Phuket, a large island in the Indian Ocean, is 867 kms. from Bangkok. It is the only island having provincial status, and was a regional headquarters as well, with a rich and colorful history.

Known as the Pearl of the Andaman, it derived much of its former glory and its enormous wealth from tin production, which in Phuket dates back over 500 year. Today, Phuket is the major tourist attraction of Thailand with hotels of all price ranges.

The surrounding waters contain much varied  marine life, and the town is notable for its Sino-Portuguese architecture. It is a very attractive island for sightseeing, with lovely seashores and forested hillsides. Its population of 1.6 million people ranks sixth among all provinces. Approximately 1.75 million Rai of the area is forest land. The main occupation here is rice farming. The average per capita income is 14,343 Baht.

Geography
About 70 percent of Phuket is mountainous; a western range runs from north to south from which smaller branches derive. The highest peak is Mai Tha Sip Song, or Twelve Canes, at 529 meters, which lies within the boundaries of Tambon Patong, Kathu District. The remaining 30 percent of the island, mainly in the center and south, is formed by low plains. Streams include the Khlong Bang Yai, Tha Jin, Khlong Tha Rua, and Khlong Bang Rong, none of which is large.

Economy
Since the early 1980's the tourist business has been Phuket's chief source of income. Hotels, restaurants, tour companies, and souvenir shops are much in evidence on the west coast. However, while once all-importance tin mining has ceased, tourism is by no means the island's only activity. Agriculture remains important to a large number of people, and covers by far the most part of the island. Principal crops are rubber, coconuts, cashews, and pineapples.

Prawn farming has largely taken over the east and south coasts. Pearl farming is also important. Phuket's fishing port is at all time filled, and processing of marine products, mainly fish, makes a significant contribution to the economy. With so many healthy industries supplying income, construction has become a major factor in employment. This range from massive public works projects, large office buildings and hotels, and housing estates with hundreds of units, down to single family homes, apartments and additions.

Population
Official population as of December, 1998, was 231,206. This figure numbers those who are registered as living in Phuket. Phuket' s attraction as a center of economic activity has resulted in many living on the island whose registration is elsewhere. The total population of Phuket varies considerably depending on the time of year, through it is never less than the figure given above.

Government
The island is divided into three districts, Thalang in the north, Kathu in the west, and Muang in the south. Thailand's system of government relies upon a strong central authority, thus the Provincial Governor is a civil servant appointed by the Interior Ministry in Bangkok, as are the Nai Amphoe, or District Chief. The cities of Phuket and Patong have their own city governments, with elected city councils, the leading members of which serve as mayor. There are also elected provincial, district, and sub-district, or Tambon councils. The local constabulary is part of the Interior Ministry.

Climate
Phuket's weather conditions are dominated by monsoon winds that blow year round. It is therefore always warm and humid. There are two distinct seasons, rainy and dry. The rainy season begins in May and lasts till October, during which the monsoon blows from the southwest. The dry season is from November through April, when the monsoon comes from the northeast. Highest average temperatures, at 33.4 degree Celsius, prevail during March. Lowest averages occur in January, when nightly lows dip to 22 degree Celsius.

History
Phuket Island has a long recorderd history, and remains dating back to A.D. 1025 indicate that the island's present day name derives in meaning from the Tamil manikram, or crystal mountain. 

For most of history, however, it was known as Junk Ceylon, which, with variations, is the name found on old maps. The name is thought to have its roots in Ptolemy's Geographia, written by the Alexandrian geographer in the Third Century A.D. He mentioned that in making a trip from Souwannapum to the Malay Peninsula it was neccesary to pass the cape of Jang Si Lang.

Phuket was a way station on the route between India and China where seafarers stopped to shelter. The island appears to have been part of the Shivite empire (called in Thai the Tam Porn Ling) that established itself on the Malay Peninsula during the first Millenium A.D. Later, as Muang Takua-Talang, it was part of the Srivichai and Siri Tahm empires. Governed as the eleventh in a constellation of  twelve cities, Phuket's emblem, by which it was known to others in those largely pre-literate times, was the dog.

During the Sukothai Period Phuket was associated with Takua Pa in what is now Phang-nga Province, another area with vast tin reserves. The Dutch established a trading post during the Ayuthaya Period in the 16th Cent. The island's northern and central regions then  were governed by the Thais, and the southern and western parts were given over to the tin trade, a concession in the hands of foreigners.

After Ayuthaya was sacked by the Burmese in 1767 there was a short interregnum in Thailand, ended by King Taksin, who drove out the Burmese and re-unified the country. The Burmese, however, were anxious to return to the offensive. They outfitted a fleet to raid the southern provinces, and carry off the populations to slavery in Burma.

This led to Phuket's most memorable hitoric event. A passing sea captain, Francis Light, sent word that the Burmese were en route to attack. Forces in Phuket were assembled led by the two heroines, Kunying Jan, wife of Phuket's recently deceased governer, and her sister Mook, After a month's siege the Burmese were forced to depart on 13 March, 1785. Kunying Jan and her sister were credited with the successful defense.

In recognition King Rama I bestowed upon Kunying Jan the honorific Thao Thep Kasatri, a title of nobility usually reserved for royalty, by which she is known today. Her sister became Thao Sri Sunthon.

During the Nineteenth Century Chinese immigrants arrived in such numbers to work for the tin mines that the ethnic character of the island's interior became predominantly Chinese, while the coastal settlements remained populated chiefly by Muslim fishermen. 

In Rama V's reign, Phuket became the administrative center of a group of  tin mining provinces called Monton Phuket, and in 1933, with the change in government from absolute monarchy to a parliamentary system, the island was established as a province by itself.

How to get there

By Car : 
Take Route 4 from Bangkok to the south. Along the way pass the provinces of Nakhon Pathom, Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, Prachuap-Khirikan, and at Chumphon go right to Ranong. From Ranong, go south through Kraburi and Kapoe Districts to Phang-nga Province. In Phang-nga the road passes through Kuraburi, Takuapa, and Thai Muang Districts before reaching the town of Kok Kloy. Then, cross the Thao Thep Kasattri or Sarasin Bridge to Phuket Island. The distance is 867 kilometers.

By Sea : 
The Deep Sea Port (Port of Phuket) at Puket is visited by both cargo and cruise ship from Thailand and from abroad. Contact your travel agent for information about the many different ships that stop at Phuket.

By Bus : 
If you come to Phuket overland, the bus connection is the only means of travel, since there is no existing railway connection to the island. The only land connection to the island is a 1200 meters long causeway, used by cars and busses.
The bus ride from Bangkok takes 14 hours or more for the nearly 900 kilometers, leaving there from the Southern Bus Terminal. The fare is around THB 700 to 800. There are also regular mini-bus trips from Singapore and Penang which are reasonably priced.
Both air-conditioned and non air–conditioned buses leave the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok daily. Southern Bus Terminal Tel. (02) 4347192, 4345557-8, Phuket Central Company Tel. (02) 4355019, Phuket Travel Tel. (02) 4355018, Phuket Bus Terminal Tel. (076) 211480.

By Air : 
Thai Airways International operates flights to Phuket daily. 
The travel time is 1 hour 20 minutes. 
Bangkok Airways operates flights from Samui to Phuket daily. 
The travel time is 50 minutes. 
Air Andaman operates flights from Bangkok via Chumpon every other day, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat daily.

Festival & Events

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 
is held from the first through the ninth nights of the ninth Chinese lunar month; that is, in September or October. It was first celebrated in 1825, when a troupe of actors enacted these rites toward off a plague. Vegetarian food is eaten by participants and white clothes worn during the period of the fest. Self utilization is practiced by those whose bodies become the temporary residence of powerful gods. Parades of worshippers brave fireworks while carrying images through the street; others walk on fire or climb bladed ladders. Participants number in the thousands. The whole forms one of the most bizarre festivals in Thailand.

Por Tor Festival
This is an ancestor's festival of the ethnic Chinese that falls on the seventh Chinese lunar month, which is the same as the ninth lunar month of the Thais. Special foods, flowers and candles are presented to the ancestor's altars. Cakes in the shape of turtles are made from flour. This is done because turtles live to great age and it is believed that by making such offering worshippers may extend the length of their lives. It is an important merit-making festival.

Thao Thep Krasatri-Thao Sri Suntorn Festival
is held on 13 March yearly in memory of the two heroines who led the defense of the island against the Burmese in 1785.

Laguna Phuket Triathlon
This annual year end event sees the world's top triathletes and hundreds of amateurs competing for prize money and placing on the world triathlon circuit. The course, which includes swimming, bicycling, and running through the beautiful natural surroundings of Laguna Phuket in Tambon Choeng Thale, takes from two-and-a-half to five hours to complete.

Turtle Release Fair
is held on Songkran, the nationwide Thai water festival, on April 13. It is also the National Fisherman's Day. Baby turtles are released into the sea at various locations.

Tourist Season Opening Festival
is usually called the Patong Carnival in English according to from the place where celebrations occur, and is held on November 1. There are many stalls with merchandise and food, parades, sports event, and a beauty competition for foreign tourists. The fest is held to cement solidarity among the government, the private business sector, and the people. 

Chao Le Boat Floating Festival
falls during the middle of the sixth and eleventh lunar months yearly. The fest is held at the Chao Le, or Sea Gipsy, villages in Phuket. The Rawai and Sapam villages hold their ceremonies on the 13th; Sire village celebrates on the 14th; and the village at Laem La (east of the bridge on Phuket's northern tip) celebrates on the 15th. Ceremonies, which center around the setting adrift of small boats similar to the Thai Festival of Loy Krathong, are held at night and their purpose is to drive away evil and to bring good luck. Fingernail clipping and strands of hair are put in the little boats before being released, along with little dolls fashioned from wood. Afterwards, the villagers perform their famous dance round their own boats, called the Ram Rong Ngeng.
 
Phuket King's Cup Regatta
was first held in 1987 in honor of His Majesty's 60th birthday. The King of Thailand is a noted boating enthusiast and yachts come from around the world to participate in the competition, which is the largest and most popular in Southeast Asia. It is held yearly on the anniversary of His Majesty's birthday, 5 December. Site of the regatta is Nai Han Bay.

Information provided by Tourism Authority of Thailand

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