Gordon Oldham is the entrepreneur, adventurer and philanthropist who created The Pavilions as a celebration of all the elements that reflect his love of design, life, nature, history, conservation, adventure and culture.
He and his wife Danielle explain their mission this way: “Our travels as a couple left us yearning for something more. On every continent, we stayed at five-star grand dames and under-the-radar boutique properties, yet we constantly set out in search of paradise, then left feeling that something was missing.
“When we began to think we were chasing the impossible, we decided to do something about it. Inspired by the famous novel The Far Pavilions, an epic tale of two lovers who traverse the world to unite in an exquisite place where they can find true peace, we built a haven away from home, where we would be treated like VIPs, yet always feel utterly comfortable”.
Since its opening in 2008, The Pavilions Phuket, set in a verdant amphitheatre of tropical vegetation high above the stunning west coast overlooking Bang Tao Beach, has established a reputation for the ultimate in service and excellence which does indeed seem to manifest a local version of Gordon and Danielle Oldham’s vision of paradise.
I was recently sitting on the glorious elevated platform of The Plantation Club, one of the resort’s signature restaurants, with Scot Toon, Managing Director – Asia for The Pavilions group, and I asked him whether the undoubted beauty and exclusivity of The Pavilions wasn’t just an oasis far away from the reality of Phuket itself.
“The Pavilions is serious about investing back into the local economic, social and environmental reality of Phuket. As an example, the sensation degustation menu we are experiencing is proudly 100% locally sourced. We believe in supporting our local farmers, sourcing fresh and ethically grown produce to serve rich and natural flavours so that we do our part in supporting the community along with delivering a superior culinary experience with a modern European presentation.
“We also continually strive to replace wasteful processes with sustainable alternatives. Our newly appointed garden and farm, with organically grown herbs, mushroom house, chickens and quail, supply our restaurants with fresh produce under the watchful eye of our gardener and farmer team.
“We also have strong ethical policies with our greatest asset – our team – plus strong community engagement with local suppliers and companies with which we do business. In these ways I believe we do our utmost to move Phuket in the direction of paradise.”
Scot studied Hotel Management at Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua, New Zealand. His extensive career has taken him to such potential paradises as the Maldives, Sri Lanka and the Great Barrier Reef’s Hayman Island, plus he has plenty of hands-on experience as a flight attendant and then manager with Qantas and Ansett Australia airlines. He also garnered abundant Phuket-based experience opening Paresa Resort and Kata Rocks prior to joining The Pavilions in 2018.
I asked whether there was a tendency among the resort’s high-end, sophisticated customers to adopt a ‘fortress’ mentality and avoid leaving the highly seductive pleasures of The Pavilions’ extensive grounds.
“We do everything we can to stimulate engagement with the local community by offering a broad array of experiences to tempt our guests to play and explore. From island-hopping and elephant sanctuary visits, to night shows, to visits with farmers, fisher-folk, markets and even rubber tappers, we believe in maximising our guests’ exposure to these hand-on and sometimes secret adventures”.
So, can Phuket become a version of the paradise that Mary Kaye, the author of The Far Pavilions, had posited at the close of her novel?
“Clearly, that would require a continued shift in the intentions and actions of the government and tourist agencies which control the levers of power and funding of Phuket’s development, combined with private enterprise working with organisations like Phuket Hotels Association in support. But we believe that we should do all we can as private businesses lucky enough to operate here to make the island as close to a paradise as possible”.
A noble sentiment indeed.