Phuket Town, especially the Old Town fails to disappoint and ticks all the right boxes for me. I’ve lived in Phuket for many years and toured around Thailand, however, for one reason or another I’ve never explored Phuket Town. Whilst on my travels I found a tour guide book that is filled with all manner of trips to suit various timescales and budgets.
With this new book in hand, I seized the moment, picked up my cameras, and went on a mission. I parked the car in the Wat Mongkhon Temple (really convenient parking here, especially for the night market every Sunday) on Dibuk Road and retrieved my printed-out Google Map of Phuket. Here I had previously plotted some interesting stops based on what the guide advised.
“The town is surrounded in Sino-Portuguese architecture and I just love it”.James Alexander – Farangbowl Magazine.
Phuket Town is notably different from any other part of the Island. In town, we are given the feeling of stepping back in time and entering into a colonial metropolis with a menagerie of shops, restaurants, and local fare. You also can help but notice that the town is surrounded in Sino-Portuguese architecture and I just love it.
Thai Hua School – Dibuk Road
First up was the Thai Hua Alumni Association and school on Dibuk Road. A splendid example of Sino-Portuguese architecture. I met with a member of staff who informed me that many years ago this was a hospital. Now, however, it is an active school with students.
Dibuk Restaurant – Dibuk Road
This restaurant is a fine example of 100year old architecture. Now famed for its menu of fine French and Thai cuisine, it still retains its character, with soft-lit interior, rustic walls, and period furniture. I dined here recently and was overwhelmed by its charm.
The Blue Elephant Restaurant and Cooking School – Krabi Road
This building was the former governor’s mansion. An extremely impressive private residence with several acres of land to include a very British-style well kept lawn. It is now a fine dining restaurant, palatial bar, and cooking school. The grounds are surrounded by wrought iron gates, typical of the era.
Chinpracha House – Krabi Road
A nineteenth-century house that sits next door to the Blue Elephant, Chinpracha House is now a live museum meaning that the owners still live in the house. Due to its heritage and immaculately maintained grounds and architecture Chinpracha has been featured in several Hollywood movies including Oliver Stones 1993 Vietnam war drama “Heaven and Earth”. I met with a lovely lady called Lek who is a 5th generation of owner. Lek informed me that the kitchen in the house is a 100years old and still used by the family today.
Thai Hua Museum – Krabi Road
Now a museum, this building was once used as a schoolhouse. The museum pays respects by remembering all the cultures that have made the town and Phuket what it is today. Some of the history dates back to the tin mining era when immigrant Chinese and Malaysians flocked to the Island in their droves. We see mention of the vehicles that were imported from Penang and then modified in Thailand with wood frames to accommodate more people and goods, the Chinese stringed Puppets used in shows for entertainment, and the Chinese calligraphy masters that created all the signage used throughout the town.
Chin Inn Café and Restaurant – Thalang Road
This Sino-Portuguese restaurant/antique store boasts a collection of ancient Chinese architecture and artifacts. Inside we can see Chinese lanterns and elaborate tiled floors. The restaurant extends out into the building’s backyard. We arrived in the afternoon so, unfortunately, the restaurant had closed and the front of the store was being used as a shop front selling goods.
Kasikorn Bank – Phan-Gna Road
One of my favorite, and possibly most well-known buildings in Phuket Town (in my opinion) is the huge white Kasikorn Bank building that sits on Phan-Gna road literally in the heart of Phuket Town. It is quintessentially all this things Sino-Portuguese and displays many of the 10 signature architectural legacies left behind by the Sino-Portuguese style. Namely, Romanesque arched colonnades (porticoes), Inner courtyards (air wells), Exterior windows with Romanesque arches and shutters, Double doors and double shutters, Terracotta tiled roofs, Tiled floors in ornate patterns, Victorian ornamentation, Chinese signage, Ornamental wrought iron gates, and finally, the Eaves decorated with ceramics shards.
The Memory at On On Hotel – Phan-Gna Road
The final building, (another favorite of mine and equally as famous as the Kasikorn Bank) is the Memory at On On Hotel on Phan-Gna Road. This is allegedly Phuket’s first hotel. Guests might recognize it from Danny Boyle’s iconic film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo di Caprio. This is an incredible building that exudes the era and characters it strives to uphold. I’ve stayed here before when I spent an evening in Phuket Town. I felt like I literally went back in time for the night. It was wonderful.
Phuket Town is beautiful, mysterious, quirky, intriguing, and steeped in history. I challenge you to find a more interesting part of Phuket.
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Thai Hua School
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/bBMcV2VD8c49UyhK7
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/CvqAorAfX1hg3tMC9
The Blue Elephant Restaurant, bar, and cooking school
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/bvADd4kESV14UkDS8
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/f9629g4LF1gjviPM6
Thai Hua Museum
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/pBRAtPKtQ7pCiXqZ8
China Inn Café Restaurant
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/wvgKmaneoQP4tN7Z9
The Memory at On On Hotel
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