Phuket Museums and Culture
A beach-focused holiday destination is unlikely to have a surfeit of cultural attractions, and that is the case with Phuket. However the island has a modest number of commercial offerings as well as some quirky small museums. There's plenty of live music, much of it hard rock, and a bit of jazz to be found.
Thai Hua Museum
This museum, housed in a lovely Sino-Portuguese mansion, presents a view of Phuket history with a distinct focus on its Chinese influence. It has an interesting exhibit on Phuket Town's architectural highlights and covers the tin mining years as well as the island's events and festivals.
This private house also functions as a museum and gives a wonderful sense of what a traditional Sino-Portuguese mansion of last century looked like. The central open courtyard is reminiscent of Malacca, or even Morocco, with its whitewashed walls and Italian-tiled floor.
No. 1 Gallery Phuket
An off-shoot of a major Bangkok art space, this Phuket Town gallery features works by significant Thai and international contemporary artists. Phuket's art scene is relatively limited and generally commercial, so this gallery is a breath of fresh air.
Phuket Cultural Centre
Situated at Phuket Rajabhat University, this low-key museum spreads over three floors. It features displays on subjects as disparate as the island's tin mining history and traditional shadow puppetry, as well as historic battles that shaped Phuket.
Palazzo Theatre & Restaurant
An old-fashioned theatre-restaurant that presents a show featuring international acrobats, jugglers, contortionists, magicians and comedians. There is a strong Russian flavour to the show – expect most of the patrons to be Russian.
Simon Cabaret Phuket
Ladyboys – katoeys in Thai – are a significant part of the Thai community, and their place in society, and particularly the entertainment industry, is celebrated in places such as Simon Cabaret. Over-the-top costumes, spectacular plastic surgery, and lip-synching galore.
The Phuket version of a popular Bangkok stage show, it presents a technicolour cultural history of Thailand and Thai Buddism. The section on heaven and hell is both gruesome and gripping. The show features more than 100 performers and a host of impressive special effects.
Hard Rock Café
Forget the fake t-shirts; this a genuine Hard Rock Café, situated close to Soi Bangla and the beach in Patong. It opened in 2009 to join properties in Bangkok and Pattaya. There is frequently live music, lots of rock memorabilia, as well as a café and bar.
Phuket Mining Museum
After Phuket declined as a major trading centre, tin mining became its major source of income. Much of the work was done by Chinese labourers, and this museum celebrates their history and heritage as well as the nuts and bolts of the mining industry.
An all-singing, all-dancing, over-the-top extravaganza. Expect gymnasts, acrobats, magicians, buffalo, goats, and elephants... lots of elephants (if that sits well with you). The story itself – a sort of history of Thailand – is often incomprehensible, so it's best to surrender to the Vegas-meets-Eurovision vibe.