Daring, creative and bold. They are essential attributes among the world’s leading visionaries, artists, storytellers and designers. People who push the boundaries of their respective disciplines without fear of veering from the straight-and-narrow. They are qualities Krystal Prakaikaew Na-Ranong, better known by her nickname “Moo”, knows too well.
The daughter of renowned hotelier Wichit Na-Ranong, who has been hailed as the “father of tourism in Phuket”, Moo is one of the driving forces behind the recent rebranding of The Slate (formerly Indigo Pearl), a renowned five-star luxury hotel she co-owns with her father.
As it turns out, the transformation is much more daring than a simple name-change and facelift.
The resort’s entire methodology toward guest service is changing, focusing on an avant-garde approach to experiential travel – a buzzing trend in the hospitality industry at the moment – and aims to explore Phuket’s rich heritage through excursions to lost and forgotten locations around the island.
Overhauling your family’s long-standing hotel brand isn’t for the faint-hearted, especially at a time when competition in Phuket’s hospitality scene is fiercer than ever.
“Being daring, creative, bold and believing in what you do, all of those things are tremendously important [to me],” she says. “Our guests want to steer away from a normal Phuket holiday formula – they are looking for something out of the ordinary.
The Slate is a strikingly original manifestation of the island’s true soul. Its rich culture and traditions brought to life with bold design and inspiring creativity.
“I believe if you have a good story to tell, and tell it confidently, then people who listen and experience your story will enjoy it, because that is exactly what people want. They want something different. So, I think, ‘Why not be who you are and [create a concept] that you believe in?’”
It’s Moo’s affinity for alternative ideas and desire for creative expression that helped birth Indigo Pearl almost a decade ago, which became known across Thailand for its bold industrial chic design and implementation of tin mining motifs (tin mining was one of the first booming industries in Phuket and the original Na-Ranong family business).
The creation of Indigo Pearl was a change with the times. Guests demanded more than simply a roof over their heads and a nice beach to soak in the sun.
They wanted an experience that would teach them about the island. Something that would make them say, “Wow!”.
Moo’s personal touch can be felt throughout The Slate (and Indigo Pearl before it), including the décor at the resort’s Coqoon Spa and the creation of a new art salon called Shades, which showcases work from international artists.
Moo was also responsible for originally hiring renowned hotel architect Bill Bensley to help transform Pearl Village Hotel into Indigo Pearl almost a decade ago.
The two are still good friends, and Bensley has come back on board to help make touch-ups to The Slate to match the brand’s new approach to hospitality.
Despite the hefty task of rebranding one of Phuket’s most iconic hotels, a job that would usually demand a workaholic with poor work-life balance, Moo maintains remarkable stability between her career, family and social life – something she learned from watching her grandmother as a child.
“She was a hard-working woman who also wanted to have fun,” says Moo. “She would not just finish the work day and then come home and go to bed. She had a very active social life because it was important to her, and I believe I inherited that trait from spending so much time with her.”
Moo is a self-confessed foodie, and spends much of her free time discovering new restaurants around Bangkok and the places she visits while travelling, which, as you can probably guess, she does a lot.
She lists Madrid, Spain, as her favourite city to visit in the world, and has already travelled there a whopping 10 times – also no doubt one of the reasons she studies Spanish in her spare time.
She is also an avid player of the Chinese harp, which she feels a therapeutic way to unwind.
A recurring theme in Moo’s outlook on life seems to be letting things unfold in a natural way.
Although she was raised by one of Thailand’s hospitality legends in her father, Moo says she was never pressured to enter the family business. Rather, her penchant for the industry slowly developed naturally.
A mother of two sons, Henry (17) and Hunter (15), Moo describes herself as a liberal parent – observing how her children develop, giving them the best advice possible, but ultimately allowing them to find their own path.
“Of course I want the best for them, but I do not want to enforce anything,” she says. “I’m trying to observe their personalities. Both of them are very different, and they are changing as they get older.
Now, I’m watching who they are and who they will become. I will try to give them the best advice, but they are both boys, so they have to learn how to survive.”
The words “daring”, “creative” and “bold” not only describe Moo’s business philosophy but are also clearly traits she possesses in spades. When asked about her management philosophy, one gets the feeling she is also talking about her approach to life as well.