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I Thought New Nordic’s Castle was a Crazy Idea

A little fantasy goes a long way

Barton Walters

It’s a horrible feeling, but I’ve become totally apathetic about Pattaya real estate. Perhaps “jaded” or “over-exposed” or “saturated” are better words to describe how I feel. Indeed, condo sales pitches are inescapable here in Fun City. From every billboard, magazine and radio station the offers come. “X” number of bedrooms, “Y” number of square feet and “Z” amenities packages. Sorry to say, my real estate receptors are numb. I’ll quote Eric Clapton … “Hard to thrill … nothing seems to move me anymore”.

Just when I thought I couldn’t get excited about a condo in Pattaya, I visited the showrooms for The Palace and Castle projects, New Nordic Group’s VIP line.

Now, let me be clear; I did not go expecting to walk away with anything resembling a positive feeling. I went as a goof. I had heard about this crazy idea from New Nordic’s CEO Kurt Svendheim. He said he wants to build an honest-to-goodness medieval castle and a grand palace in the Nordic Village on Pratumnak Hill. The words that came to my mind were, “silly”, “self-indulgent” and “cheesy”. The question I seemed to need an answer to is “why?” Why would anyone think that building a medieval castle at a tropical seaside resort would be a good idea? More importantly, why would anyone want to buy one? Last year I took a look at the brochures, checked out the floor plans and chuckled as I reviewed the 3D renderings of both The Castle and The Palace. Why?

The Castle

Last week I drove around on the hill and witnessed New Nordic construction crews on both sites proceeding as scheduled. As it is with all New Nordic projects, if they say it’s going to happen, it is. Still shaking my head in amazement, I visited showrooms both for the Palace and The Castle projects and expected my preconceived notions to be confirmed. I expected to have proven to me once and for all that Kurt’s idea was crazy, kooky and silly but that’s not how things worked out.

I went to The Castle showroom to see a recently finished model. The first thing I noticed was the size of the suite. Not only is it big, but configured in an open plan that makes it look even bigger. The ceilings are nice and high and the materials used give the place an oversized feel. Even the bathrooms are designed to be wide open with stone colored tiles making it feel like an opulent bath house.

The next thing that became apparent is the attention to detail. The massive doors are very castle-like, but with modern hardware where it counts. The light fixtures pay homage to medieval torches without losing their practical function. Windows are the perfect shape for a castle but large enough to flood the place with natural light. The rough cut stone on the walls is just rustic enough.

But let’s remember, this is a castle where royalty lives, so there’s plenty of luxurious finishes like the marble-look columns, granite surfaces in the kitchen and the hot tub. And the Jacuzzi itself is very cool. A big window pouring natural light onto the round tub and the warmly lit dome with hand painted mural overhead is definitely made for royalty.

Complementing all this fantasy and luxury is a sense of practicality that makes the whole place feel well-balanced. Huge dark wood wardrobes offer enough room for long-stay guests. Generous kitchen cabinets and counter space ensure visitors who enjoy cooking and eating-in will be accommodated and sturdy-yet-comfortable furniture is designed to withstand punishment no matter how many times the castle is sieged.

As I walked to the next showroom I came away with the feeling, “Castle theme be damned … that’s just a nice condo! I could live there … I would live there”

The Palace

With my head still spinning from what I’d seen at The Castle showroom, I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Palace. While this showroom isn’t a complete representation of a unit yet, it’s enough to get a general idea of what The Palace is all about -being over-the-top. There’s a fine line between elegant and gauche and whoever New Nordic has designing these units knows exactly where it is. Glowing marble floors, sparkling crystal chandeliers and gilded furniture seem to illuminate the room from within.

I’m sure it would be easier just to throw a bunch of high-end materials, furniture and artwork together and call it “palatial” but that’s not the case at The Palace. Old world style meshes with modern design effortlessly. The wallpaper and furniture pays tribute to the royal luxury of days-gone-by but add modern shapes and materials and its pulled right into the-here-and-now.

Classic artwork is spaced and displayed comfortably, not stacked up to brashly impress. With this style there is always a danger of the place looking like a museum. At The Palace, I’d classify the feel as “livable luxury”. It is opulent. It is over-the-top. But I could totally fall asleep on that big sofa. So as I walked out the door towards the coffee shop I couldn’t help thinking, “I can’t wait to see this place when it’s done”.

Why Indeed?

So, my opinion of both these places changed dramatically, but had I answered my own question? Do I now understand “why”? The answer is yes. As bored as I had become with all the condo projects in Pattaya, The Castle and The Palace are a breath of fresh air. They are cool, they are fun and most of all … they are not boring. I thought perhaps the answer to the question “why” might be “why not?”

But a deeper look and better understanding of the market in Thailand reveals a more practical answer. With all the competition in Pattaya both developers and resort operators need a unique selling proposition (USP). They must offer something nobody else has. In the case of New Nordic’s upscale “VIP” brand of property they are all alone in this category. The fact that both Castle buildings are nearly sold out is testament to the demand for such a product.

Something else that needs to be understood is how these prestige properties fit into the Nordic Village scheme on Pratumnak Hill. I’ve long called New Nordic’s development of the Hill a big de-constructed cruise ship or theme park. As stand-alone projects they may seem kind of crazy. But, within the concept of the Nordic Village they are quite organic. Of course there’s a Castle … of course there’s a Palace! They are totally in synch with their surroundings. And, as a prospective investor, I try to climb into the mind of someone visiting Pattaya and ask “why” they would choose to stay one of these properties. I realize people have a choice. They could spend their precious holiday in a 26 square meter people-box staring out at the Japanese tourists parasailing all day or they could live in a castle with a moat and feast in a dining room made for knights. I don’t know about you, but that’s an easy call for me.

Especially here in Pattaya, a little bit of fantasy goes a long way.