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For a chance to sample some cheap and tasty local Phuket food and soak up some Old Town charm, the Lard Yai Sunday Street Market is well worth a visit.
Held every Sunday from 16:00 till 22:00 along a section of Thalang Road in Phuket Town, Lard Yai was launched by culture-preservation-minded locals in late September 2013.
Vendors set up shop all along the length of the road, which is converted to a walking street from the intersection of Yaowarat Road to Thepkrassatri Road. The adjacent Soi Romannee, the former red-light street turned pastel-toned photographer’s dream, is also closed off to traffic, though no vendors are found along this narrow street.
Local food is one of the main attractions at Lard Yai. Don’t come to the market on a full stomach because the variety and quality of the food on offer is impressive, such as local hor mok fish custard and popular Thai dishes like pad thai and laab gai, plus bizarre looking coloured fried breads and freshly-squeezed juices and sugar cane drinks. Everything is prepared to take away, though some benches have been set up in the middle of the street for diners to sit down and relax.
From T-shirts to handbags to batiks, items for sale at Lard Yai are mostly local Phuket products, so it’s a good chance to pick up some things that are distinct from the usual souvenirs seen at the more tourist-oriented markets. In an effort to promote clean and green living, alcohol and smoking are prohibited, as is the use of styrofoam packaging. They’ve also banned the sale of counterfeit brands, so you’ll have to go elsewhere for those “Channel” or “Espirt” pocketbooks and “Rolex” watches.
The market has attracted local artists and performers as well. On the night of our visit we saw a roving dance-and-drum troupe in traditional costume pass by, and some painters set up impromptu studios on the street to sell their paintings and allow people to watch them create a new work of art.
The Lard Yai market is part of a wider local effort to revive the Old Town historical district of Phuket Town and promote the island’s history and culture. Thalang Road was the first of the Old Town streets to bury its unsightly power cables to allow the intricate century-old Sino-Portuguese architecture of the buildings lining the road to shine through. On the market night, the buildings are lit up with coloured lights that give the whole street a rather magical glow as the sun goes down.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach on a Sunday evening, Lard Yai is a great spot to shop, stroll and explore Phuket’s lesser-known cultural scene.