Mr Chairat Sukaban, Deputy Mayor of Patong Municipality, and one of his office’s architects, Supasis Utairat, exclusively showed Phuketindex their plans to build a new welcome ‘gateway’, although it is more in the style of a monument park or landmark, with 2 pillars in a walking area on each side of the steep road up from the east side in Kathu to the west side in Patong. The 4 pillars are in the shape of banana tree trunks or big leaves known in Thai as ใบตอง or ‘paitong’, so they represent the symbol of Patong beachside city. On top of the pillars will be white round pearls, as Phuket is known as the ‘Pearl of the Andaman’, and they will be lit up at night and always moving around by water which flows around them.
Mr Chairat told Phuketindex that “the project is supported by the governor and started on 7 April and should end on 5 September this year with a budget of 9,080,000 baht; the budget is little as the registered population is not more than 18,700 people in Patong Municipality, but our architects’ concepts were originally much better & nicer, but as the agreed budget was less we had to cut the project down, yet it still looks like a gateway.”
Similar in style to Hollywood’s iconic landmark, the words ‘Patong City’ will be inscribed in English (not Thai) on the higher wall facing the road & Kathu. Chairat said “we will also build a retaining wall on the lower side as it is steep there; then we will not be worried about landslides; however there will be no parking area – car drivers cannot stop there; just look at as they pass, as it is a welcome sign; not a viewpoint but there is space for pedestrians who walk there (from the top or bottom of the hill!) to look from the pavements around the pillars; there is no arch or bridge like in some gateways as it would be dangerous for traffic; I think it is rather like Singapore’s symbolic lion statue but better; the pearls will actually move around, with the water moving them & a fountain underneath; with a light inside the pearl!”
He claims no more natural trees will be cut around the site although a significant clearing of the jungle below has already been made; the towers will be 6 metres high about the same height as some natural banana trees also grown nearby; he says the project has got full approval from authorities; unlike the grand multi-billion baht project to build a new tunnel under the same hill and road – he told us that even if that tunnel gets approval to be built, the existing road & new gateway will stay in place.
The architect said there is no space for parking as this is a main highway road, too steep and not wide enough; besides the budget money was not enough so they cannot build a car park; also the land beside the highway is actually private not government land; they only have 15 metres space from the road; that is enough space for the pillars, pavement and small viewpoints for people; they plan to build a longer pavement from Patong city (and maybe Kathu town) in future years when more money is available; but in the meantime they hope to open this new gateway by the next high tourist season this year; contract documents shown to Phuketindex indicate PS Company is the contracted constructor.
Mr Chairat told us they had planned this for quite while: “before we didn’t have any landmark to show people when they come to Patong; originally we wanted to build a bridge but that would be a problem if it got windy, and might cause even more accidents with high trucks or buses; even if the tunnel is built we will still keep this road as a free alternative; the tunnel, to be built by investors, will have a fee to enter, so they can recoup their money; some Korean investors want to build it, and are already in Thailand and are also interested in a monorail system; and even a express high speed train from Bangkok; they want to meet me and the Governor to discuss these mega projects.”
So Patong 2010 is finally getting its own iconic Gateway and lettering to show it has ‘arrived’ in the world with even bigger plans for the future.
Question for readers: What do you think of Gateway design and is it worth about 9 million baht?