PHUKET: ''Renovator's Dream'' is a phrase that doesn't often apply to Phuket's classy resorts. But it was certainly true of the old Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket.
In one of Phuket's most perfect locations, set between lagoons and stretching down an isthmus to the sea, the ageing 400-plus room resort was ripe for the remaking.
And now, out from behind acres of green screen comes the Angsana Laguna Phuket, the born-again butterfly that is the Phuketwan/Phuket Post Best of Phuket Resort of the Year 2011.
While the Angsana gains the gong this year, the award also pays tribute, as it has done for the past five years, to trends within the Phuket tourism industry. This year, Phuket has been alive with renovations as Phuket's pioneering resorts from the '80s and '90s remade themselves with a little botox and a nip and tuck.
The Angsana not only retains all the curves in the right places put also has fresh pizzazz and a range of good ideas that will soon be copied by others, just as Phuketwan's Best of Phuket idea has itself recently been copied.
Imitators will find plenty to like about Angsana.
The A brand on Phuket will be the flagship as it spreads as an alternative to the ultra-chic Banyan Tree label, which also has its flagship on Phuket and is a neighbor to the Angsana in the seven-resort Laguna Phuket sanctuary at Bang Tao beach.
Banyan Tree standards and style are part of what imbues the Angsana with new life. General Manager Jerry J. John talks ideas as he walks and his enthusiasm is being passed on to the loyal Sheraton-Angsana staff.
It may be hard for a bellman to ''fix'' a problem when a guest complains, but ownership of complaints is one of the new Angsana ideas. Rather than hand out a bottle of champagne when someone complains, the staffer involved will have to resolve the issue.
Changes begin at the Angsana front entrance, where there's now an alternative gateway for processing large groups as they arrive and depart.
With a huge contingent of 12,000 visiting Laguna Phuket from Amway China over April and May, it's a useful addition that will also prepare for the days when Phuket has its own exhibition and conference centre.
Throughout the Angsana there's more outdoor seating. Sailing and kayaking activities have been relocated closer to the resort's heart, on a lagoon. Yoga and therapy now have a home of their own, separate to the remade spa. iPads instead of magazines will dot the old Lobby Bar, now the Loy Krathong Bar.
Elsewhere, the new Treehouse kid's club is a huge expanse, with Australian artist Christopher Hogan already playing Pied Piper, and more special attractions to come. The kids will have their own eating area and the activities spill over into perhaps the largest indoor-outdoor resort centre for children on Phuket.
Landmarks are useful to have around and the old Sheraton tower is becoming a secluded Angsana dining spot for special occasions, with unequaled views out over the lagoons and the sea.
While the swimming pool still meanders through the new resort, past some of the dive-in suites, retiling it in blue and silver and replacing the pipes beneath has consumed a sizeable proportion of the $30 million-plus upgrade. So has the replacement for the resort's data pipeline network.
And then there's the elephants. Angsana has taken charge of its own elephants and can now vouch for the health of the creatures in ways that it couldn't when they were housed off the premises.
One other hefty attraction is yet to come.
The Angsana beach club is still being built and should be open before next high season. It's probably the most outstanding of the beach clubs that have been the trend of 2010-2011 on Phuket, with a 30-metre pool, private cabanas, and an away-from-it-all setting.
Laguna Phuket party boats will transport passengers from all the other resorts to the Xana club by the beach, and its also expected to be a huge drawcard for expat residents. If making your own music is what you prefer, two karaoke rooms are now available.
Food? That hasn't been forgotten. Guests have a range of new options from which to choose, by the water or indoors, where diners can concentrate on their plates.
Mr John hopes the new Bodega & Grill will set fresh standards on Phuket for steak lovers. Some of the finest meats anywhere are now being served here, at mouth-watering prices.
Top of the range, 12 ounces of filet mignon will set you back 6220 baht, with a two-person serve of strip loin weighing in at 12,240 baht. Next to New Year at Amanpuri, a steak dinner at Angsana is likely to become Phuket's most sought-after invitation.
Renovate, revive, innovate. Angsana sets high standards for the rest of Phuket to follow.
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The Phuketwan Best of Phuket Awards began in 2008 with the awards for 2007 and have been gradually expanding year by year to independently celebrate ''the Best of Phuket'' in a variety of categories. For obvious reasons, advertisers are not eligible.