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 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 tuk tuk if you don’t have your own transportation.
Phuket’s administrative centre 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 by 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 recognised 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.