Phuket also known as the pearl of the south is one of the southern provinces of Thailand. It neighbours the provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi, but being an island it shares not land boundaries with them. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and is located on the west coast in the Andaman sea and is connected to mainland Thailand by two bridges.
Phuket has a rich and colorful history. Pre tourism the island found its wealth through tin and rubber. It was one of the major trading routes between India and China and found itself often mentioned in the ship’s logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traders.
Phuket, formerly known as Thalang, is a name derived from the word bukit in Malay that means hill. The name Thalang was derived from the old Malay Telong that means cape. On European navigation charts the island is marked as Jung Ceylon.
The Dutch and the English, and after the 1680’s the French all competed for a part of the tin industry in Phuket during the 17th century. In 1680 the French East India Company paid a visit to the island and left with a full cargo of tin. The Siamese King Narai, wished to reduce Dutch and English influence on the island and named Rene Charbonneau, a French medical missionary, the governor of the island, a title he held until 1685.
In 1785 the island was attacked by the Burmese, Francis Light of the British East India Company and one of the first to arrive on Penang Island in Malaysia, witnessed the Burmese preparing for the attack when he passed the island. The attack resulted in a month long siege of the capital, but by March 13th 1785 the Burmese were forced to retreat from local forces assembled by Than Phu Ying, the wife of the recently deceased governor and her sister Mook. The women both received royal titles for their efforts.
Phuket went on to become the administrative centre of the tin producing southern provinces and in 1922 it became a province in itself.
Phuket is a very mountainous island. It is estimated that the island has a total area of around 576 square kilometers. The island is 536 miles from Bangkok and forest, rubber and palm oil plantations cover around 60% of the land.
The islands sandy beaches can be found on the west coast where the most popular tourist destination of Patong can be found. This area has colourful nightlife and cheap shopping. Other popular areas include Karon, Kata and Kata Noi beaches. Kamala, Surin and Bang Tao beach to the north are less developed and popular with families and those looking for a more peaceful island experience.
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 northwest, and Phi Phi Islands to the south east, popular with snorkelers and scuba divers.
Phuket enjoys a tropical climate, with a dry season from November to April and a rainy season that runs from May to October. The average annual temperature is between 29 and 33 degrees.
Phuket international airport is located in the north of the island that services scheduled and charter flights from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.