Phuket Town

Merchant Town Houses, Phuket Old Town, Phuket, Thailand
Credit: James Patrick/


Phuket Old Town is a mix of brown teak timber houses and white neo-classical facades thrown like strings of bright beads across the town embellished with intermittant Chinese colonial, traditional Portuguese, and European architectures. The buildings tell of arrivals over past centuries; Sumatran traders, Burmese invaders, Chinese tin barons, a mix of Europeans who competed with colonial ambition long before tasteless twentieth century property developers arrived.
A convenient maritime stop between India and China, the island of Phuket is thought to have been inhabited for three thousand years. First recorded as Tagola Cape by Claudius Ptolemy writing in the first century AD, the island has been known variously as Maneekram, Jungceylon, Thalang, and finally, Phuket from the Malay "Bukit" meaning hill.
From the late fifteenth century the confluence of geography, trade, and natural resources has made Phuket island the temporary home to sailors and itinerant traders, merchants and mercenaries, and explorers, adventurers and ne'er-do-wells from near and far. And now, in the present day pandemic, the natural advantage of the island has made it an ideal place to quarantine visitors to Thailand. The "Phuket Sandbox" opened on 1st July 2021.
At this time of year hot, humid, lush foliage reminds the visitor of the raw geography and, as in every year, wet season squalls soon arrive to flog rigging, boats, and men.