Posted in Thailand

Phuket Town, Thailand – Iconic Buildings

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My home in Phuket, Thailand, is right around the corner from the district now referred to as Old Town, an historical area full of old Sino-Portuguese architecture housing a variety of local shops, guesthouses, and cafes.  Two of these buildings serve as iconic symbols of the island, standing at the entrance of what is today called Th. Phang Nga which runs parallel to Th. Thalang, the commercial heart of the community.

These two postcards show roughly the same view of these two buildings, looking west along Phang Nga Road with the buildings on the west side of the intersection with Phuket Road.  The card above is one of the most popular sold in local shops, a black & white photograph taken in 1957.  The card below features a much more recent photo (probably shot within the last couple of years) and was found at a street-side stall during one of our many local festivals.

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The building on the northwest side of the intersection (to the right on these cards) was opened in 1907 as a branch of the Penang’s Standard Chartered Bank, Thailand’s first foreign-owned bank.  It is currently undergoing a restoration and will soon reopen as the Phuket Baba Museum with displays centered around the unique culture of the local Baba Nagoya (also known as Straits Chinese).

One of the deals made with the bank during the original approval process was that it would finance the construction of a police station for the community.  The Talat Yai police station (on the left side of the postcards) opened across the street in 1914, minus a clock in the tower as the ship carrying it was sunk at sea.  A replacement didn’t arrive until 1974 and that one hasn’t worked for years.  It, too, is currently undergoing restoration – I have no idea if that will include a working clock – and is hidden under green netting.

The bridge across the Bang Yai canal seen in the foreground was also financed by the bank.  Amazingly enough, this was once Phuket Town’s eastern waterfront, making the community prone to devastating floods.  Landfill of the area to the south and east of this intersection began in the 1950’s and saw the construction of several large hotels, a movie theatre, and a bowling alley which were largely financed by tin-mining operations that had been conducted in this area since the mid-nineteenth century.

The photo below pictures the buildings as they appeared in July 2011, before the city began burying the mess of cables and prior to the start of restoration:

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The following photos were taken at the end of May 2015, following the repainting of the Standard Chartered Bank building.  I believe the new museum inside will open within the next month or two:

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The green netting on the left enshrouds the old police station during its restoration.  I don’t expect that to be removed for at least another six months…

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