Phuket is relatively new to me and while I have visited in the past it has only been on passing en route to the surrounding, less developed areas (hideaways in the north of the island, Koh Maprao (coconut island) and Koh Yao Yai). So to date I’ve failed to see Phuket city centre and in honesty I’ve never mustered much excitement to do so. Today however, having arrived to Phuket Pier and with time to waste, I will venture to the one area of Phuket which does appeal to me. The Phuket Old Town is an area of old colonial shop houses, century old Sino-Portuguese architecture and to my surprise some old world charm. While I generally avoid tourist areas Phuket Old Town proves to be less touristy than expected with only a trickle of travellers and the many of them being domestic and ASEAN tourists. As expected however Phuket Old Town has become a tad artsy and hipster (as with popular colonial areas e.g. Georgetown, Penang) but thankfully not yet to an overbearing or annoying extent. The area still thrives with traditional trade, authentic architecture and a unique and mixed Thai and Chinese heritage.
This cute and colourful side street (pictured above) is a popular starting point when exploring Old Phuket Town. While Soi Romannee is one of the better preserved streets in the area it is also a touch garish with brightly painted shop fronts and over the top decoration (great for cute photo-ops). The same goes for the adjoining Thalang Road which at night is draped in multicoloured lighting and other unnatural effects. Interesting to see but it does take from local authenticity. Making the most of Old Phuket Town means pushing out from Soi Romannee and getting lost in surrounding areas which are perfect for poking and pottering around. While I don’t venture too far on my quick visit I find many unique features from local Chinese temples to a traditional shop house culture.
The food in Phuket Old Town is alone worth the visit and you will find many of the more tempting restaurants in shop houses on Soi Thalang. For our visit we opt for the quieter side of the popular Wilai Restaurant where we find an exciting menu of Southern Thai foods, Chinese influenced dishes and surprisingly tiny prices. My choice here was the Khua Kling Kai a Southern dish of hot, spiced ground chicken served with Thai omelette (Kai Giaow) and fresh vegetables (Pak Sod). Others on our table include the more Chinesey Hokkien Mee (Chinese Fried Noodles) and Moo Hong (Stewed Pork Belly in Chinese Spices). Finishing with a dessert of southern influenced banana and chocolate roti. As above the food alone is worth the visit to Phuket Old Town.