Soi Romanee is a short street with a long and fun history. Long ago, Soi Romanee was known to be the naughty street of Phuket town, where one would find brothels, opium dens, gambling houses and other similar ‘innocent’ entertainments. But the more times change, the more they remain the same and these just moved to other street (Ask for Soi 11 in Phuket Town) and Soi Romanee fell into disgrace.
Less than ten years ago, the street was just a ghost from the past and almost every house was just abandoned ruins. Very few curious would walk the street and take photos, just like me who was always fascinated by old houses and mansions of Phuket.
Eight to ten year ago, people started to realize the potential of the Sino-Portuguese architecture and some resurrected 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 rebuilt it to its former beauty, with more or less success. Even us considered buying one, but once we saw what the parking problem would be, we didn’t pursue the idea.
Little by little, house by house, Soi Romanee came back to life, at first with few tiny cafes and some offices, then lately few fashionable guesthouse such as ‘Phuket 346’. The street is trying to be lively all year round but despite several advertising campaigns, it is till very sporadic and only few weekends would see some animation. During the Old Phuket Town Festival, Soi Romanee is packed with live bands and tourists. The rest of the time, it’s just a colorful street with just few photographers in search of a new angle and residents going their daily routine which has not changed since the early years of the street.
The beginning of the street near Thalang Road has been entirely restored, but toward the end at the Dibuk street, you will still find an run-down restaurant, a small Chinese shrine inside a house, a suspicious old hotel and an old fashion hair dresser still parking his bike inside his shop. People living here seems to be half way between ‘annoyed’ and ‘fatalist’ every time a camera points at them… and believe me that happens hundred times a day…
Personally, I love to walk these streets away from festivals when every street is peaceful and you actually can see the houses. Early morning or at dusk on week days, the street can still take you back in time and the soul of the street still remain.
Soi Romanee (or Romani, or Rommanee: pick one since even the residents don’t seem to agree on it) is located between the famous Thalang Road on one side and Dibuk road on the other side just opposite of the beautiful Wat Putta Mongkon.