WE HAVE made a thorough environmental impact assessment on the introduction of a cable car to boost tourism on Phuket to decide whether the right kind of ride would be a useful money-spinner for the island.
The conclusion: A cable car similar to the one on Hong Kong's Lantau island would probably work best going up to Phuket's Big Buddha from Patong, rather than out to the sacred island off Cape Promthep.
The environment? Well, we figure a bit more concrete won't do any harm, as long as the cash comes rolling in. Isn't that what everyone wants, and is there any likelihood of preventing Phuket becoming one big city?
Our findings are based on a comprehensive assessment made two minutes after riding the Hong Kong cable car. But don't be too concerned about the cost to Phuket: we've waived our usual 30 million baht fee.
We did take a few risks, though, in becoming Phuket's voluntary assessors. The latest addition to the 5.7 kilometre Ngong Pingo 360 ride is the Crystal Chamber, a car with a see-through glass floor. It's a little scary as your sneakers appear to float on thin air, 200 metres above a canyon.
Daunting? You bet. Especially as we rode the cable car on a day when the temperature dropped to about eight degrees, and the chill wind whipped in from the South China Morning Sea. Sandals and shorts proved a little too tropical.
After making the 5.7 kilometre jaunt to the mountain top, an adventurous traveller will find everything he or she could wish for in the mock-historic village: loads of souvenir shops, several places to eat, a 7-Eleven and a Starbucks.
Above the village lies the Tian Tuan sitting buddha statue, the reason for the cable car. At 38 metres, it looks handsome on the hilltop.
But at 45 metres, and covered in white jade, Phuket's own sitting buddha is considerably larger and perhaps even more attractive.
The panoramic views from the cable car are stunning, especially out across Hong Kong airport, where the clouds are shared with flights taking off and landing.
Directly below could be seen walking trails.We actually chuckled when we saw a weary woman negotiate a set of steps on her hands and knees.
Hong Kong may be crowded with high-rise apartment blocks, but the surrounding territory remains ideal for an escape to nature.
The sanctity of the religious nature of the sitting buddha has been preserved by keeping the cable car terminal and the ''village'' on a slightly lower level. With a million visitors annually, the Ngong Ping clearly attracts tourists to Hong Kong . . . and money
Could something of this kind work on Phuket? Sure, especially if the towers took a circuitous route up the heights from Patong, taking in the best views on offer.
Does the cable car in Hong Kong work within the natural environment of Lantau Country Park? Certainly, although the towers and cable can clearly be seen by walkers.
All Phuket needs now is a national government with a few billion baht to spare and the capacity to spot a good idea when they ride on one.