Phuket Town's low-key attractions are mostly associated to its colourful Chinese history and heritage, found in the Chinatown area on the north-western side of the city around Thanon Thalang.
Old Phuket. The creation of the tin boom in the 19th century led to construction of many fine mansions and shops that are still well preserved. The architectural stylishness, typical of the region, is described as Sino-Portuguese and has a strongly Mediterranean character. Shops exhibit a very narrow face onto the street but stretch back a extended way. Many, especially on Dibuk Road, contain old wooden doors with Chinese fretwork carving.
Other streets, forming what might be called "Old Phuket", with comparable structures are Phang-nga, Yaowarat, Thalang, and Krabi, and a walking tour of the area is stress-free and delightful. Several other old European-style buildings of note are the Provincial Hall, the Phuket Courthouse, and Siam City Bank.
Jui Tui and Put Jaw Temples corner of Thanon Ranong and Soi Phuthon (just west of the Ranong bus terminus). Put Jaw is the oldest Chinese Taoist temple in Phuket, first built over 200 years ago and devoted to the Goddess of Mercy (Kwun Im), while the adjacent and connected Jui Tui is its larger, more modern annex. If you have a question that is puzzling you, ask it and toss the two red mango-shaped pieces in front of the altar in the air: If they land the same side up the answer is "no", while if they land on different sides the answer is "yes". Without charge entry but donations welcome.
Wat Mongkol Nimit Thanon Dibuk. A classical Thai-style temple with a soaring roof and lots of colourful glass tiling.
Phuket Culture Museum at Rajabhat University. It's at no cost and very informative. Phuket's history is told in pictures and still scenes.
Khao Rang A great view of Phuket Town, the southern part of the island, and some of the offshore islands, can be obtained by going to the top of Khao Rang Hill, on the town's northwest border. There are also several restaurants featuring spectacular views of the city, a health park for exercise enthusiasts, and a comfortable, expanse of grass at the top with a bronze statue of Phraya Ratsada Nupradit, the model Governor of Phuket during King Rama V's reign.
Saphan Hin A state reclamation project provided abundant new land now used for parks and public facilities at Saphan Hin, located where Phuket Road meets the sea in Phuket Town. In the circle is the Tin Mining Monument, shaped like a large drill bit, dedicated to the memory of Captain Edward Thomas Miles, the Australian who brought the first tin dredge to Phuket in 1909. The monument was built in 1969 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of tin dredging in Phuket. There is a sport center in the park.
Phuket Butterfly Farm. 3km from town via Yaowarat Road and the Sam Kong intersection. It has a fascinating collection of such tropical creatures as butterflies, insects, marine life all arranged in natural surroundings. It is open daily from 9.00 a.M.-5.00 p.M. Admission is 300 bath for adults and 150 baht for children. Tel: 0 7621 0861 0 7621 0861, Fax: 0 7652 3609
Phuket Cultural Center. Located in the area of the Phuket Rajabhat University on Thepkrasattri Road. It displays history as well as the arts and culture of Phuket, such as houses, ways of life, and utensils of the city of Thalang in ancient times. Furthermore, the library collects books on Phuket's history and culture. The center is open daily for free from 8.30 a.M. - 4.30 p.M., except public holidays. For a group of visitors who needs a guided tour, please address a letter of request to the Phuket Cultural Center at 21 Thepkrasattri Road, Tambon Ratsada, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Phuket, or call Tel. 0 7624 0474-6 ext. 148,0 7621 1959, 0 7622 2370, Fax: 0 7621 1778.
Thai Village and Orchid Farm. Located on Thepkasattri Road about 3km from town, serves daily a typical southern Thai lunch that is followed by a sensational cultural show including Thai dances, Thai boxing southern customs and elephants. Handicrafts are additionally on display. The complex also houses a dining hall decorated with over 20,000 varieties of orchid and tropical trees. Digestion is aided by the lilting sounds of Thai classical and folk music played on tradition instruments. It is open daily from 9.00 a.M.-9.00 p.M. Cultural shows are performed daily at 1.00 p.M. And 5.30 p.M. Admission is 650 baht for adults and 330 baht for children. Call 0 7621 4860, 0 7623 7400 for details.
Wat Chalong. A beautiful Buddhist temple located on the southern end of the island. This is where stands the cast statue of Luang Pho Cham, who helped the people of Phuket, put down the Angyee, or Chinese Coolie Rebellion, in 1876 during the reign of Rama V. There are also statues of Luang Pho Chuang, and Luang Pho Cham, abbots of the temple during later times. Wat Chalong is about 8 kilometres outside town. Take Wichit Songkram Road to the bypass and turn left, and drive for about 10 minutes. Wat Chalong is on the left.
Phuket Zoo. Located on the way to Chalong Bay, the zoo contains a collection of Asian and African mammals and birds. Elephant and crocodile shows are performed every day. The zoo is open daily from 8.30 a.M. - 6.00 p.M. Admission is 500 baht for adults and 300 baht for children. Call 0 7637 4430, 0 7637 4424 for details.
Two Heroines Monument Phuket’s most famous monument in Amphoe Thalang is the memorial statue of the heroines Thao Thepkasattri and Thao Sisunthon, who rallied islanders in 1785 to repel Burmese invaders.
Thalang National Museum This is located near the Two Heroines Monument. The museum contain permanent exhibition of life in old Phuket, ancient artefacts and remains discovered on the coast and, materials used during war with Burma (Myanmar). It is open daily except national holidays from 8.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. Admission is 30 baht. For more information call 0 7631 1426, 0 7631 3397, 0 7631 1206.
Wat Phra Thong some 20 kilometres from Phuket Town past the Thalang district office, this temple enshrines a golden Buddha image that sprang up from beneath the earth long ago. The story tells of a juvenile boy who tied his buffalo to what he thought was a pole. After doing so, he fell down in agony and died. The father of the boy dreamed that the reason his son had died was for the sin of tying a filthy buffalo to a sacred object, that what the boy thought was a post was in reality the golden peak of the Buddha's conical cap. He told his neighbors the dream and they all went out to dig up the statue but had no success.
Wat Phranang Sang This temple is located 20 kilometres from town on the Thepkasattri Road at Thalang district. An old and historical landmark of Phuket, the temple was once a fort resisting Burmese invasion around 1785. Inside the old chapel are enshrined the three oldest and largest Buddha statues made of tin. Called the Three Kings, they are positioned in the midsections of another three large statues.
Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre Its duty is to promote, distribute and wildlife within Khao Phra Thaeo wildlife park. The park is located near Thalang district, 22 kilometres from Phuket Town. 22.28 square kilometers of virgin forest are coverd by this park, which also actively conserves a number of wild animals; they would otherwise be extinct in fast-growing Phuket. It is a center for study of the environment and the forest vegetation is spectacular. Giant trees supported by huge buttresses are thick with creepers and climbers of every description.
Ton Sai Waterfall A small falls, over which pours a great volume of water during the summer season. The trees, watercourses, and pools nearby supply one of Phuket's loveliest scenes. The park H.Q. With an first-rate view are also at Ton Sai.
Bang Pae Waterfall an alternative waterfall in the sanctuary which is located at Tambon Pa Khlok past the Two Heroines Monument. There is an arboretum and a nursery to rehabilitate captured gibbons ahead of returning them to the wild.
Animal sanctuary Visit the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project by the beautiful Bang Pae waterfall. They have a visitor centre manned by Western volunteers and English speaking Thai staff who will talk to you about the project. Talks are free, but please support the project by buying a souvenir, sponsoring a gibbon or giving a donation. Don't have your photo taken with a captive gibbon in Phuket or on the beaches.
The Big Buddha of Phuket Formerly, officially known as "Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri" and now called the Mingmongkol Buddha image, it is still referred to as the Big Buddha by everybody in Phuket. Sitting peacefully in the meditating posture and on a dominant peak between Karon and Chalong it overlooks Chalong Bay and far beyond. So dominant is the Big Buddha that it can be seen from many of the southern parts of Phuket Island as well as nearby islands. At a height of 45 m and width at the base of nearly 25m it is completely covered in white Burmese marble tiles which signify purity. The bottom of the Buddha is wrapped in giant white marble covered lotus leaves signifying love and happiness.
There are 39 islands to the south and east off Phuket, featuring forests and mountains, rocky formations, beaches, coral reefs and fishing. The main ports are Chalong and Rawai. Islands with accommodation are listed above, but some others open to day trips include:
Ko Taphao Yai , 10 minutes by ferry from Ao Makham on Phuket’s southeast coast. The island is home to the Bucerotes hornbill.
Ko Rang Yai , lying off Phuket’s east coast, has been developed for the soft adventure tourist. Among various activities are snorkelling on the coral reefs, sea kayaking, mountain-biking, playing miniature golf, and visiting the island’s pearl farm. Package tours are provided by tour agencies.
Ko Nakha Noi , just off Ao Po on the northeastern shore, is popular for its pearl farm. There are fine sandy beaches suitable for swimming and a seafood restaurant. Tourists can charter a boat at Ao Po or contact tour agencies for a tour package (generally including lunch).
Ko Khai Nok , a tiny island surrounded by white sandy beach, is suitable for swimming and snorkelling. To get there, one can hire a boat from Si-Re Island’s pier.