Phuket Province has an area of 576 square kilometers (222 sq mi), somewhat less than that of Singapore, and is the second-smallest province of Thailand. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign ships’ logbooks of Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English traders, but was never colonized by a European power. It formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber and now from tourism.
The highest elevation of the island is usually regarded as Khao Mai Thao Sip Song (Twelve Canes), at 529 meters (1,736 ft) above sea level. However, it has been reported by barometric pressure readings that there is an even higher elevation (with no apparent name), of 542 meters above sea level, in the Kamala hills behind Kathu waterfall. Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. It is in the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand. The island is mostly mountainous with a mountain range in the west of the island from the north to the south. The mountains of Phuket form the southern end of the Phuket mountain range, which ranges for 440 kilometers (270 mi) from the Kra Isthmus.
Its population was 249,446 in 2000, rising to 525,709 in the 2010 decennial census, the highest growth rate of all provinces nationwide at 7.4 percent annually. Some 600,000 people reside on Phuket currently, among them migrants, international ex-pats, Thais registered in other provinces, and locals. The registered population, however, includes only Thais who are registered in a “tabien baan” or house registration book, which most are not, and the end of 2012 was 360,905 persons.
Phuket is approximately 863 kilometers (536 mi) south of Bangkok and covers an area of 543 square kilometers (210 sq mi) excluding small islets. It is estimated that Phuket would have a total area of approximately 576 square kilometers (222 sq mi) if all its outlying islands were included. Other islands are Ko Lone 4.77 square kilometers (1.84 sq mi), Ko Maprao 3.7 square kilometers (1.4 sq mi), Ko Naka Yai 2.08 square kilometers (0.80 sq mi), Ko Racha Noi 3.06 square kilometers (1.18 sq mi), Ko Racha Yai 4.5 square kilometers (1.7 sq mi), and the second biggest, Ko Sire 8.8 square kilometers (3.4 sq mi).
The island’s length, from north to south, is 48 kilometers (30 mi) and its width is 21 kilometers (13 mi).
Seventy percent of Phuket’s area is covered with mountains which stretch from north to south. The remaining 30 percent are plains in the central and eastern parts of the island. It has a total of nine brooks and creeks but does not have any major rivers.
Forest, rubber, and palm oil plantations cover 60 percent of the island.
The most popular (and overcrowded) tourist area on Phuket is Patong Beach on the central west coast, perhaps owing to the easy access to its wide and long beach. Most of Phuket’s nightlife and its shopping is in Patong, and the area has become increasingly developed. Patong means “the forest filled with banana leaves” in Thai. South of Patong lie Karon Beach, Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach, and around the southern tip of the island, Nai Han Beach and Rawai. To the north of Patong are Kamala Beach, Surin Beach, and Bang Tao Beach. These areas are generally much less developed than Patong. To the southeast is Bon Island and to the south are several coral islands.
Weather in Phuket
Phuket features a tropical monsoon climate. Due to its proximity to the equator, in the year, there is a little variation in temperatures.
The city has an average annual high of 32 °C (90 °F) and an annual low of 25 °C (77 °F).
Phuket has a dry season that runs from January to February and a wet season that covers the other ten months. However, like many cities that feature a tropical monsoon climate, Phuket sees some precipitation even during its dry season. Phuket averages roughly 2,200 millimeters (87 in) of rain.
Tourist Destinations in Phuket
In July 2005, Phuket was voted one of the world’s top five retirement destinations by Fortune Magazine.
In 2017, Phuket received about 10 million visitors, most of them foreign, with China the leading contributor. Tourists generated some 385 billion baht in revenues, nearly 14 percent of the 2.77 trillion baht earned by the nation as a whole.
The first half of 2019 saw a dip in the number of tourists visiting Phuket, driving lower hotel occupancy rates leading to increased price competition. RevPAR (revenue per available room) is down. A decline in the number of tourists, combined with an oversupply of hotel rooms, is the root of the problem. Despite falling numbers, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) claims that tourism revenues have risen by 3.1% in the first half of 2019.
No one seems to know how many hotel rooms Phuket has available. Oxfam says it has 60,000 hotel rooms for its 9.1 million annual visitors. The Bangkok Post in September 2019 reported that Phuket has 600 hotels with 40,000 rooms.. Three weeks earlier it said that Phuket had 93,941 hotel rooms available, excluding villas and hostels, with an additional 15,000 projected to become available by 2024.
Transport in Phuket
Airport in Phuket
Phuket International Airport (HKT) commenced a 5.7 billion baht (US$185.7 million) expansion in September 2012, scheduled for completion on 14 February 2016. The airport will increase its annual handling capacity from 6.5 million to 12.5 million passengers, and add a new international terminal.
- Trains in Phuket
There is currently no rail line to Phuket. Trains run to Surat Thani 230 km away.
- City transit
Songthaews are a common mode of transport on Phuket. Phuket’s songthaews are larger than those found in other areas of Thailand. Songthaews are the cheapest mode of transportation from town to town. They travel between the town and beaches.
There are also conventional bus services and motorbike taxis. The latter are found in large numbers in the main town and at Patong Beach.
Traditional tuk-tuks have been replaced by small vans, mostly red, with some being yellow or green.
Car taxis in Phuket are quite expensive and charge flat rates between towns. Privately run buses are available from the airport to Phuket Town and major beaches.
It is often recommended by locals to take the ride-share company, Grab.
Phuket’s Bus Station 2 BKS Terminal is the long-distance arrivals hub for buses to and from Bangkok and other major Thai cities and provinces. Located four kilometers to the north of Phuket’s town center and port, the complex is large and modern, linking with transportation by tuk-tuk, metered taxi, motorcycle taxi, songthaew, or local bus to the island’s beaches and resorts. There are daily scheduled buses from private and government-run companies going to Phuket from Bangkok’s Mo Chit and Southern terminal stations.
The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) announced in 2018 that bidding to construct a 60 kilometers-long, 23 station tram network in Phuket will commence in 2020. The 39 billion baht tram is part of the government’s Private-Public-Partnership (PPP) plan which ensures it will be fast-tracked. The planned route stretches from Takua Thung District in Phang Nga Province to Chalong in Phuket. Phase one will connect Phuket International Airport with Chalong, about 40 kilometers. It will take three years to complete.
There are daily ferry boats that connect Phuket to neighboring islands Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. Ferries depart daily from Rassada Pier and Tonsai Pier, with service expanding each year.The average price for a one-way ticket ranges from 300 THB to 1500 THB.
The number of people on Phuket island swells to over a million during the high season, as tourists, mainly from Western Europe, China, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States flock to Phuket around Christmas.
Healthcare in Phuket
There are six hospitals in Phuket. The main hospital in Phuket operated by the Ministry of Public Health is Vachira Phuket Hospital, with smaller hospitals at Thalang and Patong.
There are also three private hospitals in Phuket: Phuket International Hospital, Bangkok Hospital Phuket and Mission Hospital Phuket.
Tourist Attractions in Phuket
- Two Heroines Monument ), is the monument in Thalang District, a memorial statue of the heroines Thao Thep Kasattri (Kunying Jan) and Thao Sri Sunthon (Mook), who rallied islanders in 1785 to repel Burmese invaders. As the island’s governor had just died, the organization of Phuket’s defense against the Burmese invasion of 1785 was conducted by his widow, Thao Thep Kasattri. With her sister’s help, they assembled what forces they had, then disguised local women as male soldiers, a ruse to swell the ranks of the defenders. After a month’s siege, the Burmese invaders became exhausted and withdrew. King Rama I awarded Kunying Jan with the royal title of Thao Thep Kasattri.
- Thalang National Museum is near the Two Heroines Monument. In 1985, on the 200th anniversary of the Thalang War, the Thalang National Museum was established. The museum contains a permanent exhibition of life in old Phuket, ancient artifacts, remains discovered on the coast, and materials used during the war with Burma.
- Hat Karon is the second largest of Phuket’s tourist beaches, approximately 20 kilometers (12 mi) from town. Large resort complexes line the road behind the shoreline, but the broad beach itself has no development. The southern point has a coral reef stretching toward Kata and Poo Island. There is also its smaller sister beach, Karon Noi.
- Kamala Beach, Hat Kamala is a large beach approximately 16 km (10 mi) north of Patong Beach. The beach is undeveloped with coral reefs on the north side and surfing in the low season. It is a tourist beach in the high season and a sleepy seaside Muslim village in the low season. There is a market on Wednesday and Friday nights, as well as a weekly Saturday market.
- View Point is midway between Nai Harn and Kata Beaches. Kata Noi, Kata, Karon, and Ko Pu can be viewed from this point.
- Laem Phromthep (Phromthep Cape) is a headland forming the extreme south end of Phuket. “Phrom” is Thai for the Hindu term “Brahma”, signifying purity, and “thep” is Thai for “God”. Local villagers used to refer to the cape as “Laem Chao”, or the God’s Cape, and it was an easily recognizable landmark for the early seafarers traveling up the Malay Peninsula.
- Wat Chalong is where stands the cast statue of Luang Pho Cham, who helped the people of Phuket put down the Angyee, or Chinese Coolie Rebellion, in 1876 during the reign of Rama V. There are also statues of Luang Pho Chuang, and Luang Pho Cham, abbots of the temple during later times.
- Phuket Pearl Farm located about one kilometer offshore from Phuket’s east coast close to coconut island. Phuket Pearl Farm can be accessed only by boat.
- Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre is a center for the study of the environment. Its duty is to promote and distribute wildlife within Khao Phra Thaeo wildlife park. The park is forested and also conserves a number of wild animals that would otherwise have gone extinct in Phuket.
- The Big Buddha of Phuket, (Phra Phutta Ming Mongkol Akenakiri or Ming Mongkol Buddha), is on the peak of a mountain near Muang Phuket, or Phuket town. The image is 45 m in height and covered in white Burmese marble.
- Phuket Butterfly Garden and Insect World is one of the very few remaining butterfly gardens in Thailand.
- Old Phuket Town in Phuket town, around Thalang, Dibuk, Yaowarat, Phang Nga, and Krabi Roads. The architecture is Sino-Portuguese-style.
- Phuket Aquarium attracts around 300,000 visitors each year. Established in 1983 as part of the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), it is a research and monitoring station within the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR).
- Aquaria Phuket opened on August 24, 2019, featuring more than 51,000 aquatic animals from more than 300 species. The aquarium, with a combined water capacity of seven million liters, has both saltwater and freshwater animals and is located at the Central Phuket Floresta shopping complex.
Local culture in Phuket
- Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthon Fair is held on March 13 every year to commemorate the two heroines who rallied the Thalang people to repel Burmese invaders.
- Vegetarian Festival or Nine Emperor Gods Festival is held on the first day of the 9th Chinese lunar month (end-Sep or early-Oct).
- Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a nine-day vegetarian diet, a form of purification believed to help make the forthcoming year trouble-free. The festival is marked by several ascetic displays, including fire-walking and ascending sharp-bladed ladders.
- Ghost Festival or Phóo-tōo Festival is held on the middle day of the 7th Chinese lunar month. Intrinsic to the Ghost Festival is ancestor worship. Activities include preparing food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold, and other goods for the visiting spirits. Elaborate meals (often vegetarian) are served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family. Other festivities may include, buying and releasing miniature paper boats and lanterns on water, which signifies giving direction to lost souls.
- Phuket King’s Cup Regatta is held every December. The Kata Beach Resort hosts yachtsmen, largely from neighbouring countries who compete for trophies.
- Laguna Phuket Triathlon is held each December. The triathlon (a 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) swim, a 55 kilometres (34 mi) bike race and a 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) run and a 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) fun run) attracts athletes from all over the world.
- Phuket Travel Fair starting 1 November, is usually called the Patong Carnival, from the place where celebrations occur. Colorful parades, sports events, and a beauty competition for foreign tourists are major activities. A popular festival, the Patong Carnival opening drew over 30,000 foreign and Thai tourists.
- Chao Le (Sea Gypsy) Boat Floating Festival falls during the middle of the sixth and eleventh lunar months yearly. The sea gypsy villages at Rawai and Sapam hold their ceremonies on the 13th; Ko Si-re celebrates on the 14th; and Laem La (east of the bridge on Phuket’s northern tip) on the 15th. Ceremonies, which center on the setting small boats adrift similar to the Thai festival of Loi Krathong, are held at night and their purpose is to drive away evil and bring good luck.
- Phuket Bike Week is the biggest motorcycle event in Asia. Motorcyclists with their motorcycles and visitors from many countries join this event in every year. The event highlights include a motorcycle exhibition, bike parades “Ride for Peace”, custom bike contests, live entertainment, Miss Phuket Bike Week competition, bike accessories and apparel from local and international venders.
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