Phuket has no shortage of strange attractions. Today, we set off to explore one of the stranger ones.
Don’t confuse this Thavorn Hotel with a beach villa or grander resort of the same name. The vintage hotel dates back to 1960, when the Thavornwongwongse family opted to build the island’s first full-service hotel. The family, which was wealthy from its tin mining operation, worked with then-Prime Minister and one of the best architects in Thailand to design the hotel.
It wasn’t until the Phuket airport opened in 1976 that the island finally established itself as a tourism destination. The official website says, “Thavorn Hotel was too far ahead of its time and until this day, it has never been considered a business success. Nonetheless, it remains a significant symbol of Phuket’s development into the booming tourist and business destination we all know today.”
The hotel is still in use today, and at around 600 baht per night, it’s one of the cheaper places on the touristy island. The lobby, which extends to a fair bit of the ground floor, is essentially one large scrapbook of the hotel over the past several decades. That old-stuff smell you might breathe in at your grandparents place? Yep, that’s here too.
An old-school film projector, though that’s about all I can tell you about it. It’s a hotel lobby, not a proper museum, which would have a bit of information and context to offer regarding the exhibits… Be prepared to use your flash or bump up your ISO — this room is quite dark.
If there’s any consolation to the lack of information, it’s that everything is undeniably authentic and definitely used. There’s been some attempts at preservation, such as framing the photographs or personal notes…
Woah — that’s one big shell. The sign inside claims it to be a million-year-old fossil given to the father of the hotel’s founder in 1909.
Getting back to the hotel itself, the guest-facing side of the lobby is still rather old, but less dusty:
Like something out of the Parthenon. Not pictured nearby (and not tried) is the island’s first elevator, something definitely needed by the five-story building.
It really does feel like you’ve gone back in time, though it’s worth noting the rooms have been upgraded and modernized over the years. The museum is worth adding to your list of places to see while in Phuket, but it’s certainly not a reason to come on its own. Give it a 1/2 hour while you’re in the Old Town of Phuket, and combine it with a trip to Phuket’s Rum Distillery for lots of good times.
Name: The Thavorn Hotel Lobby (โรงแรมถาวร)
Address: 74 Rasada Rd., T.Taladyai A.Muang Phuket Town, Phuket 83000 (GPS: 7.882876, 98.390015)
Directions: Thavorn Hotel is a fairly well-known destination in itself. From Phuket’s bus terminal #1 (GPS: 7.884056, 98.395831), get out to the main road (Phang Nga) and turn right to walk west. Go about 200 meters, go straight through a four-way intersection, then go another 200 meters and turn left at the next four-way intersection (onto Phuket road or Thanon Thepkasattri). Walk 75 meters, take the first right, then go another 75 meters — the hotel should be on your left.
Admission: 30 baht