Long before flip-flops and selfie sticks, Phuket was an island of rubber trees, tin mines and cash-hungry merchants. Attracting entrepreneurs from the Arabian Peninsula, China, India and Portugal, Phuket Town (เมืองภูเก็ด) was a colourful blend of cultural influences. Today, it stands as a testament to the island’s history. Wander down streets lined with Sino-Portuguese architecture housing arty coffee shops, eccentric galleries, bright textiles stores and fantastic restaurants, and peek down alleyways to incense-cloaked Chinese Taoist shrines.
The Old Town is Phuket's hipster heart, attracting artists and musicians in particular. That has led to some startling gentrification. Century-old shophouses and homes are being restored and it can feel like every other building is now a trendy polished-concrete cafe or a quirky guesthouse. But Phuket Town is still a wonderfully refreshing cultural break from the island's beaches, all of which it is connected to via a network of sŏrng·tăa·ou.