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Thai children at play on an island with many blessings.

2007: How Phuket Fared

Wednesday, January 2, 2008
The Phuketwan Awards
Business of the Year: Destination Air
Restaurant of the Year: Dibuk, Phuket City
Innovation of the Year: Red Mountain golf course
Phuket Person of the Year: Promchote Traivate
The Year in Review
2007 WILL BE remembered for many reasons. The introduction of a one-way road system in Patong, for instance, sparked one of the big controversies of the year.

Yet by December, the concept had been accepted, although driving on the wrong side of the road on connecting streets and trying to cross Beach Road or Rat U Thit 200 Pi still posed perils for those who couldn't move fast or adapt.

The one-way system would have to go down as a big plus simply because the traffic flows more easily now, even if the tuk-tuk drivers still find it awkward.

Jungceylon continued to roll out new sections as the big lifestyle mall gave Patong a new, upmarket feeling, especially with the opening of the shop-til-you-drop Millennium Resort. Patong suddenly seemed different.

But perhaps one promotion, the excessive eating competition, held to raise money to provide food for poor children, needs a rethink in 2008.

Even some of the contestants found it hard to digest.

More significantly, the crash of One-Two-Go flight 123 in September brought tragedy to the island once again.

While the deaths of 90 pasengers and crew engendered great sadness, the rescue of 40 passengers alive proved the capacity of the island's rescue services to cope in a crisis.

The crash was attributed to a violent wind gust but questions remain about why the pilot decided to try to land in such appalling conditions.

A thorough account of all that transpired has yet to be made public. We hope the whole truth is revealed soon.

The mid-year tsunami warning test also raised more questions than it answered. Telecast nationally from Patong, the event was a made-for-television public relations stunt, designed to reassure tourists that Phuket is a safe place to visit.

At some other beaches along the coast, there were tsunami warning towers that did not sound. Along with officials who gathered beside the silent towers, we were left wondering why.

When another Indonesian earthquake caused concern, questions were raised about whether a televised warning should have been broadcast.

A defence system is only as strong as its weakest point. What would happen if another big wave came at 3am, with everyone asleep, and the seaside sirens could not be heard?

Most Andaman resorts simply assume that a second tsunami is extremely unlikely. Anyone who chooses to holiday on Phuket probably goes along with that, otherwise they would head for some other destination.

Cheerier news came with Khao Lak's almost complete recovery during 2007 from the 2004 tsunami. The beaches are broad and free of hawkers, loungers and jetskis, an attractive alternative now to Phuket.

The resort boom continued all around the region, with new brands announcing plans to open on Phuket and in Phang Nga and other brands upgrading to met new challenges.

The Central brand became Centara, Laguna Phuket began planning a seventh resort, and Marriott Courtyard made preparations to open three refurbished and rebranded resorts along the west coast of the island.

Australians visited in record numbers, along with increasing planeloads of Koreans and a growing number of Russians.

Phuket's delightfully-designed 50-million-baht Gateway opened, although there is still plenty of head-scratching about who will use it and why.

It was a year for big ideas. Royal Phuket Marina supremo Gulu Lalvani suggested a manmade island for megayachts that would, coincidentally, prove an ideal place to dump waste from a deeper channel leading to his marina.

The long-awaited plan for a convention and sports centre on Phuket headed in the right direction with the involvement of private industry capital and government land, a combination that should accellerate a lot of development in the island's north.

There was concern about violent attacks on tourists and an obvious need for more police.

Because of the low number of official residents, and the high number of people who actually live on the island or visit, Phuket continues to try to cope with less than the share of resources it needs, including police numbers.

The diving industry plunged into a period of change, with plans for more protection of coral reefs and control over the number of people visiting some areas.

Thais were also being encouraged to dive in greater numbers and take up jobs in the industry that have until now been held by foreigners.

The environment came to the fore in other ways, too, with observers noting that Phuket has yet to achieve a sensible balance between preserving its natural gems and uncontrolled ''progress.''

A proposed second garbage incinerator is seen by many as an old-fashioned solution that poses its own threat to the environment.

The most cheering story of the year was probably the Big Buddha, a huge 45-metre structure that will one day bring large numbers of tourists to the island and already attracts plenty of visitors.

And all told, Phuket had its fair share of mee kwam suk (happiness) in 2007.

Perhaps 2008 will be even better.

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Wednesday February 21, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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