Old Phuket Town
Discover Historical District
Unlike many Thai provincial capitals, Phuket Town fairly shines with personality and nowhere more so than its Old Town. In this historically rich part of town you will find shrines, temples (Buddhist and Chinese), ornate and beautifully preserved 'shophouses', quaint cafés, tiny printing shops, impromptu private and public museums and even a mini ex-red light district.
Phuket Old Town was built on riches reaped from Phuket's tin boom of last century, when the metal was an extremely valuable commodity. In this quarter of the town you will see grandiose Sino-colonial mansions, once occupied by Phuket's tin barons of 100 years' ago. Phuket Old Town is compact enough to stroll around in. The best time to do this is early in the morning or after the day has lost its heat. There are enough restaurants and cafés to provide you with refreshments so don't bother taking a picnic along!
- Rafting & Elephant Trekking
- Cruise on the June Bahtra to Phang Nga Bay
- Phi Phi Island by Speedboat
- Phuket Fantasea Show
- 4 in 1 Safari with Junk Cruise
- Phang Nga by speed boat + Canoe
- Bamboo Rafting or River Canoeing + Elephant Trekking + Elephant Bathing
- Krabi Highlights by Speedboat
- Khaosok Discovery (Canoe)
- Hong by Starlight with John Gray Sea Canoe
At the heart of Phuket's Old Town is Thalang Road, the commercial centre of Phuket's past. Here, you will find various fascinating shophouses selling such exotic wares as Chinese herbal medicine and handicrafts. One aspect to note about this architecture (so often called 'Sino-Portugese' but in reality 'Sino-colonial') is that the shophouses and residences in this area are many more times longer than they are wide, with residences featuring heavily accented latticework entries.
The cooking and bathing area is at the back of these buildings, open to cooling breezes and each residence has an air shaft that goes up through the centre, ensuring ventilation. Of course these shafts let in rain which is collected in a sort of in-house pond often containing exotic fish. Many old town roads and streets have covered arcades ('noh-kaa-kee') or archways that join shops together and provide cover for passers by. (Read more...)
The road directly to the north of Thalang Road is Dibuk Road. Here again, Phuket's past is evoked - 'dibuk' being Thai for 'tin'. This road features textile and arts shops and a French restaurant - called the Dibuk. Further south lies Phang Nga Road where you will see an old Phuket establishment, the On On Hotel.
The On On is famous for being famous: many backpackers choose to stay there, in spite of the rather meagre facilities, less-than-cheery staff, gloomy rooms and other, cheaper and brighter alternatives close by. Perhaps people are drawn to it because of its star quality - the hotel featured as a Bangkok flophouse in the movie The Beach.
Other Phuket edifices that have starred in Hollywood are the Phuket Government Buildings on Damrong Road, and the Governor's Residence on Thepkassatri Road, both featured in The Killing Fields. Baan Chinpracha on Krabi Road has also appeared in Heaven and Earth as well as TV's Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
Other Places of Interest
Carrying on further west and past the now closed-down day market, you will come to the Chinese Jui Tui Shrine. This shrine is where people use bamboo blocks to obtain advice from the shrine's oracle. Ask a 'yes or no' question then throw the blocks gently in the air. If both blocks land on the same side the answer is 'no'. If one lands up and the other down the answer is 'yes'. A small donation to the shrine is appreciated. Next to the Jui Tui shrine is Pud Jow ('God Talks') Chinese Taoist Temple. Built 200 years ago, it is the oldest of its sort in Phuket. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 20:30
- Location: Next to Put Jaw Chinese Temple on Soi Phuthorn, Ranong Road, not far from Phuket’s main market.
Shrine of the Serene Light
A few doors up to the west of the On On Hotel is the Shrine of the Serene Light but you will not notice it unless you walk down a short alley to it. This shrine was built in 1889 by a local Chinese family and is relatively little known due to its concealed location.
- Location: Next to On On Hotel on Thalang Road
At the western end of Rassada Road stands a traffic circle with what looks like large green guns mounted on it. This is the Suriyadate Fountain and the water-spouting 'guns' are in fact what used to be extremely powerful water cannons that blasted top soil and rocks away in the tin mining process.
Thavorn Hotel Museum
On close by Rassada Road (named after Ratsada Korsimbi Na Ranong, Phuket's forward-thinking governor of 100 years' ago) in the Thavorn Hotel you will find a fascinating collection of miscellaneous memorabilia in its lobby and adjoining ground floor rooms. Here, there are strongboxes, ancient-looking typewriters, antique postboxes and toys as well as photos from past eras to admire.
- Location: Rassada Road