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Applying mental discipline to multiple perspectives – Phuket’s future

March 2024

I just arrived back in my friend’s Hong Kong apartment after a five-hour hike there and back to the Peak of Lantau Island. There are, if using mental discipline to take the time to rest and enjoy the multiple views, opportunities to reflect on the past, present and future and our individual, generally miniscule, participation in it. Amazingly, some of the visitors appear to just be intent on finishing the experience as quickly as possible, or seem disinterested in the splendid beauty of nature in evidence in many of the twists and turns of that route.

Knowing you are on the way up, with energy from a good night’s sleep, makes the ascent a welcome challenge. When Phuket is on the rise, when money is floating around the system, properties are renovated, restaurants and new facilities pop up, more landscaping and manicuring is possible, and businesspeople – Thai and non-Thai all – tussle for their place in their market on the hunt for consumers or other businesses to link with.

Sometimes, it isn’t clear when the Peak really has been reached. There will be moments when you look around and think, is this the top? Is it time to rest or do I need to keep going? Similarly, there are times when Phuket’s economy heats up that it isn’t clear if it really has reached the pinnacle. Looking around, sometimes it seems hard times have been mostly forgotten by those fortunate to live well above the poverty line.

At the Lantau Peak summit there is a place that is clearly the top. It has an emergency shelter and you can walk around that Peak and see some of the most amazing views of Hong Kong from all sides. If you aren’t familiar, you will realise that Hong Kong is a lot more than skyscrapers and shipping. It is beautiful and nature still prevails. At the 934-metre mark, suddenly humans seem very small and insignificant. You can see the scale of Hong Kong airport and watch the airplanes land and take off like tiny birds dwarfed by the magnificence of the sea and mountains.

In Hong Kong, amazing endeavours have transformed that special region; Phuket is also in a transformative phase. Both have not reached the ‘top’ in terms of their development potential. However, we must try to remember that the way in which Phuket will change will be Thai-managed and with the welcome undercurrent of Thai culture. Anyone expecting a Hong Kong or Singapore style transformation, will be rightly and hugely disappointed.

There will be no rapid, seemingly efficient, building of bridges and useful infrastructure without the whiff of tea money, strange delays and strange design and location decisions linked to self-interest. There will also be Garudas, Nagas, Thai style art and creativity and all that makes Thailand great and Thai in the mix too.

Phuket, fortunately, also has some amazing sights to see. Surrounding Phuket there are hundreds of islands and simply going off the tourist track will be highly rewarding, if you choose your sailing vessel and captain wisely. Each time I hike in Phuket I also see it from different perspectives. What I can see at the moment is unbridled, super fast-paced development. Jungles being cleared, earth being excavated, new residence infrastructure being placed into the ground aplenty. But I can also see the beauty of the trees, the waterfalls, streams flowing out into the sea, the stunning ocean views and its unique topography. If you look at this from a ‘birds eye’ or peak hiker view, humans still seem as meaningless as they do from a Hong Kong peak and even more so when you indulge Phang Nga on the ‘zoom out’ view

To see where Phuket is going next does require some degree of knowledge of where it has been. It has always been a commercial hub of trade and speculation. Land has always had relatively ‘high’ values but the hotspots have changed as societies have changed their objectives and habits. Now, with the advent of a new wave of investor and visitor types, Phuket will shift to accommodate demand.

Properties will become more expensive over time, there will be less space, more car parks to accommodate more vehicles. Spacious gardens will be seen as luxuries. Rental units will compete with hotel units, and hotels will have to add more freedoms and excitement to their packages to keep up. Phuket Old Town will continue to shine in its newly refurbished glory of night markets and special boutique stores and eateries.

There will be more health care establishments; places specifically designed for retirees and the elderly will pop up. Schools and education will continue to develop and expand and link internationally with universities, creating a buzz for parents and students alike that Phuket is a special place to study with less pollution and more sand, sea, nature and coffee shops per square kilometre than parts of Bangkok.

Is this all just obvious? No, not really. Many of the changes in Phuket have sparked negativity and brought out the worst in ill-disciplined short-term thinking which reverberates around whingeing and pent up anger boiling over in public places. Phuket isn’t or shouldn’t be a one or two year project but there are inevitably free-riders and opportunists who will see it that way. Exercising mental discipline to look at all the aspects of Phuket, negative and positive and all in-between, will assist gaining a better than average perspective on opportunities, how to work and live positively in a rapidly changing demographic and still having fun and being happy.

Phuket has been knocked off its perch before by disasters both natural and human-made. However, it clearly hasn’t reached its peak and is hopefully a long way off. Whilst traffic congestion might be a pain, there has to be some fallout to development. Phuket needs to keep climbing up and those riding on its back should help push it further, upwards not down. And… when the downward path does inevitably arrive, we should still look back up at where we were, realise there is always a time when we should slow down and not take too much, and there will always be another day to climb to the Peak, until we are no longer.

By Desmond Hughes, Senior Partner of Hughes Krupica
Hughes Krupica is a law firm which specialises in Real Estate; Construction; Hospitality; Corporate; Commercial; Tech; Dispute Resolution; and Litigation, operating from Phuket, servicing clients in relation to their business activities in Thailand and in other regions of Asia.

 Contact info:

Hughes Krupica Consulting

Hughes Krupica Consulting Co. Ltd
23/123-5 Moo 2 Kohkaew Plaza
The Phuket Boat Lagoon
T. Kohkaew Amphoe Muang
Phuket 83000 Thailand
Tel: (0) 76 608 468

Hughes Krupica Consulting (Bangkok) Co. Ltd
29/41 Soi Ladprao 22
Ladprao Road
Chankasem, Chatuchak
Bangkok 10900 Thailand
Tel: (0) 20 771 518

[email protected]

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