Jamie's Phuket Blog

Walking in Old Phuket Town

Officially, Phuket Town was upgraded to "Phuket City" a few years ago, but that was just a bureaucratic way of getting more money from central government. Phuket Town is not a city to me and everybody says Phuket Town. I mean, sure it's a big town and has got more developed and urbanised, especially in the outskirts. Since 1999 when I first arrived in Phuket, there's been a lot of building, lots of housing projects, lots of new roads and shopping centers, lots of money being spent. I remember the first time I drove from Patong Beach to the Tesco Lotus store on the edge of town. A ride through the jungle on a narrow 2 lane road. There was no Central mall, no Jungceylon mall, no Big C, no Index, no Makro, no HomeWorks, no 4 lane roads. The development has come thick and fast. I am not going to argue about whether this is good or bad, whether money is destroying values and culture. I think that the people of Phuket, including myself, are very happy to have all that!

Most of the new development is around the edges of Phuket Town. As you head towards the center, the old world is more obvious. I have always liked exploring the town. Every street has something of interest. People may wonder where Thailand can be found in Phuket... if you're staying in Patong Beach, I can understand the feeling. Phuket Town is where a part of the real Phuket can be found. I could walk around these streets taking photos every day. It's what this blog is about - finding real life among the tourists and beaches.

Old shop on Thalang Road

The heart of Old Phuket Town is Thalang Road, in particular the block between Thepkassatri road and Yaowarat road. Pick up any Phuket map and they all feature a map of town, even if only a small percentage of tourists ever visit. What, no beaches? The old town covers a few blocks in the center of town, kind of everything from the main market to the main bus terminal. Yeh, there are some new buildings in there too, but the old early 20th century shophouse architecture predominates. The shop in the photo above is on Thalang road, the shelves are surely decades old. The shop has been there for about 100 years. A large amount of Phuket Town was built around that time when the tin mining industry was booming.

Thalang Road Phuket

Thalang Road (above) is where we headed last Saturday. The main reason for the walk was to visit a guitar shop. Our daughter is starting some guitar lessons, and our son thinks himself a rock star.. and I used to play a bit myself. Parking a car in the old town can be tricky. We parked at the east end of Thalang road. The guitar shop is just off Thalang Road at the other end, maybe a 400 meter walk, but filled with a wide variety of shops, restaurants and houses.

Printer

Hardware

A printer (currently printing election brochures) and a hardware store on Thalang Road. The old businesses like this have been here since the year "dot". They are all run by old Phuket families. Thalang Road still has this feeling of being in the past. But the past crumbles. The street and other streets nearby look better than they did 10 years ago. There is a very active "old town association". Thalang Road has hidden it's overhead wires, so has Soi Romanee, a side street off Thalang Road. And there are signs up in town announcing that cables on neighbouring streets will also be buried. The old town is having a revival.

Much of the old town, especially Thalang Road still has the old shophouses. A shop at the front, the house in the middle, out of sight. People used to live where they worked. Shop. House. The street outside featured a covered walkway between all the shophouses, with arches between each one. Many of the arches had been blocked off, but the old town association has encouraged people to open up the street again. Now you can walk most of the way along Thalang Road in the shade, or out of the rain. Underneath the arches. So it's an all-weather street!

Arches

A boy and guitars

So we found the guitar shop, bought a guitar, and headed back. Thalang Road now has a small tourist information center. Downstairs you have brochures and displays about Phuket's history and things to see in Phuket Town. Upstairs did not seem to be anything, but my wife had a look and called me up. Looks like a photo opportunity.

Chairs

I need to go there again. Always something new to find. Development is happening on Thalang Road too, but it's low key. New cafes, fresh paint on a crumbly exterior, and regular street fairs and festivals. If you want a bit of history, culture and local life.... Old Phuket Town is where it's at!

After a bit of a walk, we found it was lunch time. We have a few favourite places to eat in town, but decided to try something new. A restaurant called Kopitiam, on Thalang Road, right next door to the amazing scents of the "Oldest Herb Shop in Phuket".. well, almost next door. There is another restaurant called Wilai in between. The Wilai restaurant has a secret passage through the kitchen that leads to the Shrine of the Serene Light. Another hidden treasure, although the main entrance to that shrine on Phang Nga Road is being widened.... Anyway, Kopitiam - nice place, and I was glad to see a table full of locals sitting there already - a sure sign of good food!

Kopitiam locals

Inside there are lots of old Phuket photos, decorations made from "old things", a very tasteful restaurant. All Thai dishes priced at 70 Baht. My chicken with chili and black pepper was very tasty. Kids had chicken with garlic and pepper, also tasty. We'll be back!

Kopitiam restaurant, Thalang Road, Phuket

One more hidden secret before we went home. I had known about this old mansion for some time, had seen photos and heard that it was uninhabited. I found the location using Google Earth. Half a block north of the circle near the market, west side of the road, looked down an alleyway. Found it. Does indeed seem to be abandoned. Except we found 2 rather nasty snarling dogs living there. Not a place to hang around.

Old Mansion

Phuket is of course best known for beaches, nightlife, diving, golf, family holidays in the sun... It's odd that I live here, but I am not a beach person. I can't sit on the beach. Diving - yes, sure! Nightlife? Small Chang beer please. I have a family, and a job. I am not Thai, not a real local, but Phuket is home. Phuket Town is always interesting to me. And to be honest I am happy that "a walk in the old town" does not interest most tourists! More for the rest of us.

More Phuket Town on Jamie's Phuket...

Phuket Street Show 2010
Phuket Heritage Tour in Phuket Town
Phuket Photo Walk 2010
Old Phuket Street Fair
Shrine of the Serene Light
Glastnost Cafe on Soi Romanee
Hotels in Phuket Town


 Walking in Old Phuket Town  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog


Jamie suggests agoda.com for Phuket hotel booking

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Blogger arthur w gane :

Thanks Jamie for all the great blogs. On my first trip to Phuket earlier this year I did all the tourist things like PhiPhi and Fantasea. On my next trip in September I am following your blogs and looking for the real Phuket.
The walking tour of old Phuket and the Aftre Beach Bar are top of the list so far.
Once again thanks and i will keep viewing every week because this blog is the real phuket.

June 10, 2011  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Jamie, you've probably outdone yourself this time - bloody excellent post on Phuket Town! Many thanks for the text and the photos.

I for one would like to see more posts on Phuket Town, and wouldn't mind an exposure of the non-touristy parts - Old Town is where I've been many times, but never really to the fringes of PT.

Again, excellent post!

Chris from Sweden

June 10, 2011  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Thanks for the comments. Interesting to hear someone say that Old Phuket Town is touristy! Well.. yes every street can hold interest... and I would love to make continual blog posts about different streets and take walks every week, but my job is manager of a dive shop, so my advice is .. if you want to see other parts of Phuket Town, get walking! Explore!

June 11, 2011  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Thanks for your, ehm, reply?

Yes, if there's one part of the genuine Phuket Town that tourists tend to visit, it's the Old Town. But if you re-read what i wrote, I did not call it touristy....

I merely suggested more posts on non-touristy parts of Phuket town, as opposed to featuring the area around Robinsons...

Jamie, trust me, if I lived permanently on Phuket I would do as you advise - I would use my spare time to walk and explore. But as I live in Sweden and only visit Phuket in short bursts with my family on holiday (albeit often), you could probably relate why my two young kids want to spend most of their escape from the cold wintery Sweden on a beach rather than being dragged along with their dad on hot, dusty PT back alleys...

It would be different if one, like yourself, have it all within reach every weekend...

So that's why I follow your blog religiously - you walk and explore many parts of the island I don't have the time to see. But trust me, I have seen more of the island's back roads than the average expat bar-owner in Patong that's been resident for 20 years...

So here's my advise to you, chill with your rather accusatory comments. You're among friends.

Chris from Sweden

June 12, 2011  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi Chris,

You did ask for me to write about the non-touristy parts, which implies 100% that what I have written about is touristy, which I found funny - Phuket Town is not touristy. 99% of Phuket tourists don't leave the beach.

Your point is correct "you could probably relate why my two young kids want to spend most of their escape from the cold wintery Sweden on a beach rather than being dragged along with their dad on hot, dusty PT back alleys..."

Yes exactly, since I also have 2 young kids, walks around back alleys in the outskirts of Phuket Town are not top of my list either.. I do work 6 days a week, have only one day off for exploring and many of those days off have to suit the family, not the blog.

If I had 7 days a week for blogging and photos, great! I would 'blog" every square meter of Phuket. But free time is limited which is why the blog gets updated about once per week. I have a long list of things that I want to get blogged, but not enough time. Please nobody imagine that I am sitting sipping cocktails in paradise... Phuket is home, and that means going to work and paying the bills. Blogging has to play second fiddle to work and family. Trust me, if there was time, the back streets is where I would be heading to get some "real life" photos...

Next blog post will be the very touristy "Splash Jungle" waterpark which we enjoyed this weekend. That was a treat for the kids. Kids are number one.

June 13, 2011  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

There is actually already quite a lot of stuff on the blog relating to Phuket Town outside the old town. Some examples:

Sapan Hin

Sirey Island

Weekend Market

Walking up Monkey Hill

A lot of restaurants in and around town on the Restaurants page

Kathu Village and Market - about 5km outside town

Watching the Football - Surakul stadium is on the edge of town.

More to come. Slowly. In the meantime... do have a look at More Phuket Bloggers. Everyone has a different view of the world.

June 13, 2011  

Blogger nateniale :

Great post! The last time I was in Phuket, I did walk around Phuket Town and found it refreshingly local compared to the beaches.

But it seems that you saw many more interesting shops around the town! Would definitely try to explore the town longer the next time I'm there!

June 13, 2011  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Jamie, again, I don't want to bore you by repeating myself, but please read my original comment to your PT post: My comment contained nothing but praise, and no criticism whatsoever! You are overreacting, and reading way too much into my original comment.

I merely suggested that I, for one, would love to see more posts on the rather underexposed (in other media) Phuket Town. "That's all he wrote".

But like a great DJ gets requests, so does a great travel writer...

Again I loved the piece on Old Town, a part of PT which is well deserved of exposure. And that's why I praised it, duh!

But I maintain my opinion that if there's one part of PT that [few] tourists venture to, it is the old sino-portuguese quarters around Thalang, Dibuk and Krabi roads. No wonder you find nice restaurants (China Inn), hip fashion and antique shops in this area.

But how you manage to interpret that fact as a stab at your writing is beyond me - the old town merits a post of course, so does Holiday Inn in Patong, and so does Splash! (looking forward to the Splash feature - heard it is rather pricey, especially for non-residents, and not worth the entrance fee. My kids would disagree, of course... I have big hopes for the new Chinese syndicate that is planning to build a big water park in Patong off Nanai Road, which made the news last week)

Throughout the past couple of years, I have suggested some topics on this blog (the best blog there is on Phuket) simply because a) those are places that I would like to read about b) I thought you would enjoy some inputs from avid readers.

But you tend to get all defensive about suggestions, even if all I do is give praise and suggestions, never critism. What's up with that, Jamie? Case in point, I suggested that you could use MapJack to pinpoint places you write about (when MapJack is available - see post on pizza place on Nanai rd). Your reply to that suggestion was rather thorny.

Another suggestions was a feature on the little known dwellings on Phuket, such as the town of Chern Talay etc, i.e. the towns that are never mentioned in tourist brochures. That suggestion didn't go down well either...

But if you don't want feedback or suggestions, just say so. In fact, I think I'll stop commenting altogheter (about one comment every other week, so it is not that I'm flooding this blog :)).

But here's a last piece of advise - collect your best posts, write a foreword, and try to publish a book on Phuket a la "off the beaten track".

PS. I realise you, like a lot of expats, are a working man with limited spare time. Whenever have I or anyone else suggested otherwise?

You don't have to post this comment here, as it is too long, and has nothing to do with your PT feature. Stay cool, I might swing by your dive shop for a refreshment dive course in August, or if nothing else I'll buy you a Chang or two in return for all the great reading you've provided.

Chris from Sweden

June 13, 2011  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Not quite sure how you are interpreting my comments as negative. My first reply to your first comment (you said you "wouldn't mind an exposure of the non-touristy parts - Old Town is where I've been many times") - was just simply a little joke that someone would regard old Phuket Town as touristy and I suggested you go and explore, though it seems you want me to explore for you maybe... Sorry I don't have enough time to explore everything. I was just having a little laugh about the touristy comment...

Then your next comments accused me of being accusatory and told me to chill out. I assure you I am chilled out, although nothing unchills me more than someone telling me to chill when I am already chilled. You also explained then that you have kids so exploring back roads might not be possible for you, and in my reply I agreed with you, pointing out that I also have kids, so for exactly the same reason exploring dusty back roads is not top of my list either. I have tried to explain that the blog is very much a spare-time hobby since I have a real job and a family. So I am very sorry that I cannot respond to all comments and all suggestions of content.

I posted a small list showing some posts already on this blog which show other areas of Phuket Town and also a link to a list of other bloggers in Phuket who may provide different information about different parts of Phuket.

I do recall someone suggesting I use Mapjack, but I don't see any comment of that kind on the post about pizza in Nanai Road. If that was you, I don't know where that comment is... I seem to recall replying that I already provide pretty good directions or links to Google Earth, but would look at adding some Mapjack links later. Don't recall being thorny.

I don't recall anybody making a suggestion of blogging areas of Phuket like Cherng Talay. Not likely to do such a thing anyway, since its not my part of Phuket. I very rarely go to that area. I do however have many many posts about the Kathu area of Phuket which is where I live.

I fail to see where I have interpreted your comments as a stab, maybe it's a language thing.

Splash Jungle is not cheap though that depends on ones definition. Kids loved it and we will go again. Don't anyone think this means we are rich. We ate eggs and rice for dinner that night.

And thanks for another laugh! Having tried to explain a lack of time, publishing a book seems a bit unlikely at this stage!

I promise that I am not being thorny, or feeling any stabs. I think it's maybe not me who needs to chill out! This has been a good laugh!

June 13, 2011  

Blogger Cathy&Gary :

Another fantastic read Jamie, so good to read about the non touristy areas of Phuket, hopefully it will make more tourists get out of the square & visit.
Cathy & Gary

June 14, 2011  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Jamie, thanks for your reply. I think I have a much better understanding of how you view suggestions from your readers. No "language thing", as I am quite fluent in English.

As you mentioned, your primary explorations seems to be around the Kathu area, and you have a long list of potential places you want to go to. Got it.

I also profusely apologize for mentioning that your posts are so good that they merit a guidebook.

Lastly, sorry for taking up your time with this conversation.

Chris from Sweden

June 14, 2011  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Jeez Chris, it's just a blog.

June 14, 2011  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Yeah, exactly...;)

Chris

June 14, 2011  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Woah! Chris from Sweden, you're the one who needs to chill out! I think some more time in Phuket would do you good. There's nothing 'accusatory' in anything Jamie has written here.

August 04, 2011  

Anonymous Belinda :

Hi Jamie,
I found your post on old Phuket Town very interesting. I would really like to visiting the guitar shop where you have a photo in your blog. Can you please tell me the name of the shop or other places to buy a guitar. My husband is a keen guitar player and would love to see what phuket has to offer for guitar players when we come on holiday. Is Phuket a good place to get a bargin when buying a guitar or are they similar priced to what I can buy at home in Australia. I would appreciate any advise you have to offer, thanks.
Belinda.

March 11, 2013  

Anonymous Jamie :

Hi Belinda,

I'm not sure that Phuket is a guitar players paradise, but there are shops to buy guitars. I have no idea how the prices compare to other places, and what you pay depends on the quality of the guitar. The shop in the photo is here.

March 14, 2013  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

And the shop called Do Re Mi, see here also sells guitars.

March 14, 2013