The Old Town historical district of Phuket Town is home to a number of strange little nooks and crannies to explore, none stranger perhaps than the Thavorn Museum in the Thavorn Heritage Hotel on Rassada Road.
Dusty and a bit spooky, this small museum resembles a flea market except nothing’s for sale. But like a flea market, if you’re willing to search a bit you might find a few treasures hidden within its eccentric, fusty realm.
The museum and hotel are run by a prominent Phuket family who made their fortune initially in tin mining and rubber tree plantations and now also own the Thavorn Palm Beach Resort on Karon beach and Thavorn Beach Village on Nakalay Bay between Patong beach and Kamala beach. Thavorn Hotel opened in 1961 and with its grand lobby adorned with chandeliers, a wide staircase and marble floors we reckon it was the talk of the town back then.
These days, the now-faded lobby has one sleeping receptionist or no one manning the desk, and it might take a bit of looking around before you find someone to pay the 30 baht entry fee to the adjacent museum.
Inside the museum’s dimly lit interior are several shelves and cabinets full of Phuket and Thai memorabilia and artefacts. Old photos of sombre-looking newlyweds or white-clad dandies trying out new-fangled automobiles, posters of now-forgotten 1960s Thai movie starlets, tin-mining and other equipment, antique toys and clothing.
One of the museum’s most compelling items is a set of swords said to be used in 1785 when Phuket’s two heroines, Lady Chan and Lady Mook, led a battle that drove away Burmese invaders. Sadly, this glorious artefact of Phuket history is stuck in a dull cabinet behind a rather greasy glass window. More informative displays of this battle are housed in the Thalang National Museum near the Heroine’s Monument roundabout.
Anyone looking for a more in-depth guide to the island’s culture and history could combine a Thavorn Museum visit with a Phuket Old Town tour. As well, within easy walking distance along Rassada Road and the nearby Old Town streets are some of Phuket’s best local food shops, art studios and some swankier cafes and bars including the Gallery Cafe by Pinky (smoothies, coffees, cheesecake) and The Brasserie (Belgian beers and imported oysters).
The sheer weirdness of the Thavorn Museum certainly boosts its entertainment value, and those who enjoy looking at cool curios will find it worth spending at least a half-hour poking around. In all likelihood you’ll have the place to yourself during your visit – crowds are not a problem here!
Lana Willocks is a freelance writer from Canada based in Phuket. Her love affair with Thailand began on a university exchange programme in Bangkok, then she returned to Phuket on the auspicious date of 9-9-1999 and never left.
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