Visitors to Phuket head straight for the beaches – and who can blame them? They are among the most beautiful in the world. However, when that golden tan has been achieved and the bottle of suntan lotion is empty, why not pay a visit to Saphan Hin
This is where the locals go for recreation, sports and just to enjoy the clean, fresh breezes.
Known officially as the Sapan Hin Mining Monument, it is referred to in local parlance as ‘Wong Wian Hoi’, which translates roughly as the ‘Circle of Shell’. Here there is an old dredger-shaped monument called, the ‘60 Year Mine Monument’, which was built on the headland at the southern end of Phuket Road in 1969. This commemorates one Captain Edward Thomas Miles, an Australian who brought the first metal ore-dredger to Phuket in 1909, hence the ‘60 year’ bit.
In former times, Sapan Hin was regarded as the gateway of Phuket because the promontory was the chief trading port for freighters. As time went by, more land was reclaimed and developed into parks and public facilities, which now include a sports centre, large playing fields, restaurants and the Island’s boxing stadium. It is also the site of two colleges – Phuket Community College and Phuket Vocational College.
Every morning many Phuket residents visit Sapan Hin for jogging or just to enjoy walking along the mangrove-lined paths. In the evenings people turn out to play tennis, basketball, volleyball, soccer, lawn bowling and takraw. Others come to picnic and enjoy snacks and drinks available from the small market. The relaxing atmosphere and cool breezes are conducive to developing acquaintanceships. The Thai secret? Smile and, chances are, someone will smile back.
At the south end of Sapan Hin is the Kiew Tian Shrine, which plays a significant role in the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival, just past. This is the first shrine on the island where the ancient Chinese God, Kiu Ong Tah was worshipped. The venerable deity was said to have intervened to prevent an epidemic amongst the Chinese migrant workforce.
Introduced to Phuket by a troupe of Chinese entertainers, the tradition of the Vegetarian Festival was born – a period of nine days when believers forgo eating meat, drinking alcohol, having sex and a host of other taboos. Over the years the original street procession led by a statue of the God within a yellow curtained sedan chair has grown to include a series of rituals including flesh piercing – not recommended for viewing by the squeamish.
However, one word of warning – Saphan Hin closes at 10.00pm. After this time the less desirable elements of Phuket society (every community has them) tend to gather here so it’s best to head back to your hotel before it gets too late.
Over time, Sapan Hin has become an integral part of the island’s way of life and is well worth a visit. To get there just hop in a Tuk-Tuk or taxi; they all know Saphan Hin. If you are driving, head south along Phuket Road past the Phuket Immigration Office. When you reach a large roundabout withs an oddly shaped monument in its centre, you have arrived.
Don’t forget to smile.