Old Takua Pa - Sri Takua Pa
Phuket is an island, but only just. Unlike other islands such as Phi Phi, Koh Samui or Koh Chang, you can drive to Phuket from the mainland, across the Sarasin Bridge which was first built in 1967. The old bridge has since been replaced and another new one is being built at the moment. So we are not "cut off" here! Phuket is a big island, but it's also very easy to head north over the bridge into Phang Nga province and beyond. Back in April we headed to Khao Sok national park and stayed a night at the Cliff and River Jungle Resort. To get there from Phuket you drive via Khao Lak and Takua Pa. Simple enough, but we took a wrong turn in Takua Pa town and followed a winding road to an old town which looked very similar to old Phuket. We didn't stick around, we wanted to get to Khao Sok, but thought it looked interesting.. We went to Khao Sok again at the end of September and on the way home we stopped again in the little town of Old Takua Pa for a walk.
I know nothing of this towns history, so if any scholars are reading, please do let me know! Looks like much of the town was built in the early 20th century around the same time as Phuket Town, and the local people seem to be Thai-Chinese. When we stopped, the shrine in the center of town was being painted ready for the vegetarian festival due to start a week later.
The town was very quiet. Nearby Takua Pa is a busy place and a major junction where the road heads east to Surat Thani, south to Phuket and north to Ranong. Maybe Sri Takua Pa was once more important, but it seemed to me like the town that time forgot! There are only a couple of streets and we walked up the largest, passing another Chinese shrine and stopping at a little hardware store with a very friendly owner. The kids found a little steel tape measure which dad bought for them. My 5 year old boy likes to measure things and is always happy to "help" dad with odd jobs around the house :)
We loved this little place. So friendly and quiet. I reckon this used to be on the main road but when the new road came... Sri Takua Pa became a forgotten place. Some of the shops were like a timewarp. Tell me the photo below was not taken in 1960!
Another shop at the crossroads opposite the shrine had an almost empty display with some olde style toys - I am sure we'll pass through again and if the train is still there, I'll buy it for my boy!
You can see the covered walkway behind my son in the photo above, much like can be found along Thalang Road in Phuket. The old style shophouses had these covered walkways to allow people to pass from shop to shop out of the sun (or rain). Sri Takua Pa does look a bit faded, and there are a few newer buildings, but in parts, it's just as nice as the old part of Phuket Town and many houses had these little shrines outside like the one below:
Sri Takua Pa is definitely not a "happening" place, but IS a good place to get a taste of real life, and well worth a visit. It's not so far from Khao Lak, and certainly a worthwhile stop off on the way to Khao Sok.. if you can find it. We found the town by accident first time, and on this visit we couldn't remember which wrong turn we'd taken the first time, but eventually figured it out!
A couple more local shops...
It's for places like Sri Takua Pa that I like to explore the backroads, and proof that taking a wrong turn now and then can be a good thing! I mean, I know most people are happy to stay on the beach, take a few tours, eat some good food, but if you stick to the well beaten path in Phuket, you don't really see Thailand. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ... I took the one less traveled by.
UPDATE 2015 - we passed through Old Takua Pa a couple more times and found that there is a Sunday Market - see : Old Takua Pa Sunday Market.