Colorful buildings along the old streets of Phuket TownSince Phuket is best known for its beach resorts, few visitors bother to learn much about the island’s history. But thanks to its strategic location at the northern entrance to the Strait of Malacca, Phuket has a past that is almost as rich and intriguing as those of Penang and Malacca to the south.
From the 15th to the 17th centuries, the Portuguese hoped to control the lucrative spice trade from Asia to Europe, and set up trading counters in Phuket. Although they never succeeded in colonizing the island, their influence can still be seen in the distinctive Sino-Portuguese-style architecture of the houses lining the oldest streets of Phuket Town, notably Thalang, Dibuk, Yaowarat, Ranong, Phang-Nga, Rasada and Krabi. The lively, colorful central food market in town is also worth a leisurely visit.