Investing in Phuket as a retirement lifestyle destination

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Only a few years ago, Phuket was attracting mainly holiday travellers in search of a fun-filled paradise centred on soft-sand beaches and a funky nightlife.

Tourists continue to arrive in increasing numbers, but today there’s a new wave of visitors who see Phuket as the perfect place to live. It’s not just great beaches and gorgeous scenery that draw them.

Phuket offers more, It’s a lifestyle that feeds the imagination. A leisure playground where sunshine, good food, tropical sunsets, year-round sailing and the opportunity to play gold every day in great surroundings figure highly in life’s priorities.

Phuket’s east coast is a hotspot for residential projects on this island of international acclaim. The peaceful idyll and breathtaking views over Phang Nga Bay are now drawing a myriad of developers to the area.

For many, the good life has already been translated into reality, as Phuket continues to offer more ingredients to sustain a sophisticated lifestyle. Improved infrastructure, expanding international schools, regular international flights to Asia and Europe, plus strong currencies are attracting more wannabe residents from across the world.

Many are prompted by the early retirement, relocation, the desire for a second home in paradise, or an escape to a healthy tropical lifestyle, all simply fall in love with the place.

Until recently, most long-stay visitors and developers opted for the obvious charms of the west coast, with its sweeping beaches, ocean views, stunning sunsets and access to Phuket’s nightlife. But times are changing. With prices rising faster than a tropical sunrise, beachfront property on the west coast has soared increasingly out of reach to all but the occasional celebrity.

High-priced beachfront land, higher property density and less available land have all helped to steer developers in another direction – the eastern side of the island.

While the east coast doesn’t have the unsurpassed beaches of the west coast, it does offer masses of green space, good roads, easy access to the entire of the island and great beauty. Luxuriant and tranquil, with a welcoming sunrise aspect, it still offers a sense of the undiscovered. And the views are simply gorgeous.

Virtually any spot on the coast presents a vista of island. With views over Phang Nga’s dramatic seascape to the north and a string of pretty islands stretching south, it’s easy to understand why the sheltered bays and impressive head-lands from Ao Po to Cape Panwa are attracting some of the most exclusive developments on the island.

Two years ago, the area east of Heroines Monument was a quiet, unfashionable backwater. Ao Po, on the coast, was a small fishing village where local boats and eco-tours departed for Phang Nga Bay. The rickety jetty that still forms a picturesque part of the scene will soon be no more.

Work is due to start soon on a brand-new departure point, one t hat looks set to place Ao Po as a future hub for Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi.

The new jetty will complement a quiet expansion in infrastructure that has occurred. The realisation that the airport, Phuket Town, Dulwich International School, and shopping centres such as Tesco Lotus, Big C and Central all lie within easy reach, has opened wider possibilities, especially for the growing residential market. While the west coast has developed though tourism, the east coast over the last couple of years.

Road improvement has been steadily increasing all over Phuket Island, but with the new roads opening up more remote places around northeast and diggers already winding the main road from Heroines Monument to Ao Po, this sleepy area is beginning to beckon.

Looks more focused on property development, fulfilling the dream of a home in the sun. Savvy investors have already begun to recognise the potential, nulled by comparatively cheap land prices and clear land titles. Much of the initial investment has focused on the high-end market, with the headlands and bays around Ao Po and Cape Yamu already earmarked for upscale projects. Available land around the costal area has allowed developers to offer generous plots with unparalleled sea views. Mission Hills Gold Course, a superb 18-hole course with an additional 9-hole floodlight course designed by Jack Nicklaus, is also expected to provide an impetus to the area around the northeast coast. Khun Suraphan Ngamjisukri, the enigmatic driving force behind Misson Hills, and his aptly named son, Golf, are aiming to provide an experience that will clinch Phuket’s place as one of Asia’s premier golf destinations. Cradled by hills on one side and scenic costal views along the rolling fairways, Mission Hills will also provide top-class resort facilities.

The impressive Thai-style clubhouse including restaurants a business centre, spa and swimming pool will complement 72 deluxe hotel rooms, further enhancing the image of Phuket as a lifestyle destination. Beyond the golf course, residential developments are also under way and more are anticipated.

While many of the east-coast projects aim at the seemingly inexhaustible supply of high rollers, local companies such as Tri Asia believe that the market is changing towards more affordable property in the 4-12 million baht range. One of their projects, Grove Gardens, on Cape Yamu, offers apartments starting at 5 million baht, with many of them having already been snapped up. Apartments are relatively new item in Phuket’s inventory.

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