10 Things To Do In Old Phuket Town
When this blog first started back in 2006, a large part of the idea was to show that there is a lot more to Phuket than beaches, hotels and nightlife. A lot more. In my 19 years living in Phuket, beach days were rare, and nightlife was normally limited to a few beers or maybe watching some live football or having parties with friends. The main nightlife areas in Patong beach or at one of the newer beach clubs had no interest for me. Sure there are great beaches, and every now and then I'd feel the urge for some beach time, but normally (along with my family) I'd like to head out and explore some local scenery, find viewpoints, and very often head into Phuket Town - so many times I'd enjoy a walk in town looking at new attractions or just enjoying a good cafe or restaurant. Phuket Town has a great mix of old and new, plenty of history, art, museums, and is a great place to be during certain festivals. The blog has featured Phuket Town so often over the years, this blog post pulls a few ideas together for things to do in Phuket Town.
Thai Hua Museum
Located in the old town on Krabi Road, the Thai Hua Museum is full of interesting displays about the history of Phuket, especially from the early 19th century after the Burmese had been subdued and Phuket started to fill up with Chinese immigrants and the tin mining industry boomed. The museum is found in the old Thai Hua Chinese school, which has moved to a much bigger and more modern location on the edge of town. Well worth a visit and (I think) the entry fee of about 200 Baht is well worth it.
More information : Thai Hua Museum in Phuket Town
Just along the road from the museum is one of Phuket Town's old mansions, mostly built in the early 20th century for the big tin mining families. Chinpracha has been partly converted to a museum, a chance to step inside one of these amazing houses. There is a small entry fee.
More information : Chinpracha House
In the last few years, loads of street art has been appearing around the old town, with new works of art appearing now and then, made by local and foreign artists. You can do a little walking tour around town - looking for the art you'll find little side streets and local life that you may have otherwise missed. I am sure there is more art since I blogged about it!
More information - Street Art in Phuket Town
Markets in Phuket Town
Lots to choose from! If you want to see a real local food market, then head to Ranong Road for the main fresh market. Most days there is a new market called Chillva Market on the north edge of town with lots of clothes, art, often live music, lots of food. On Sunday there is the walking street market on Thalang Road in the heart of old town. And the small, but popular Indy Market is on several evenings per week.
(above) Busy evening at Chillva Market
Rang Hill (Khao Rang) on the north side of Phuket Town has long been a popular hangout. The famous Tunk Ka Cafe has been there since before time began and you get very nice views from up there, plus locals use the area for exercise. There are several routes up the hill. If you ascend from the same side as the Vachira Hospital you also find Khao Rang temple featuring a big golden Buddha statue.
More information - Rang Hill Viewpoint + Rang Hill Temple
Just Walk Around Randomly!
Aside from seeing a few of the "sights", I love a good wander around the old town. When I first took a walk to explore in about 2006 it was very different, hard to find a cafe, many buildings looking rather shabby, but the old town looks much better now, aided by a continuing project to hide all the overhead cables. A good walk around is easy enough, plenty of cafes if you get thirsty, it's good to explore, find local shops, wander down side streets, stumble upon little gems. And these days with 4G and Google Maps you can't get lost :)
Not really a museum and the most "touristy" thing to do on this list - good I think if you have young kids the Trickeye 3D gallery has loads of paintings where you can pose and take photos - it's indoors and aircon, so good for a hot day, or a rainy day. Not so cheap to get in, but kids and some adults will enjoy!
More information : Trickeye Museum / Gallery
With the history of old Phuket Town being largely connected with the influx of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century it's no surprise to find many Chinese shrines in town (and in fact, all over the island). The town is a very mixed community .. one road you may want to find (Soi Talingchan) features a shrine, plus a mosque and a Catholic church. The biggest of the Chinese shrines is Jui Tui, located at the end of Ranong road past the market. This one along with Bang Neow shrine feature heavily during the amazing Phuket Vegetarian Festival. A smaller shrine called Por Tor Kong is the center of the annual Hungry Ghost Festival. And the beautiful little Sang Tham shrine (aka Shrine of the Serene Light) is certainly worth a look.
Sapan Hin Park
In the far south of Phuket Town you find Sapan Hin, a large area of park, sports facilities, mangroves, large open areas that are often used for local festivals. A very popular area in the late afternoon for locals to walk or jog or sit and have a picnic, it's right by the sea. The old Bang Yai canal flows into the sea here - this canal used to be a much larger waterway allowing ships to sail right into town and it carried on past town and was used to transport tin mining produce. The Sapan Hin area also has some small local restaurants and normally quite a lot of food stalls, even when there are no events taking place. There's a Chinese shrine here too.
More information - Sapan Hin in Phuket Town
Great Local Food!
In the Phuket Town area it's much easier to find good, real local food ... close to the beaches it can be a struggle, food tends to be dumbed down for tourists. In town if you want the real local food, look for small restaurants where locals are eating. Just wander into a small noodle shop or get food from stalls in the market. A few slightly nicer restaurants I really like in town include Kopitiam, One Chun, Yellow Door. For very good and simple chicken or crispy pork on rice try Moo Grob Khun Yai. For local food with maybe the best view ... the Tunk Ka Cafe on Rang Hill has to be tried. Also well known are places like Raya, Thamachart, China Inn, Dibuk, Suay... and try the noodles at Mee Ton Poe or Lock Tien. If you want to explore Thai food, Phuket Town is the place to be!
You can find a video here : 7 Great Local Phuket Restaurants
Now, most tourists don't stay in town, preferring to stay near the beach. It's easy enough to get a local bus into town from Patong, Karon or Kata beaches, but note that the buses only run until about 5:30 - 6pm. If heading to town in the evening you'll need a taxi or your own transport. Or why not consider staying in town for a couple of nights so you can explore easily. There are plenty of Hotels in Phuket Town ranging from guesthouses to some very nice boutique hotels. A lot to see in town and it's a great area to see more local life than you'd see at the beaches. I wish you happy exploring!