Banyan Group expands Phuket luxury residential offerings with US$2 billion Laguna Lakelands

Banyan Group is working to build the largest luxury residential project on Phuket. David Ho visits the Thai island to hear about the latest developments from those involved in the ambitious undertaking

Overview of Laguna Lakelands.

Banyan Group has long held sway in Phuket, as the property development and hospitality group opened its first Banyan Tree resort on the Thai island in 1994. This is why KP Ho (Ho Kwon Ping), the founder and executive chairman of Banyan Group, hails their latest Laguna Lakelands project as a “homecoming” for the company as it approaches its 30th anniversary.

In a nutshell, the US$2 billion (HK$15.6 billion) Laguna Lakelands project is set to be part of Phuket’s largest private residential community, set within the 1,000-acre Laguna Phuket. Up to 6,000 residences are expected to be built there over the next 5 to 10 years as construction begins this year.

A villa with pool.

Located on the island’s central west coast, the self-contained green sanctuary of Laguna Phuket spans about a million square metres (276 acres) with botanical gardens, parks, rainforest, lagoons and rolling hills making up the surroundings. The lush ecosystem here is used to divide the Laguna Lakelands project into five distinct themed residential zones, namely a Forest Living Zone, Lagoon Living Zone, Orchard Living Zone, Lakeside Living Zone and a Valley Living Zone. There are also two zones – a Rainforest Park Zone and a Wellness Retreat Zone – that serves residents and visitors alike.

It helps that the community there is also not too far off from 3km of pristine white sands on Bang Tao Beach, one of the more exclusive beaches in Phuket. The location is also a convenient half-hour drive away from the airport, which is perfect for the jet-setting resident. Despite ticking all the boxes for the ideal tropical hideout, there are other aspects of the project that Ho wants to highlight.

Laguna Lakelands is interconnected by 15km of walkways, foot bridges and cycling trails, along with its own dedicated residents’ Beach Club and Country Club.

“Because it’s a massive project of one square kilometre, we have the opportunity here to build a real urban community. What differentiates this project is that it would be a planned urban community of the largest size one can imagine. Secondly, it’s not just a gated community like in other countries. We will have a perimeter of trails and botanic gardens accessible to the public. That’s what will differentiate it from other projects around the world,” Ho tells #legend.

He sees it as both a way of giving back to the local community and to give traditionally gated community residents a chance to interact and integrate. In fact, Ho thinks this could be a model for the future. “The ambition that we have is to be innovative and set trends, not about dollar value. No one has yet to do a project of this scale with a focus on integration. If we do it well, this could set an example to others,” he says.

Living in Laguna Lakelands is to be life surrounded by nature.

What’s also interesting is the variety of plans and the diversity of price points within the Laguna Lakelands project. The residences, from apartments with rooftop sky parks to waterfront villas with private pools, run the range from US$200,000 to US$1.7 million. Banyan Group is also offering financing options that allow those interested in purchasing residences to pay in stages over several years. “Luxury should not be synonymous with price. Banyan Tree Resort happens to be expensive as a hotel in order to survive, but luxury should be in the eye of the beholder,” explains Ho.

Banyan Group actively chose to avoid hiring star architects, instead opting for fresh talent with an understanding of ‘tropical architecture’. “We try to promote young and upcoming designers. We don’t need validation from star architects to work, we have our own sense of who we are. Instead we would like to use the financial power we have to encourage young architects and designers in this area to showcase their abilities,” says Ho, who believes that designers require “a sense of place” given the location.

A peek at the living room of a three-bedroom unit.

Ho and his brother acquired the land for Laguna Phuket in the 1980’s, when it resembled a barren moonscape. Banyan Group’s endeavour to transform the former tin mine into Laguna Phuket is nothing short of a miracle, as they turned it from abandoned wasteland to a tropical paradise. As Ho tells us, the land was severely polluted and damaged by tin mining and nothing would grow. Over the next few decades, Banyan Group would undertake plenty of measures to restore the land to a lush landscape.

Ho is candid when asked what inspired him to take on such a challenge. “Not ever having been a hotelier (at the time), meaning not tainted or burdened by too much knowledge or experience. If you asked me today, if I encountered this would I have done it? With the wisdom and scars of age, I would have said you must be crazy! But sometimes it’s true, ignorance is bliss and youth are ignorant. So that’s not always bad,” he says. “So you know, we just did it.”

The experience left him with a deep sense of duty to the environment, which led to Banyan Group to work with Thai authorities on matters such as infrastructure, traffic planning, preventing overdevelopment, and even generating all of Laguna Phuket’s own water supplies.

Modes of transport in Laguna Phuket include shuttle boats.

Banyan Group’s change from hospitality to residential offerings suggests a pivot in how Phuket is perceived. “The launch of our new project clearly shows the paradigm shift we’re seeing from Phuket as a great place to visit, to Phuket as a great place to live, with a huge demand not only for second homes but increasingly for primary residence,” Ho says. “High-quality property is still significantly cheaper in Phuket than in most of the buyer source markets like Hong Kong, Singapore or Europe, which is also an important factor.”

KP Ho and Stuart Reading of Banyan Group

Stuart Reading, Banyan Group’s managing director of group property development, hails this project as “an exceptionally rare opportunity for individuals seeking the luxurious Phuket lifestyle, to own one of these ultimate Banyan Tree branded residences, which come with all the added benefits and world-class amenities of iconic Laguna Phuket.” Reading himself is a long-time resident of Phuket and has raised his family there to give them “a proper childhood.” There is certainly no better testimony for Phuket living than that.

To make a stronger case for it, the first two blocks of Lakeview Residences in Laguna Lakelands have already been snapped up by those who visited Phuket when the project was first announced. There will be a sales event to introduce Laguna Lakelands to the Hong Kong market at The Park Lane Causeway Bay Hotel on March 2 and 3, 2024, from 11am to 6pm.

Also see: Rebranded Banyan Group announces 19 new openings

In this Story: #art & design / #destinations / #homes