The Thalang Road is a 600 metre long road located in the historic centre of Phuket Town. What makes the Thalang Road so special, and an increasingly popular tourist attraction, is the many beautiful old buildings lining the road.
The Thalang Road is pedestrianised, and a street market appears in the middle of the road, every Sunday night from 16:00 to 22:00 in a weekly event called Phuket Walking Street. The Thalang Road is at its busiest on Sunday evenings between 19:00 and 21:00.
About the Thalang Road
The Thalang Road reveals a lot about Phuket town’s past. Many of the buildings date back to the period from the last two to three decade of the 19th Century when the town, and Phuket as a whole, was becoming rich from the tin mines on the island and to a lesser extent from commercial rubber farming.
History of the Thalang Road
The middle of the 19th Century was a time when the tin mining industry was beginning its expansion and this attracted a lot of Chinese immigrants who turned up on the island, like economic immigrants the world over, with nothing and started their new lives in Phuket living in poor conditions in temporary housing.
Over the next 20 to 30 year these immigrant families established themselves in Phuket and replaced their temporary dwellings with permanent and more comfortable houses. The Thalang Road was, at that time, the island’s commercial centre and people who came to live here did more than just build homes they also built shops at ground level in a style common to ancient China with large wooden shutters installed to close up wide shop frontages at night.
The wealth of the early inhabitants of the Thalang Road is clear from the quality of the buildings. The property owners adopted an architectural style commonly referred at as ‘Sino-Portuguese’ which is a blend of European and Chinese design. The external facades of the building are painting in a variety of pastel colours with plaster work moulded to give the appearance of Greek style columns, matched with Asian style shutters, and arches and balconies reminiscent of Mughal style architecture. The buildings go well beyond simply being functional retail spaces.
Decline of Phuket Town
The Thalang Road, like the rest of Phuket Town, went into a 20 year period of decline after the collapse of tin prices on the world market and the closure of the island’s tin mines. If you visited Phuket town in the 1990s you would have had to have looked hard to recognise the architectural significance of the buildings in the area, as the brightly coloured paint had faded and the perishable part of many of the buildings had decayed due to a lack of maintenance.
Tourism has had a positive effect of the Thalang Road. Private business has taken over a lot of these old shop houses and restored them in the hope of capitalising on the history of the road for commercial gain. The road is a now a mix of very old businesses, like fabric shops and printing presses, and very new businesses which are furnished to look they are old.
A lot of these newer businesses have come and gone over the last decade as the increase in visitor numbers has been steady rather than an explosion as foreign visitors slowly catch onto the idea that there is more to do in Phuket than sit on the beach or to enjoy the dubious pleasures of Bangla Road in Patong. If you want to see a shop which is really is old then take a look at Nguan Choon Tong, which a Chinese herb shop that has been continuously in operation since 1917, most likely making it the oldest business on the Thalang Road.
Location of the Thalang Road
- The Thalang Road is located 850 metres walking distance from Phuket Bus Terminal 1.