August 14, 2019.
Long ago, Phuket was well-known for something entirely different than tourism. The island was the centre of the tin-mining industry in Thailand. Tin was first mined in Phuket as early as the 16th century and European mining interests were involved from almost the very beginning.
By the 18th century, the Hokkien Chinese were the major driving force of tin-mining in Phuket, and this confluence of European and Chinese interests led to the development of a unique Sino-Portuguese style of architecture. This style of architecture can still be seen in places like Singapore and Malaysia, but it's at its most colourful and vibrant in the preserved buildings of Old Phuket Town.
There were two unique styles of buildings to emerge from this era in Phuket's history. The Sino-Portuguese shop-house is the most abundant and colourful. They still line Old Phuket Town's streets and alleys. But the most beautiful and majestic structures are the Sino-colonial large mansions that still exist here and there in Old Phuket Town.
The mansions serve as monuments to the past when tin barons who had struck it rich in the mining operations built these mansions for themselves in an ostentatious show of their wealth.
To see how the average townspeople of Phuket lived during the tin-mining era of the past, simply take a walk around some of the streets and alleys of the old area of Phuket Town. The buildings lining these streets have been tastefully preserved and restored to their former glory. They serve, once again, as vibrant and exotic hubs of commerce and entertainment.
Phuket Town is eager to show off their architectural treasures to tourists. One of the most iconic streets in town is Soi Romanee. You should have your cameras charged up and ready to go, as you'll be spoiled for choice. Everywhere you look seems to be a great picture of the past. Dibuk Road and Thalang Road also have picture-perfect examples of shop-house architecture.
Phuket Walking Street is lined with shop-houses and, as a bonus when the sun sets, you get to sample all the delicious street food and browse through the souvenirs for sale as you stroll down the street.
The true gems of Old Phuket Town are the mansions that still stand as a testament to the wealth generated by Phuket's tin mines. These mansions, sadly, are not all open to the public. Most of them serve as private business offices and establishments. A couple of them remain abandoned and are waiting for someone to see their innate splendour and put up the money and effort needed to restore them to their original beauty.
One of the most famous mansions is Phra Pitak Chinpracha Mansion. The mansion has been transformed into the equally renowned Blue Elephant Restaurant, which is what it's known as today. The restaurant has lovingly restored the mansion to its former glory, and luckily, you can see the interior by patronising the restaurant. Dine on Michelin-starred Thai food while you gaze around the exquisite restoration that saved this beautiful structure.
Baan Chinpracha is located next door to the Blue Elephant Restaurant. You are also able to view the interiors of Baan Chinpracha as it's a privately owned mansion that operates as a half-residence and half-museum.
Thai Hua Museum is another splendid mansion that once served a residence and then as a school for Phuket Town's children. These days it serves as a museum and is well worth a visit for its beauty, inside and out. The museum has a tasteful and informative display of the history of the island.
The Blue Elephant Restaurant, Baan Chinpracha and the Thai Hua Museum are all located along Krabi Road.
If you have a need to visit the Thai Airways office in Phuket Town, you're in for a treat as well. Their offices are located in a beautiful white mansion amid immaculately-tended tropical gardens. It's located on Ranong Road. Although it operates strictly as an office, it's worth a look if you happen to be passing by.
Rentals for the Holidays has accommodations available in Phuket Town as well as all other areas of the island.
We provide accommodations for all areas of this large island so you can choose the area the offers attractions that suit your lifestyle and interests. The next time you're thinking of planning a holiday in Phuket, check out the modern and convenient accommodations provided by Rentals for the Holidays.