Phuket, 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 ranges.
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
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
Phuket's weather 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 recorded 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
necessary to pass the cape of Jang Si Lang.
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
Millennium 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
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 Ayutthaya 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
Ayutthaya 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 historic 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 governor, 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
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.
During 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
Television and Communications
Phuket is served by the full complement of Thai television channels
and has seven radio stations. Several of these have English language
|The Late Show 11:00p.m.-2:00a.m.
||nightly on FM 89. Local news,
information, and an electric mix of jazz, rock, and classical
Tel. (076) 213513, 213532.
|FMX 10:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
||nightly on FM 96.75. Nationwide
phone-in, soft rock and pop, out of Bangkok.
Tel. (076) 217449.
|Tourist Time 6:00
||Sundays on FM 90.5. Interviews with
local newsmakers and music.
Tel. (076) 215604.
Telecommunications Office of Phuket is on Phang-nga Rd., in Phuket
Town. Operated by the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT),
direct dial and operator assisted calls can be made from there, and
collect or reverse change calls when the need arises. Tel. (076)
by Tourism Authority