Phuket has made its name with travelers in Thailand for its gorgeous beaches and ready-to-party atmosphere. Most people arrive into Phuket and head straight for the beaches, skipping the old-world charm of Old Phuket Town, just 18 miles/30 kilometers south of Phuket International Airport, almost entirely. They don't know what they're missing!
What Old Phuket Town may lack with respect to white-sand beaches and a raging party scene, it makes up for in generous amounts of charm and a bustling art and culture center, not to mention the amazingly authentic Thai food that can be found around almost every corner. Acting as Phuket's main economic hub, Old Phuket Town deserves to be discovered and explored for at least a day or two for its unique blend of old and new, traditional and modern, simplicity and style.
The first thing visitors to Old Phuket Town will notice is the unique Sino-Portuguese architecture thrown in with a significant amount of Mediterranean flare. It's a captivating blend of style and history! Streets are lined with homes and buildings in its original pastel-colored architecture, beckoning you to stroll back through time. Many of these Sino-colonial mansions have been converted into restaurants or shops, a clear example of melding the old with the new but while retaining their originality and allure.
I'm a total sucker for beautiful, decorated doors and my eyes were getting their fill of amazingly striking and colorful doors around Old Phuket Town. Street after street, door after door, I continued to see doors more intriguing and artfully crafted than the last.
I discovered a non-descript local restaurant to pop in for a Chinese-influenced Thai meal that made my taste buds jump for joy. The food was plentiful, delicious and ridiculously cheap. Half hidden by shrubbery and located just off of one of Old Phuket Town's main roundabouts, this little family-owned restaurant served up ready made fare from a glass cart. The dining area was practically the family's living room and was decorated with antiques and hand-made recycled paper products like vases, coasters and handbags. Next best thing to Mom's cooking!
More strolling around Old Phuket Town revealed a number of boutique shops, cozy cafes and bustling art centers and galleries. Interspersed between these modern additions were old printing factories and Chinese herbal clinics. It sounds like things should feel out of place with one another but they didn't! It added to the allure of Old Phuket Town.
With all its activity, Old Phuket Town still manages to exude relaxation and quaintness. Perhaps it's not a bad thing after all that so many people skip out on exploring Old Phuket Town. It certainly doesn't mean you have to. I'm glad I didn't!
© Connie Hum 2010