The island of Phuket is certainly a tale of two halves; part of it is tourist central, in particular, Patong, where I ended up. With its shopping malls filled with westernised brands, fast-food restaurants, soulless high-rise accommodation and an in-your-face-flashing-lights-deafening-music-topped-off-with-bells-and-whistles nightlife scene. To put it short – on first impressions, I hated Phuket. This, was before I realised the street art Phuket had to offer.
A short ride from what felt like my kinda hell – aka Patong, you’ll find a much more sympathetic side to Phuket. Streets lined with cute colourful wooden houses, intertwined with grand Portuguese-influenced ornate buildings, pretty flower and art clad boutiques and trendy hipster hangouts.
To top all this off, I was super stoked to find out that there is a thriving street art scene in Old Phuket Town.
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Street Art Phuket
Admittedly, I did very little research into Phuket. I was using Patong as a gateway for some tropical island getaways so the clubbing scene wasn’t high on my agenda – I didn’t consider just how tourist-naff Patong was.
So after my initial distaste for the island (yes, I ended up judging the whole island on just one town) it was a like a shining light to discover that the Phuket street art scene was actually a ‘thing’. This alone, changed my impressions of the island and Phuket was like a little gift that kept on giving – there are a ton of things to do on the island which don’t involve going anywhere near Patong.
The more I explored and spent time in the Old Town of Phuket, the more street art I discovered.
Artwork by Alex Face (real name Patcharapol Tangreun) often features a child-like character, her name is Mardi. She is often drawn wearing animal costumes and with an extra eye. This is because Patcharapol believes that spirits can only be felt and not seen with just our two eyes. The third eye on Mardi represents a world that can be seen beyond what human eyes can see.
The Old-World charm that you’ll instantly find in Phuket Old Town makes it a popular hub for anyone wanting to avoid the oh-so-tacky tourist hub of Patong. Phuket’s Old Town has had a bit of a revival over recent years it’s evident that this area is still clinging onto its traditions, yet it’s embraced the cool and the hipster – the street art Phuket showcases this contrast; peeling paint, crumbling plaster and wooden houses are complemented by the vibrant and bold street art and murals.
How did the Phuket Street Art scene come about?
Back in 2016, a collaboration between a local artist and a property developer spawned an initiative called F.A.T Phuket. (F = Food, A = Art, T = Town). Word spread about the idea which in turn attracted some of Thailand’s top street artists. This is why there is a ton of street art in Phuket Old Town – and why so much of the street art Phuket has features food. Have I mentioned the amazing night food markets yet? #drooling!
Like with pretty much all street art around the world, these murals around Phuket can be controversial, political and satirical, however, sometimes they are just created as a piece of art and to brighten up a dingy area which in turn entices people to explore a different part of town.
In addition to this, street art is constantly changing and evolving. My hometown of Bristol in the UK has a vibrant street art scene (it’s also home to the street artist Banksy) which frequently has new pieces of art literally pop up overnight.
Most likely since writing this article, the artwork will have changed, but that part of the excitement of the urban art scene. There is always something new to look out for.
If you’ve visited Phuket recently, I’d love to hear which pieces have changed or popped up in the area since writing this article.
Phuket Street Art Vs The Old Town
Some might argue that graffiti is just vandalism – and yes, I agree to a certain extent. I’m not a big fan of tagging or trashing a building façade by mindlessly scrawling over it.
However, street art and murals have a story behind them and in the case of the pieces in Phuket Old Town, it gives the perfect accolade to the district. There is a hub of shabby-chic and independently owned design shops and cafes around the centre. The street art and murals perfectly contrast the traditional Sino-Portuguese style buildings, while not overpowering them.
Once dingy street corners, peeling old shop fronts and dodgy looking alleyways have now had a fresh lease of life, with people now exploring theses slightly off-beat areas and previously unattractive areas.
What’s more, the locals I spoke to while tracking the street art in Phuket, have embraced the F.A.T initiative and often gave me tip-offs on where to find more murals. The street art of Phuket has had a win-win outcome; more tourists are exploring a wider area of the Old Town.
With the influx in tourists using social media such as Instagram, it’s encouraged a wave of people coming to the are on the hunt for Insta-fabulous shots of the colourful, and sometimes interactive murals away from the classic tourist route. In turn, this has meant tourist money being spent with the result in tons of locally owned independent shops, cafes and restaurants popping up in the area. Kudos to this!
Phuket Old Town is a polar opposite of the westernised tourist trap I first encountered while on Phuket island. I certainly know where I’d rather be spending my time and money!
Phuket Street Art Map - Infographic
This map is by no means exhaustive. Street art is an ever-evolving medium, I’d love to hear what new pieces have popped up, or what has changed or been added to. Please comment below, and I can add these to the map for even more people to enjoy.
The Artists Behind Phuket Street Art
One of Thailand’s best known street artists, Alex Face has two murals in Old Town Phuket – both featuring his cute cartoon-like character with their signature ‘cyclops’ style third eye. This signature style can be found in his work all over the world.
The first example is of a girl wearing the traditional clothing of the local Baba community. This includes a sarong decorated using a technique called batik. The character draws inspiration from the Thai-Chinese customs found on Phuket island. This large mural can be found near to the fresh produce market.
The second mural represents the Hungry Ghosts Festival (Por Tor). Again the Alex Face’s work features his iconic three-eyed character but this time in the shape of a turtle. During the ‘Por Tor’ festival, red turtle sweet cake is eaten which symbolises a long and prosperous life.
Initially, training as a graphic designer, his early pieces of street art was based on stencil work. In recent years his graphic style has evolved into giant murals. Featuring geometric shapes and bold colour and patterns. He produced bird mural which features this iconic style that was one of the earlier pieces produced for the F.A.T initiative.
A street artist based in Bangkok, his work frequently features a large boggle-eyed blackbird. He works in various mediums, sometimes with interactive pieces. His work has cropped up all over Thailand as well as internationally. His work in Phuket Old Town is massive and spans several buildings. It features his iconic bird hitching a ride on a flying turtle while leaving a trail of rainbow coloured spray paint along the walls behind him.
Where to stay in Phuket Old Town
Looking for somewhere to stay to explore Phuket Old Town? Take a look at these two options;
For Affordable Comfort with a Little Bit of Luxuary Be sure to check out The Memory at On On Hotel. It’s located in the heart of Phuket Old Town, so is perfect for exploring the local area and making the most of the local vibe and the night markets. The decorative sino-colonial style archway and fascade entrace welcomes you as you enter the building. It’s also the hotel that featured in the film ‘The Beach’!
The hotel boasts comfort and luxury, in a central location with free WiFi, ensuite rooms with aircon. The hotel also benefits from the 24-hour front desk, a tour desk for excursions to nearby islands as well as a terrace and bar.
For a More Affordable Option for the Budget Conscious Traveller, the White Wall Poshtel is a top option in Phuket Old Town.
Not only does it have a bar, shared lounge, garden and free WiFi, the White Wall Poshtel is situated in Phuket Town, just 650 yards from the centre of Old Phuket Town.
The hostel is clean and comfortable with large lockers to keep your valuables safe. Each bed also have a privacy curtain as well as a personal light and power socket. The accommodation also hosts evening entertainment and have shared kitchen facilities.
Be sure to check out the full list of facilities this great little hostel offers.
Visiting Thailand or South East Asia, you might be interested in…
- The Ultimate 10 Day Thailand Itinerary – 4 awesome ways to experience 10 Days in Thailand
- The 5 Best Temples in Bangkok – Self-Guided Bangkok Temple Tour
- Visiting The Ruins Of Ayutthaya Temples – The Ancient Kingdom of Siam, Thailand
Interested in Street Art? Check out these other awesome locations…
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If you’ve visited Phuket to see the street art in the Old Town? did you do find all these pieces of street art? Or are there new pieces that have been created? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.