Whether you enjoy the frenetic Patong scene or not, chances are that you’re nonetheless familiar with it as most Phuket residents have partied there at least a couple of times. Go-go dancers, earsplitting DJ tunes and loud mingling are fairly universal in the western concept of fun nightlife yet clubs that feature them typically aren’t the places where one gets to meet locals. So what kind of nightlife do Thais enjoy?
No matter where in the world you are, understanding cultural differences and integrating with local life takes time. Phuket is no exception, even though Thais tend to be warm and welcoming towards strangers. Reflecting on the past four years I’ve been here, I realise that some of the social moments I’ve enjoyed the most were with Thai friends, thus exposing me to bits and pieces of their culture. For this reason, I’ve concluded that in order to party like a Thai at least one of several elements needs to be present:.
1) Live music
While the concept of DJ music isn’t entirely foreign to locals (there are some superb Thai DJs on the island) few would choose a dance-floor kind of party over live music. The bands in local clubs play variations of soft and hard rock, Thai pop, and even MTV hits in English. What they all have in common, I find, is skilled musicians and superb vocals.
In these clubs, most visitors enjoy the atmosphere by sitting around tables, chatting and laughing, or singing along. Even so, a few dance enthusiasts (such as me) can still find a little room between the tables to “move like Jagger” without many frowns. Also, in many such clubs it’s not at all strange to bring your own liquor and only buy soft drinks and ice at the bar. Dress-codes typically vary from casual to time-hopping into the 1960s and ‘70s, in addition to hipster fashions with colourful attire and glasses with large rims.
You’ll find many of the popular Thai live music spots in chic and hip areas downtown in Phuket City. Examples include Sofa Pub on New Dibuk Road (next to the Indie Market), Kor Tor Mor Club on Chana-Charoen Road (near the Seahorse Circle, behind Robinson Department Store), Saxophone Pub & Restaurant (next to the Seahorse Circle) Lard Yai opposite Phang Nga Soi 2 and Ploen Jit (next to Saxophone Pub & Restaurant).
Saxophone Pub & Restaurant, Kor Tor Mor Club, Ploen Jit
If you’ve never been out for a karaoke night with Thai friends you’ve missed out on an entire universe of fun. Regardless of whether you like to sing or if karaoke is your idea of a good time, this is a must-try for those keen to experience the local culture.
In karaoke bars across the island, most parties take place in separate VIP rooms equipped with generous couches, a TV, two microphones and a catalogue of both Thai and English-language hits. As the hostesses seamlessly glide in and out to ensure the beer doesn’t dry up, your private karaoke joint turns into a place of friendship, and lots of fun. I’ve lost my voice more than once during such nights and we’ve even converted a couple of sworn karaoke enemies amongst our friends. Even the wettest blankets who refuse to take the mike end up dancing and singing backing vocals. Music knows no barriers; you’ll feel closer to local culture once you catch a few tunes and familiarise yourself with Thai hip-hop and folk hits, and your Thai friends will attempt to keep up with upbeat Madonna and AC/DC songs.
To try this premise out, simply ask the locals where the nearest karaoke bars are. Depending on where you’re staying, there’ll be at least a few of them in your area or dozens if you find yourself in the heart of Phuket Town.
live music and Thai food (AKA when you’re invited to a private birthday party)Faithful to the live music concept, for their birthday celebrations locals typically hire a band, a karaoke singer or even just someone with a guitar. Although it’s customary for the host to provide food or snacks, don’t be surprised if you spot other guests bringing their own food. Furthermore, if you get invited to a table by a happy group of Thais you aren’t familiar with, don’t let your shyness get in the way. Not only refusing them would appear rude but the invitation itself also means that you, too, must be ready to party like a Thai. Cheers, or as we say it here: chok-dee!
On the corner of Montri and Thalang roads about a ten minute drive from the Provincial Hall is the Philatelic Museum close by to the offices of the Tourist Authority of Thailand. The museum was originally Phuket’s first post office and houses collections of old stamps, and examples of antique postal equipment and sorting boxes. The museum is open from 9.30am to 5.30pm Tuesday through Saturday except for public holidays.