If one tires of the beaches and wants to see more of the island, old Phuket Town is one of the best places to begin. It lies directly East of Patong, over the mountain, and is a 20 minute drive away. From Bang Tao and Surin beaches it takes about 30 minutes. For those in a beachfront resort in Cape Panwa it’s barely 15 minutes drive.
The island of Phuket has a mixed history, with different waves of habitation shaping its landscapes. Ethnic Thais are relative newcomers and have never lived here in significant numbers. Thus, when you visit Phuket Town it is not really a Thai town that one finds, but a Chinese one.
A flood of ethnic Chinese into Phuket started in the 1800s when they moved north from Chinese enclaves in Malaya and Singapore to exploit the local tin mines. Chinese ran the mines, and Chinese built the town that has since overshadowed an older Thai provincial centre to become the administrative capital.
Attractions in Phuket
Phuket Town is not large, and its narrow streets make walking the best option for getting around and absorbing the cultural legacy of the Chinese of yesteryear. Several streets of old row houses are beautifully preserved and now form a kind of living museum. Some of these have been converted into boutique restaurants & hotels, coffee shops, galleries, and other trendy establishments intent on helping to preserve the architecture, if not the original purpose of the buildings.
Notable for gaudy architecture and grotesque statuary of demons and gods, we find three Chinese temples or shrines in town. Both very traditional and well patronized, they remain the centre of many Chinese families’ social and spiritual lives. Here is Phuket the overseas Chinese cling to their traditions and identity more tightly than do their cousins in Bangkok.
The town also has a variety of interesting open-air markets, restaurants and night entertainment facilities, all helping to add spice and interest to a visit here. There are reasons to visit in the morning (the fresh market) and reasons to come in the evening (dining and entertainment). There are plenty of places to dine. See what interests you most here and plan your visit to Phuket Town accordingly.