Despite its ancient exterior, Cafe’In Thaihua Museum (it’s pronounced ‘caffeine’, geddit?) has a modern, loft style interior. It opened on February 15, just in time for this year’s Old Town festival.
The three partners usually found at the cafe are Paweenpongse “Noon” Kawinkij, his brother Nakarin “Natt” Kawinkij and cafe chef Sathapana “Cartoon” Rongthong. The other partners are Thu, Sone, Ae, Goo and Un, and all eight have been friends since their Phuket high school days.
The cafe is ideally positioned to draw in tourists, as it is near the entrance of Thaihua Museum and it has the same owners. If you present your museum ticket, you can get a 10 per cent discount off food and drink – so it makes sense to drop by for coffee and cake after sampling some culture.
The building, Natt explains, used to be a Chinese shrine. It was then turned into a shop, and then was left vacant for a year while plans were proposed to build a substation on the site. Locals opposed, so the eight men approached the museum owner and were told they could take over.
It was a big undertaking. As with most converted Old Town properties, the building underwent a massive transformation, including the construction of an additional ceiling to stop the leaks. There is still the original wall from the Chinese shrine, which is estimated to be more than 100 years old.
Apart from its location, what really sets this cafe apart from others in town serving coffee and cake is its great outdoor garden area, accessed through the cafe’s back door. This large space runs the length of the museum car park on the other side of the wall, with a connecting side entrance.
Concrete shed-type structures that were previously used by local street vendors have been renovated and now resemble colourful outdoor salas. Fitted with fans, these provide a great spot to sit outside on cooler days or during the early evening, and will even make a nice spot during rainy season.
All eight men have other jobs aside from the cafe (many of the same partners are involved in running Fu Bar, a bar inside the Indy Market on Dibuk Rd.), but the space – the cafe part is fully air-conditioned – provides a creative outlet for them and their friends to socialise and relax.
“I had always wanted a coffee shop,” says Noon. “One day we were all at a party, and talking about what we could do together, now that we’re all “grown up”. The answer was to hangout more.
“We don’t really think of this as a business, we think of it as a way of life,” agrees Natt.
There are a range of coffees and other drinks (all under B90) available, with a limited food menu that currently includes baguettes, sandwiches, pizza slices, and a decent baked macaroni spinach and cheese pasta – all priced at under B60 – plus the usual cakes and other sweet treats.
In sum, with a relaxed vibe and friendly hosts, Cafe’ In is a great spot to get your caffeine fix.
Cafe’ In Thaihua Museum, 28 Krabi Road, Phuket Town. Open daily 10am to 8pm. Visit their Facebook page for daily food specials and updates, facebook.com/CafeinThaihuaMuseum. Patrons can use the adjacent museum car park free of charge, but be aware the gates close at 5.30pm.