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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Old Phuket Town, Thailand

Old Phuket Town

I'm currently on a 'lie by a pool and relax' kind of holiday in Phuket. But I've also found to my delight that there's a historic old part of Phuket Town. My little historic lover heart went all a flutter and so today I went off to explore. I was armed with a tourist map, some internet research, since I knew nothing about the area I was about to see and off I went, forgoing a day by the pool!

I'm staying in Karon Beach and the hotel has a shuttle bus that was free and would take me to a shopping centre in Phuket Town about 30 minutes away. From there I caught a taxi to the old part of the town.

Phuket in the 19th century had tin mines and that attracted miners and also traders, an architect in the 1980's labelled the buildings in Old Phuket as 'Sino-Portuguese'. Other people since have suggested that there's not much 'Portuguese' left but more 'colonial' as the Chinese inhabitants were influenced by what they saw of the buildings in Penang which was run by the British.

The main street (and my starting point) is Thalong Road, which is mainly shops and restaurants from what I could see. 



The power cables have all been placed underground making for a more attractive streets cape, so there is continuing work being done on preservation and restoration.

The Chinese miners lived in long narrow houses. I found a model of one of them in the museum I visited.



This was just the front part of the house, showing an open door so the male occupant could see out onto the covered walkway. The screen would allow a person to look out but not been seen. The upstairs person is looking down a peephole in the floor! The centre was an open internal courtyard where the women of the house could do their washing. When I saw this model it made me realise the difference between the Chinese housing I was seeing here in Phuket where many of the Chinese were miners and not shopkeepers. Different to places such as Singapore where the Chinese houses were shops on the ground floor and the family lived behind and above the shop.







All these houses have been restored and are on the surrounding streets to Thalang Road. I noticed that some have been turned into boutique hotels or guest houses, it would give people a different tourist experience than that of pool and beaches.



A closeup of the decorations on one of the attached houses. One thing I learnt about the Art Nouveau period of early 20th century architecture is that it was possible as the people who built the buildings had money for the fripperies of decoration. The same can be seen in these old buildings in Phuket.



Not all the power cables are underground! The street going across they're underground (where the motorcyclists are) the street going up the cables are all above ground.



I had read that photographers often use the buildings in the background of their pictures and sure enough when passing this bank, there was a photographer taking pictures of 3 models.



Some buildings have been turned into restaurants.

Some Chinese made a great deal of money and there were inspired by the Anglo-colonial architecture of Penang and built their own mansions.



This is called the Phra Phithak Mansion and is now a cooking school.

Not everything is restored.


This is the Luang Amnat Mansion and is still a private house with what looked like a builder's yard around it!

There are more mansions but it was a hot day and I walked around quite a bit and didn't want to go further to look for them!

More unrestored buildings.





I found walking around Old Phuket Town really interesting because I like old and historic and having to research it beforehand appealed to me as well. I learned a lot about a part of the world I knew very little about. 

It's not a place frequented by great hordes of tourists, which for me was another reason to really like it! There were some tourist around, but few and far between, and going by the guest houses, boutique hotels and hostels I saw, it's a niche tourist market that Old Phuket Town appeals to.

There are restaurants and cafes around, but it's mainly a place to walk around and appreciate an unique old town. 

From what I've read there's a night market held there where Thalong Road is closed off and becomes a market, so perhaps early evening on a Sunday (which is when the market is held) would make for a more interesting experience for those not into old buildings! It was also very hot walking around, the middle of the day wasn't the best time for it!


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