Monday, May 27, 2013

Discovering the Cultural Side of Phuket Town

The Phuket Walk Rally was organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and a number of other local businesses to promote cultural tourism in Phuket.

I decided to sign up because it was advertised as an ‘investigative tour of Phuket Old Town’, so I thought it would be interesting to see a different side of Phuket, beyond the white sandy beaches. Oh, and plus there was also a bunch of prizes promised to be won at the event. Winning prizes and learning more about beautiful Phuket? Sounded like a great way to spend my Saturday! 

Upon registration, we were supplied with orange t-shirts, shoulder bags, three sets of question sheets and a pen, and once we collected our ‘detective gear’, we set off to explore the old town at our own pace. 

Our first task was to answer a few questions on the sheet by interviewing TAT staff dressed in traditional Phuket costumes stationed along Thalang road. Most of the questions were quite cultural, for example, one of the questions was “what is the word used to describe the 19th Century Chinese immigrants to Phuket?” The answer was “Peranakan”, literally meaning ‘descendants of’; we also found out later that the term was also used in 15th-16th century describing Chinese immigrants in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. 

The next set of questions were more of a ‘Treasure Hunt’ – there were photographs of things on the side of the road and you simply had to find them – it sounded easy, but it was harder than I had imagined! There was a lot of patience involved when you’re trying to find a painted inscription on a random wall or a small sign written in Chinese somewhere in Phuket Town. 

The third sheet took us to the Thai Hua Museum where we were able to investigate the traditional foods of Phuket. This was tough because I was having too much fun ‘sampling’ the foods in the nearby market, which made the investigation a lot longer than it probably would’ve been.  Along with the locals, my favourite was the ‘o-ew’, a bright-pink jelly made with bananas and Chinese herbs, served with shaved ice, red beans, grass jelly and red syrup. It was just the refreshment I needed after a morning of treasure hunting.

By the time we reached the fourth set of questions, we were tired. Instead of powering through, we succumbed to the attraction of the coffee and cake shops that are scattered around Phuket Town.

Obviously, our team didn’t win, but I had a great time being a cultural Sherlock Holmes for the day! The experience gave me an excellent idea for future guests. I think I will make my own version of a Phuket ‘Treasure Hunt’ for my friends; it’s a great way to discover the city and learn some of the interesting history behind this beautiful place!


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