First time in the historical center of Old Phuket Town? Our Walking Guide to Phuket’s 9 most interesting streets will save you time (and sweat!)
Phuket Town is not huge but still too vast to explore it entirely on foot so we will break it down in several areas of interest. Our first guide is about the historical streets of town, quite easy to explore even on a wet day. This walking guide should keep you busy for half a day or less depending on which of the two options you’ll pick below.
This is the most interesting part of Phuket Town where the famous Thalang road is, but other streets are full of fun things to discover. Luckily Phuket Town is changing and it’s a good thing. Sometimes tourism does have a positive impact and what Phuket municipality did to Thalang and Dibuk roads by hiding all electric cable underground came to a surprise, especially knowing how incredibly messy cables are in Thailand.
If you ride a bus, you will land on Ranong road next to the Phuket City Market (A) which could be the first or last item on your list. The market is divided in two areas: the main building where the bus stops, and the old open-air market just across the street. Both are fun to explore as you will see veggies, fruits and spices you might never have seen before. In the same area don’t miss the Thai Airways office (B), a superbly renovated white Sino-Portuguese house (just take photos as building is not opened to the public).
If you continue walking following the traffic flow, you will reach Jui Tui shrine (Z), a very important Chinese temple during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, and further the unique Lor Rong market (a) selling very typical Phuket foods and confectioneries.
If you are lazy, walk against the traffic flow toward the fountain circle (C) and turn left into Yaowarat road. If you are lucky, on the left you will find a dark passage leading to mysterious Limpanon House (D), an amazing abandoned mansion, unfortunately lately the gate appears to be more often closed than opened.
Just opposite of it are two very old shops worth stopping at, one is an old fashioned Kanom Jeen shop (Y) run by a young guy who was smart enough to keep the shop in its original condition, making it an interesting photo opportunity. Next to it is also a very old pharmacy (Y) with surprising dry roots and ingredient kept in hundred wooden drawers. If you plan to take photos in there, just know that the owner can but grumpy as he probably get more photographers than shoppers in a day… so buy something if you plan to take photos! 😀
Continue straight until you reach Thalang intersection. If you don’t have much time turn right into the famous Thalang Road and jump to #6.
If you are not in a rush turn left to enjoy the many superb shop houses all along Krabi road, especially the superb and surprisingly interesting Thai Hua Museum (E). You should stop and visit it, it really tells you what made Phuket what it is today. Continue further until you reach the Satun Road intersection where two major Phuket landmark are located: The Blue Elephant restaurant (F) which used to be the governor’s mansion, and the Chinpracha mansion (G), a privately owned museum that appeared in several famous movies.
To go back turn left at Blue Elephant (F) into Satun road the take then next right into Dibuk Road where you will find Luang Amnart Nararak Mansion (H), another beautiful Sino Portuguese still stands in its original condition.
Continue on Dibuk road to enjoy more shop house architecture with their typical archway which was designed to keep walkers sheltered from sun and rain, keep your eye open and look for the shops selling some typical Phuket sweets and breads.
Then at the intersection of Dibuk and Yaowarat you will find a very popular local food court called Loktien Restaurant (I), serving some very unique Phuket specialties. Opposite of Loktien, have an old fashion Kopi at Pirrera Cafe (J) found inside an very old corner shop that was originally the former headquarter of the Kian Nguan Mining Company when Phuket was more known for its tin mining industry than for its tourism.
Next to Pirrera Cafe (J), several shops need to be mentioned: some elderly ladies sit all day in front of their shop to sell some delicious Phuket cakes as well as the famous Ice Kachang, shaved ice with syrup on top and read beans inside among other things, a perfect way to cool down from the heat and long walks. Walk up Yaowarat to retrieve Thalang road where all the fun shops are located. If you cross the street you will find three small mansions well maintained, one of them is a very cute Kindergarden (K).
Thalang Road (east) is where you probably will spend a bit of time; so to ease your walk, know that most of the nicest shops are located on the right hand side when walking toward the traffic. Don’t miss the little coffee shop right at the intersection called Chino Cafe Gallery (L). Not only they serve a good coffee with nice Phuket round cakes but you also can admire some excellent photographs hanging on the wall, all taken by Phuket photographers (apparently there will be a gallery soon on the second floor). Walk further to find 3 famous restaurants Wilai and Kopitiam (M) are two small local and affordable restaurants serving great Thai food, and the famous China Inn Cafe (N) which serves a more elaborated but more expensive food in a superbly renovated Chinese style shophouse which happens to also be a handicraft shop.
Not far past China Inn Cafe (N) is a little Chinese shrine hidden inside an unassuming entrance. From there you will walk past a lot of Muslim fabric shops and tool shops whose owners are trying to continue their trade just like if nothing ever happened in Phuket… look around for all the nice little guesthouse, book shops, nice little boutiques, plenty of little coffee shops but don’t miss the iconic Route 68 (O) where expats mix with locals every evening to enjoy great live band music and celebrate all kinds of special occasions.
Just opposite of Route 68 (O) is Soi Romanee (P) and all the colourful building, which are now the pretty part of Phuket town, but not so long ago was the naughty-naughty street of Phuket as well as a gambling spot. If you like temples, at the end of Soi Romanee (P) is Wat Puttamongkon (Q), a large Thai temple very important for Phuket people, where ceremonies are often held. It’s a nice temple with a golden Chedi in the back and some beautiful houses used as dormitory by young monks.
Go back through Soi Romanee (P) and turn left back into Thalang road where few more renovated shop house can be admired, especially the Honda motorbike showroom built in such shop house.
From there turn right onto Thepkasatree road and walk passed the beautiful ‘Casa Blanca’ hotel until you reach The Clock tower building (S) which I think used to be a police station, and opposite is the old Standard Chartered Bank (R) soon to become a museum. From here you can choose to walk back through Phang Nga road, or walk a bit further and go back to the circle via Ratsada road.
The three highlights of Phang Nga road are the Shrine of the Serene Light (W), the amulet market and the On On Hotel (V). On On Hotel (V) has a indefinitely the interesting story… almost everyone saw it in the movie ‘The Beach’ but not many people know that the hotel is not in Bangkok as shown in the movie, but right here in Phuket Town. Until recently, On On hotel was almost as bad as in the movie and only cost 200 baht a night! In 2013 it was entirely renovated with great skill and sense, keeping the spirit of the hotel and still quite cheap, but it is not a beautiful budget hotel.
The Shrine of the Serene Light (W) next to it also has an anecdote as it was completely hidden in the back of a building and only locals knew about it, like a secret no on wanted to share. The renovation and the widening of the entrance were done intelligently and the shrine itself was left absolutely untouched and it is now a popular landmark. Just opposite on the same street is the amulet market (X), a long covered alley were amulet aficionados come mostly on weekends to exchange and discuss… amulets. For us it is a mysterious topic but some rare amulets have very high value depending on their age, origins and the monk who gave it.
If you choose to walk back though Phuket road, you will walk back two buildings interesting in an unusual way. The first on is the quirky Thavorn museum (T) found hidden inside the Thavorn hotel which was probably the first hotel on the island. The museum consists mostly of a weird collection of old toys, photos and a mountain of objects from a vague past time of Phuket, most of which are clearly the old apparatus used along the history of the hotel. It’s rather fun… and very dusty! Behind the Thavorn museum don’t miss the next U shape street on your left as an amazing old mansion (U) still stands proudly beyond a wall. Most of the time the gate of the mansion is open so if you are not shy, walk in and act normal just as I did countless times to get my photos. 🙂
After this mansion you will be pretty much on your way back to the fountain circle (C).
Note that story just highlights the main landmarks but there is a lot to enjoy, just keep your eyes open!