Exploring Soi Romanee
Soi Romanee, in the historical centre of old Phuket town, is a short street with a long and fun history. Long ago, Soi Romanee was known to be the red-light street of Phuket town, where one would find brothels, opium dens, gambling houses and other similar ‘innocent’ entertainments.
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. Very few curious would walk the road and take photos, just like me who was always fascinated by old houses and mansions of Phuket.
Soi Romanee 15 years ago
People then started to realize the potential of this 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 we 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 stylish guesthouses such as ‘Phuket 346’. The street is now lively all year round, especially since young travellers realized how great the street was for selfies and Instagram photos!
During the Old Phuket Town Festival, Soi Romanee is packed with live bands and tourists. The rest of the time, it’s a colourful street with many 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 Road, you will still find a run-down restaurant, a small Chinese shrine inside a house, a suspicious old hotel and an old fashion hairdresser still parking his bike inside his shop. People living here seems to be halfway between ‘annoyed’ and fatalistic every time a camera points at them, and that happens a hundred times a day.
We 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 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 it) is between the famous Thalang Road on one side and Dibuk Road on the other side just opposite of the beautiful and revered Wat Mongkol Nimit.
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.
The Rommanee Boutique Guesthouse
The Rommanee is a 2-star guesthouse is just next to 346 and includes a small but welcoming ‘Doubrew’ coffee shop. The Rommanee is popular for its superb decor, very clean room and most of all for its great central location.