Phuket Town is located approx 30 km south of Phuket International Airport and within 30 minutes drive of all of the islands major beaches. The Thavorn Grand Plaza is situated right in the heart of the vibrant capital, surrounded by quaint street bazaars, day and night markets, food and beverage outlets, cinemas, shopping malls and wonderfully preserved Sino-Portuguese buildings and Buddhist temples. While providing the perfect base to explore the island’s stunning beaches, the hotel is in a prime location for shopping and sightseeing in Phuket Town and for guests to catch a glimpse of a more authentic and traditional Thai way of life on the island.
If you are staying at the Thavorn Palm Beach or Thavorn Beach Village resorts and can tear yourself away from their relaxed and tranquil settings for an afternoon, then Phuket Town is is just a short drive away and well worth a visit to experience the local Thai culture. Song Taew buses (a truck with open back and sides) operate cheap, public services from many of the beaches around the island and with an abundance of taxis, cars, motorbikes and Tuk Tuks for hire, Phuket Town is easily accessible and is truly a must see destination for any visitor to the island.
You will often hear the names Phuket Town and Phuket City being used interchangeably, but rest assured they refer to the same place, the bustling, administrative centre of Phuket. To clear up any confusion, it was recently awarded city status, but most people, especially the locals still refer to it is as Phuket Town and for the purpose of this guide we will do the same. Our guide to Phuket Town begins with what is undoubtedly the main cultural attraction, the stunning streets and buildings located in the Old Town.
You can pretty much cover all of the sights of the Old Town on foot, but the best time of day to attempt this is either early morning or later on in the afternoon when there is some relief from the soaring temperatures and high humidity. There are a great variety of sightseeing opportunities on offer including many stunning examples of Sino-Portuguese architecture, Chinese and Buddhist shrines and temples as well as museums and quaint shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. All of these attractions are centred around some very special roads in the heart of Phuket Town.
Famous Roads in the Old Town
The cultural and historical significance of the Old Town as well as it’s obvious touristic appeal was recognised in the early 1990s and after many years of decline the core main streets and a series of smaller streets known as ‘Sois’ were handed a conservation award and the Sino-Portuguese shops and houses have since been beautifully restored. The distinctive ‘five footway’ pedestrian walkways, which cleverly link each building to the next with a high roof covered, curved archway were also reclaimed as public space. The famous streets of the Old Town include Dibuk Rd, Soi Romanee, Thalang Rd, Krabi Rd, Yaowaret Road, Phang Nga Rd, Rasada Rd and Phuket Rd.
Dibuk Road (meaning ‘Tin’ in Thai) is named in reference to the industry that the Old Town was built upon and has many fine examples of old Chinese Style ‘shophouses’ restored in wonderful detail. Shophouses, as the name suggests are individual units in a row of houses, with the front portion and often the entire ground floor designated for commercial purposes and the remainder as a family area for the owners of the property. The family areas contain beautiful internal courtyards and elegant facades.
Disecting Dibuk Road is Yaowaret Road and along here you can find many examples of shophouses still being used as they were originally intended. Shops such as Kid Dee offer an eclectic mix of Asian arts and crafts, whilst Wassana and Thana Manee have beautiful examples of Thai silk and textiles.
At the Intersection between Dibuk Street and Yaowaret Road, head south and take the first right onto Thalang Road. This road is a strong remnant of the past and is the beating heart of the Old Town. Here you will find some delightful examples of the ‘five footway’ walkways linking shops, traditional businesses, restaurants and cafes. Towards the Eastern end of the street on the left hand side is the quaint little Soi Romanee, a colourful little back street with an equally colourful history. Now the place of little cafes and guesthouses it was once the popular red light district servicing the tin miners in the town. To celebrate the restoration of the Old Town and to showcase the culture of the area, an annual ‘Old Phuket Town Festival’ has been running since 1998. Throughout this festival, Thalang Road is closed off to traffic and becomes a ‘walking street’ to recreate the Old Town ambience of the days before cars and motorbikes.
Cross over the road at the Yeowaret intersection and on to Krabi Road, home to the cultural gem that is the Tai Hua Museum. Formally the Thai Hua Chinese School, the museum is a splendid example of European influenced, Sino-Thai architecture. The museum is now used to showcase Phuket’s unique ‘Baba’ community, and serve as a local community centre for arts, culture and language. Further along the road heading west is the Phra Phitak Chyn Pracha mansion. This is a fine example of a sino-colonial massion and has been used as a location for several movie and TV productions including “the Killing Fields” and the “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”. Continuing west along Krabi road you will discover beautiful examples of Chinese Temples called the Sam San Shrine and the Thye Guan Tong Shrine.
Running parallel to Thalang Road and Krabi Road and just to the south is Phang Nga Road, which is perhaps most famous for its use as a movie set for the Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Beach’. In the film, the rather dilapidated On On Hotel doubled as the Bangkok Flophouse and is a mecca for film fans all over the world. There are more hidden surprises to be found on Phang Nga Road however, and take a turn down a small alleyway adorned with Chinese writing and discover the beautiful Chinese ‘Shrine of the Serene Light’. Built in 1889, there is a peaceful garden and a beautiful multi-coloured temple to discover. All along the main street you can find wonderful examples of the Old Towns Chinese influence.
Last, but not least is Rasada Road, home to our very own Thavorn Hotel (not be confused with the Thavorn Grand Plaza). The lobby of this historic building houses a wonderful collection of artefacts and memorabilia from Phuket’s prosperous tin mining past. At the Western end of Rasada road is the Suriyadate traffic circle home to an interesting fountain designed with fish shapes. It is also worth noting that if you travel straight over the traffic circle and continue west along Ranong Road you will find two beautiful examples of Chinese temples named the ‘Jui Tui Shrine’ and ‘Pud Jow Shrine’. The Pud Jow Shrine was built over 200 years ago and is the oldest of its kind in Phuket.
If you are looking for something a little different from the hell raising party scene to be found in resorts such as Patong, then why not sample a more Asian style of nightlife in the many bars and clubs tucked away in and around the Old Town.
There are a number of pubs located along Yaowarat Road, which dissects the famous streets of the old town. Many feature quality live music on a nightly basis and cater to a mixed crowd of Thai locals and westerners. A firm favourite is Timberhut, which gets packed out most nights and takes you on a musical journey with a quality house band first and then later on in the night, DJ’s manning the decks pumping out international and Thai dance music. Further along Yaowarat Rd, towards Thalang Rd. You will find both sides of the street lined with small live music bars featuring local artists. Things kick off along here around 21:30 most nights and often you find all of these bars packed and busy. Another quality venue is Sofa on New Dibuk road. This stylish two storey bar caters more for a hip and trendy local Thai crowd and has a friendly atmosphere with quality Thai music from live bands.
In 2009, Thalang Road experienced an extensive face lift removing all electricity cables from above the street and burying them under the road. This makes this a wonderful place for a evening stroll and there are some delightful, quaint little restaurants located in beautifully restored sino-portugese buildings serving up delicious authentic food. One such cafe is the welcoming China Inn Café & Restaurant. This cafe has a variety of unique dining settings such as the courtyard out back, which are brimming with Chinese artifacts. They serve up all the traditional Thai favourites as well as some unique dishes and have friendly and attentive staff. There are a number of other quality dining options in the Old Town with Salvatore’s on Rasada Road serving up classic Italian dishes and many restaurants along Dibuk road are much in keeping with the delightful classic style of the old town. They serve up Thai and International cuisine and have very respectable wine lists with Raya being the pick of the bunch. For a hip and trendy dining experience try Eatzz or Lemongrass, both located next to Sofa on New Dibuk Road.
On the doorstep of the Thavorn Grand Plaza .
As a guest at the Thavorn Grand Plaza, you really don’t have to travel far for an afternoon of shopping and entertainment. The Robinsons Department Store and Ocean Shopping Mall are literally located on your doorstep and are both great places to pick up good quality products at reasonable prices. Ocean is also the place to go for entertainment activities and houses a multiplex cinema showing all the latest English Language blockbusters (with Thai subtitles), ten pin bowling alley, karaoke booths, games arcade and restaurants.
Just opposite the main entrance to the Thavorn Grand Plaza are the Pensri, Phuket Square and Expo markets. These wonderful bazaars house a quality range of clothes and accessories all at bargain prices. And if you have worked up an appetite shopping, then just across the road from the Expo is Uptown Restaurant which is very popular with locals and westerners as they serve up all your favourite Thai dishes at very reasonable prices. For the smells and tastes of real authentic Thai food, there is no place better to go than the fresh food market that sets up every evening behind The Robinsons Department Store. Dive in and find yourself some new and interesting flavours.
If you are looking for a more traditional dining experience then there are plenty of quality restaurants only a short walk from the hotel. You only need step out of the front entrance to find Laem Tong Chinese restaurant, one of the oldest and finest Chinese restaurants in Phuket.
There is also plenty in the way of nightlife to enjoy in the area surrounding the Thavorn Grand Plaza. While many establishments maintain a distinctly Thai flavour, they are also popular with westerners and are a great place to grab a beer or cocktail, listen to live music, watch major sports events and mingle with the locals. Kor Tor Mor, located at the eastern end of Chana-Charoen Road near the traffic circle is very popular with the hip and trendy local Thais and is always busy. This place has a smart casual dress code so remember to leave your shorts and flipflops for the beach.
There are also a number of bars in the area offering a more colourful night scene. A couple of places have a unique and distinctly quirky feel to them as beautiful girls belt out songs in the hope of obtaining floral necklaces from the Thai and western patrons sitting in the audience. While these establishments are more discreet than those found in resorts such as Patong there is little doubt about the intentions behind buying the girls the floral tributes. Pink Lady is the best place to witness this fun and slightly corny stage show. Bossy, or Cayote Bar as it is sometimes known, offers another version of the girly dance show, only this time they are on stage dancing energetically to pumping dance music. There are also a number of cool bars with open-air beer gardens close by that stay open late and offer relaxed surroundings, with James Garden being particularly popular.
Phuket Island is a mountainous region and there are plenty of vantage points to get spectacular views over the beaches, islands and the crystal clear Andaman Sea. There are also a couple of good viewpoints close by to Phuket Town which provide unrivalled views of the cityscape below. The first is Khao Rang Hill which is popular with locals as well as tourists who enjoy jogging along the shady routes or exercising in the fitness park. There is plenty of seating available to relax and take in the view and there is a quality restaurant called Tunk Ka, which serves fantastic food with equally fantastic views over the town. The second viewpoint is called Toe Sae Hill, but is known locally as Monkey Hill after the community of macaques which inhabit it. Another great place for a stunning view of Phuket Town is the 10th floor outdoor pool at Thavorn Grand Plaza!
There are a couple of places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while, the first being King Rama IX Park. This is a popular destination for locals looking for relaxation or exercise and you will find many people jogging or taking part in group exercise classes in the early evening. The second is Saphan Hin, a large leisure park close to the sea that is popular with locals looking for a quiet place to sit, relax and enjoy a family picnic. It also offers a number of sports and recreational facilities including a large swimming pool, tennis courts, petanque, basketball, an indoor sports hall as well as a sports stadium and Thai boxing Stadium.
If hustle and bustle is exactly what you require then every weekend, from mid afternoon till about 9pm, The Jatujak Weekend Market comes to life on the outskirts of Phuket Town. It is a wonderful open air market and bazaar with an enormous variety of products on offer. In fact, it is worth a visit for the food alone and you have not seen fried chicken until you have seen the whole chicken (head, beak, feet and all) coated in their special blend of herbs and spices! Many people eat their way around the market enjoying such dishes as Thai Fish cakes, sticky rice, bbq seafood, papaya salad as well as sampling delicious seasonal fruits such as mango, dragon fruit, bananas and rambutan, easily recognisable by its red and spiky peel. You can also buy quality souvenirs, Asian arts and crafts as well as clothes and accessories, which makes this a must see destination for those in search of a bargain.
Travelling out of Phuket Town along the bypass road you will find an astonishing number of quality shopping outlets including Central Festival Phuket, Big C, index Shopping Mall, Tesco Lotus, Homeworks, all which are explained in greater detail in our section on shopping.