Exploring Soi Romanee
Soi Romanee (Soi Romani), in the historical centre of old Phuket town, is a short street with a long and colourful history. Today it is home to souvenir shops, fancy ice cream parlours and small but posh guesthouses, but it wasn’t always like this as long ago: the posh Soi Romanee was the red-light district of Phuket Town!
We were always fascinated by the old houses and mansions of Phuket. When we first visited it, less than 20 years ago, the street was just a ghost from the past, and almost every house was just abandoned ruins. At the time, only a few curious visitors would walk this narrow street and take photos.
Soi Romanee 20 years ago
A long time ago, Soi Romanee was the red-light street of Phuket town, where one would find brothels, opium dens, gambling houses and other similar ‘innocent’ entertainments. It was then abandoned, and most of the shophouses fell into wrecks and ruins. As you can see in the photo above, it was quite a sight.
People then started to realize the potential of this Sino-Portuguese architecture, and some resurrected a few shop-houses on Thalang Road with great success, China Inn was one of the first, and the gold rush was on; everyone wanted to buy one and rebuild to its former beauty, with more or less success. Even though we considered buying one, we didn’t pursue the idea once we realized what the parking problem would be.
Soi Romanee today
Little by little, house by house, Soi Romanee came back to life, first with a few tiny cafes and some offices, then a few stylish guesthouses such as ‘Phuket 346’. The street is lively all year round, especially since young travellers realized how great the alley was for selfies and Instagram photos!
The street is packed with live bands and tourists during the Old Phuket Town Festival. The rest of the time, it’s a colourful street with many photographers searching for a new angle and residents going through their daily routine which has not changed since the early years of the road.
The beginning of the street near Thalang Road has been entirely restored. However, toward the end of the Dibuk Road, you will still find a run-down restaurant, a small Chinese shrine inside a house, a suspicious old hotel, and an old-fashioned hairdresser still parking his bike inside his shop. People here seem to be halfway between ‘annoyed’ and fatalistic every time a camera points at them, which happens a hundred times a day.
We love to walk these streets away from festivals when every street is peaceful, and you can actually see the houses. Early morning or at dusk on weekdays, the alley can still take you back in time, and the soul of the street remains.
Soi Romanee (or Romani, or Rommanee: pick one since even the residents don’t seem to agree on the spelling of the street) is between the famous Thalang Road on one side and Dibuk Road on the other side, just opposite the beautiful and revered Wat Mongkol Nimit.
Torry’s Ice Cream
Torry’s Ice Cream is a pink shophouse beautifully renovated into an ice cream parlour. The decor perfectly fits the selfie craze that keeps young locals and travellers busy in the street. Once you are done with your outdoors photos, you can take some more inside. The ice creams are really good, and the menu includes some Phuket-based variations such as O-Aew (clear jelly served with red beans and ice cream) and A-Pong (a Phuket-style crepe with ice cream with bits of crepe inside.
Address: 16 Soi Rommanee, Tumbon Talad Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Hours: 11 am – 6 pm, Fri, Sat, Sun: 11 am – 9:30 pm
Phone: 076 510 888
Phuket 346 Guesthouse
Phuket 346 is a typical Sino-Portuguese architecture shophouse converted into a guesthouse with small but comfortable rooms, a cafe, and a contemporary art gallery.
Address: 15 Soi Rommani, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Phone: 076 258 108
The Rommanee Boutique Guesthouse
The Rommanee is a 2-star guesthouse next to 346 and includes a small but welcoming ‘Doubrew’ coffee shop. The Rommanee is popular for its superb decor, clean room, and great central location.
Address: 15 Soi Romanee, Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Phone: 089 728 9871
Address: 21 Soi Rommani, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Hours: 9 am – 8 pm
Phone: 099 156 9879
More photos of Soi Romanee
Soi Romanee in the past
Soi Romanee Map
Other Streets of Phuket