If you find yourself walking along the famed Thalang Road in Old Phuket Town, it’s easy to get distracted by the postcard-worthy buildings with colorful Sino-Portuguese architecture. This 600-meter street is studded with shops, restaurants, cafés, and guesthouses. While it’s one of the oldest streets in Phuket, Thailand, there are plenty of modern cafés and restaurants looking to stand out from the crowd with interactive Instagrammable walls and their staff inviting you to come in.
But not Bookhemian 2521. Who would have thought that sandwiched between a souvenir stall and tourist information center is an unassuming two-floor shophouse that’s a café, secondhand bookstore, and art space in one? Blink and you just might miss it.
Had I not read about Bookhemian online, I would not have intentionally returned to the same street I already passed many times. I can’t believe I didn’t notice this quaint coffee shop. It must have been all those tie-dye shops that kept beckoning me.
Outside, an old sewing machine is used as a plant table. As I entered, I noticed the door handle features Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Some online photos show stacks of books piled around the tables, but during my visit (December 2022), the stacks of books were moved.
As I had hoped, I was one of the few customers who entered this air-conditioned shop that morning. Secondhand books lined up the wide bookshelf, as well as souvenirs like postcards, small art prints, crafts, and trinkets—all for sale and make a unique purchase compared to the usual by-the-dozen market finds.
There’s a table outside for those who don’t like air-conditioning and a few tables in the front room. I noticed that each clear glass table is filled with printing press metal plates—an homage to Phuket’s old printing shops, some of which still line up Thalang Road.
The menu is simple: just 16 types of coffee, ranging from ฿90-110 each. As for the pastries, you’ll have to look at what’s displayed at the coffee bar that day.
The toilet, also with unique artsy elements, is at the back of the second room with a high ceiling and industrial architecture. There are several more tables surrounded by the owner’s collection of vintage cameras, artworks, and other bric-a-bracs.
Behind the staircase is an even bigger collection of used books. The stairs lead to the art gallery and mini cinema-cum-events place on the second floor, which was unfortunately closed during my visit.
One mocha and cinnamon roll later, I was chatting with the only other customer in the front section, a Thai high school student and budding musician named Tim. We chatted about Taylor Swift (He’s a swiftie), high school life, career choices, and unrequited love. Ah, to be 19 again! He said Bookhemian is his safe spot, his favorite café whenever he needs to just be alone and strum his guitar, which he did for me and the staff. I shall post the video on my Instagram soon.
On my way out, I spotted a few posters of Bookhemian events, past and present, plus a few more artsy elements, like upcycled planters and a vintage mailbox where they post their café hours.
I love café adventures like this.
Bookhemian 2521 is located at 61 Thalang Road, Old Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Opening hours: 8am-7pm on Mondays, 9am-7pm on Tuesdays to Fridays, and 9am-8pm on weekends.