Phuket has, a side of sun, sea, beach and great scenery another face,
Usually referred to as “Phuket Town”, Phuket City is well worth taking time out from the beach for its shops and markets, its Sino-Portuguese buildings, its temples, and its many restaurants. Most visitors to Phuket head straight for the beach and rightly so, but if you want to take a break from the sand and catch a peek of a more ‘real’ side of the island, then the Phuket Town has much to offer. The town is about 30 mins away from Patong by car and is easily reached by songthaew (beach-bus) or talk talk if you don’t have your own transportation.
Phuket is one of the oldest cities in Thailand. The town used to be the important port on the west of the Malay Peninsula where Chinese immigrants first landed. Phuket used to be ruled by both Portugal and Holland.
The old buildings in Phuket town represent its former prosperity. These buildings were constructed when mining was an important Phuket industry. The architectural style, called “Sino-Portuguese”, is European mixed with Chinese modern. Characteristic is a single or two-storey building with a narrow front compensated for by considerable depth. The tiles, doors, perforated windows and other details are all influenced by Chinese and European styles mixed together.
Phuket Town is the largest town in Phuket Province. It has a population of 63,000 and is the economic hub of the island. For the most part just an ordinary, scruffy provincial Thai town, it’s hardly a major tourist attraction, but the Chinatown area is worth a quick look and there are some great Thai-style shopping opportunities too. Overall, accommodation and food in the town are cheaper than near the beaches, and can provide a refreshing change of pace.
Phuket’s administrative center was only recently given city status and is still commonly referred to as Phuket Town, even on road signs around the island. As a living, breathing Thai city it is not as touristy as other areas of the island. However, if you are willing to make the effort there are some delightful ways to spend your time shopping and sightseeing.
You can get a glimpse of the island’s history by taking a walk along Dibuk, Krabi and Thalang roads in the ‘Old Town‘. Here you can see many of the beautiful colonial mansions built in the Sino-Portuguese style of the Chinese tin barons (see Phuket history) over a century ago. In this area, there are also plenty of ornate shop houses that are built in the same style as those found in coastal towns all along the Malay Peninsula.
These old buildings were in danger of being torn down, but their historical value has now been recognized and many have been restored. While you are in this area, visit a few of the town’s Chinese shrines, such as Put Jaw and Jui Tui which are just off Ranong Road (near the fresh market). For a great view of the city, jungle and sea, go to the top of Khao Rang, a hill on the northwest edge of the city. There you will find a couple of good restaurants where you can enjoy the view with a pleasant meal, as well as a bronze statue of Phraya Ratsada Nupradit (also known as Ratsada Korsimbi Na Ranong), a famous governor of Phuket.
Phuket Town Bus Station One
Buses and songthaews connect Phuket Town to major beaches around the island and start from Thanon Ranong at the Ranong market.
Bus station mainly runs only buses to destinations in southern region.: one can go to Khao Lak (and Takua Pa) from here, as well as Phang Nga. To Khao Lak is 90 Baht.
From here also, go songteows to the beaches now as well as a regular non-aircon bus to Patong. They start here and then go to the market to collect a full load. It costs an extra 10 Baht.
Phuket Town Bus Station One to Phuket Town Market
To get there (Ranong market) if you are at the old (Number One) bus station, walk back out to the road you came in on, and turn right. (Phang Nga Rd) Walk to the end of the road, about a kilometer, turn left, then right again and you will see the large blue songthaews (two- or three-bench pick-up trucks) a couple of hundred meters along on the left. The first ones you come to go to Patong. Further along, they go to the other beaches. You will also see buses going to Patong at the bus station itself, for 40 Baht.
Phuket Town Market to Patong Beach
The most popular service in the market is the one to Patong (30 bath, 45 minutes) which leaves every 30 minutes between 07:00 and 18:00. Fares to other beaches range from 15 to 30 Baht. If you miss the last bus back, a taxi will cost 200-400 but depending on your bargaining skills.