About Phuket

Thailand's largest island

  • Phuket Island

    Coordinates 7°53′24″N / 98°23′54″E
    Area 543 km2 (209.7 sq mi)
    Length 50 km (31 mi)
    Width 20 km (13 mi)
    Highest elevation 529 m (1,736 ft)
    Highest point Mai Thao Sip Song
    Country Thailand
    Location Andaman Sea in the Indian Ocean
       
       

    Phuket, which is approximately the size of Singapore, is Thailand's largest island. The island is connected to the mainland by two bridges.

    Phuket is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. It nestles in balmy Andaman Sea waters on Thailand's Indian Ocean coastline 862 kilometers south of Bangkok and is commonly referred to as the 'Pearl of South' and is the largest island in Thailand. It is estimated that Phuket has a total area of approximately 540 square kilometers (210 sq mi) (including the province's other islands).

    It is estimated that if all its 39 other small islands are included, Phuket Province will cover an area of approximately 590 square kilometers (230 sq mi).

    Phuket Island runs 50 kilometers (31 miles) north to south and 20 kilometers (13 miles) east to west. The mountains of Phuket form the southern end of the Phuket mountain range, which ranges for 440 kilometers (270 mi) from the Kra Isthmus. The highest elevation of the island is Mai Thao Sip Song (Twelve Canes Peak), at 529 meters (1,736 ft) above sea level. The Island is broken by a chain of mountains and valleys mainly from a north-south range running down the west coast. This accounts for about 70% of the land area. The other 30% of the island is flat land located mainly in the central and eastern portions of the island. Laying in the Andaman Sea off southern Thailand's west coast, the island's terrain is incredibly varied, with rocky headlands, long broad sandy beaches, limestone cliffs, forested hills, small estuaries, lagoons, and tropical vegetation of all kinds. Its large size has allowed microclimates to develop in different areas of the island. It has a total of 9 brooks and creeks but does not have any major rivers. Neighboring provinces are (from north clockwise) Phang Nga and Krabi, but as Phuket is an island it has no land boundaries.

    The island offers many different looks and feels for you to discover and enjoy. Kata Beach with its spectacular tropical scenery compared with the stately casuarina trees that are found on Nai Yang Beach just a few kilometers north. The triple canopy rainforest of Khao Phra Thaeo National Park to the mud flats and mangrove swamps of Koh Siray. Limestone outcroppings line the east coast and solid granite boulders on the west. Phuket is truly a tropical wonderland and offers something for just about everyone.
    Forest, rubber and palm oil plantations cover 60% of the island. The western coast has several sandy beaches, while on the east coast beaches are more often muddy. Near the southernmost point is Laem Promthep (Brahma's Cape), which is a popular sunset viewing point.

    In the mountainous north of the island is the Khao Phra Thaeo Non-hunting Area, protecting more than 20 km² of rainforest. The three highest peaks of this reserve are the Khao Prathiu (384 metres (1,260 ft), Khao Bang Pae 388 metres (1,273 ft) and Khao Phara 422 metres (1,385 ft).

    The Sirinat National Park on the northwestern coast was established in 1981 and protects an area of 90 square kilometers (35 sq mi) (68 kilometers (42 mi) marine area, including the Nai Yang beach where sea turtles lay their eggs.


    Administrative divisions

    Phuket is divided into 3 districts "Amphoer" such as - Mueang Phuket – Kathu – Thalang

    • 3 Districts are further subdivided into 17 subdistricts "Tambon" and 103 villages "Moo Ban"
    • There are 9 municipal "Thesaban" areas within the province. The capital Phuket has city status "Thesaban Nakhon" and the main touristical town Patong as well as Kathu has town status "Thesaban Mueang
    • There are further 6 subdistrict municipalities "Thesaban Tambon" such as; Karon -Thep Krasattri - Choeng Thale – Ratsada – Rawai - Wichit.
    • The non-municipal areas are administrated by 9 Tambon administrative organizations (TAO)
  • History

    Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoyed a rich and colorful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign trader's ship logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traders.

    The name Phuket (of which the ph sound is an aspirated p) is apparently derived from the word bukit (Jawi: بوكيت) in Malay which means "hill", as this is what the island appears like from a distance. The region was formerly referred to as "Thalang," derived from the old Malay "Telong" (Jawi: تلوڠ) which means "Cape". The northern district of the province, which was the location of the old capital, still uses this name.

    In recent times, though, Phuket's top earner has been tourism, which has transformed the island into Thailand's wealthiest province. Expect prices to be a bit higher than on the mainland. The west coast of Phuket was hit severely by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, but almost no evidence of the damage now remains.

    In the 17th century, the Dutch, English, and after the 1680s the French, competed for trade with the island of Phuket (then known as Junkseilon), which was a very rich source of tin. In September 1680, a ship of the French East India Company visited Phuket and left with a full cargo of tin. A year or two later, the Siamese King Narai, seeking to reduce Dutch and English influence, named as governor of Phuket a French medical missionary, Brother René Charbonneau, a member of the Siam mission of the Société des Missions Etrangères. Charbonneau remained as governor until 1685.

    In 1685, King Narai confirmed the French tin monopoly in Phuket to their ambassador, the Chevalier de Chaumont. Then Chaumont's former maître d'hôtel, Sieur de Billy, was named governor of the island. However, the French were expelled from Siam after the 1688 Siamese revolution. On April 10, 1689, Desfarges led an expedition to re-capture Phuket to restore some French control in Siam. His occupation of the island led to nothing, and Desfarges returned to Pondicherry in January 1690.

    The Burmese attacked Phuket in 1785. Francis Light, a British East India Company captain passing by the island, notified the local administration that he had observed Burmese forces preparing to attack. Than Phu Ying Chan, the wife of the recently deceased governor, and her sister Mook assembled what local forces they could, then cleverly disguised local women as male soldiers, thus appearing to increase Phuket's

    military manpower. After a month's siege, the Burmese invaders became exhausted and retreated by March 13, 1785. The women became local heroines, receiving the royal titles Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Si Sunthon from a grateful King Rama I.

    A Heroines Monument was build in their honor in Ampoer Thalang and it can be seen along the high way between the Airport and Phuket Town. Thalang National Museum is located near the Two Heroines Monument. In 1985, on the 200th anniversary of the Thalang War, the Thalang National Museum was established. The museum contains a permanent exhibition of life in old Phuket, ancient artefacts and remains discovered on the coast, and materials used during war with Burma (Myanmar).

    During the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), Phuket became the administrative center of the tin-producing southern provinces. In 1933 Monthon Phuket was dissolved and Phuket became a province by itself. Old names of the island include Ko Thalang.

  • Beaches

    Phuket enjoys great popularity as a travel destination. Most beaches are on the west coast, with Phuket Town and its Sino-Portuguese Architecture influences old buildings, to the south-east and the airport in the north.

    One of the most popular tourist areas on Phuket is Patong Beach on the central western coast, perhaps owing to the easy access to its wide and long beach. Most of Phuket's nightlife and its cheap shopping is located in Patong, and the area has become increasingly developed. Patong means "the forest filled with banana leaves" in Thai. Other popular beaches are located south of Patong. In a counterclockwise direction these include Karon Beach, Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach, and around the southern tip of the island, Nai Harn Beach and Rawai. To the north of Patong are Kamala Beach, Surin Beach and Bang Tao Beach. These areas are generally much less developed than Patong, and sought out by individuals, families and other groups with a preference for more relaxed and less crowded environs than Patong. There are many islands to the southeast, including Bon Island, just a short boat trip away. There are several coral islands to the south of Phuket, the Similan Islands lie to the north west, and Phi Phi Islands to the south east. Islanders engage in a lively tourist trade, catering to snorkelers and scuba divers.

    Hat Patong (Patong Beach) is Phuket's most developed beach with 3 kilometer (1.9 mi) sea front. Located 15 km from Phuket town, Patong is mostly made up of hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and various tourist attractions. Daytime activities are primarily centered around the beach with many water sport activities . Patong is equally well known for its nightlife, centered around Soi Bangla. It offers bargain shopping from clothes, fashion accessories to souvenirs. The northern end of Patong Bay is called Kalim and is a popular place to enjoy the sunset, and very popular from April to September each year for surfing.

    Hat Karon is the second largest of Phuket's tourist beaches, approximately 20 kilometer (12 mi) from town. Large resort complexes line the road behind the shoreline, but the long, broad white sandy beach itself has no development. Numerous restaurants and tourist shops are located across the street from the beach. The southern point has a fine coral reef stretching toward Kata and Bu Island. There is also its sister beach Karon Noi.

  • View Point

    This is located midpoint between Nai Han and Kata beaches. The scenic Kata Noi, Kata, and Karon beaches, and Ko Pu Island can be viewed from this point.

    Laem Phromthep (Phromthep Cape)
    Being a headland forming the extreme south end of Phuket. "Phrom" is Thai for the Hindu term "Brahma", signifying purity, and "Thep" is Thai for 'God'. Local villagers used to refer to the cape as "Laem Chao", or the God's Cape, and it was an easily recognizable landmark for the early seafarers traveling up the Malay Peninsula from the sub-continent.

    Wat Chalong
    Here stands the cast statue of Luang Pho Cham, who helped the people of Phuket put down the Angyee, or Chinese Coolie Rebellion, in 1876 during the reign of Rama V. There are also statues of Luang Pho Chuang, and Luang Pho Cham, abbots of the temple during later times.

    Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre
    is a center for study of the environment. Its duty is to promote and distribute wildlife within Khao Phra Thaeo wildlife park. The park is full of virgin forest and also actively conserves a number of wild animals; they would otherwise be extinct in Phuket. Giant trees supported by huge buttresses are thick with creepers and climbers of every description.

  • Cuisine

    Local dishes include:

    • A Pong - Sri Lankan style dessert
    • Hokkien Mee - usually with pork or chicken
    • Khanom Chin - noodles taken at breakfast, served with a spicy curry sauce and fresh vegetables
    • Nam Phrik Kung Siap - mixture of dried chili and smoked shrimps taken with fresh vegetables
    • Cashew nuts and pineapples are rarely grown in Phuket but are available all year round. The nuts are available dried, fried or coated.
    • Phat Kana Moo Krop - dish with sauteed leafy green (similar to kale) and crispy pork
    • Khao Man Gai - simple dish of chicken and rice (usually infused with pandanus leaves) that is sold at many small stands.
    • Kuai Tiao Ruea (Boat Soup) - noodle soup made with a brown broth and stewed buffalo meat, before serving a small amount of fresh buffalo blood is added (optional). The soup is traditionally made on a longtail boat.
    • Hokkien or Peranakan Food

  • Climate

    JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
    Daily highs (°C) 31 31 33 34 33 32 31 31 31 31 31 31
    Nightly lows (°C) 23 24 24 25 25 25 24 24 24 24 24 24
    Avg. rainy days 4 3 5 11 21 19 19 19 23 22 16 8
    Check Phuket's 7 day forecast at TMD.go.th

    Phuket is hot and humid throughout the year. The hot season is generally considered to be from March to early May. During the summer monsoon season from May to October, mornings and afternoons are still sunny and clear, but it tends to rain in the evenings and water clarity goes down. Locals consider November to February the "cool" season, and the weather is very pleasant, much more so than in the tourism centers around the Gulf coast. It's comparable to Florida's summer weather in temperature and intensity of rain storms: 25-33 deg C, flying clouds, short and thunderous rainfalls in the afternoons and evenings. Surfing is possible off the western beaches.

  • Culture

    Phuket is a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and even sea gypsies. A substantial number of the population in rural areas is Muslim. Outside of the provincial town, the rural folk speak with a thick Southern dialect which is difficult for even other Thais to understand. The provincial town's economy having boomed over the past decade has led to a lot of the youngsters leading similar lives to those in Bangkok. Altogether, the lifestyle of the urban Thai-Chinese resembles that of Bangkokians.

    Local Culture

    Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthon Fair is held on March 13 every year to commemorate the two great heroines who rallied the Thalang people to repel Burmese invaders.

    Vegetarian Festival is held on the first day of the 9th lunar month (end Sept or early October). Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a 9-day vegetarian diet, a form of purification believed to help make the forthcoming year "trouble-free". The festival is marked by several ascetic displays, including fire-walking and ascending sharp-bladed ladders.

    Phuket King's Cup Regatta is held in December. The Kata Beach Resort hosts international yachtsmen, largely from neighboring countries who compete in the Kata Beach area for royal trophies.

    Laguna Phuket Triathlon is held each December. The Triathlon consisting of 1,800 meter (5,900 ft) swim, 55 kilometer (34 mi) bike race, 12 kilometer (7.5 mi) run and a 6 kilometer (3.7 mi) fun run, attracting many athletes from all over the world.

    Phuket Travel Fair starting from November 1, is usually called the Patong Carnival, from the place where celebrations occur. Colorful parades, sports events and a beauty competition for foreign tourists are some of the major activities.

    Chao Le (Sea Gypsy) Boat Floating Festival falls during the middle of the sixth and eleventh lunar months yearly. The sea gypsy villages at Rawai and Sapam hold their ceremonies on the 13th; Ko Si-re celebrates on the 14th; and Laem La (east of the bridge on Phuket's northern tip) on the 15th. Ceremonies, which centre around setting adrift of small boats similar to the Thai festival of Loi Krathong, are held at night and their purpose is to drive away evil and bring good luck.

    Economy

    Tin mining has been a major source of income for the island since the 16th century. Chinese businessmen and Chinese workers were employed in the mines. Most were Hokkien Chinese, and their influence on Phuket culture and cuisine can still be felt today. With falling tin prices, the mining has now all but ceased. In modern times, Phuket's economy rests on two pillars: rubber tree plantations (making Thailand one of the biggest producer of rubber in the world) and tourism, with a thriving diving industry attracting thousands of divers each year.

    Since the 1980s, the sandy beaches on the western coast of the island have been heavily developed into tourist centers, with Patong, Karon and Kata being the most popular ones. Since the 2004 Tsunami, all damaged buildings and attractions have been restored. Phuket is currently going through an intensive period of leisure urbanization with many new hotels, apartments and houses under construction. In July 2005, Phuket was voted one of the World's Top 5 retirement destinations by the acclaimed Fortune Magazine. There are thousands of expatriates living in Phuket, many of them retirees.

    Demographics

    As with most of Thailand, the majority of the population is Buddhist, but there is a significant number of Muslims (30%) in Phuket, mainly descendants of the island's original sea-dwelling people. Among the Muslims, many are of Malay descent. People of Chinese ancestry make up an even larger populace, many of whom having descended from tin miners who migrated to Phuket during the 19th century. Peranakans, known as "Phuket Babas" in the local tongue, constitute a fair share of members Chinese community, particularly among those who have family ties with the Peranakans of Penang and Malacca.

    Phuket provincial population in preliminary count of 2010 census was counted to be 525,018 people, including some 115,881 foreigners, or 21.1% of the population. However, it is admitted this is inaccurate since The Phuket Provincial Employment Office currently records for more than 64,000 Burmese, Lao and Cambodian workers legally residing on the island. Final figures are to be released in the near future.

  • Access

    The Phuket International Airport (IATA: HKT) (ICAO: VTSP) is located in the north of the island, and is Thailand's second largest hub after Bangkok. There are many scheduled and chartered flights from many other domestic regions and other countries in Asia, Australia and Europe landing in Phuket. There is no rail-line to Phuket, but the trains do run to nearby Surat Thani. Thailand offers a very extensive Interprovincial air-condition bus network to any domestic destination.

    Songthaews (passenger pick-up vehicles) are a common mode of transport on Phuket. Phuket's Songthaews are larger than those found in other areas of Thailand. They travel between the town and beaches. There are also conventional bus services and motorbike taxis. The latter are found in large numbers in the main town and along Patong Beach. The traditional Tuk-Tuk have been replaced by small vans, mostly red or some are yellow or green. Songthaews are the cheapest mode of transportation for travel from town to town. In the more recent period "Meter Taxis" are seen more often. However it is advised to check the rate to destination before driving off, as often drivers do not want to use the meter.