5 Phuket discoveries (and a few insights)!

Here we are in Phuket for the first time. And after three days of luxury as ‘on screen talent’ for a resort promotional video, it was time to get out and explore what Phuket has to offer. We’d allocated three days to have a look around this popular international tourism hot spot before the long (10 hours) drive back to Hua Hin and home! So here are our Phuket discoveries and insights.

Beaches, Bays & natural beauty

The weather was not the best for our exploration – intermittent and sometimes very heavy rain on most days. Therefore Phuket was not able to shine and be seen in the most sun-drenched and glorious light. Driving south from Patong we visited Karon and Kata beaches which we imagined would be quite alluring on brighter days – albeit the beaches were still busy. The winding roads connecting each beach and bay presented picturesque ocean views and stopping at a few of the viewpoints dotted along the way gave us a sense of the island’s natural beauty.  Naithon and Nai Yang beaches up near the airport were well worth the drive. We were left with the sense that the west coast of the island certainly had the best pick of beaches.

Old Phuket Town

Old Phuket Town is the historical town forming part of Phuket City. Phuket is one of the oldest cities in Thailand and in earlier times was ruled by both Portugal and Holland.

Phuket Town’s old buildings represent its former prosperity and over the last 10 years, a move has started to restore them to their former glory. The architectural style, called “Sino-Portuguese”, is European mixed with Chinese modern. Construction happened in the late 19th century and early 20th century when tin mining was an important Phuket industry.

The main street of Old Phuket Town is Thalang Road and other key roads are Phang Nga, Krabi, Dibuk, and Yoawarat. Many old and restored buildings have been converted into shops, hotels, restaurants and museums. Thalang Road was the first of the Old Town streets to bury its unsightly power cables to allow the intricate century-old architecture to shine through.

Like we did, we recommend you take the time to explore the streets day and night and enjoy how this historical centre of Phuket is coming back to life!

Phuket Town’s Sunday Walking Street market (Lard Yai)

Thalang Road in the middle of Phuket Old Town is closed to traffic every Sunday and the Lard Yai market takes over the street. Activities kick off from 4 pm and run through to 10 pm. Launched by culture preservation-minded locals in late September 2013 vendors set up shop all along the length of the road, which is converted to a walking street.  The adjacent Soi Romanee, a former red-light street, has turned pastel-toned and is also closed off to traffic, though no vendors are found along this narrow street.

Items for sale at Lard Yai are mostly local Phuket products that are distinct from the usual souvenirs seen at the more tourist-oriented markets. We read those market organisers, in an effort to promote clean and green living, have prohibited the use of styrofoam packaging. Alcohol and smoking are not allowed on the market street though there are several bars and cafes in the shophouses lining the street that provide this opportunity.  Pleasingly, counterfeit brands are also banned so you’ll have to go elsewhere for those “Chanel” or “Esprit” handbags and “Rolex” watches.

Food stall offering most anything you would expect are dotted along the street with tempting treats sufficient to satisfy the hungriest of market goers!

We recommend you add this to your ‘must do’ list when coming to Phuket! A great Phuket discovery!

Chalong Bay Rum

Given the weather was not the best during our short 3 days exploring Phuket we started looking for activities that had us undercover and out of the rain which is how we stumbled on Chalong Bay Rum. We read they have distillery tours which start with a Mojito (rum cocktail) and ended with tastings of the various rum blends – who could resist such an offering and for a simple 300THB?

The simple 30-minute tour was informative and the knowledge and enthusiasm of our English speaking Thai guide was to be admired. The rum itself could easily take pride of place on your home bar. It also puts the big name brands often associated with white rum to shame with its refinement and purity of taste. Another ‘must do’ for anybody who does not mind a quiet tipple! 🙂 Another great Phuket discovery!

Red cordial monkeys – Rang Hill viewpoint

Rang Hill, we believe, is the second highest viewpoint on Phuket island and even on the cloudy day we visited offered great district views over Phuket. As well as the viewing platforms there are a couple of cafe/restaurants cleverly situated to take advantage of the views. A Rotunda with a collection of historical information sits on the southern side of the hill-top. Monkeys also cohabitate the park while the trees provide a cooling respite here atop Rang Hill.

Like most houses and businesses in Thailand, the cafe/restaurants on Rang Hill have Spirit Houses situated near their entrances. Still a very active part of Thai society, it is normal for family members, employees or caretakers to place daily offerings of items like fried rice, fruits, flowers and small bottles of red coloured drinks at the entrance to the small Spirit Houses. Incense will also be lit to help transport the family or businesses wishes for protection and well-being to the heavens.

It was here at Rang Hill that I saw for the first time monkeys raiding these spirit houses for plunder. Not the fruit or other tasty offering but the bottles of red drink so respectfully offered to the Spirits at each of the spirit houses.  Just after we arrived atop Rung Hill I did see a monkey running across the carpark with a bottle of red drink which I though at the time was unusual. A little later whilst enjoying a cold drink at one the of viewpoint cafes I was able to capture these images of another red cordial obsessed Monkey!

Trickeye Museum

Once again, we were looking for a rainy day option in Phuket and the concept of the Trickeye museum captured our imagination.  This interactive museum designed to stimulate your creativity and imagination by using the  Trompe l’oeil technique.  This art technique uses realistic imagery to create optical illusions that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions.  Therefore, at the Trickeye museum, you can enter the picture, including various masterpieces, and become a part of the picture yourself! A fantastic way to have a whole bunch of fun whilst whiling away a few hours!

Russian – the new International language

Here’s an insight from our trip! It was my understanding that English is the international language used to facilitate a global means of communication. But on Phuket, it seems the Russian is also an acceptable alternative, or at least that’s our perception having spent a week there.

As you would expect, restaurants and cafes in the heavily tourist oriented sections of Phuket have their menus presented with dishes described in native Thai and English (for international visitors). What was surprising and quite a shock was that these same menus also had the dishes listed in Russian. Does this mean that the significant weight of numbers of foreign visitors coming to Phuket are Russian. And they are coming in such numbers and so consistently that businesses are now going past the acceptable norm and reproducing their ‘sales’ and marketing collateral in Russian as this nationality now dominate all visitor types? We even saw signs for business written in Thai and Russian only and some instances around Nai Tang beach where the sign were simply is Russian (no Thai or English)!

Hope you enjoyed our particular Phuket discoveries and insights!

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