Not a single person experiences the multi-faceted island of Phuket in the Kingdom of Thailand the same as the next person. But the majority of the travelers to Phuket see similar things from one person to the next. Why? Because it’s what they have heard of it’s what the majority of the tour agent, bloggers, and online guides recommend for them to do. Phuket isn’t just about crystal clear blue waters, beautiful beaches, and limestone islands. Phuket is in fact one of Thailand’s top 10 cultural cities. As many may already know Phuket was influenced by the Chinese and the Portuguese giving it, the well know Phuket old town – A UNESCO City of Gastronomy. But to get you started and prepared for your cultural tour of Phuket, here are a few helpful tips about themed hotels in Phuket that will enhance your experience here, cultural things to do and see in Phuket, and the must-try and eat dishes in Phuket.
When it comes to themed hotels in Phuket, the options are endless. From traditional Thai-style resorts to colonial-inspired hideaways, there’s something for every traveler. To enhance your cultural experience in Phuket, we have handpicked a selection of themed hotels that transport you back in time.
Little Nyonya (often pronounced by Thais as “Yaya” meaning Little Ladies), is a boutique hotel housed in a Sino-colonial mansion owned by a Phuket Thai–Peranakan family whose history dates back over 200 years. The hotel recalls memories of the old days with rooms that are decorated with original artwork created by local artists and hand-crafted furniture made from rare local woods.
inspired by the traditional Sino-Portuguese style, its shophouses dating back more than a century old. Stay here to experience first-hand what the early Chinese settlers experienced in their daily lives. The hotel is situated in the midst of a bustling area in Phuket Town within walking distance to Phuket Old Town, Central Festival Phuket, Big C, Lotus, and other shopping centers.
Experience stories from the past to the present. On On Hotel, meaning “Happiness for visitors” in Chinese, is the first hotel ever built in Phuket. Located at Phang Nga Road, it was built in 2470 B.E. by Penang craftsmen as a 2-story building. The elaborate decoration is enhanced by intricate patterns above the doors, windows, pillars, walls, vents and roof grilles. If you are looking to stay in a cultural themed hotel in Phuket, this definitely is a recommended choice.
Let your cultural experience of Phuket take you to a place where you can experience authentic Thai style. Sawasdee Village is an exotic oasis nestled amongst nature in the heart of Kata Beach, with lush scented gardens, tranquil pools, waterfalls and an award-winning spa. The thick jungle-like setting is accentuated by elephant statues, gilded artwork, and steeply pitched rooflines. Public spaces like the front desk, the lobby, and the gardens are breathtaking with these ornate decorations.
Cultural things to do in Phuket, is not exactly the easiest things to find. But a good start will always be to follow the lead of the locals (I am one by the way 😉 ) , who will give you clues to unusual things to do in Phuket. After all as locals have been living here for a long time, if anyone can guide you on the cultural activities in Phuket, it will be the locals.
Pencil in Soi Romanee in the heart of Phuket Old Town. This 125-meter-long side street – the most photographed street in Phuket – was once a red-light district for the many Chinese laborers who came to work the tin mines. It’s a cultural tour in itself, exposing the town’s interesting history, with lots of attractive Sino-Portuguese-style shop-houses. Some of the vintage buildings here have been converted into bars, guesthouses and cafés, of which Glasnost is probably the most unusual venue. It’s not only a café but also an active law office! Soi Romanee also hosts a monthly live jazz show during the high season from November to April.
Turn onto Thepkasatree road and walk past the beautiful ‘Casa Blanca’ hotel until you reach The Clocktower building, which is built in Colonial style and is owned by the Phuket Police. It has a unique history as the tower was completed without a clock because there was no money left to install one. After 40 years a clock was bought in Penang but the boat carrying it sank. The Phuket Lion’s Club donated a clock ten years later and the tower got its clock in 1976, around 50 years after the tower was constructed. Across the street is the old Standard Chartered Bank, the oldest foreign bank and a fine example of Phuket Town’s historic Sino-Portuguese architecture. Inside is the Peranakannitat Museum, a small, modest museum devoted to Phuket’s Baba (Peranakan) culture, a must-see as part of your cultural experience of Phuket.
Every Sunday evening, Phuket Old Town becomes a bustling night market that takes over the beautiful Thalang Road. Also known as Lardyai (from the southern Thai dialect version of talad yai, which means ‘big market’), the market invites cultural tourists to discover some typical southern Thai culinary specialties, such as barbecued squid, chicken and pork, as well as local handicraft and gifts. On the eastern (Phuket Road) side of Thalang Road, a superb wooden Chinese-style gate has been installed – the ideal spot for a selfie or family photograph.
A cultural tour of Phuket has to include a visit to the largest, most revered and most visited Buddhist temple. Be sure to make your way to Wat Chalong Temple and its Poh Jao Wat, which houses the Grand Pagoda. The pagoda is beautifully decorated with Buddha images and pictures that depict his life story and is said to contain a small splinter from the bone of Lord Buddha. It’s built on three floors, so challenge yourself to climb all the way to the top floor terrace, where a beautiful bird’s-eye view of the entire temple grounds awaits.
You’ve seen the photos and watched the clips on YouTube, but now it’s your turn to experience first-hand the unique and unusual tropical islands of Phuket. Mai Thon is just off the east coast of Phuket and spans 2.5 km across at its widest point. Expect to find beautiful golden beaches and palm trees, as well as pristine waters that are home to vibrant coral reefs. Dive just offshore to encounter sea turtles, cuttlefish, and a variety of other tropical sea life. The island is privately owned, so getting there on your own can be a challenge. Rather join a tour if you’re looking to visit Mai Thon.
Do as the locals do and indulge in the delights of a dim sum breakfast, small servings of bite-sized treats, sometimes deep-fried but usually served in steamers made from bamboo. Thai-style dim sum has its origins in Southern China but has been adopted by the Thai people to suit local taste, served with many cups of pandan tea. Make a note that steamed dumplings are an essential part of any dim sum meal.
Local seafood should be a main ingredient of your cultural tour of Phuket. Head over to Friends Café, located in the front of Phuket Country Club in Kathu. Their menu is stacked with options for fresh local seafood at incredible prices. With local favourites such as fresh black crab, oysters, river prawns, and their signature dish, spicy horseshoe crab egg salad. Expect a very casual atmosphere, with live music starting at 9 pm every night.
Torry’s Ice Cream is a must-visit spot for anyone with a sweet tooth. Offering a wide range of homemade ice cream flavors, this Phuket-based shop is a perfect place to indulge in something delicious after a long day of exploring the island. The ice cream recipes at Torry’s are a unique blend of Phuket and Thai flavors, with a touch of foreign influence. Whether you’re a vegan or prefer a boozy treat, Torry’s has something for everyone. Be sure to try their beer, Irish coffee or Jack Daniels flavored ice cream for a truly unique experience.
We hope this guide has given you a taste of what Phuket has to offer and inspired you to explore the island’s rich cultural heritage. Remember, this is just the beginning of our journey in discovering Phuket’s cultural gems, so stay tuned for more tips and insights in the future! And don’t forget, if you’re looking for more personalized recommendations, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Discovering Phuket. We’re always happy to help and share their knowledge of the island.