A market is a great place to sample real local life, no matter where you are. The market is the centre of the town or village, and despite the arrival of many big shopping centres in Phuket over the last 12 years, the local markets here are still busy. There may be big stores like Tesco Lotus, Makro, Big C, Central and many minimart style shops like 7-11, but the market (talad) is still the place to get fresh local produce, or a place to hang out and meet people. Phuket is bigger than most people realise and there are countless small local markets. I have blogged a number of interesting markets and plan to do more, since (for me) a market is an essential part of life in the local community. Here's some of Phuket's markets:
The Weekend Market
Probably the market that most tourists will visit is the weekend market just outside Phuket Town. Locals call it Talad Naka (since it's close to Naka Temple) or Talad Jatujak Phuket(after the huge Jatujak market in Bangkok – the market in Phuket is much smaller). It's held on Saturday and Sunday starting in the mid-afternoon, carrying on until about 11pm. The best time to go is just before sunset. It is quite big and once you are in the maze of stalls, it's easy to be unsure of which way to go! Lots of food stalls selling all kind of snacks and drinks, lots of clothes, arts and crafts, DVDs/CDs, plants, pets, mobile phone accessories, and it's great for people watching.
Phuket Town main market
The main market in town is a very busy place. It reopened in 2010 in a new building on Ranong Rd in the old-town area. The old market was ....old. And smelly. I never went inside, but the new market is well worth a visit. The streets all around the market are also a market, it's a very busy area and is also where you can get local buses to destinations all around the island.
Lard Yai Sunday Walking Street on Thalang Rd
The Walking Street on Thalang Rd in the old-town started in late 2013 and has become very popular as a place to hang out on Sunday evenings, helping to promote the oldtown. There are lots of food and drink stalls, clothes and art for sale and entertainment too with performers and music every Sunday.
Kathu Fresh Market
Kathu is my area. The main market is big and seems to have gotten busier over the years even though the main Tesco store is only a few kilometres away and Tesco even opened a mini store in the area. Kathu is the area between Patong and Phuket Town and is mainly a residential area but with quite a lot of history, as the tin-mining industry was centered here in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The market is on daily, all day. It's a fresh produce market with stalls selling fish, shrimp, meat, vegetables, chili paste, eggs, flowers, ready-made meals and a lot more!
It's nice to visit in the early evening, get some food from one of the many food stalls and watch the world go by.
Karon Temple market
A very easy to visit market if you stay near Karon beach... the Karon temple market takes place in the temple grounds on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the late afternoon/evening. It's a mix of fresh produce, snacks and food, clothes and a few tourist-aimed stalls selling sunglasses or swimwear. It's the main local market in Karon. There's another market a couple of miles away in Kata on the back-road away from the beach.
Phuket Town Indy Market
The Indy Market near the old section of Phuket Town only started in 2010, meant as a place for kids/teenagers to hang out in a safe, smoke-free environment. It's not huge, most of the stalls sell arty items and clothes and there's some food and drink stalls too. It is indeed very popular with the youngsters. There is often live music too. The Indy Market takes place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from 4pm til 10:30pm (so does not clash with the Saturday/Sunday weekend market). It's certainly worth a visit combined with dinner or drinks in town.
We have used the Expo market quite a lot, bought shirts, pants, Thai souvenirs, computer games. It's an air-conditioned indoor market, open every day near the centre of Phuket Town.
Phuket covers an area of over 500 square km, and there are many local areas and small villages within Phuket, and all have some kind of market.
Try looking for fresh seafood at Rawai Beach, or check out the big Banzaan fresh market in Patong near Jungceylon – and there's another market in Patong on Nanai Rd (the back road). Oh and the touristy"OTOP" market. I drive past a small market in the Chalong area every day and there are regular local markets in the Bang Rong and Cherng Talay areas of Phuket.
It's worth a look at any market for a taste of the real Phuket, to pick up some snacks or fruit and see something away from the organised tourist route.
Jamie Monk works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers. For more information call: 084 626 4646 or visit: sunrise-divers.com