A must-do in Phuket is a walk in the old part of Phuket City, around Thalang, Dibuk and Krabi roads. The beautiful architecture along these roads will take you back to the charm of a century ago.
According to Pranee Sakulpitpatana, a lecturer at Phuket Rajabhat University and one of the island’s premier historians, the architecture is a reflection of European influence on the island.
Europeans, including the Portuguese and the British, had been interested in Phuket’s tin wealth since the 16th century.
In the 18th century, much of the island’s tin mining was carried out by Hokkien Chinese who became the big players in building the old part of the city. In the early 20th century, under Governor Phraya Rassada Nupradit, major European mining companies were invited in, and the major public infrastructure such as roads and canals was built. No one knows exactly when the first building in this style was constructed, but old photographs from the reign of King Rama V (1853-1910) show that it was already well established by then. Two styles of building in particular stand out: the shop-house (Sino-Portuguese style) and the big mansion (Sino-Colonial style).
The Sino-Portuguese Shop Houses in Phuket
The shop-house was a place for a family to both live and do business, using the front of the building for trading and the remainder, including the upper floor, as a private home. Shop-houses are usually found built in rows, giving rise to the Hokkien Chinese term tiam choo, meaning a row of shop-houses. The floor plans of all these shop-houses are very similar: five meters wide but as much as 50 meters long, creating a very spacious living space for an entire family. Across the front of each, along the edge of the street, is an arcade, offering shade and shelter to the public. Behind this, the house is usually divided into four parts.
There is a living room for general purposes and for receiving guests, followed by a space, open to the sky, with a well. At the rear is the kitchen. Upstairs is the family’s private area and bedrooms. In the old days, the central open area was often the heart of the house. It was here that you would find the women of the house chatting while cooking or doing the washing. It was also, in a sense, the lungs of the house, allowing air to flow through, even in the hottest month, April, when temperatures in Phuket can rise to 38 degrees C. Also contributing to the cool atmosphere were the thick, solidly-built walls.
More Information: Old Phuket Houses