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Sunday, 20 March 2016

Thai Hua Museum, Phuket

Thai Hua Museum, Phuket

During my exploration of Old Phuket Town, I came across this small museum of Chinese immigrants in Phuket. The building was the first Chinese school (Chinese as the language of instruction) built in Phuket for children of Chinese immigrants.


Phuket had tin mines and Chinese miners came, mainly from the province of Fujian, the towns of Fuxhou and Xiamen, to escape poverty by working in the mines. Some did very well and were able to build large colonial style houses, other miners built smaller houses whose architecture is now referred to as Sino-Portuguese. The current museum building housed the first Chinese school built for the children of these immigrants and was built with funding from the local Chinese community.


The piano was the original school piano, when the school was closed the piano went into private ownership. With the opening of the museum, the family who owned it donated it to the museum. Behind the piano is a stage, the Headmaster who stand on as he addressed the school. (These large raised platforms or stages seem to be common in Asian schools, Japan also uses them.)

With the building having been a school, there is a room set up like a classroom of the time with photos of the original students. As well as information on past teachers and principals as well as some school materials.

The centre of the building has a large open air courtyard, this helped cool the building as it allowed air to circulate. (Same style I saw in the Perranakan museum in Singapore which had also been a Chinese school)

The museum shows different aspects of the Chinese immigrants life, I found the model of the house really interesting as in the surrounding streets there were many of these, now restored houses.


The houses had verandahs that were at the street side so people were able to walk around protected from the sun. The front doors of the house were open so people (men!) could interact, as that part of the house contained a home office. The woman is behind the wooden screen so she could see but not be seen. Also on the next floor up, the room had a peephole in the floor so a person could be up there and see what was happening in the room below! The centre of the house had an open courtyard with a well. 

The back part of the house had the kitchen and a small garden.


This is what can been seen from the street, the houses are all decorated and many are brightly coloured.

A rickshaw.

The school was closed and the building is now run by a foundation that was established back in the mining days by well to do Chinese businessmen to improve living conditions of immigrants by building schools and hospitals. The museum isn't big and it's easy to make your way around the displays, it gives an insight into a minority group that made an impact on the local area. Once you've finished strolling around the museum, there's a nice coffee shop next door where you can grab something to eat or drink. (The 'drink' was what I was after, it was hot walking around!! A mango smoothie and a bottle of water was welcomed!)

I saw this beautifully restored building in Old Phuket Town, before I visited the museum, I found out that it was bought and it is used by former students of the Chinese school. (An Old Scholars Club if you like, or Alumni Club. I like the old British term which gets used in Australia!)




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