Square: 576 km2 – Population: 386,605 (2015)
Phuket is one of the southern provinces of Thailand and consists of the island of Phuket, the country's largest island, and 32 smaller islands off of Phuket’s coast. It lies off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. The next nearest province is Krabi, to the east across Phang Nga Bay and Phuket Island is connected by to Phang Nga Province by the Sarasin Bridge..
Phuket Province is the second-smallest province of Thailand. It formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoys a rich and colorful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign ship logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English traders. The region now derives much of its income from tourism. It has some of Thailand’s most popular beaches, mostly situated along the clear waters of the western shore and is home to many high-end seaside resorts, spas and restaurants.
Phuket Island was assumed by geologists to be a part of the mainland in the form of a cape sticking out into the Andaman Sea but millions of years later the cape was gradually eroded by natural forces and finally detached from the mainland. The cape was mentioned in a book written around the year 157 by Claudius Ptolemy, a famous Greek philosopher, that to travel to Malay Peninsula by ship, the travellers had to pass a cape known among them as Junk Ceylon. Junk Ceylon was later known among the locals as Thalang, which was also the name of the main town in the north of the island.
In 1785, Thalang town was besieged by the Burmese troops invading the coastal area but Chan, the widow of the governor who had just died, and her sister Muk rose to the occasion by jointly shouldering the successful task of defending the land for over 30 days until starvation forced the enemy to retreat. Due to their heroic deeds, noble titles were bestowed on Chan and Muk as Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthon respectively. In 1966 a monument was erected at Tha Ruea Intersection, 12 km to the north of Phuket Town in memory of the sisters, who are still highly respected by Phuket people nowadays.
Twenty-four years later, the Burmese succeeded in taking Thalang and many Thalang people fled to Phang-nga and Krabi areas. In 1825, some of them returned and re-establish a town on a new location but soon they moved back to their original site because it was a better location for rice farming. This return of Thalang people did not make their town as important as it was the past. Now known as Phuket, it was elevated to be a town in 1850. In 1916, Phuket became a province but It was not until 1967 that Sarasin Bridge was built to connect the mainland with Phuket.
Though the tin mining industry has played an especially important role in the economic development of the island province, it has declined rapidly after 1985 when the price of tin fell by half. The decline was also been due to the gradual decrease in the deposits of tin after centuries of exploitation.
Phuket had to look for a new industry on which to base its future development and luckily the natural beauty of Phuket was discovered by adventure travelers and backpackers during the 1970’s and in the 1980’s Phuket became a “must visit” location among international travellers of all economic tears.
The Phuket and Khao Lak areas were devastated by the 2004 Christmas earthquake in the Indian ocean. Thailand experienced more than 9,300 people dead or missing and another 8,500 people injured. The tsunami struck the west coast of Phuket island, flooding and causing damage to almost all the major beaches such as Patong, Karon, Kamala, and Kata beach.
The smaller but popular resort area of Khao Lak, some 80 km north of Phuket, was hit far worse with 3,950 confirmed deaths, however, the death toll in Khao Lak may have exceeded 4,500. The severity of the situation in Khao Lak is probably explained by the fact, that unlike the high-rise hotels of Phuket, the village of Khao Lak only had low built bungalows instead of high-rise concrete hotels.
Since the 2004 disaster, Phuket and other areas have been developed and the tourism market has expanded across both Phuket island and its surrounding area. The government has also focused on enticing various types of tourists to visit including single adventure travelers, families, luxury travellers, retirees and sports enthusiasts. The government believes that the island has been reinvigorated and has placed itself in an ideal position for long-term tourism development.
Phuket is Thailand's largest island and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. This island is rich in natural resources and has the perfect weather for agriculture while providing colorful tropical vistas. The terrain is varied, supporting a variety of plants and animals. Blue waters, sandy beaches, great food, and diving are all part of the attractions. Swimming, snorkeling, diving, yachting, jet-skiing and parasailing are the most popular activities on the island. Other activities include kite surfing, ocean diving, wakeboarding, windsurfing and deep sea fishing. Popular kite surfing locations include Nai Yang in the summer months and Chalong Bay in the winter season. Sea Canoeing is a popular activity in the Phang Nga Bay, and many of the most beautiful grottoes are accessible only by ocean canoes.
Patong is Phuket’s biggest town and busiest beach. It’s the ultimate gong show where beach-aholics sizzle off their hangovers and go-go girls play ping pong … without paddles. But there's space for all kinds here. Phuket Town has morphed into an artsy, culturally rich capital, while Rawai on the island's southern tip remains blissfully laid-back, despite development. The twin west-coast beaches of Kata and Karon reel in holidaymakers who like their trips easy. An upmarket twist awaits along Hat Surin and Ao Bang Thao, while, further north, things quiete down as you thread through Sirinat National Park and Khao Phra Thaew reserve.
THE PHUKET ECONOMY
Being the largest island in Thailand, Phuket enjoys both the consistent flow of tourists and foreign investors, owing to the fact that Phuket is ideally situated for both ventures. The bullish economy has encouraged foreign investors to set up their business operations in Phuket and this trend is increasing with expansion of digital businesses that allow individuals to work from their most desired environments. To see the interest in investing in Phuket and Thailand, one only has to walk down the main streets and see signs for various companies that advertise their services and assist foreign investors understand the legal and financial requirements of foreign business operations in Thailand.
In the past decade, the tourism industry has become the biggest earner for Phuket and it is continuing to expand. One of the biggest issues that government and business face is how to retain the benefits of tourism while sustaining the natural attractions that bring visitors in Phuket in the first place. Phuket now gets more than 3 million visitors every year, and this number is increasing so Phuket is seriously thinking about the types of tourists that it wants and the numbers of each tourism segment.
There are still rubber plantations in Phuket, however, soaring real estate values and the tourism boom have prompted many land owners to use their land for non-agriculture ventures.
Phuket is abundantly rich in tin but with global demand in decline and
dredging of tin in offshore waters restrained, real estate developers are
converting the unsightly environmental scars of mining into the landscape of
beautiful hotels, golf courses, resort projects and yacht marinas for tourists
and the ultra-rich. Current trends also see farming land and rice paddies being
given up to make way for housing projects, roads, and other infrastructure