with some empty meeting and exhibition rooms.

The usual tourist souvenirs can be found there, along with batik products she makes with a local group and sells more widely around the island.

''I am glad we have a place to show our product, even if we have problems attracting tourists,'' she said.

After being elected president of the Orborjor earlier this year, Paiboon Upatising told local leaders that he wants to find a practical use for the wasted development.

The locals, eventually asked what they wanted, said they would like the Gateway converted into a large community swimming pool and fitness centre, perhaps with child-minding facilities.

What the new manager has in mind should become clear over the next few days.

Comments

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An address for this would be nice. One I can show to a tuk-tuk/taxi driver as tourists are usually reliant on them to get around the place, which gets to be quite pricey.

At home (Australia) I rarely, if ever, use a taxi service, but there isn't a public transport system that covers the whole of the island, only a couple of major centres. It would be great if more public transport was available on Phuket.

Editor: The Gateway is about 300 metres onto the island from the twin bridges linking Phuket with the mainland. As you head towards the mainland, look for a turnoff on the right very soon after going through the Tatchatchai control point and swinging back onto the highway.

Posted by Donna on September 30, 2008 08:10

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When the Phuket Gateway was being built, anyone with an ounce of sense could have foretold that for the proposed use, it would be a white elephant. It is in a fairly isolated position, well away from any significant tourist attractions.

What would I do with this building? I would install high-speed optical fibre computer network inside the building, and connect this to a very high speed (and dedicated) internet backbone. Then I would rent out the rooms at a reasonable rental to start-up IT companies in Phuket.

For many years, there have been plans to transform Phuket into an IT hub to rival Singapore. This will never happen unless a decent IT infrastructure is implemented on the island. Why not make a start by creating The Phuket IT Gateway, and create an IT village for creative, high-tech businesses?

Editor: Great suggestion. We will try to ensure it reaches the proper authorities.

Posted by Simon Luttrell on October 21, 2008 07:38

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All closed when we visited recently and in need of some maintenance? (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/70949964)

Posted by timinphuket on April 26, 2012 15:08


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