By Chrissie Walker
I recently visited beautiful Thailand for the very first time. I stayed in the charming Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort. It would have been tempting to remain there for the whole trip, but I would have missed the other face of Phuket, away from the beach. The attentive staff at Outrigger can arrange excursions and visits and that might include a trip to Phuket Town. It isn’t an overly-touristy place and still displays much of its historic heritage in its architecture, and this is Thailand, so don’t miss the opportunity to eat with the locals.
Phuket has a history of lucrative tin-mining. It has left a legacy of old mine-workings (now transformed into beautiful lagoons), as well as a diversity in its population. Its citizens are Thai, but also of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian descent. These people came to this region to work in the tin industry and because it was a port of call for vessels sailing between the Indian subcontinent, Penang and Burma (now Myanmar). This mix has created a new community: “Baba” or Baba-Nyonya or Peranakan.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, tens of thousands of Chinese men made the move to other parts of Asia to seek new business opportunities or work. There was, however, an imperial decree that forbade these travelers from taking their wives from China with them. These men, therefore, had no choice but to marry local women, once they had settled in Thailand (then Siam). It is now thought that more than half the population of Phuket has Baba-Nyonya connections. This distinctive Baba heritage can be seen in Old Phuket Town, in its architecture and even food.
Phuket Town is a Mecca for any lover of distinctive and historic buildings. No one knows exactly when the first building in this colorful and ornate Sino-Portuguese style was constructed, but photographs from the mid-1800s indicate that it was already a common feature of the area.
The typical 5-meter wide and 50-meter long shop-house was where a family both lived and conducted business. The front of the building was reserved for work and the rest was for living, sleeping and eating. They still remain remarkable testaments to a way of life that is fast disappearing. Many of these homes/businesses are being renovated, but one can still find fragments of faded glory, and those façades have their own charm.
But then there is the food. It’s one of the reasons visitors love Thailand and the reason they return. Phuket Sunday Walking Street Market (Lard Yai) in Old Phuket Town should be on every visitor’s itinerary. This colorful weekly market is held on the architecturally fascinating Thalang Road, in the center of the historical Sino-Portuguese district. One will discover typical southern Thai food specialties that include cookies, pastries, fried foods, and hot dishes. The aromas are mouth-watering. It would be totally impossible to stroll through this vibrant and bustling street without tasting a little something here, a nibble of a small savory there, perhaps a plate of steaming noodles on the left, and some fish on the right. ‘Come hungry’ would be my sage advice! Dishes not to miss are Phad Thai and pots of steaming curry. It’s all safe to eat and delicious. Come early as the market gets extremely crowded later at night.
This weekly event is every Sunday from 4.00 pm – 10.00 pm.
Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort. Visit Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort here https://www.outrigger.com
Read more articles by Chrissie Walker at http://www.mostlyfood.co.uk