If your time machine can send you back to Phuket from a few centuries ago, you wouldn’t have found any tourists. There was no bridge to this island, and the main industry was tin mining courtesy of Chinese laborers. Today’s tourists may easily pass by this history without hearing much about it — this museum is fairly off-the-beaten-path in both location and information.
Opened in 2008, the museum has gone through some minor incarnations over the years. It aims to cover the city’s history as the center of tin mining operations, and you’ll see some of the mining tools used as you approach the parking lot.
Once you’re in, head to the left and have a look at the first room, which shows an old-school bus the miners may have taken in the mid-20th century. Surprisingly, it’s not all that different from today’s Thai songthaews, the ubiquitous pick-up trucks with two benches in the back.
How the 1% lived, anyone? Presenting a look at Aung Mo Lao’s room, complete with a Sino-Portuguese house with Chinese and Thai influences.
Interesting — wonder how they identified these from ordinary rocks…
From the room’s back corner, head through the black cloth to enter a geology lesson you’ve probably had in elementary school. It’s over quickly enough, and is replaced by a look at Homo Habilis:
Also known as the ‘handy man’ because this guy made tools, and came before Homo erectus. There’s no connection to Phuket in this case, though I do wonder whether some of Phuket’s drivers have in fact evolved…
The next room goes into more detail of various mining techniques, from shaft mining to ground sluicing to open-cut mining. The models here are actually quite detailed — check out the small-scale hydraulic mining technique which looks like a wooden roller coaster.
A look at dredge mining — send soil from underwater up to the surface for processing, then poured onto a drop chute to sort out the ore from the dirt. The English here leaves something to be desired, but it’s good enough to be understood.
Pictures from decades past in the next room over, curiously named ‘Mineral Dressing’. They’re some of the only remains from decades past. Also here are some basics into the tin mining procedure, though it’s easily overlooked if you’re not looking closely.
The next room is a chance to see a slice of life in the Thai-Chinese community. It’s complete with shops, a Chinese shrine, and the shadow play that told stories:
The area definitely seems ready for large-scale events, including a nice-looking library that was closed and a building that looked like a theater.
I can’t say I’m thrilled about the dual-pricing (tourists pay twice as much as locals), but it’s an offbeat destination with few other tourists around. For history buffs or a rainy day, it’s a decent enough destination, though you may be left wanting a bit more context — it left me with more questions than answers afterwards, so do some research before checking it out.
Name: Phuket Mining Museum
Address: 45 Mu 5 Kathu-Koh Kaew rd. Kathu Sub-district, Khathu district, Phuket, 83120 (GPS: 7.933440, 98.349283)
Directions: From the bridge crossing onto Phuket, head south on route . Look for the ‘Honda Marine’ sign on the top of the building, then look for the next U-turn at a large intersection with lights. Take the U-turn, then turn left onto Soi Koh Kaew 23 on your left. This road becomes route 3030 — go about 2 kilometers to a T, then take a right to stay on route 3030. From here, it’s a curvy road for about 3.3 kilometers — be looking for the entrance on the left.
Admission: 100 baht for tourists, 50 baht for ‘Thai citizens’