Mr. Poowadol Chailittidej is one of the first architects to deign hotels on koh Phangan and one of the most sought after architects on the island. He designed Drop-In hotel, Haad Son, Haad Yao sea view and many private residents around the island. 3 years ago his wife Pat Kuhsakul and him opened the Art Café in Srithanu, a vegetarian restaurant specializing in special herbal tea blends and health food.
How did you first arrive to Koh Phangan and how was it back then? A friend from Koh Phangan who studied with me in Bangkok invited me to visit Koh Phangan for the first time about 30 years ago. I went to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
These days there was no pier, no roads, no cars and no motorbikes. Some of the locals were using bicycles. There were just coconut trees all around. Haad Rin and Thong Sala did not exist at that time. There were just around 4 to 5 very old bungalows spread on the beach. I stayed in Baan Tai with my friend and sometimes we were going to Chaloklum. There days Chaloklum was the center for the locals who lived on the island. People came to eat and drink, because there were many fishing boats and fishermen there. Since then I came to visit almost every year.
What was your first project on Koh Phangan?
22 years ago, my friend built resort in Haad Rin called Sea garden and I made the design for it. It was very small bungalows style and very simple. Back then the toilet were outside and it cost between 20 to 30 baht a night for a room. As for us we didn’t even stay in the bungalows as we always preferred to stay and sleep on the beach.
What other projects were you involved with on Koh Phangan? I am permanent on Koh Phangan for about 10 years now. I designed the Drop-In hotel and after that many other resorts such as Haad Son resort, Haad Yao sea view and Haad Yao day view. In addition I designed many houses around the island.
What are the main motives in designing a building on Koh Phangan?
The owners usually ask for a solid and strong construction, from concrete, because on Koh Phangan there are monsoons and strong winds. On that layer in many cases we add wood and it most important for us to keep the trees and not damaging the nature around.
As for the idea of the design, it’s the property owner who brings 60% of the concept and I bring the other 40%. The concept should come from the owner. They tell me what style they want and than I can recommend how to go forward.
How did the Fullmoon festival party started? Not many people came for the first party, maybe about 20. Sea Garden and Paradise bungalows are located on Haad Rin beach not far from each other, so we made the party in that area. Then every month more and more people started arriving to the Fullmoon party and now it is a worldwide famous event.
When and how the activity start spread outside of Haad Rin to other places around the island?
This phase started about 17 years ago. Many tourists that came to Haad Rin wanted to have a tour around the island, visiting other beaches. Some of the locals who had land in these areas started developing these places making bars, restaurants and hotels.
There was a big boost after the law in Thailand was changed and allowed foreigners to open companies and buy a piece of land. 51% of the business should be owned by a Thai resident and the other 49% can be owned by a foreigner. That new law brought many new investors and helped developing the island. There were many investments in Thong Nai Pan, Haad Salad and Chaloklum. Many properties in these areas are owned by companies.
What is your opinion about the foreigners who want to build a property on Koh Phangan? I am happy that people want to come and stay on Koh Phangan and build their house here. According to the law we have here, when making a new property it is allowed to build up to 30% of the size of the land. When building a house there are usually no problems but when it comes to hotels, usually the owners want to build 2-3 floors that will occupy much bigger percent of the area. This will come on behalf of the nature around and we are trying to avoid that.
What are the current rules regards building next to the waterline?
Basically the first 12 meters should be kept empty and then after that you can build up to 12 meter high. The total size of a structure should not be bigger than 100 square meters per 1 building.
We are now in a process of making a new law that allows buildings up to 6 meter high 12 meters from waterline and not more than 75 square meters per 1 building. Otherwise we worry that it will just take the entire beach away.
What about the new airport?
They are now making a runaway near Than Sadet. The company name Kan Air and they have activity in north Thailand, Chang Mai and Chang Rai. It works for them very well there as all flights are full.
Here it’s currently planned for small airplanes for 12 passengers maximum but if they will succeed to build a runaway longer than 2 km it will also be possible to have bigger airplanes up to 70 passengers.
As for now there are some rumors about an airport near Chaloklum. Many people are confused about that. The truth is that for now none of them have the license for running an airport. They already started building it and they try to get the license while building. Nothing is sure yet and everything can still happen.
The important thing about that is that there will be an agreement with the airline saying that if someone on the island will get sick or seriously injured they will fly him to Bangkok for a treatment on company behalf. This is how it works today in north Thailand, and it works well.
What are the plans for tourism development on Koh Phangan? Most of the tourists on Koh Phangan usually spend not more than few days on the island during the Fullmoon week. We would like them to stay here for a longer period and show them the many other attractions this island has to offer. For that purpose the tourist association on Koh Phangan is now working on dividing the island in different sections where each section emphasis the special attraction in that area. Srithanu is about healthy life styles. Yoga courses, Detox treatments, Reiki and Thai massage and healthy food. Chaloklum is a fisherman village with a lot of great seafood restaurants. Hin Kong has an amazing beach with white shells and so on..
You have Art Café in Haad Cha Pao, can you please tell us about it?
Art café is tea shop, café and vegetarian restaurant. I designed the building as a fusion of Old Thai style combined with modern.
It all started when I got married. My wife moved from Haad Rin to stay here with me in Srithanu and got into yoga and vegetarian food and more healthy ways of living. As a part of that we opened Art Café about 3 years ago with the help of 2 friends from the US that my wife knows for 10 years.
These friends taught us about the ingredients and the mixing of good, tasty and healthy tea blends. It’s very accurate science and every ingredient has its own special amount and mix procedure. We followed our friends’ advice and made a small menu. If you have big menu in a small place like Koh Phangan it is impossible to keep all ingredients available and fresh.
Why is Koh Phangan special for you and why have you decided to make this place your home. For me staying in Koh Phangan is not even a matter of choosing. It’s called in Thai language Chokata which means destiny in English. You are not deciding about that, it is life that is fixing it for u.
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