Inspiring Caring Leaders Across Cultures  

Phuket: Fulbright’s Reflections through Mural Art

Published Date : Jun 26, 2018

This year Knowing Our Own Roots brought Thai Fulbright grantees to Phuket, UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, from February 23-25, 2018 to explore Phuket’s diverse culture through culinary workshop, visits to historical preservation buildings, and talks with local activists/artists. At the end of the program, we discussed and drew our own mural art reflecting what we had learned and impressed.

Fat & Fit

By Arunwan Ketusiri (TGS) Peeriya Pongsarigun (FLTA) Withoo Phrueksanan (TGS)

People from all around the world may think of beautiful beaches when it comes to Phuket, Thailand. We stayed in Phuket for 2 nights and found that there are a lot more than that. Phuket is FAT but FIT!

The 1st F refers to foods of Phuket, which combine Chinese, Malaysian, and Thai recipes—resulting in unique taste. A and T refer to art and old town. We explored the old town and appreciated the art of Phuket, which is not merely kept in museums. Instead we found art everywhere, along the street, temples and also in small alleys. The F in FIT refers to the Fulbright Family. We got to know other Fulbrighters who are friendly and send good vibes. We knew right when we first met that there is a strong bond between us, and we will pass on the Fulbright tradition of giving back to society. The I refers to individuality. In Phuket, we saw a lot of ethnicity. Each of them manages to preserve their identity very well. The identities are reflected in traditions, way of live, and traditional costume. The last T is tales. We listened to a lot of stories of Phuket from the local people. For example, we learned about history of food, the Peranakan tradition, and street art of Phuket. We value those tales and would like to create our own tales which would add up to what our roots have done for us. This way we can preserve and pass on good things to the next generation.

So Phuket – How We See Phuket In a Different Angle

By Ronnakrit Rattanasriampaipong (TGS), Siraprapa Mahanil (USAS), and Rose Cecillia Ridder (Fulbright Network)

Talking about Phuket, the first thing that comes to mind is a beach city. At first, I did not expect much from the trip, as I am not a beach person, but after spending 2 days I absolutely took my words back; it was a truly eye-opening experience in many ways. Since then, I realized that we can always expect the unexpected from this whole wide world. Our team, called “So Phuket!”, see Phuket province as a bridge connecting foods, arts, cultures, and ethnicities into one compelling entity. Let’s talk about foods first. From what I jotted down during Ajarn Wilai’s presentation, there are more than 20 different dishes – both savories and sweets – invented by local Phuketians, called “Baba” or “Peranakan”. Luckily, we have tasted some recommended dishes at “Kopitiam by Wilai” restaurant. No words could describe full-flavored taste each time that I put food in my mouth. On top of that spurring happiness, all the foods reflect creativeness, generosity, and gratitude of Phuketians illustrated by Khun Wilai and her family. I was drowned into an ecstasy by their speeches and actions. Besides foods, we have witnessed a unique Peranakan culture through several media: listening to local people from both new and old generations, walking through the old town area of Phuket, and hunting street arts painted on every corner of old-style buildings. These lines of letters and words could not fully describe the cultural richness of this fascinating city. So, I would like to invite any one of you to go experience Phuket by yourself. The most important thing that I got from the “2018 Knowing Our Own Roots” is a tangible illustration of diversity and inclusion. Regardless their financial status, genders, ages, or even ethnicities, everyone shows me how much they love their home (Phuket) not only through words but actions. At last, I did not find only a new version of Phuket and but also an invaluable piece of advices, from Fulbright Thailand, to be a good ambassador of Thailand during my graduate life in the US.

Chinese Hot Pot

By Paween Tanarat (MFA), Kampeeporn Sanitipochana (FLTA), and Pruksapan Bantawtook (TGS)

The picture encapsulates the experience we had throughout the two-day trip. The Chinese hot pot represents multicultural society of Phuket where Chinese people have been blending in with the local people and international people to form their new Baba Yaya cultures. Each ingredient and object, such as noodles, cinnamon, morning glory and hamburger, found in the hot pot represent people with different cultural backgrounds. These ingredients are put together to form a special dish. Unlike being boiled in a crucible, the objects put in the Chinese hot pot will not fuse; They still maintain their own physical appearances. The Chinese hot pot, then portrays a multicultural society that keeps on moving and growing. Phuket people in this hot pot are also ready to show and share their cultures to the world through different channels.


By Attapol Attanak (Fulbright Alumni), Paramate Boonyanan (HHH candidate), and Thanawit Prasongpongchai (TGS)

We have studied Phuket community root through old buildings, custom culture and traditional food.

Old Buildings: The historical part of Phuket Town is not huge but is still quite vast to explore. Many buildings with mixed cultures are called Sino – Portugees architecture. That’s why our group presented Phuketian story through a building ventilator in the shape of a bat feature.

Traditional Food: Ajan Vilai and Ajan Patumwalia taught us to know the root of Hok-Kain food and cooked a traditional dish called “Curry Fhan”. This dish is chicken curry with noodle, so delicious. Moreover, we had a private dinner party at Kopitiam by Vilai. This restaurant is traditional dishes in Phuket, it is a must to have all of them, we recommend.

Cultural town: We had a good opportunity from Dang Aunt to take a tour in a deeply secret of Chinpacha House. We gained more Peranakan cultural life and costumes from Dr. Khosol. Moreover, we had a great pleasure from Khun Weerachai, the president the attitude club to illustrate a root of mural art. We had to take a walk in the old part of Phuket city, around Thalang, Dibuk, Pang-nga and Yaowarat roads. The lots of beautiful Mural arts drew by famous artists along the street of Phuket in the old city center.

Mural Art: If an artist had asked permission from us to draw pieces of street art on ancient buildings, we would have refused it. After we attended the morning session on the project called “F.A.T Phuket” hosted by Mr. Weerachai, our attitude towards street art was totally changed. In order to exhibit Phuket as the creative city of gastronomy, his inspiration was originated from food, art, town, and people in Phuket. Street art was designed to tell visitors of Phuketians’ stories. However, introducing street art to local people was not a bed of roses. There was a big controversy surrounding the idea of illustrating street art on historical buildings because street art, for some local people, was considered as a symbol of modernization or vandalism. Interestingly, one of the strategic tools used for gaining acceptance from local people was social media. Good intentions embedded in his project were perceived to be an important driving force for making the identity of Phuket clearer through the eyes of people around the world. As a result, street art is perfectly located in the old city, Phuket!
We cannot study all of Phuket in a short period of time but this is a must to do when you have time to visit and to know our own root in Phuket.


By Napamas Panyatrong (MFA), Kanyanat Sakkanayok (FLTA), and Prommin Singsirisak (FLTA candidate)

This artwork has been inspired by the idea and belief that people from different cultures can live harmoniously in the society. It initially presents the Peranakan’s culture of art on the left-hand side. This kind of artwork normally presents people and animals as the art characters to express the core meanings of the artists’ points of view and social values to the outsiders.

Not only is that, food cultures are one of the outstanding wisdom of people from different cultures. As you can see in this piece of art, there are some food icons appeared to indicate that Thai food, Chinese food, and Peranakan food are in one unit. It is showing that these food cultures are formed in a way that unify the societies and created a new cultural identity for Phuket people. The rich of food wisdoms combining with the Integrating of different food cultures make Phuket becomes “The City of Gastronomy”.

Considering the cultural artifacts on the right-hand side of this artwork, it is showing the diversity of cultural artifacts ranged from food container, flower garland, crown of Peranakan’s bride, Thai temple pagoda, and Chinese lanterns. It demonstrates the culture and identities of Chinese, Peranakan, and Thai people in the society, explaining that they share and enrich the values of the societies with their cultural diversities and identities.

Reflecting on the artwork, this piece of art is not only showing the harmony society based on their diversities and identities, but also attempting to explain the cooperation and networking among themselves in order to strengthen the societies. We believe that artistic works serve well in promoting the harmony of the society with peacefulness, happiness, and prosperity. It makes people willing to share their values, thinking, and wisdoms with others and realize that living harmoniously in the society is the key for success.

These are as a whole that we have learnt and gained from this valuable Fulbright’s trip in Phuket, especially from artistic works and food. We would to like to express our sincere thanks to all Fulbright staff for organizing this project and speakers who knowledge us during this fieldtrip.