Off the Beaten Path – Phuket Heritage Trails

Posted on October 22, 2013

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Phuket Heritage Trails is a unique tour operator that aims to promote the cultural & historical side of Phuket in a hands-on, educational manner. Founded by Phuket native Kritchaya Na Takuathung (Khun Chaya), Phuket Heritage Trails offers natural, cultural and historical experiences across the island. The tour experience is unique in that it showcases local beliefs, architecture, cuisines, and lifestyle within the historical backdrop, made up of the community’s ethnic and religious diversity. The tours, accompanied by the mission statement of “Make a Difference” are as memorable as they are educational.

On a recent “Meet the Locals” tour, a small group of tourists are delighted by Khun Chaya’s fascinating explanation of the history of Phuket. The tour begins on a colorful little side street in Phuket’s Old Town district. The group is told of how Phuket’s fortune was once made on tin mining. Chinese immigrants flocked her to have a gamble in the once lucrative industry, and after the boom, many of those immigrants stayed in Phuket and set up businesses & homes in colorful shop houses that, still to this day, decorate the distinctive Thalang Road. Khun Chaya emphasizes how the Chinese immigrants mixed with the island’s ethnic Thai, the Chao Lay who are better known as Sea Gypsies, and the Malays. She credits the tin mining era for mixing Phuket’s ethnic flavor.

After the introduction to Phuket’s Old Town district, guests of the tour are ushered to “Baan Chinpracha” which is one of Phuket’s most precious gems. The Chinpracha House is over 100 years old, and is one of the most beautiful Sino-Portuguese mansions on the entire island. The Chinpracha House is truly one of the island’s cultural artifacts. Stepping inside the mansion is like stepping back in time. The current owners are sixth-generation descendants of the original builder, and many of the family’s antiques have been kept in tact. Original furniture, imported from China, still stands in most rooms, but it’s the family portraits that will peak your curiosity. What’s even more amazing is that Khun Chaya is able to recite the family’s history based upon each portrait on the wall.

Local cuisine is next as it’s time for a lunch break. Khun Chaya is careful to ask the small group of any food allergies, and her face lights up when she begins to explain the unique flavors that make up local Phuket cuisine. After feasting on a lunch of various soups, curries and salads, the group is off again. This time, a brief stop is made at a quiet temple with a peaceful garden. This location hosts Phuket’s only nunnery, and the group is given a quick tour of the grounds.

Mid-afternoon finds the group driving through the hustle and bustle of Phuket town and onto the small island of Koh Siray. It is here that the tour enters into the tiny village of Laem Tukkae. Here, the tour meets the nomadic Chao Lay people. The Chao Lay people are considered sea gypsies, and used to roam the Andaman Coast. About one century ago, they took up permanent settlements on the west coast of Southern Thailand. Despite the settlements, these people still stick to their traditional way of life. The sea gypsies are very independent and self-sufficient, and live a simple existence in harmony with nature. Visiting this village is an eye opener for tourists, as it gives them insight into a group of people still close to the old ways of their ancestors. The visit to the sea gypsy village in Laem Tukkae rounds out the “Meet the Locals” tour with Phuket Heritage Trails.

Khun Chaya really is a wealth of information regarding the culture and history of Phuket. For more information regarding Phuket Heritage Trails, please visit their website at www.phuketheritagetours.net

Khun Chaya is pleased to offer a 10% discount off the published rates shown on the website to all Absolute members mentioning us when booking.

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Posted in: Phuket