Phuket , is Thailand’s largest island (approximately the size of Singapore) and nestles against the Indian Ocean coast some 890km (556mi) south of Bangkok.
Phuket derives its wealth from tin and rubber, is blessed with teeming marine life, and has enjoyed a rich and colorful history. The island was on one of the main trade routes between India and China and was often mentioned in the ships’ logs of Indian, Arabian, Chinese and European visitors. The Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traded with Phuket. Other visitors were less friendly. The island’s most famous monument is the memorial statue of the heroines Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sisunthon who rallied islanders in 1785 to repel Burmese invaders.
The island is blessed with magnificent bays, powdery, palm-fringed white beaches, sparkling island-dotted seas, sincerely hospitable people, comfortable accommodation, superb seafood, tropically vegetated mountains, lovely waterfalls and parks, and delightful turn-of-the-century Indo/Portuguese and Chinese-influenced architecture which create an enchanting ambience.
Phuket’s Indian Ocean coastline boasts the finest beaches while the eastern coastline overlooks some 30 lesser islands occupying largely tranquil seas. Islands vary greatly in size. Some are large enough to sustain fishing communities, coconut plantations, sea crocodiles, deer and wild boar. Others are little larger than massive rocks, while still others resemble fortresses and are riddled with caves containing birds’ nests prized by gourmets.
There are two seasons. The rainy season from May through October and the hot season from November through April. There are many sunny days throughout the rainy season and showers customarily last little more than 2 or 3 hours. September is the wettest month. The best months are November through February. Year-round average temperatures range between 21° and 34° Celsius (70° and 93° Fahrenheit).
Festivals :: Chinese Vegetarian Festival
Each year beginning on the first day of the ninth month of the Chinese year (usually late September or early October) Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a nine-day vegetarian diet. The regimen is undertaken in the belief that the body and spirit will be purified through it, that participants will gain great merit and that the subsequent year will be trouble-free. The festival’s first day is marked by a parade of white-clothed devotees and several ascetic displays, including fire-walking, ascending sharp-bladed ladders and pushing iron rods through various parts of the body.
Places of Interest
Rang Hill:: The Hill offers a nice view of the town of Phuket and has a Fitness Park.
Crocodile Farm:: Southern Thailand’s largest crocodile farm is just outside town. It contains a colorful aquarium and some 1,000 marine, freshwater and estuarine crocodiles and alligators.
Handicrafts Center:: The Handicrafts Center on Thepkasattri Road has artisans manufacturing lacquerware, silverware, jewelry, parasols, as well as weaving silk.
Thai Village:: The Thai Village on Thepkasattri Road, open every day, serves a typical southern Thai lunch, followed by a cultural show including Thai dances, sword fighting and Thai boxing. Elephants are also presented, and there is a display of handicrafts.
Patong Beach:: Phuket’s most developed beach is 15km (9mi) from town. Cabin and bungalow complexes, hotels, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, shops and restaurants front the crescent bay. Windsurfing, snorkeling, sailing, sunbathing and swimming are among the activities offered.
Karon Beach:: Karon Beach is 20km (13mi) from town, the next beach south of Patong Beach.
Kata Beach:: Kata, 17km (11mi) from town, is a long and peaceful beach, suitable for swimming and sunbathing.
Nai Harn Beach:: Nearing Phuket’s southernmost point, the beautiful white Nai Harn Beach fronts a shallow lagoon and is protected by verdant, steep headlands. Swimming, sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling and sunbathing are popular activities.
Phromthep Cape:: Phromthep Cape forms Phuket’s southernmost point and is the perfect place from which to witness spectacular sunsets coloring the island-dotted sea.
Rawai Beach:: On the eastern side of the southern tip of the island, the palm-fringed Rawai Beach, 17km (11mi) from town, hosts Phuket’s sea Gypsies. Several offshore islands have gleaming white beaches and dazzling underwater scenery which attracts dedicated fishers and scuba-divers.
Pansea Bay:: North of Patong Beach, Kamala Beach, Sing Cape, Surin Beach and Pansea Bay, 24km (15mi) from town, unfold in rapid succession. A public nine-hole golf course fronts Surin Beach where swimming is not recommended due to powerful surf and treacherous undertow. The northern end of Kamala Beach, however, is suitable for swimming.
Near Phuket, on Thailand’s west coast from Ranong down to Krabi are a large number of excellent dive sites. However, the area is sometimes tricky and can be difficult during the southwest monsoon from June to November.
Good sheltered water s found around the island at all times of the year. Spear-fishing though not encouraged, is fair to good down to a depth of some 15m (49ft). Thereafter, coral mostly run out and give way to a plain, fairly flat, sandy ocean bottom between 18-36m (60-120ft). The reefs are very colorful and picturesque and are particularly suited for snorkeling and photography.
As Phuket’s popularity among divers of all nationalities has increased, so has the number of dive sites. Nowadays, regular trips lasting up to two weeks are made to distant island groups in the Andaman Sea. Many of them are uninhabited and absolutely pristine, with dive sites to rival the best in the world.
In Phuket, half day tours are available to the west coast where a short trip by motor boat takes the diver to the coral reefs. By far the most popular tours, however, are the full day trips to the islands off Phuket’s south and eastern coasts. These islands include Ko Racha, Shark Point, Ko Dok Mai and Phi Phi islands.