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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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)
By Air :
Thai Airways International operates flights to Phuket
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
Thao Thep Krasatri-Thao Sri Suntorn
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.
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.