One of the best things about living and working in Phuket, Thailand is that you’ll never run out of things to do. From bustling Bang Tao to pedestrian Phuket Town, there is always something for everyone on this cosmopolitan island. If you’ve made the smart choice to make HOMA your home-away-from-home on the island, let us help you make the most of your time with this quick area guide to Phuket Old Town and Cherngtalay. So, without further ado, let’s jump on it and discover why Phuket island is such a beloved holiday and work destination.
Far from the madding beach crowd is Phuket Old Town, a testament to days gone by. Here you’ll find oodles of charm and culture. Having undergone somewhat of a resurgence the past few years, this quaint area is home to architecturally significant buildings, myriad Chinese shrines and Thai temples, colorful shophouses, historical museums, and a plethora of boutiques, cafes, bars, and restaurants. This well-known enclave is famous for its bright Sino-Portuguese mansions, once the home of the island’s rich mining titans. In recent years the small town has also become awash with striking street art, adorning the walls around town. Phuket Town is perfect for exploring on foot, you don’t need transportation here. The ideal time to take a stroll and snap some photos is in the early morning or later afternoon. Let’s now highlight some of the main Phuket attractions you’ll want to visit on your walking tour around town.
Phuket Walking Street – For sure you won’t want to miss this popular open-air market that is held every Sunday in the heart of town along Thalang Road. Between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM, this 350-meter-long commercial enclave comes alive with stalls selling all manner of items, from local souvenirs and knick-knacks to fancy jewelry, cheap clothing, electronic gadgets, and, of course, lots and lots of Thai and international food!
Thai Hua Museum – Set in a stunning two-story Sino-colonial mansion on Krabi Road, this former Chinese-language school is now a public museum. Built during Phuket’s tin mining boom in the early 20th century, the building features dozens of exhibition rooms outlining the history of Phuket, in particular, the prosperous families who emigrated here from China and helped make Phuket the success it is today.
Baan Chinpracha – Built in 1903, this Sino-colonial mansion is typical of the grand structures erected by Chinese barons during the peak of the tin mining boom on the island. Located just off Krabi Road, visitors can view two upstairs bedrooms, the kitchen, and the entire ground floor area (the remainder is set aside for the family currently in-residence). For a sneak-peek into how wealthy Phuket families lived in the past, you can’t get better than this well-preserved private home.
Jui Tui Shrine – This shrine is famous for the pivotal role it plays in the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival. You should definitely put his landmark on your to-visit list as it’s the oldest and most respected spiritual temple in town. Residing just off Ranong Road, the temple complex features three main altars, with statues of Chinese gods, in particular Tean Hu Huan Soy, the patron saint of the performing arts and dancers (aka Peking Opera).
Blue Elephant – For something truly different, head on over to Blue Elephant to savor Royal Thai cuisine. Formally the sole preserve of the royal family, commoners are now allowed to sample this rich and exotic food at specially licensed restaurants. Housed in a beautiful Chinese-colonial mansion amid lush grounds near the Old Town, a fine dining experience here is like something out of a fairytale.
Although not as famous as Patong, Phromthep, Phang Nga, or Phi Phi, Cherngtalay is fast becoming the most in-demand neighborhood on Phuket island. Why? Because it's got something for everyone and is within easy reach of the Laguna resort complex. For a pleasant alternative to the over-hyped and over-crowded environs of the island’s more world-famous locals, here you’ll find a vibrant, charming, and colorful neighborhood. This district is conveniently located in the middle of the west coast, just north of Surin beach, overlooking the Andaman Sea. In particular, sporting enthusiasts will love being on the doorstep of Laguna, the island’s premier outdoor area. Featuring 1,000 acres of beautifully manicured tropical parkland and waterways, it’s the ideal spot for a scenic walk, jog or bicycle ride. The interconnected lagoons are also ideal for boating, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Now that we’ve whet your appetite, let’s take an in-depth look at the best things to do in Phuket, centered around Cherngtalay.
Bang Tao Beach – Of course, no Phuket to-do list would be complete without mentioning one of the famous Phuket beaches to be found here, namely Bang Tao. The most compelling thing about this strip of azure blue water and pure white sand is that it’s one of the longest stretches on the island. It’s no great surprise that this area features some of the largest and most luxurious resorts and beach clubs on the island. The beach itself is free of unsightly beach chairs, umbrellas and bars, but you can find hangouts (such as Beach & Bubbles and Catch Beach Club) set amid the trees.
Boat Avenue & Porto de Phuket – Boat Avenue Mall features just about every shop and service you could need on the island. There are retailers selling clothing, bicycles, art, beach paraphernalia, and handicrafts, along with travel agents, beauty salons, real estate offices, dental clinics, nail salons, massage parlors, restaurants, coffee shops, and a large Villa supermarket. Right next door is also Porto de Phuket, a relatively new open-air community mall offering up the usual array of Central shops: Food Hall, B2S, Supersports, Power Buy, Jim Thompson, and so forth. There are also several standalone restaurants, such as Spice House, El Gaucho, Tai Omasake, Tu Kab Khao, Laem Charoen Seafood, Lime Roma, and Wine Connection to choose from.
Lemongrass House – This delightful store features an array of award-winning handmade spa products. It’s the perfect place to pick-up Thai-inspired beauty items for yourself and your family/friends back home. The items on offer here are truly diverse, they offer everything from body scrubs and massage oils to shower gels, face creams, kids sunscreen, insect repellent and pet shampoo. Some of the unique scents on offer include yang-yang, bergamot, kaffir lime, pomelo, and, of course, lemongrass.
Blue Tree – Just down the road from Lemongrass House can be found Blue Tree Phuket water park, an immense open-air playground housing a massive 17,000-sqm lagoon, water slides, zip lines, rock jumping, obstacle courses, paddleboards, suspension bridges, and more. The facility is designed for adults and kids to spend the whole day having fun in the sun. There is also a large shopping and dining zone, with every kind of food and drink on offer. The venue also hosts regular parties, markets, and festivals.
Elephant Retirement Park – One of the most highly respected elephant sanctuaries in Phuket, here is a place where you can interact with these gentle giants in a meaningful and sustainable way. Your local guide will tell you about each animal - name, age, history, preferences, etc. - and about how to handle the animals in general. A typical tour will include feeding, bathing, and playing with the animals. Note, riding is not allowed out of respect for the beasts.