Phuket conjures up images of white sand beaches and relaxed living. Most people who come to the island spend all their time at the beach or floating in the Adaman Sea on adventures to nearby islands and national marine parks. I understand why- the beaches are beautiful and there is so much to see by jumping on a boat for the day. And lets face it, when it gets as hot as it so often does in Thailand, everyone enjoys soaking in the water or sitting under a fan drinking a cocktail or cold beer while watching waves of beautiful colored waters wash up to shore. But if you only spend your times on the local beaches you are sure to miss the charming town of Phuket. If you go on a Sunday you can see what I think is one of the best night markets I have ever been to, the Lard Yai Sunday Night Walking Street.
Upon finally arriving at my guesthouse in Phuket town, after a long ride on a minivan that didn’t end how I expected, I checked in and immediately headed out to wander around. I found a nice café just around the corner and was happy to have chosen it because we noticed that the street was just starting to be set up for something. As we watched, we realized it looked like it was a night market. At first we saw some really cute carts selling different beverages, then we started to see painting booths, a barber, and later the food stalls were setting up, adding some amazing smells of Thai cooking.
We had a quick late lunch (we didn’t want to eat too much knowing that their would be food stalls soon ready for business at the market) and a beer while watching all the people come to the market. I noticed that there were a lot of locals mixed in with the tourists, which made for a less artificial vibe, and there were people of all ages.
As darkness grew the lights of the market became brighter. To make the scene even more vibrant, colorful lights were lighting up the amazing colonial-era buildings, much like the architecture we saw in Singapore and throughout Malaysia. Along with the amazing lights, there were scattered street performers. Ok, so I did hear Hotel California for the first time on my journey, but aside from that, the performances were very entertaining.
At the entrance to the market was a young guy beat boxing with just a microphone and small amp, not officially part of the market, but entertaining nonetheless. And my favorite was the young girls dressed in these ornate outfits with long silver fingernails attachments and a few with ornate gold crowns singing and dancing. They were so beautiful. Following that were two young boys with devil like masks and they were more funny and cute.
The thing that really made this market stand out from others I have been to in Asia is that most markets end up being “same, same”. Pushy people trying to get you to buy the same things you see at every market. This one had more of a crafty vibe to it, with smaller, local vendors selling handmade wares. Of course there was a little of the “same, same” stuff, but I really thought this market had a more entrepreneurial, artistic focus than most.
So, if you find yourself coming to Phuket, I highly suggest going to Phuket town on Sunday night to check out the Lard Yai Sunday Walking Street Night Market. It has all you can ask for- crafts, food, entertainment, and plenty of people watching. If you can, make a whole day of exploring Phuket town, it has plenty of charm, including old buildings, street art, good food, and the best coffee I have had since leaving Malaysia.
Have you been to the Lard Yai Walking Street Market? What was your favorite part of the market?