About Phuket, Phuket Travel Information: HotelRoomsPhuket.com
Phuket is one of the most famous dream travel destinations in the world, that attracts package holiday tourists, honeymooners, rock stars, royalty and supermodels from all over the globe to its glistening shores. The colourful and cultural island is Thailand's largest, at 550 square kilometres, and is located off the west coast, surrounded by the tropical Andaman Sea. Phuket is Thailand's wealthiest province due to the large number of tourists that visit to enjoy the climate, culture, food and fabulous beaches.
The name Phuket is said to be derived from the Malay work Bukit, which means 'hill', as this is how the island appears from a distance, but back in the 17th century, it is named on maps as Junk Ceylon. During this period, Phuket had a rich source of tin which was traded with Europeans, mainly the Dutch, English, Portuguese and French, creating a new found wealth for the island. In the 1680's the Siamese King Narai, gave the French a monopoly of the tin mining business to reduce the influence of Dutch and English. However in 1688, the French were expelled following a Siamese revolution. In the years that followed, Siamese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians settled to continue to work the thriving tin mining business.
A significant event in history took place around a century later, when the Burmese attacked in 1785. Following a tip off about the approaching army by captain Frances Light of a passing trade ship, Thao Thep Kasatri (Kunying Jan), the wife of the recently deceased governor, and her sister Thao Sri Sunthon (Kunying Mook), gathered what troops they could to deter the oncoming threat. They battled for over a month and eventually forced the Burmese to depart on March 13, 1785. In recognition of their success, King Rama I awarded Kunying Jan the title of Thao Thep Kasatri, which is usually reserved for nobility. The two heroines are still in the hearts and minds of Phuketians today, and the Heroines Monument in Thalang pays tribute to their bravery.
During the 19th century the lure of wealth from tin mining attracted interest from south China, and Phuket became home to a large number of hardworking immigrant miners. The Hokkien Chinese settlers added to the mix of residents which already included a significant number of Muslim fisherman that lived in the coastal villages and towns.
People & Cultures
Over the centuries Phuket has been home to a wide range of people, giving rise to a mixed community today of Malaysian, Thai and Chinese descent. During the early days of tin mining, a unique community was created in Phuket that had its own way of life, dress, food, customs and language. This community known as the 'Baba' were formed by unions between the Hokkien Chinese and Siamese women. The Baba heritage is still remembered today in certain parts of Phuket Old Town.
The majority of locals are Buddhist, and approximately 30% are Muslim, who are mostly from Malay descent. In addition there are sea gypsies and Thai-Chinese added to the mix, making Phuket a melting pot of different cultures, religions and traditions. The rural population tend to speak with a strong southern dialect, which can even be difficult for other Thais to understand.
Modern Phuket is very much a cosmopolitan place to live. As the economy has boomed, the new generation of city kids, mostly Thai-Chinese, like to emulate the youth in Bangkok and enjoy the same urban lifestyles. The improved infrastructure has also lured a large number of expatriates to this dream island destination. With a population of over half a million, it is estimated 20% are foreigners adding an even bigger mix of nationalities from all over the world.
Phuket's tourist industry began to boom in the 1980's with the emergence of the popular resort areas of Patong, Karon and Kata Beaches. The west coast has since enjoyed a growing tourist market leading to a large number of expatriates settling, spurring the property market and leisure industry. There are still new hotels, entertainment centres, villas and condominiums being built today to cater to this growing market.
Outside of the tourist industry, conventional farming still takes place. Although tin mining was present for most of the island's history, the practice ended as the demand for tin and its prices declined. Today rubber plantations take up a significant proportion of the land helping to make Thailand the world's biggest producer of rubber. Other industries present include pearl, coconut, cashew nuts, rice, pineapple, palm oil, and prawn farming.
Phuket dining is now an international affair with chefs from all over the world attracted to the high standard hotels and restaurant scene. Seafood plays a major part on many menus with delicious fresh fish and seafood to tempt, but to get a feel for the local culture, it is worth trying some local restaurants and dishes. Phuket has many dishes unique to the island, thanks to the rich mix of inhabitants. Some local favourites are:
Fried or boiled noodle dishes: there are many varieties, usually eaten with pork or chicken.
Khanom jeen: a type of noodle dish usually eaten at breakfast with a spicy curry sauce and fresh vegetables.
Khao man gai: a simple chicken and rice dish.
Oh tao: oysters fried with eggs, flour and taro root.
Nam prik kung siap: a mix of red onion, chilli and smoked shrimps eaten with fresh vegetables.
Tao sor: Phuket spring rolls or Chinese crepes made sweet or salty.
Phuket is full of contrasts. It is an international standard destination in many respects, particularly with regards to facilities and services, yet some rural areas still manage to maintain the charms of simple Thai living. Phuket is well equipped with reliable water, electric and high speed internet. There are large shopping malls and small convenience stores all over the island covering a wide variety of needs. Marinas, leisure facilities, entertainment venues, and convention centres are already in place, as well as international schools and hospitals, making Phuket an attractive place to live long term. The airport and road systems have also received investment in recent years making it easy to get to and get around.
There are two international hospitals on the island, Bangkok Phuket Hospital and Phuket International Hospital. Both private hospitals have world class facilities offering modern healthcare, alternative therapies and cosmetic surgery. Medical tourism is an important part of their business, as people travel from all over the world to take advantage of the affordable costs for routine or complex medical services.
The choice of high quality international schools is one of the reasons that foreign families have chosen to reside in Phuket long term. The British International School, Phuket International Academy and the QSI International School, all follow international curriculums and have top class facilities for sports and other activities. Babies and toddlers are also well catered for with an explosion in the amount of nursery facilities opening in recent years, that welcome children of all nationalities.