The old history and culture can be a little hard to find under the new layers of modernity, but it’s there. Here are several museums where you can learn more about Phuket’s history.
Phuket Mining Museum
Tin mining played a huge role in Phuket’s history, and this museum has loads of information and great dioramas relating to the tin mining era as well as geological information and great mock street scenes representing old Phuket.
I think it’s very well done, and entry is cheap. It’s located on a back road between the Loch Palm Golf Club and the British International School, Phuket.
Thalang National Museum
The Thalang National Museum opened in 1989 and provides a historical record of the people of Phuket, ranging from indigenous cultures up to the modern era. There’s a big section devoted to Phuket’s famous heroines who led the people to repel a Burmese invasion in 1785, an event remembered each March with a festival.
The museum is easy to find: head north towards the airport, turn right at Heroines Monument and the museum is 100 metres along the road.
Phuket Seashell Museum
Open since 1997, this museum features a great collection of shells of all shapes and sizes collected by a local family. The displays are well labelled with lots of information, and the collection has grown well beyond local Phuket shells. There are rare black cowry shells from New Caledonia, shells from Europe and fossils too. It’s located on the main road from Chalong to Rawai.
Thai Hua Phuket History Museum
This is a really interesting and well-looked-after museum, housed in the old Thai Hua School in Phuket Old Town. Thai Hua was (and still is) a Chinese-Thai school, with Chinese being taught as a second language. This was particularly important 100 years ago with much emigration of Chinese to Phuket. And these days it’s probably just as important in terms of Southeast Asian business.
The museum is full of displays relating to Phuket history, particularly how Phuket made its money in the 19th and 20th centuries from tin mining, rubber, fishing, prawn farms and agriculture. It’s easy to find on Krabi Road, just half a block west of Thalang Road in Phuket Old Town.
Just another block west of Thai Hua are a couple of old mansions. One of these, called Chinpracha House, or Baan Chinpracha, is also a museum. Built in 1903, the house is still owned by the same family several generations later, one of whom lives upstairs.
Downstairs is open to the public. It includes bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining room. The walls are decorated with old photos of the family, and the rooms are filled with old furniture, much of it original Chinese. It’s a real slice of Phuket history.
Phuket Peranakannitat Museum
Located in the former Standard Chartered Bank building in Phuket Old Town, this small museum, also called the Baba Museum, opened in 2018. The museum tells the stories of those who left southern China in the early 19th Century to settle in Phuket and includes quite impressive displays of old Chinese-style furniture and jewellery as well as the former bank vault.
A video presentation takes place on the second floor five times per day (10am, 11am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm and 3:30pm) except on Monday when the museum is closed.
Phuket Post Office Museum
Just to the east of Phuket Old Town is the central post office. There is a new building and next door is the old Phuket post office which houses a small museum, also known as the Philatelic Museum. There’s a sizeable display with old stamps and a history of the Thai postage stamp as well as old phones, scales for weighing parcels and a teletype machine. History buffs and philatelists will enjoy.
There are other museums and historical oddities in Phuket which I have not written about yet, like the renovated The Memory at On On Hotel, or the Thavorn Hotel which has a small museum in the lobby, or the old shops on Thalang Road.
Parts of the old town are like a living museum, and just walking around, stepping into the Old Chinese Herb shop and breathing deeply, can give us a sense of the past.
You can read more about Phuket on Jamie’s Phuket Blog – www.jamiesphuketblog.com