Layan's Tale of Great Expectations
The island's geography often remains a vague and fickle instrument, tacking an erratic course along the rising and falling fortunes of property developers. You could almost liken the gyrations to that of the ignominious Wall Street ticker tape parade.
One of the more interesting locations on the island over the past five years has been Layan. Ah yes, the area which somehow has more names than someone buried in the witness protection program.
Often referred to as the upper side of Bangtao, northern Bangtao, past Laguna, or any vague combination of the above. Staccato phrases or directions often ending up with a perplexed look from the person you are speaking to and the ultimate query – where?
Bangtao Bay has somehow metamorphosed over the years unlike a typical cycle of density growing from the south and slowly pushing north. The destination resort of Laguna Phuket was smack in the middle of the area and became an epicenter for two decades of building hotels, villas, condos, a golf course and a tourism support structure.
Within the past ten years the lower side of the bay has become increasingly popular and has some significant building sites. Some locals have even christened the area now as Kata North, due to the number of micro builds and small establishments cropping up in virtually every nook and cranny.
As for Layan, in the mid part of the last decade (say 2004 or 2005) the area was poised to springboard in a very big way. One of the key differences was the propensity of larger land plots than other parts of Bangtao. Here a cut and paste method was not needed to obtain project sites and master planning was as easy as the stroke of a brush.
Perhaps the most significant landmark of the times was the acquisition of a 134-rai site by the Indonesian group PT Setiabudi and launch of the mixed use Shangri-La luxury resort. Other projects came up including Vichuda Hills, Layan Estate, and Lakewood Hills. The buzz was on and all looked bright for Layan to be a renaissance for upscale living.
Progress was only delayed by the 2004 tsunami yet projects continued to build out, including Layan Gardens. Speculators started launching projects including Layan Sunset and Baan Talay, and the often documented saga of Lersuang's Tamarind Hills.
As Europe's currency came under attack with the pound devaluing and the protracted global financial crisis, things became very muted. One casualty was the Shangri-La site where work was stopped after piling the site and developing a show villa and a few structures.
Other projects mentioned earlier were either canceled or went into hibernation and the area became a reminder of how rising tides come and go in the world of real estate.
At the beginning of the decade lush tropical forests dominated the area (or at best highly treed second generation rubber plantations). These were mostly cut down during the expected boom and a barren landscape with rusting construction fences and some partially built developments created a lunar like landscape.
Was this the end of Layan?
Clearly not as we can see to-day. One of the largest landowners in the area, Japanese conglomerate Kajima, control over 700 rai and are working on the early phase of a luxury villa estate. Frenchman Alain Cohen successfully brought the upscale La Colline to market, built it out and has nearly sold out the homes.
Land is trading, with the former project sites for Layan Sunset and Baan Talay trading in recent months. As for the Shangri-La, the owner is looking to sell approximately half the site (70 rai) for a reported 16 million baht per rai.
Perhaps one of the most positive notes underscoring the resurgence is the affiliation of the boutique Bundarika resort with a Bali-based management company and plans to upgrade the project.
So that's our tale, for better or for worse. The south to north push is once again becoming a self proclaiming prophesy. Hopefully, as the building starts again, trees will be replanted and what was one of the lovelier parts of the island will be restored.