The sincerest form of flattery

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BY CHEYENNE HOLLIS

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It no longer takes a 12-hour flight from Thailand to indulge in the charm of Tuscany, the sophistication of England or the mysteries of Morocco. Several residential projects throughout the country have brought the joys of Europe much closer to home.

A quick look around yields a view of palm trees and Moorish architecture that dominates Moroccan cities. Technically, you would even be in Marrakesh but don’t bother looking for the famed Jemaa el-Fnaa. That is because you would actually be in Thailand at the Marrakesh Residences Hua Hin one of the growing number of upscale, themed residential projects.

“It is important for the developer to understand the difference in taste of the target market and ensure that the product appeals to the widest range possible,” Aliwassa Pathnadabutr, managing director of CBRE Thailand explains. “Therefore, most developers play safe by choosing an overall modern or contemporary style, which appears to appeal to a wide base and then adding Asian or Western accents through interior design and furniture.”

This certainly holds true as the property market in Thailand is full of developments that implement certain elements of Western design alongside traditional Asian influences. These projects are often topped off with a luxurious sounding name to hammer the point home, pun fully intended.

A few developers have ditched this trend and are now aiming these niche developments to cater to Asian buyers. “The difference between Asian and Western buyers, however, seems to be that Asians prefer Western themes such as Tuscan, Mediterranean, English, and French decor whereas Westerners, especially Europeans, prefer Thai and other Asian styles such as Balinese,” Aliwassa notes. {+++}

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Almost all of these projects are located in Thailand’s resort towns with the focus being on Khao Yai and Hua Hin; two locations within driving distance from Bangkok. According to Aliwassa, this themed architecture is basically a marketing tool serving aesthetic rather than real needs. “That is why this is a much more common practice amongst resort home developments or projects marketed as second homes,” she says.

Aliwassa believes constructing this type of project is not without risk. “If the theme is poorly designed and executed through the use of low quality materials, for example, it can damage the original concept in the eyes of the high-end and luxury target customers,” she says. “At the same time, to justify the cost of materials used and the generally high standard of specification, to be successful the project must be aimed at the high-end to luxury market where the developer can sell at higher prices.”

The demand for these themed projects comes down to how successfully it can recreate the vibe and ambiance of the place it is imitating. In Hua Hin, both the Marrakesh Residences and Mykonos, a resort based upon the Greek isle, are already sold out while projects in Khao Yai have also found success.

“One of the best examples of a themed holiday home is the very successful Toscana Valley in Khao Yai, which is aimed at the luxury market with houses priced from THB25 million (USD778,670) to over THB100 million (USD3.1 million). The project’s Tuscan theme is reinforced with a beautifully recreated Tuscan landscape on 2,500 rai of land,” Aliwassa says.

In many ways, these projects are no different than the multitude of Asian themed resorts aimed at the foreign market in Thailand’s resort areas.  “We can look at Amanpuri and Andara in Phuket, both of which have a Thai theme and are focused on the foreign market. There is also the Four Seasons Resort in Chiangmai, which caters to Western tastes with its ethnic flavor,” she states.

It is unlikely that developers will start flooding the market with themed residences in either direction, however.

“It is our opinion that themed developments are more of a fad in the mid-end market; there are a limited number of customers for themed projects in the high end to luxury market,” Aliwassa concludes. “The success of such projects depends on many factors such as the right location, surroundings, landscape, as well as the right design and materials. This is a very niche market trending at a minor level.”

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A TASTE OF GREECE

The Crest Santora in Hua Hin uses the Greek island of Santorini as its design inspiration. The radiant white and brilliant blue that have made so many people fall in love with the architecture of the Greek isles has been dropped down on the northern outskirts of Hua Hin.

While The Crest Santora is located on the Hua Hin beachfront, the Gulf of Thailand is not quite as beautiful as the Aegean Sea, so saltwater swimming pools will run through the property to try and recreate that Aegean magic of clear blue waters.

There are 1 to 3 bedroom units available plus a select number of duplex and villas available. Prices start at THB4 million (USD125,000) and run up to THB40 million (USD1.2 million). The project features a fitness room, beach party deck and garden all keeping in the Santorini theme. The project is 95 percent complete and is scheduled for completion in Q4 of this year.

Did you know?

While houses on most Greek isles were originally painted white, this was not always the case on Santorini. Houses were painted a multitude of different colours until laws were passed during military rule in the 1970s to require all houses to be painted white.

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ENGLISH SENSIBILITY

In the mountains of Khao Yai, a development is springing up that is arguably more English than tea and crumpets. Kensington Place Khao Yai is recreating a little slice of England in Thailand. The project consists of condominiums, semi-detached houses and detached houses all designed all designed as English-style mansions.

Kensington Place fully commits to the theme, too. You can live on William or Catherine Court and the housing styles include the Surrey, the Oxford and the Greenwich. There is also a full English garden, clubhouse and even a Catholic church on the site to add to the authenticity.

The project was designed by Thai architect Amnaj Keetapanna who specialises in designing English-style dwellings. Developers Torfun Property also considered prospective buyers before selecting a plot of land build on. The site was identified as a centre of “Chi” by Feng Shui masters. There probably are not a lot of old-style English mansions in England that can claim that.

Did you know?

According to Foxtons Estate Agents, the average property value in the Kensington district of London is GBP1.5 million (USD2.4 million).

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CAMELS NOT INCLUDED

The Marrakesh Residences Hua Hin has probably been more successful than Major Developers could have ever hoped for. Combined with the Marrakesh Resort & Spa, this Moroccan themed beachfront property attracted many Thai celebrities and became a must stop weekend spot for Bangkok’s younger, hi-so crowd.

Embracing contemporary Moroccan style, this beachfront condominium accurately captures the look and feel of the North African country. The standout feature of the Marrakesh Residences is a pool that measures in at nearly one kilometre in length, making it the longest in Hua Hin. A private lawn overlooks the ocean and other features include a multi-purpose landmark pavilion, a Moroccan garden, fitness centre and luxurious reception area.

The project is sold out, however, you can find1 bedroom/1 bathroom units that started off at THB4.5 million (USD140,00) now fetching THB6 million (USD187,00) on the resale market.

Did you know?

The most famous style of house in Morocco is the riad. A riad focuses inward and features a central open space that features a garden or fountain. This is done to promote privacy, an important part of Islamic daily life.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL

It is not just condominiums that are embracing foreign themes in Thailand. Shopping centres, hotels and even petting zoos are bringing some of the world’s most popular places back to the country.

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Greek myth

Located in Cha-Am, Santorini Park and Water Fantasy is a Greek isle inspired carnival, waterpark and mall that is a popular hotspot with Bangkokians on weekends. Realistically, the white buildings look cool but the Ferris wheel and water slides kind of take away from the authenticity of it all.

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Walk like an Egyptian

The Egypt Boutique Hotel in Bangkok is a 3.5 star hotel dedicated to all things ancient Egypt.  It is no tackier than any of the hotels up and down the Nile River that basically do the same design to cater tourists. However, it still must be somewhat disorientating to step out onto the Bangkok streets after spending the night in a hotel fit for the pharaoh.

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Lover’s Lane

Mimosa Pattaya was designed using the French city of Colmar in the Alsace region as a template. Billed as “The City of Love” and opened on Valentine’s Day of 2013, it has become the mecca for romantic weekend getaways in Thailand. Those who don’t have the loving feeling can just enjoy the architecture that saw it win the 2013 Thailand Property Awards for Best Commercial Development.

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Fine Wine

Just outside of Korat, you will find a French-style village and chateau that has become one of the leaders in Thailand wine.  The Village Farm and Winery nestled in a vineyard and strives to give visitors a taste of the French countryside. A hotel, winery and restaurant can all be found on the property.

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Heavy Petting

A little taste of the Swiss the countryside on the road between Bangkok and Hua Hin has become a major hit for road trippers. The Swiss Sheep Farm is a petting zoo that features sheep feeding, llama petting and even a few black swans.

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