Want to escape the tourist bustle of Patong? Phuket Town is the place where locals eat, work, play, and enjoy each other’s company. The conviviality of the Thai people is worth sharing, and here’s where you’ll be welcomed.
EAT & DRINK
- Raya Restaurant
It’s the time-honoured adage: Go where the locals go. If the always-busy Raya is anything to go by, the locals love an open-plan, long-table affair with spicy curries and lively chatter. This is a place for slow lunches. Take your time, pass bowls around, sample everything, absorb the convivial energy. Like the rest of the Phuket Town old quarter, lovable imperfections cover Raya’s aged Sino-Portuguese interiors. It’s living history; authentic, flavoursome and fulfilling, like the chef’s special green curry.
- The Brasserie
The Brasserie’s rave reviews all centre around the friendliness of the staff, and believe us when we say the hospitality at this western-style grill is exemplary. Start with the Scampi el Diablo, fresh shrimps in a white wine reduction with fresh chilli, or the tuna carpaccio with basil and olive oil. Time-honoured mains abound, like the grilled salmon steak fresh from the Andaman, but this is your chance to sample unique Southeast Asian delights, like stingray wings in black butter. The steaks are hearty and served with imaginative sauces. When you’re done eating, adjourn to the wine and oyster bar for a glass of refreshing white. The environment is modern, dusky, and lit by stylish blue lamps.
- Prohibition Bar
Carrying the spirit of a 1920s speakeasy, this US-style bar is accessed by a secret swinging bookshelf door. The novelty is endearing, and by no means kitschy, and the decor is complemented by the fantastic selection of era-appropriate western music. Here you can eat traditional Thai food and make your way through an impressive cocktail list produced by a team of wide-smiling mixologists. Start or end a night in Phuket Town at Prohibition.
- Ka Jok See
This restaurant is pure fun. Located on the corner of an otherwise quiet and unassuming street, Ka Jok See offers guests close-quarters fine dining with an incredibly warm atmosphere. Maybe that’s why it’s a favourite of visiting celebrities; or maybe it’s the unusual menu designed for sharing among big tables. Dine before 9pm; dance after 9pm, when the restaurant becomes a shoulder-to-shoulder dance hall. You may see guests dancing on the tables – fine, because they’re laid with newspaper – and it’s not uncommon for conga lines and limbo competitions to form. Strangers become friends at this Phuket Town icon.
- Baan Rim Pa
Royal Thai cuisine is the specialty here, and that means shellfish-based variations on classic dishes. So it’s lobster green curry instead of chicken, and fried soft-shell crab without its customary bed of jasmine rice. If you’re a traditionalist, don’t worry, because all the familiar spices and flavour combinations are there (think coconut, ginger, kaffir lime, and sweet basil). The ocean view is as beautiful as you can imagine, and the resident pianist knows the kind of twinkling jazz refined diners like.
SEE & DO
- Naka Night Market
This weekend market happens along Chao Fa West Road and is a fantastical display of secondhand treasures, oddities, animals, and delectable street food. Even if you don’t buy anything, or don’t plan to, a walk among the stalls amounts to a heady dose of local Thai culture. The atmosphere is entrancing: eclectic lighting, rich-smelling smoke rising from grills, the omniscient rumble of chatter. Want to buy souvenirs, or super-cheap clothing, or toys? How about a hand-held feast of spicy sausages and fish cakes? Wander Naka Night Market and a spirit of discovery guide you.
- Wat Chalong buddhist temple
Phuket has 29 buddhist temples, and Wat Chalong is its most important. It used to be called Wat Chaiyathararam and is located in Chalong, near Phuket Town. Here, locals come daily to pray and tourists come to wander and learn more about the ways of Thai buddhists. As long as you’re softly spoken and respectful, you’ll be welcomed with smiles and regaled with stories and wisdoms. Wat Chalong emanates a distinct sense of history and spirituality you’ll feel the moment you arrive.
- Phuket Walking Street Market
This 350-metre-long single street market happens only on Sundays. It’s a photographers dream: picture colourful market stalls, neon signs, paper lanterns, and enthusiastic spruikers competing for the attention of locals and tourists alike. Spend hours perusing the stalls for exotic souvenirs and memorable trinkets for friends and family. And, of course, eat as many different foods as you can source. Everything is cheap and delicious.
- Promthep Cape
Perhaps Phuket’s best-known spot for sightseeing and photography, the majestic Promthep Cape installation is the place to watch a Thai sun be eclipsed by the shimmering Andaman. See the nightly display atop a lofty perch overlooking Nai Harn beach. It’s best shared in the arms of your special someone. It’s free, happens every day, and is easily reachable by car, tuk tuk, or bike.
- Baan Chinpracha
Part sino-colonial mansion, part museum, Baan Chinpracha is a stunning historic installation open for exploration. Go there and you’ll learn how an affluent Thai family in Phuket used to live in the early 1900s – and you’ll learn it from the owner herself, Jaroonrat ‘Daeng’ Tandavanitj, who is an in-law descendant of the mansion’s original builder and owner, Phra Pitak Chinpracha. Tour the house and its inner courtyard, noting its exceptional condition and dazzling design. Once you’re done, head down the street a few doors to the Blue Elephant Restaurant, another Phuket institution, for lunch.