It was our last day in Phuket island and I wanted to end it with a nice activity to our a month long trip. I recall reading somewhere in TripAdvisor about a Phuket Heritage tour and there were such great raving from reviewers. I figure it would be nice to end it by exploring the culture and heritage of Phuket with a local.
So I went back to TripAdvisor and found this tour lead by Mdm. Chaya with only excellent review about her tour. I was sold, of course. I contacted her and it did take her some time to eventually reply. But when she did, all replies were done promptly and efficiently. She only does either a morning tour or an afternoon tour. The morning tour starts at 8.30am -3.30pm while the afternoon is from 2.30pm – 9.30pm. Both tours include a lunch or a dinner.
Chaya initially replied my email explaining that there will only be an afternoon tour on the 16th Jan because another family has already book the tour for the afternoon. As she operate independently, she can only organise a tour a day. I had to explain to her our situation as we are leaving on the 16th evening and thought that doing a heritage tour would be a nice closing to the trip. She was kind enough to offer to talk to the other family to see if they are willing to change their time for us. Lucky for us, the other family said yes and we had a special arrangement by Chaya to do the tour from 11.30am – 7pm.
Right, that is what I call efficient and proactive customer service!
The initial communication has been great and she didn’t even demanded for a deposit like most tour would and I really have to say, she operate based on trust. I was already looking forward to the tour.
On the day itself, the driver was really punctual. Well, in fact he was 10 minutes early to pick us up. We were brought to Rang Hill to have a bird eye view of Phuket Town. I think that wasn’t part of the tour. We had that privilege to do so was because Chaya was picking up the other family from the opposite direction and was stuck in a peak hour traffic jam. We were then brought to the Chinpracha house where the tour begins.
The Chinpracha House is located at 98 Krabi Road, Taladnua, Muang Phuket. To what I can gathered from reading and the explaination from Chaya was that the house was built by a young man named Mr. Tan Ma Siang (Prapitak Chinpracha) in 1903 when he was only 20 years old during the reign of King Rama 5. Mr. Tan was the son of a self-made wealthy bank owner (Mr. Tan Niaw Yee from Fujian China) thus he was able to have such a house built at such young age. Go figure! Father worked hard, son is living the life. LOL! It still hasn’t change for people of these generation, right?
The house was built with the influence of Sino-Portuguese design while the locals (Phuketians) refers to it as the “Angmor Lounge”. “Angmor means red hair in hokkien. It also basically refer to the European or Westerner at the time. Most of the furnishings in the house was said to have come from China and it belonged to his ancestors. While others such as the ceramic tiles are from Italy and fences from Holland.
Amazingly the house still remain in the family until today. The current owner is Mr. Tan’s 6th generation Thai descendents. The house is still in great condition despite being built in the 1903.
After the Chinpracha House, we were brought to “Natural Restaurant” on 62/5 Soi Phutorn, Bangkok Road, Phuket. We were treated to a really nice lunch in a really great ambience restaurant. It’s somewhat modern yet simple. The overall package was perfect. Great food, awesome place with lovely company. The food was really tasty. In my heart, I was like cursing to myself, why the heck have I not found this place in the first place. I would have experience great food everyday instead being in Karon. Anyway, better now than never, right?
We had fried oysters,mackerel,taufoo, morning glory, prawn + petai, Tom kha gai and mango with sticky rice as dessert. It was indeed divine. Chaya also shared with us stories about the town, herself, her life and Thai language.
From there we were brought to Sirey Island where we visited the local sea gypsies fishing village. They are all still fishermen but have been domesticated, of coz. We were told that their ancestors were (most likely) from Acheh.
Quoted from Chaya’s Phuket Heritage Trail’s brochure:
the Sea Gypsies people of Phuket is, perhaps, the real native of the island. Originally nomadic people, their ancestors roamed the area in the Andaman Sea for many centuries before making their ways for permanent settlement on the west coast of southern Thailand a century ago. Visiting their village to see how they live their independent and self sufficient lifestyle so simple and very close to nature!
The visit had been great. One of the closest we had got to the locals in Phuket. Plus the funny encounter we had here were the children dancing to Gangnam style.
The children here all look happy and they love the water. You see kids just jumping into their natural playground, the sea. It was nice seeing them this way instead of the city children each engrossed in their own world of NDS, Playstation, PSP, tablets or their fancy smartphones.
We were then driven to the Shrine of Serene Light, a Taoist temple. It was built in 1889 (2432 on the Buddhist Calendar). We were told that it was built by a local Hokkien Chinese family and were frequented only by those of the same surname (LIM, if I recalled the surname correctly). However because the temple’s condition was deteriorating, the family decided to open up to public in order to collect funds to repair the temple. It was still under a massive repair and extension work when we were there. Apparently, a man from Fujian was also invited to come down to Phuket to do the extensive repair work.
This was followed by a walk down Thalang Road. Thalang was the heart of Phuket’s commercial’s past. Thalang was the prime spot back then because it was where the 3 canals meet. Due to its strategic location, Thalang Road bloomed to be the central. The Sino-Colonial (Chinese + European architectural features) shophouses can be seen here. Walking down Thalang Street, reminded me a lot of Jonker Street in Malacca and Penang. At times, I felt like I was in Malacca not Thailand. Thalang Road nowaday has obviously changed. You can see lots of small cute cafes, boutique guesthouse (similar to Jonker Street, Malacca) opening up at this beautiful historical street. I wished I had stayed here. Prices here are much cheaper than Patong, Karon and Kata Beach area. So much nicer too, I must say.
From Thalang Road, Chaya brought us to Soi Romanee (The Pleasure Alley according to Chaya). This street was the red light area of Phuket town during the tin mining period. Probably the worker’s only entertainment area where you find opium and women! We were told that the older generation refer to this street as the Soi Macau (still do) instead of Soi Romanee because women working here at that time were imported from Macau. No locals were in prostitution at that time. Lonely young men that came from Fujian to work in tin mining industry were lonely and desperate. Due to the fact these men were too poor to pay dowry for arranged marriage, some turned to kidnapping and raping of women. Thus the local government decided to import women from Macau so that these men would be entertained after a hard day at work. Nowadays you can find only nice fancy boutique guesthouse, local massage parlour and café here. You got to use a bit of imagination while you are here.
We end our day witnessing the monks chanting at Wat Puttamongkonnimit which was a nice end to the day. Calm before the storm. LOL! (Had problem with itinerary – Nevermind, long story short – I was fuming at the airport.)
Just to summarise the point of this post is to say. Thank you Miss Chaya for a wonderful day in Phuket and I highly recommend you to do her tour if you happened to be in Phuket.
You can reach her at her facebook page
P/S: NEVER EVER FLY JETSTAR.
The irony of the last statement is that I am still flying in the air “now” from Gold Coast to Christchurch with JETSTAR. Hope they don’t see this and asked me to jump out the plane. LOL! (Blogged on 16th Jan 2013, Seat 6A, JQ189)
Right! That is all for now. Tata