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Resetting Expectations & Rewards from Phuket Version 5.0 ‘Smart Phuket’

Mindset, ‘wellbeing’, mental approach or competency to approach challenges is a defining skill that we now see presented on social media and in social circles, through coaching and life lessons, as a new branch of tutoring that was previously reserved for therapy or psychological treatment.

Mindset, ‘wellbeing’, mental approach or competency to approach challenges is a defining skill that we now see presented on social media and in social circles, through coaching and life lessons, as a new branch of tutoring that was previously reserved for therapy or psychological treatment. Whilst Phuket continues to evolve through numerous permutations, those who have been here a while may struggle mentally to come to terms with the extent of those changes and how they manifest themselves in daily life and in the longer-term.

Newer arrivals only have a comparison benchmark of photos and videos of Phuket in earlier times and books on its history to go by. Therefore, the use of a realistic but positive lens can be invaluable in adjusting to some of the more substantial changes, and even some of the small ones that are just downright annoying.

As we power our way through 2024 at a breakneck speed – like a particular nationality of person driving a new red plate MG car along Thekprassatri Road in a moronic haphazard dangerous fashion – perhaps a reset of what Phuket has to offer compared to other places in a world assaulted with wars, modern slavery and transnational crime might help us fine tune our expectations and be more satisfied with our lot.

Traffic: I put my hand up and accept I have spent my fair share of time moaning to others about road accidents and road deaths and the unnecessary destructive path of carelessness and selfishness on the roads. There is no immediate solution to this problem which, perhaps to those with Buddhist leanings, is a signal that ‘acceptance’ might be a wiser path.

‘Acceptance’ is recommended in relation to the sheer volume of traffic and impact on the time between places in Phuket. Gone are the days of property billboards in Bang Tao stating ’20 mins to the airport’, because it is 20 mins simply to drive along the slow queues of traffic next to the proliferation of admittedly highly useful and rewarding shops, coffee shops, boutique stores, supermarkets and restaurants along the way.

When my wife suggests we leave home at 13:45 to get to my daughter’s music school by 14:00 on a Saturday, I am incensed by the misguided self-deception that anywhere is only 15 mins away in Phuket. It just isn’t – as evidenced by traffic lights, tailbacks, accidents, red-light skippers and ‘Ghost Riders’ (mostly motorbikes but also other vehicles illegally driving against the flow of traffic).

If we still want to love Phuket and all it has to offer, then we must learn to mentally embrace the sight of other people on the roads who were not there when we were being threatened with deportation if we didn’t wear masks over our faces and stay at home during the ‘COVID years’. Those people reflect economic prosperity but also a strain on infrastructure that even a convoy driving politician can’t fail to see even if demanding the police clear all the roads of apparently less important citizens to allow the politicians to spend the citiziens’ tax money as they see fit.

I keep telling myself, we need traffic, traffic is good, no traffic equals no money, maybe more traffic will slow the idiots down, maybe traffic will give me more time to think about life challenges and which article I might write this month. Let us eat, pray, love and respect… traffic.

Tourists Everywhere: Many of us have seen the images of thousands of tourists populating Maya Bay seemingly taking photos of each other on an overly-visited beach made famous by a movie which in part was about finding new and unexplored places in a country which is still deeply beautiful – Thailand. We can also see the ugly effects of extractive tourism at many of the worlds’ richest sites of heritage and wonder, from Pyramids to Mountain Peak base camps, waterfalls with branded coffee shops spoiling the panoramic views through to never-ending Instragram photos of planes flying over beaches.

Phuket just can’t win for its continued reinvention and reincarnation of successes. With little or no tourists, food banks and poverty spring up very quickly along with crime rates. But with many tourists swarming across all the beaches, supermarkets and entertainment spots it seems that resident nationals and non-nationals become a little fed up with the extra queuing and the queue jumping.

Then there’s the overly-loud conversations in places designed to be peaceful, the full-volume video clip watching (when earbuds would prevent us all from suffering) and the inability to understand that skimpy or sweaty beachwear and overt flesh displays aren’t appropriate at every venue in Phuket including, but not limited to, immigration offices, other Government offices, on motorbikes (GoFundMyLackofSafetyWear.com), temples and law firm offices (even though in Phuket we make sure we are more casual than the mental prison, suit-wearing mentality of Bangkok and other global cities).

However, who on earth has moved to Phuket not thinking of it as a place tourists love to visit? “I moved to Mars but I don’t like all the craters…” Tourists should be loved, warts, hairy armpit sling shirts and all, because yes – they are spending money and keeping many people gainfully employed. After 21 years, having once been a ‘Phuket tourist’, I still try to remember to love them for what they represent. I still feel annoyance when they are referred to on a ‘spend per head’ basis in newspaper articles – they are much more than that, they are the very people who make Jungceylon feel ‘busy’ and vibrant. We need them.

Unprecedented Property Development: European visitors to Southern Spain, Asian visitors to Hainan in China and Middle Eastern visitors to Marakech might, if perceptive enough, be aware of the overall impact of tourism on property development patterns and ‘resettlement’. I have benefited directly from being allowed, albeit always on a leash and subject to producing several trees worth of signed papers per year, to migrate to Thailand; I am not, therefore, an advocate of discouraging ‘development’. However, to use a buzzword, ‘sustainable’ development is surely a good way forward.

We are presented with announcements of new apartments projects exceeding 100, 200 or even 500 units or more on a fairly regular basis, the expansion of hotels and plans for more ‘airlift’ of tourists including from a new airport penned for development in Phang Nga. What is missing is a correlating set of announcements that demonstrate infrastructure will actually cope with all the development (and I don’t mean the Patong Tunnel or widened highways regularly touted in the media and at public hearings). I do mean an actual long-term vision for Phuket, which sets in stone what it can become and who it will benefit beyond immediate short term margin profiteers or those swapping political favours.

However, this is not all doom and gloom. We live in a world where the geographically mahoosive Australia faces challenges delivering enough newly-built property for its younger generations and where wannabe British homeowners are forced to buy ancient property with quirky unusable spaces in the least attractive parts of cities and towns at unprecedented prices against high interest rates. In a world where Hong Kongers and Singaporeans continue to family‑share tiny apartments for ever longer periods whilst offspring try to earn money or await inheritance. So, the act of developing property in Phuket – where prices continue to ‘rise’ – doesn’t seem so dumb after all. The issues arise when people sell what they haven’t built, can’t build properly or have over-leveraged using ‘other people’s money’ – or just don’t know how to build beyond producing a marketing campaign.

So… Phuket is indeed undergoing a serious transformation, but we can learn to love its weaknesses and flaws much in the same way that a long term relationship between spouses should pierce superficiality and quickly-made judgments.

Phuket might just end up being better than Bangkok for Bangkokians, based on the number of relocated Thais joining the throngs in the province. After all, the traffic lights on Thekprassatri Road don’t stay on red for as long as the lights at the Asoke Intersection... just yet.

 Contact info:

Hughes Krupica Consulting

PHUKET (HEAD OFFICE)
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

BANGKOK (SERVICED OFFICE)
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]
www.hugheskrupica.com

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