Every year during the Chinese New Year holiday, Phuket puts on a three-day street festival that celebrates the island’s rich history as well as its contemporary local arts and culture.
The Phuket Old Town Festival brings out crowds of tourists and locals who come to enjoy the stage performances, tasty street food and all the handicrafts, clothing and art pieces for sale.
The main streets of the Old Town area including Dibuk Road, Thalang Road, Soi Romanee, Phang Nga Road and Phuket Road close to traffic every evening during the festival. Vendors set up their tables and displays along the road, while street performers mingle with the crowds of pedestrians.
Many of the shops and cafes along the streets are open, including the busy Limelight Avenue shopping centre on Dibuk Road, which is decked out with hundreds of red Chinese lanterns for a festive touch. Ceremonies and live music shows are held every night at the Queen Sirikit Park opposite Limelight Avenue.
We recommend not eating anything before going to the festival so you can sample as much of the delicious food as possible. And allow for some extra time just to stroll around and take in the beauty of the colourful Sino-Portuguese buildings lining the historic streets.
The festival’s theme and setup varies each year, but in 2018 Phuket and Phang Nga roads seemed to be the food focal points — the streets brimming with steaming food carts, ice-cream stands and row upon row of tables laden with fresh Thai takeaway dishes. Phang Nga Road also hosted most of the local artist displays.
Thalang Road, which is full of vendors each Sunday for the weekly Lard Yai street market, was unusually uncrowded during the festival with only a sprinkling of street performers. We really enjoyed the chance to wander up and down Thalang Road free of traffic and sellers — such a rare chance to photograph the stunning buildings with nothing blocking them!
Phuket Old Town Festival
When: Annually during Chinese New Year. The 2019 festival was held February 10-12.
Where: Old Town area, Phuket Town
Entry: Free (but bring some cash for snacks and knick-knacks!)
Our recommended hotels near the Phuket Old Town Festival:
Memory at On On Hotel
19 Phang Nga Road, Phuket Town
A former cheapy backpacker hostel renovated into a hip retro hotel with heaps of local character and style. Some of the island’s best bars, cafes and bookshops are just a short walk away.
Rommanee Boutique Guesthouse
15 Soi Rommanee, Phuket Town
The Old Town festival is right on your doorstep at this friendly and stylishly restored shophouse on Phuket’s most photographed street. With just a few rooms available, advance booking is essential.
Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel
26 Phuket Road, Phuket Town
A clean, bright Sino-Portuguese style hotel with a small swimming pool. Found right in the middle of the festival area, with many good local eats and shops within easy walking distance.