RENAISSANCE Mai Khao Moves Up The Food Chain
Listening to Mick Jagger wail "mad bull lost its way" in Gimme Shelter, I find myself cruising the four lane highway to the top of the island.
My destination is Mai Khao and as I fumble for the dials of the iPod, I slam on the brakes to make a quick turn; nearly taking out a slow moving tricycle loaded a virtual forest of green bananas with two monkeys chained to the rooftop. (Writers note: no animals were harmed in the writing of this article)
While the irony of the driver wearing a bright red t-shirt and a soi dog adorned in a yellow sleeveless tank top straddling the handlebars makes me nearly pass out in spastic irony, there is no time for monkey business as I press on to the newly opened Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa.
One of Larry David's favorite sayings is "I only like talking to people I know" and today I'm meeting General Manager Jason Nuell for a quick look-see at Phuket's new internationally branded hotel.
While for many images of corporate hotels brings up terms like 'bed factory' and of course those heartwarming images of Grandma during the holiday's make up delicious treats with the 'cookie cutter', I am indeed pleasantly surprised at first glance.
While the hotel only 'soft opened" a few weeks ago, the place is humming with tourists and shiny happy staff who nearly create a football scrum when greeting new arrivals. That term soft opening is always one of the bizarre idiosyncrasies of the hospitality trade and frankly speaking whether you are open or not is all that matters.
So its game on here and yes 'soft' I guess is meant to lower the bar a bit which is fair considering opening rates are a very good value at the moment and yes just like those 'gentle' reminders you get when following up payments for the 20th time, taking the edge of crazed consumers is never a bad idea.
I'm handed an attractive and yes brightly colored fact sheet which in a nutshell tells me there are 180 guest rooms, 26 private pool villas, a number of bars and restaurants, a ballroom for weddings and something called 'the jack pack".
The last one certainly catches my eye and no it's neither an association of brat or rat packs, now is there any sexual innuendos intended. What is included in this perhaps poorly named accessory pack are a series of international electrical adopters, so whether you have just flown in from Slovenia, Easter Island or Bakersfield we can indeed turn you on – err I mean your mobile components that is.
Strolling the grounds of the resort, I do find the design both tasteful, fresh and some nice original designs. Leading Thai architecture firm A49 and interior guru's P49 have teamed up for what is arguable one of the islands nicest upscale hotels.
Looking at the transformation at the top of the rock, Mai Khao is indeed evolving into an increasingly sophisticated location back from the days when the JW Marriott just opened and blank stares were generally the norm when tourists questioned locations on exactly where the hotel was located.
Now 'Big Red' has plenty of company with luxx Anantara, cutting edge Sala Phuket and next year well known brand Holiday Inn is set to add brand concentration into the brew. For those who can't possibly face another breakfast buffet a first class retail center Turtle Village is open and offers, shopping, dining and even more important drinking opportunities.
Getting back into my nearby SUV, cranking the aircon to high I muse if only a magic number 11 existed just like the Marshall guitar amps in Spinal Tap. Having no such luck, I squeal out of the car park to check out progress on the new Sarasin Bridge extension.
Indeed an amazing site greets me, not unlike perhaps a visit to the great pyramids a long time ago, though much much smaller; maybe one of those minimids on the outskirts of Cairo. Anyway cranes are lifting, works are pounding and yes the connection between Phuket and Phang Nga is set to be even bigger and better is short order.
As I turn back to the island, forgetting to use my blinker and nearly being decapitated by a speeding cement mixer truck I reflect on my visit to the Renaissance. It's a nice place, where happiness is in all things is new and hey if I was a tourist it certainly would be a great getaway.
Mai Khao is upping its stake in the tourism derby, and like the North Star the end of the island is recreating some new beginnings. If you happen to see a dog in a yellow shirt though, watch out, as he has a habit of throwing bananas.