Thalang Rd, Krabi Rd and Dibuk Rd for example still have many older shophouse style houses and businesses, and this area has already undergone a lot of restoration in the last 10 years with plenty of repainting, the removal of overhead wires and lots of nice little cafes and bars opening which mix with old shops selling hardware, Muslim fabrics or Chinese herbs. I really like the old town area and wish I had more time to wander around taking photos.
The first street art I noticed was about four years ago on the corner of Thalang Rd and Soi Romanee, very much the heart of the old town. It was painted on an old crumbling wall by a French artist called Noé Two, and right away it became a focal point for photos, selfies and Facebook fans!
The face stayed there, slowly crumbling over the last few years until it was painted over a few months ago. On this particular wall, it enhanced the environment.
All this new art started appearing in April this year, with various artists involved such as Alex Face, Rukkit and Liudmila Letnikova. I don’t know all the names of the artists. It seems to be part of a locally organised idea called the F.A.T Phuket Project, meaning “Food, Art, (old) Town”. I saw some photos appearing on Instagram just as I went on holiday after Songkran. Actually, there was a wall full of odd pieces of art at one end of Dibuk Rd back in February although nothing that really stood out, more like a wall of graffiti.
With the art having been there for a couple of months, I finally had some time to have a look. We all headed into town one evening, not long before dark, had a good look around trying to find all the art we could, but the light was not great for photos so I went back with the kids a few days later just after lunch for another “hike around town with Dad”. They love it really.
We started at Krabi Rd near the Thai Hua Museum. Close to the museum, on the south side of the street is an alleyway that leads down to the main market on Ranong Rd. You could certainly argue that the whole wall needs a repaint, but it’s the juxtaposition of the new art and the old walls that is so great. We carried on past the market and headed to Phang Nga Rd where you can find a couple of art galleries and the old On On Hotel. Just about opposite Southwind Books (a very good secondhand bookshop) there are a couple of local characters painted on another wall that could do with a full repaint.
Just a few metres further along the road, but on the other side, is the entrance to the Sang Tham Shrine, a Chinese shrine built at the end of the 19th century in between the old shophouses, and, until a few years ago, devilishly hard to find! The entrance was smarted up and widened in 2013. There’s a lovely painting a few metres inside the entrance.
All along Phang Nga Rd there are paintings on walls. Just a few metres from the shrine is a big building that used to be a bank but has been empty for as long as I can remember. Someone has painted a lion here.
After the On On Hotel there’s a yellow building called Pengman ... another old Chinese/Thai business. It’s a very popular noodle shop with a cheap hotel in the back and a big slice of art along the side wall of the building. The art piece is very hard to fit into one photo!
This one was painted by local artist Mue Bon and it certainly brightens up that alleyway, bins and all. I knew there should be a few unexpected paintings, and I am sure we had not seen everything yet.
Just along from the Sinthavee Hotel is an alley leading to a carpark, it’s a bit dim and dirty ..well, it used to be!
At the east end of Phang Nga Rd at the intersection with Phuket Rd a couple of the more iconic buildings in town are being renovated – the old police station with the clock tower, and on the opposite side of the road the old Standard Chartered Bank building, which was the first bank to open in the town – and the bank also financed the police station, much needed to deter robbers in the (at the time) fairly lawless mining town! The bank building is being turned into a museum and I have been waiting a fair while for news of it’s opening! One other artwork was painted on this building but it had to be removed, which is maybe fair since it’s already being renovated and is an important historical landmark in the town.
At the end of Phang Nga Rd we turned left, then left gain onto Thalang Rd. The only new art along Thalang Rd, which is pretty much a work of living art anyway, is found at the corner of Soi Romanee. The beautiful girl’s face that was painted in 2012 had all but peeled off.
There have been various projects over the years to make the old town prettier, and I can say that when I first went exploring these streets 10+ years ago it looked quite run down, like nobody really cared.
Hopefully the old town folks will allow all this art to stay .. maybe some more will appear.
Jamie Monk works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers. For more information call: 084 626 4646 or visit: sunrise-divers.com