When it comes to shopping, the experience of an Asian market is hard to beat. Phuket Town has both excellent day and night markets. To really appreciate the main fresh food market, located on Ranong Road, try and get there as early as possible. It’s not necessary to be there at opening time – 2am when the wholesale buyers from hotels and restaurants arrive – but arrive any later than 10am and many of the stall holders will have packed up and gone home.
When entering the market your nose will be assailed by a variety of smells – a pot-pourri of blooming flowers, sugar and coconut scented khanom (Thai desserts and snacks), fresh vegetables and sharp spices, rich curry pastes and a smattering
of cooked foods.
Stalls are ranged throughout two buildings and, by tradition more than plan, have been segmented into unlabelled ‘departments’ to make shopping easier. This means meat will be found in one area, fish another, flowers another and so on. This regimented arrangement also affords some fantastic photo opportunities – just remember to ask permission first. Everything on offer is incredibly fresh and should tempt even the most un-culinary soul. If you do buy any foodstuffs, haggling, unlike for souvenirs and clothing, is neither expected nor appreciated
After lunchtime, with much of the fresh produce gone, some stalls are scrubbed down and stacked with clothing instead. There are also many permanent clothing stalls at the back of the market. Outside the market, the main street is lined with shops of all descriptions – basket shops, liquor stores, pet shops, hardware stores and fabric shops. Turn right to Suriyadej Circle and you’ll find yourself on Ratsada and Yaowarat Road, both prime shopping areas and really near the centre of old Phuket Town.
Sprawled around Robinsons Department Store on Tilok U-Thit 2 Road is Phuket Town’s night market. During the day it sells fruit and vegetables, much the same as the market on Ranong Road. After dark, though, it comes into its own as it is transformed into a major culinary experience. If you want to see where locals eat this is the place to come. The stalls become mini restaurants selling fresh and delicious Thai food.
If you are a people watcher and enjoy trying native foods, a visit to here is definitely in order and you can expect to eat well for under 60 THB a head.