Phuket Island Attractions
PhuketCoconut palms and rubber trees grow on the hilly island of Phuket, located in the extreme south-west of Thailand and famed for its long, white, sandy beaches lining the azure blue sea.
Measuring 48.7 km (30 mi.) long and 21.3 km (13 mi.) wide, Phuket is Thailand's largest island. The Chinese and Portuguese-style houses of Phuket, the province's main town, continue to radiate charm.By car: from Bangkok Highway 4 to Ban Koke Loi, via 402 and Sarasin bridge to the island (860 km (534 mi.)). From Surat Thani highways 401/4 (290 km (180 mi.)). From Nakhon Si Thammarat 401/403/4 (340 km (211 mi.)).By bus: from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal (journey time approximately 13 hours).By air: both internal and charter flights fly to Phuket.Phuket has an exceptional climate. The monsoon arrives here earlier than, for example, on the other side of the gulf. It does not rain constantly during the monsoon period but once or twice a day in sometimes heavy downpours: experts think that the subtropical character of the island is shown to its most beautiful advantage at this time. The months of December to March have the fewest rainy days (on average five a month). Throughout the year daily temperatures lie between 28°C (82°F) and 32°C (90°F).Strong underwater currents occur along the beaches particularly during the monsoon period (May-Oct.). Under certain circumstances these can be very dangerous. Take advice from local people.Mons (Khmers) are thought to have been Phuket's first inhabitants: they came via the Bay of Bengal from Pagan in present-day Myanmar (Burma), named the island Iunsalen and founded three settlements: Thalang, Kathu and Phuket. The Mons were later joined by Indonesian nomads, "Chao Ley" or "Chao Nam" ("land/water people"); descendants of these people still live on Phuket ("sea gypsies"). King Ekatotsarot (1605-10) was the first to allow trade between Europeans and the native population. Soon after, French, Portuguese and Dutch established trading settlements: the English discovered the extensive tin deposits on Phuket.The Burmese laid siege to Phuket for the first time in 1785; by the third siege, around 1800, the town had been destroyed. The sisters Chan and Muk led a resistance movement, which protected their home town of Thalang from capture by the Burmese: they pretended to the occupying forces that Thalang was full of soldiers because all the women had dressed up as military men. A bronze memorial situated between the airport and the town commemorates the two national heroines ("Two Sisters" or "Heroines' Monument", Highway 402).At the beginning of the 19th c. countless Chinese immigrants streamed into Phuket, attracted by the rich mineral resources. They mixed with the native population and their presence is still evident today; about 50,000 of Phuket's inhabitants are "true" Chinese.After King Rama V had annexed Phuket into his kingdom, the island officially joined the Kingdom of Siam, with Phuket declared the main town of the new province. About 170,000 people now live in the province. The town and the island's upswing are thanks to the systematic extraction of tin deposits. Most of the tin mines are now idle following the drastic fall in the price of tin during the 1980s. The appearance of many damage the otherwise unspoilt rural scenery and are supposed to be recultivated. In addition to tin, tungsten was also discovered on Phuket: raw rubber and copra (the cut and dried flesh of coconuts - the raw material used in the production of coconut oil) are important agricultural products.
The Koh Similan island group, composed of nine uninhabited islands, attracts diving enthusiasts. Tour operators and diving schools offer excursions to these paradise-like islands, whose underwater world remains relatively intact. Those wishing to go there independently should travel 104 km (65 mi.) north of Phuket to Thap Lamu and take a ferry from there. Boats sail daily from Patong Beach on Phuket to Koh Similan (journey time about 8 hours by regular boat or in 31/2 hours as part of a tour operator's fast day trip). Some accommodation is available on the main island. Koh Similan was declared a national park some years ago but this has made no difference to the increase in tourism here, with all its negative side effects.
Phuket Boat Trips
A boat trip around the fantastic island world surrounding Phuket should not be missed. Particular mention must be made of Maphrao, Nakha Yai and Nakha Noi (on the east coast, pearl culture at the latter), Koh Bond, Koh Kaeo, Raja Noi and Raja Yai (off the southern tip) and the little Poo Island on the west coast off Hat Kata. Boats depart from Po Bay for a day excursion to Phangnga with the famous "James Bond Rocks". Two or more days are needed for a visit to Koh Phi Phi.
Wat Phra Thong
Wat Phra Thong at Thalang, away from Highway 402, owes its construction to the following legend: a boy was minding a water buffalo, which he tethered to a piece of metal protruding from the ground using a hemp rope. Suddenly the boy died, but appeared to his father in a dream and told him about the piece of metal. The father began to dig and came upon a statue of Buddha cast in pure gold. The Buddha could not, however, be completely excavated and so a temple was built on the site in 1785. When the Burmese conquered Thalang a second attempt was made to dig up the statue at which point it broke in two. One half disappeared, but the other still stands in the temple, where it can be viewed. The gables and windows of the temple buildings exhibit rich carving.
Nam Tok Waterfalls, Kathu, Thailand
From the northern end of Patong Beach, Highway 4029 leads north-west to Kathu (5 km (3 mi.)). Nam Tok waterfall, one of the island's most beautiful, lies a further 3 km (2 mi.) north.North of Patong other beaches along the west coast, which is very rugged in places, are Kamala, Surin (about 2 km (1 mi.) north-east of an attractive mosque, Phuket's largest and open to the public apart from at prayer times) and Bang Thao Beach.
By leaving Phuket in a southerly direction crossroads are reached from which Sakdidet Road (Highway 4023) turns off. Makham Bay (Ao Makham), the Marine Biology Research Centre investigating the life-style and conditions of the sea's fauna, where fish and other sea creatures are kept in enormous aquariums, is located at the end of this road (a farther 6 km (4 mi.)). A tour of the research station can be undertaken if an advance booking is made.
Wat Chalong, built in the pure Thai style, lies 6 km (4 mi.) south-west of Phuket (Highway 4021). A gold-plated monument commemorates the abbot Luang Pho Chaem who worked as a non-medical practitioner in this temple in about 1880. Luang Pho Chaung, another monk honored by the population, also lived in Wat Chalong.
Vichit Road continues to the village of Rawai, which is inhabited by "sea gypsies". They belong to the Moken, a tribe whose roots are to be found, according to anthropologists, on the Andaman and Nikobar Islands. Some live by the sea while others lead a semi-nomadic life on the land. They believe in spirits and have maintained their own customs. Any attempts by the Thai government to integrate them have failed. The men of the village work mostly as fishermen and sometimes also as guides for sea trips.The "sea gypsies" celebrate the Loy Rua Festival when twice a year sacrifices are made to the spirits, at the beginning and end of the fishing season.Rawai itself has a small fishing harbor and a beach covered with coconut palms and swamp oaks. Boats can be rented here to sail to the offshore islands.The beaches of Nai Harn (with the Phuket Yacht Club Hotel), Kata Noi, Kata, Karon, Karon Noi and, finally, the main beach, Patong Beach, lie south of Rawai Beach (Hat Rawai) and further north along the west coast.
Four Branch Coconut Palm
A botanical rarity, a four-branch coconut palm, can be seen just before Rawai, 9 km (51/2 mi.) farther south. The tree is more than 60 years old; after the first 20 years the trunk split in two, and after another 20 years two branches grew in turn out of the two trunks.
Khao Phra Thaeo Game Reserve
Khao Phra Thaeo Game Reserve includes the hills which rise to a height of 445 m (1460 ft) in the north-east of the island and is inhabited by buffalo, wild boar, elephants and monkeys as well as many species of tropical birds. Pleasant paths lead through the reserve. Information is available from TAT in Phuket.
The island of Phuket's longest beach - once also one of its most beautiful - is Patong Beach. As in Pattaya, multi-storied hotels abound here: peaceful beaches can only now be found away from this area. In the evening many visitors enjoy strolling along Patong Beach, with its shops, restaurants, night clubs and bars.
Three Beaches View
By traveling along the branch road in front of Kata Noi Beach in a south-westerly direction, Three Beaches View, a viewpoint, is reached near the southern tip of the island of Phuket. From here, as the name suggests, a view across three of Phuket's most beautiful beaches can be enjoyed.
Hat Nai Yang National Park
Hat Nai Yang National Park covers the island's north-west coastal stretch. It lies about 30 km (19 mi.) away from Phuket: take the road to the airport, then follow the signs. At night turtles still come on to the land here to lay their eggs.