Decisions, decisions. Trying to choose between a chicken curry and a beef curry to go with our two roti was not one of the life choices we were expecting to have to make as we settled down for breakfast at the Aroon Cafe in Phuket Old Town.
In the end, there wasn’t really any choice at all. That’ll be two curries then, please. Oh, and could you make it three roti. Washed down with a “kopi” coffee and an iced coffee, that little lot came to 125 baht (roughly £2.50). And quite possibly the best £2.50 we’ve ever paid for breakfast. Beats the hell out of the Scotts Porage Oats I’ve been surviving on for breakfast over the past 12 months, that’s for sure.
Situated on Thalang Road, in the centre of historic Phuket Old Town, the Aroon represented everything we loved about this under-visited part of the holiday island during the three days we stayed there. No boat trips, beaches or late nights out – just great food, a lovely guest house, friendly locals and a couple of Thai masseurs only too willing to pull, stretch and beat the living daylights out of you.
We stayed at 99 Old Town Boutique Guest House, also on Thalang Road. What we got for our 800 baht (£17.50) per night was a spotlessly clean room with dark hardwood floors, four poster bed, balcony, air conditioning and free wi-fi (which actually worked very well!). We also got wafer-thin walls (hello again to the couple next door just in case you’re reading – hope you enjoyed your late night aerobics session – sounded quite painful).
Being in the centre of town, Nicky enjoyed using the balcony for a spot of people-watching. She took particular interest in the wonderful octogenarian guy from across the street who just went about his business each day dressed only in a pair of shorts pulled up to just below his nipples.
Such was the essence of Thalang Road and its surrounding area. Over 100 years ago, as an area populated by some of the wealthiest families on Phuket, it was home to the “Lard Yai” or “Big Market” (not to be confused with the one in Geordie Newcastle) which attracted traders from all over the world. As a result, the area developed a multi-cultural society of Thais, Malays, Indians, Chinese and others, which is still evident today with its multitude of batik shops, restaurants, coffee shops etc.
After a period of steady decline, the area has now been restored to something like its former self. Gone are the myriad of overhead cables that are a feature elsewhere in town, and the road is lined with colourful restaurants, shops and guest houses.
And, in a nod to its past, the road now features a weekly Sunday night market, which includes lots of stalls selling a wide variety of incredible street food. Naturally, as part of our mission to eat our way through South East Asia, we couldn’t resist the temptation to fill our boots with what was on offer. Pride of place went to the “moneybags”, a collection of small crispy parcels of gorgeousness filled with vegetables and prawns. And the hot green mango salad.
Yes, I did say a fruit salad. But when it’s mixed with nuts, prawns, shallots and grated vegetables and all bound together with a hot, spicy, fragrant dressing it truly is manna from heaven. Note to selves – salads are the future.
The night market was also home to a sort of junior karaoke-cum-X-Factor session, featuring pre-teen girls murdering what I can only imagine were well-loved Thai ballads. Strangely entertaining, though.
One of the abiding memories of our last visit to Thailand was the Thai massage we experienced in Koh Samui. So, at the earliest opportunity, we sought out Kim’s massage parlour around the corner for an hour’s worth of full body workout in the capable hands, forearms, elbows, and feet of our two petite masseurs. After being shown to our private room our first challenge was to change into a kind of very loose fitting pyjamas. Of course, I managed to make a complete hash of the process and was still trying to get both of my feet into one leg opening when my masseur had re-appeared. Actually, for the sake of avoiding sounding too pretentious let’s just call her “Kate”.
Of course, I managed to make a complete hash of the process and was still trying to get both of my feet into one leg opening when my masseur had re-appeared. Actually, for the sake of avoiding sounding too pretentious let’s just call her “Kate”.
So anyway, Kate politely asked me to lie on my back before she started to work her magic on my feet. Quite relaxing and serene at this point. Then came the leg massage. I’m still struggling to come to terms with how much brute force Kate could muster on my calf muscles with her tiny hands.
But Kate was only just getting started.
On she went, muscle by muscle for the best part of an hour, until we finished with her knees in my butt cheeks while she pulled my arms backwards. Suffice to say, after this, the complimentary post-massage cup of jasmine tea and biscuit was the least she could offer.
Got to say, though – loved every minute of it!
But to round up, let’s get back to where we started with the subject of food. We’d done some research on restaurants before we came and, as a result, managed to eat some superb dishes for next to nothing. You really can eat well on a budget and our only hope is that it hasn’t spoilt us ahead of our journey south through some of the islands, where no doubt prices will be higher.
But when you can eat (as we did at “Kopitiam by Wilai” on Thalang Road) a mixed starter of Thai fish cakes, spring rolls, and fried wonton wrappers, followed by chicken massaman curry, stir-fried vegetables with king prawn, and a Special Pad Thai with sea bass, squid, and prawn, washed down with two large bottles of Singha beer – all for 600 baht (£12) – then the bar has most definitely been set.
So if you happen to be visiting or holidaying on Phuket Island, try and make at least one visit to the Old Town, and particularly to Thalang Road. Just remember to bring a good appetite.
On a final note, we got some great inspiration from reading Jamie Monk’s excellent Phuket-based blog.
- Koh Kradan – A Paradise Lost
- Third Class Trains & World Class Seafood
- Confronting Snakes, Bats And Spiders At Cheow Lan Lake
- Koh Lipe – Still An Idyllic Island?
…or visit our Thailand page.
What did you think? Have you been to Phuket Town? Or perhaps you’re planning on visiting there soon? Either way, we’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Hi, we’re Ian and Nicky, an English couple on a voyage of discovery around the world, and this blog is designed to reflect what we see, think and do. Actually, we’d like to think it also provides information, entertainment and inspiration for other “mature” travellers, too. So please feel free to pour yourself a glass of something suitably chilled and take a look around.