Over the last 40 years, Phuket has become one of the world’s prominent tourist attractions drawing visitors from around the globe to enjoy the tropical island and its beaches and landscape. It caters to all budgets from backpacker to elite escapes, it has modern hospitals, healthcare, schooling and social infrastructure. These facilities in turn draw in around 16 million tourists every year.
Located in the Andaman Sea approximately 860 kilometres south of Bangkok and just north of the equator, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island covering an area of 543 square kilometres (roughly the same size as Singapore).
A Brief History
In the early days of regional maritime trade, the cape of Phuket was locally referred to as Jung Ceylon, while locals called it Thalang, which evolved to be the name of the main town to the north of the island. As the perfect stopover sheltering traders from monsoons, Jung Ceylon welcomed merchants from India, Persia, Arabia, Burma, China, and also Siam. During the 16th century, the island was a popular trading port for tin.
In 1785, Thalang town was surrounded by Burmese troops who invaded the coastal area. It was under the leadership of Chan, the widow of the governor, and her sister, Muk, who united the local residents and successfully fought and drove the invaders out of Phuket. It took over 30 days for the defending troops of Phuket, under the command of Chan and Muk, to claim their victory. As a result of such heroic deeds, noble titles were granted to Chan and Muk as Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Soonthorn, respectively. They are still highly respected by Phuket residents even today and a monument to their action is located on the main road in from the Airport, south of Thalang.
When the city was in a peaceful state, the development of mining was so unprecedented Chinese businessmen and miners later migrated to Phuket and soon enjoyed thriving wealth. The island’s long history has shaped the Phuket of the present with its diverse ethnic groups, culture, architectural influence, and fine cuisine.
During the last quarter of the twentieth century then tourism really began to expand on the Island, the Island was divided into 3 administrative areas, Thalang covers the north of the Island , Kathu the centre including the main tourist hub of Patong and Muang covers the South and East including Phuket Town the capital.
Phuket enjoys 2 main seasons, the green season between May and October and the hot season between November and April. Due to its proximity to the equator, there is little variation in temperatures year-round. The average annual high is 32 °C (90 °F) and the annual low is 25 °C (77 °F) making the island an ideal warm-weather destination throughout the year.
Phuket is served by an international airport located in the north west of the island which is serviced by direct flights from Western Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia as well as domestic routes connecting to Bangkok and the rest of the world. A new terminal opened in late 2016
Phuket has an abundance of beaches, the sandiest ones being located on the west coast including Patong, Mai Khao, Bangtao, Surin, Karon, Kata and Kamala to name a few. On the eastern coast it is more mangrove shores but with fantastic views across the surrounding island and limestone karsts. One of the most famous islands is from the James Bond Film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. One of the best holiday moments is to get out onto the water and spend a day cruising the islands, stopping on remote places, wherever it takes your fancy.
Phuket is also famous for its nightlife and no where more so than Patong. Over the years, the entertainments have taken a turn into more family friendly fun as well as the adult themes that go on well past the 2am closing time. Soi Bangla in Patong is transformed by night into a walking street of bars and discos and is the main strip of the more adult themed nightlife.
Phuket and especially Patong now caters to family friendly vacations with two kids clubs in Jungceylon and at the Patong Promenade at the Jungceylon end of Bangla Road. There is also a cinema and bowling alley in the Jungceylon complex in Patong. There are two cultural stage shows on Phuket that are great entertainment for families and single travelers There are a whole array of dining and eating venues some including live entertainment and or shows as part of the experience.
Just on the outskirts of Patong are attractions such as tradition Buddhist Temples, Mosques and Chinese Temples, waterfalls, rubber plantations, further shopping centres, Tiger enclosures, elephant trekking, Big Buddha, ATV, treetop adventures and many other activities.
Phuket is famous for its abundance of golf courses with seven courses on the island, four of which are within a few minutes drive from the centre of Patong.
Transportation links around Phuket are serviced by Taxi, Tuk Tuk, Car, Public buses and Motorcycles so there is a variety of transport to suit budgets and requirements. rental Cars and motorcycles are in abundance.
Phuket has world class medical facilities with a growing amount of health tourism related products on offer for items such as plastic surgery and dental work being amongst the most popular. Patong is serviced by an international standard hospital and within a 15 kilometres radius of Patong there are three more international standard hospitals offering care and facilities to a very high standard.
With Phuket being an island location, sea and water based activities are in abundance and there are several international standard marinas and many small jetties and piers servicing everything from the largest of cruise ships to the smallest dinghys and some of the most famous super yachts in the world have been, and are regular visitors to the island. Yacht and boating charters are available all over the island.