BY: PHOOWADON DUANGMEE
The economic malaise seems to be having little impact on Phuket's hotel and housing boom. On the way from the airport there's plenty of construction. And on Tuesday, the Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket - which already has 226 rooms and suites - will unveil the Dusit Thani Pool Villas at Bang Tao, the serene beach north of Patong and Kamala.
While the Laguna Phuket is all low-slung buildings clustered around a beach and lagoon filled with guests, the new Pool Villas offer complete privacy. They are indeed more like private residences - assuming you might own a Bt30-million vacation home on the island.
"We're aiming at the upmarket, the Middle Eastern holidaymakers and expatriates in Asia, for example," says Laguna Phuket general manager Peter Komposch.
"Here, you won't mix with the crowd. You have your own splendid view, sundeck and infinity pool."
"Private pool villa" is an overused phrase. More often than not, guests find they've paid for nothing more than a double bed in a boxy cottage. The Dusit is utterly different.
Set idyllically amid swaying coconut palms, with a vast lagoon and white sandy beach, the Dusit Laguna Villa has 28 exclusive units that are the only pool villas for rent on Bang Tao Beach.
The three-storey property is designed to ensure the guests total comfort and privacy.
"Each villa comfortably fits a family of four," says public-relations manager Nataran Jitpakdee as she gives us a sneak peak ahead of the opening.
They're not quite fully furnished, so no chance for an overnight stay, but I'd say these villas can handle even six people.
The stylish interiors are a perfect ambience for a sophisticated yet informal lifestyle in the carefree environment of a tropical-island residence.
On the second floor are the kitchen, a fine stock of wine, a large dining table, a spacious living room with tempting couches and a magnificent television set. This is a casual vacation home, not a hotel room. You could throw a great party here, at least for a small crowd.
There are two bedroom suites, each with a spacious bathroom. The master has a king-sized bed and the guests' room two double beds. Immediately outside all the bedrooms are small gardens.
Up on the flat roof, guests can have an outdoor shower, curl up on lounges or swim in their own infinity pool - it's big enough for two. It's a magnificent ocean view across the beach in one direction and a peaceful lagoon vista from the other side.
The Dusit Laguna Pool Villas hit a new high in luxury with three floors to spread out in. Don't even think about checking in alone.
Dusit Laguna Villa at a Glance
High point: Luxury at an affordable price
Low point: Bang Tao Beach is steep, with rough waves, so it's no fund for swimming.
Find it: On Bang Tao Beach on Phuket's west coast
Pay for it: The prices start at Bt14,400+ per night, including breakfast for four, a bottle of wine, wi-fi and a 90-minute spa treatment for two at half the usual price. You can also borrow a laptop computer or bicycle.
Phone it: + 66-076-362-999
Browse it: www.Dusit.com