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A hotel with Spanish flair

PHUKET: Building the distinctive Casa Blanca hotel has been a way for general manager Yodying “Giorgi” Viprakasit to introduce a touch of Spain to Phuket’s Old Town.

By Claire Connell

Friday 5 October 2012, 11:06AM

Fluent in Spanish and a lover of Spain, Giorgi moved to Phuket around six years ago, after living abroad for a large part of her life.

When her parents, who live in Trang, became majority shareholders in Phuket Provincial Trading Co Ltd in Phuket Town, this gave her family the option of taking over two buildings.

Part of the company’s building on Phang Nga Road was turned into the family’s cafe – Cafe y Té, a delightful Mediterranean-style coffee and cake house. The nearby warehouse on Phuket Rd, used by the company to keep rice, sugar and other goods, became vacant, and the family realised the potential of the site.

“It is very near to the old buildings and the old museums in Phuket Town, and since we are not local, we wanted to contribute to improving the Old Town. We wanted to put some value into the town, so we decided to build a hotel,” Giorgi says.

But the building on Phuket Rd was run down, and pretty ruined, and definitely not suitable for their dreams of a hotel. So they decided a complete rebuild was necessary, and four years ago, the warehouse was pulled down and rebuilding began.

The family were then approached by Somjai Suwannasupana, the Mayor of Phuket Town, who said that if they were going to rebuild, would they consider rebuilding in Sino-Portuguese style? The family agreed.

Fast forward four years, and the three-storey hotel, which is still not completely finished, comprises 17 rooms, and an impressive swimming pool area. When driving past Casa Blanca from the road, it’s impossible to realise the full size of the building. You can appreciate that only when you are inside the hotel.

Giorgi’s older sister Waluree designed the exterior, keeping true to the original style of shop houses in the Old Town, while Giorgi designed the interior.

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Casa Blanca has been designed like a Spanish colonial bed and breakfast, complete with a small inside garden like many Spanish properties. There’s an old-style elevator which requires the steel concertina door to be closed before it will move (remember the elevators in the movie Titanic?), and there’s a skylight above the garden. 

The hotel is decorated with a lot of Spanish art pieces and other items, most of which come from Giorgi’s personal collection.

“I used to go to Spain during my summer holidays when I lived in England, and my godmother is Spanish and she’s like a mum to me. That’s how I absorbed the culture, and developed my love for Spain. 

“I love the culture, the food and the passion, and Flamenco is my favourite music. A lot of people say I’m Spanish by nature too – I’m happy and warm, but I also have a hot temper.”

Born in Trang, Giorgi was raised in Bangkok. At age 14, she moved to England to attend school, before moving to Texas to attend university, followed by San Francisco. While in the States she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in business and Spanish language. She has lived in Spain, and studied cooking in Italy (hence, she bakes all the cakes fresh for her café).

While she has not run a hotel before, Giorgi does have management experience. She used to be the general manager of Nakarin Hospital, in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, which her family owns.

“Running a hotel and hospital are kind of similar, except in the hotel people are a lot happier. Being in the hotel should make you happy, so I have designed it with lots of white and green, relaxing colours. My aim is to make every guest have a good time while they are in Phuket Town.”

Casa Blanca, 26 Phuket Rd, Phuket Town. www.casablancaphuket.com

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