Phuket the Pearl of the Andaman
What comes into the mind of travellers when we talk about sea, sun and sand? Phuket must definitely be one of the answers. A number of exciting activities can be found on this island. In the early days of regional maritime trade, the cape of Phuket was locally referred to as Jung Ceylon, while locals called it Thalang, which evolved to be the name of the main town to the north of the island.
As the perfect stopover sheltering traders from monsoons, Jung Ceylon welcomed merchants from India, Persia, Arabia, Burma, China, and also Siam. During the 16th century, the island was a popular trading port for tin. In 1785, Thalang town was surrounded by Burmese troops who invaded the coastal area. It was under the leadership of Chan, the widow of the governor, and her sister, Muk, who united the local residents and successfully fought and drove the invaders out of Phuket. It took over 30 days for the defending troops of Phuket, under the command of Chan and Muk, to claim their victory. As a result of such heroic deeds, noble titles were granted to Chan and Muk as Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Soonthorn, respectively. They are still highly respected by Phuket residents even today. When the city was in a peaceful state, the development of mining was so unprecedented. Chinese businessmen and miners later migrated to Phuket and soon enjoy thriving wealth. The island’s long history has shaped the Phuket of the present with its diverse ethnic groups, culture, architectural influence, and fine cuisine. These attributes have made Phuket a complete tourist destination that offers a lot more beyond its natural heritage of sea, sand, forest, and world-renowned diving sites. Sino-Portuguese architecture casts its spell delighting travellers to the city, while Phuket style of hospitality has never failed to impress visitors from all walks of life.
Getting to know:
- Phuket is located approximately 862 kilometres south of Bangkok.
- There are only two seasons in a year the green season (May to October) and the hot season (November to April).
- Phuket is divided into 3 administrative districts: namely, Amphoe Muang, Amphoe Thalang and Amphoe Kathu.
- The beaches of the south coast are typically crowded, while the north is far more tranquil.
- All the major beaches (such as Patong beach, Kata beach, Karon beach, Nai Han beach, Mai Khao beach , Nai Yang beach) offer instruction and equipment for diving, snorkling, wind surfing and sailing. Don’t forget to notice red flag! before swim.
Where to go and what to see:
Bang Thao is one of Phuket’s longest beaches located in Cherng Talay neighborhood. It was formerly a large tin mining site, Phuket’s main industry in the old days, but now a location of the luxurious resorts and golf course of the Laguna complex. The beach itself is quite steep with high waves, it is not friendly for shallow-water snorkeling or amateur swimmers.
With half-moon shape of sloped, white-powdery beach considered the most beautiful on the island, Patong was the first beach in Phuket that was developed to serve local and international tourists. The three-kilometer beach is now Phuket’s tourist central with the most choices of accommodations, restaurants, spas, tourist-related services and shopping venues. The vibe here is dynamic so it lures in more of younger tourists who love to experience the fun and challenging water sports such as jet ski, wind surf and parasail. At the center of Patong finds Bang La, a nightlife central with selections of bars and clubs for every preferences.
A small beach located north of Patong beach is home to a bunch of resorts and beach clubs. Dotted with rocks and coral reefs, Kalim is not ideal for swimming as much as its neighbor Patong Beach. A nearby attraction worth a stopover is the Freedom Beach, an unspoiled beach with white, powdery sand located just around the head of Laem Ka Sai Rot that is only accessible by a chartered long-tailed boat.
Karon is a four-kilometre long beach south of Patong, making it is one of the longest beaches in Phuket. Its character is quieter with fewer tourists than Patong, with a variety of accommodation and restaurant options, from upscale to affordable and from classic to cutting-edge.
Kata is a sister beach of Karon, located southward from Karon Beach. The golden sand beach is best known as a home to the world-famous, activity-focused resort of Club Med. South of Kata Beach, divided be a steep cliff, is a more private and compact beach of Kata Noi.
Phuket was one of the major Peranakan Chinese cultural centrals, along with Singapore, Malacca and Penang, thanks to the dramatic growing of tin mining business in early 19th century, luring in a large number of Chinese merchants from the China mainland. It was led to the constructions of Sino-Portuguese mansions and shophouses in the Phuket town. These buildings were the residence of tin mine tycoons, and their descendants, featuring unique Peranakan architectural styles. Each shophouse look narrow from the front but its space spans as long as ten meters or more to the back, making there’s a vast space to accommodate a lot of people. Walk along the roads of Dibuk, Phang-Nga, Yaowarat, Thalang and Krabi to admire the beauty of crafted facade of the remaining shophouses. Some of them are now open as a boutique hotel you can also try lodging. For an in-depth history of Peranakan culture in Phuket, you might want to pay a visit to Phuket Thai Hua Museum.
The largest and closest bay to Phuket town, Ao Chalong doesn’t own pristine beaches but a hub of sea transportation of nearby islands, including Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi in Phang Nga. Swimming is not recommended, though, there’re a few alternative, budget accommodations such as the Phuket Youth Hostel.
Known among locals as Laem Panwa (Panwa Cape), it is the island’s southwestern-most tip located 10 kilometers from Phuket town. Not only home to Phuket’s high-end resorts like Sri Panwa, Cape Panwa and The Regent, Panwa is where Phuket’s only Marine Biological Research Centre, aka. Phuket’s Aquarium, was established to showcases a variety of marine species found in Andaman sea. The centre also undergoes several projects to help conserve rare and near-extinct marine animals.