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Phuket promises to turn every holiday into a real adventure. Knowing the island in the 18th century for its rich tin deposits, the island is now a real tourist magnet. White palm-fringed beaches, crystal blue sea and stunning island scenery attract people from all over the world.
Phuket – Geographical Location
Koh Phuket is the largest island in southern Thailand with an area of 542 m². With a population of around 390,000, it is located in the Andaman Sea in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Over a length of about 50 km and a width of 21 km, visitors can enjoy fascinating flora and fauna. Thailand’s capital Bangkok is about 890 km away and is easily accessible from the island’s own airport in just over an hour’s flight. Another popular destination in the Andaman Sea is Khao Lak, in Phang Nga province, about 60 km away. The island of Phuket and its smaller neighbouring islands together form the province of Phuket of the same name, making it the only island region in Thailand to have a provincial status. The province of Phuket borders Krabi Province to the north and Phangnga Province to the east and is divided into three districts: Thalang, katu and Muang. The Andaman Sea forms a so-called fringe sea of the Indian Ocean and enchants with its unique underwater world. Especially in the west of Phuket are the most beautiful beaches of the island, so tourism is largely concentrated on the western and southeastern side of the island. Phuket, with its own unique magic, is not called a pearl in the Andaman Sea for nothing.
The climate on Phuket is determined by the monsoon winds and can be divided into three different seasons over the course of the year: Cold, hot and rainy. In the months of April to October, the country is more warmed up than the Indian Ocean and the colder sea air brings a lot of rain and moisture. From November to April, it’s the other way around. The air over the ocean is warmer than the landmass, making for warmer and drier weather. From these climatic conditions, the weather can be predicted quite well for Phuket. From November to February is the colder season and ends the rainy season. Now is the optimal travel time.
What is described here as cold is actually pleasantly hot weather, promising a perfect dream holiday on Ko Phuket and its beaches. From March to May, the hot time joins in. Temperatures then climb as high as 35C and above in some places. Due to the moisturized air, however, these temperatures can become unpleasant or, in case of health pre-strains, demand the cardiovascular system very strongly. From April and May, the rain is moving across the island. The rainiest months are May, September and October. During this time, long-lasting rainfall can occur. A holiday to Phuket in these three months is not recommended.
In June, July and August, on the other hand, things can look very different again. Between the rains, the cloud cover keeps tearing open, providing a pleasant, not too hot climate. Holidaymakers can benefit from lower off-season prices during this time. So the rainy season on Phuket is not quite lost.
tip: Whoever dares wins – at least sometimes. The low season on Phuket spans the months of May to October, when there is rainy season on the island. If you don’t necessarily have a beach holiday planned, you can benefit from the lower prices.
The flora and fauna on Phuket
The fauna and flora on Phuket was severely decimated at the time of tin mining and extensive agricultural use. Today, the ever-increasing number of tourists on Phuket also has, of course, clearly visible effects on the flora and fauna. Today, only 7 of the island are covered with original rainforest. In the island’s national parks, there are still gibbons and macaques in the jungle, alongside deer and wild boars. The larger land animals such as leopards, tigers and free-living elephants are now sought in vain on the island. The underwater world has even greater biodiversity. The mostly warm Andaman Sea impresses with its fascinating islands and reefs, which are home to anemones and corals. Diving is a colourful variety of sea creatures. Rays, leopard sharks and water turtles pull their tracks through the ocean. Most beaches on Phuket invite you to snorkel and give the view of a magical underwater world without having to dive into the depths.
information: The underwater world is a fragile ecosystem that needs to be treated responsibly. Therefore, the motto applies “prestige is better than touching”
Phuket a tourist magnet with history
Phuket has only been a household name for tourists since the 1980s, but the island can look back on a long and exciting history. For the first time, Phuket is mentioned in the history books around 1200. Where exactly the name Phuket comes from, it has not been clearly clarified to this day. Most likely, however, Phuket derives from the Malay word “bukit” for hills. Officially, the name Bhuket was enshrined under the rule of Thai King Rama V before Bhuket became Phuket in 1967. In 1785, the Burmese army, which occupied Thailand, advanced to Phuket. The news that the Burmese wanted to take the inhabitants of Phuket with them to Burma in order to use them as slaves quickly made the rounds. This calamity was ultimately averted by the efforts of the sisters Kunying Jan and Mook .
The story of the rescue of Phuket by two brave women
Kunying Jan was the governor’s wife on Phuket. When British naval captain James Light sent a message to the governor in Phuket that the Burmese were on their way to Phuket with about 3,000 men, the message fell into Kunying Jan’s hands, as her husband had passed away shortly before. The sisters unceremoniously mobilized the inhabitants of Phuket to stand up to the Burmese. Because of the lack of men, she ordered that women dress up as soldiers, too. But it wasn’t just men who were scarce, but guns. That’s why simple sticks had to come up as weapons. The Burmese took a stand near Bang Tao beach. After about a month, however, they had to abandon their siege because of a famine and the imminent death of the soldiers and pull off unfinished things. For their courage and heroism, the sisters were given a title of nobility and a statue was erected.
information: The hero statue is not to be overlooked on the way to the airport. Appointing to the statue of the two sisters, Thais can be seen sending a salute in their direction.
This shouldn’t be Burma’s only attempt to capture Phuket. Between 1809 and 1812, the Burmese army tried another three times. Parts of Phuket, especially in what is now the district of Thalang, were destroyed and only with the help of incoming support from Bangkok could the attacks be repelled. Phuket gained a considerable prosperity by growing rubber and mining tin, which other nations wanted to enrich themselves with. It was only when Burma came under British rule that the attacks stopped.
Phuket’s original population – the sea nomads
Phuket’s original population is formed by three distinct tribes: The Moken, the Moklen and the Urak Lawoi. All three tribes sailed as sea nomads the sea around the coasts and bays of Phuket. The indigenous peoples or Chao Le, as they are called in the Thai language, live mainly on boats or, in stilt, settlements. Some of them move from bay to bay and feed on what the sea has in store for them. The Moken tribe is still the only remaining tribe to maintain a nomadic lifestyle. The other tribes have now settled on the coast of Phuket. Their exact origin has not yet been clarified and still presents many scientists with a mystery. Some stilt settlements are considered an attraction and can be visited by tourists. However, the increase in tourism is also detrimental and changes the original cultures bit by bit, or has already completely pushed them back in some places on the Thai coast. For a long time the Seowolves lived without money and their livelihood was based solely on their outstanding skills as fishermen. With tourism, new ways opened up for the nomads to make a living. Tours of their settlements and photos with locals also changed the image of their huts, many of which are now equipped with running water and electricity. However, they still contest most of their livelihoods through fishing or pearl diving. Most sea omads are followers of animism. The religion of animism is based on an all-indomesticacy, that is, not only humans and animals, but also other objects from nature are considered animated and have therefore earned a certain reverence in treatment.
tip: An exciting insight into the world of sea nomads is offered by a visit to a stilt-there settlement. In Rawai, Saphan Bay or on the island of Sire, you can immerse yourself in the life of the Moklen and Urak Lawoi for a few hours.
Development and rise of the pearl in the Andaman Sea
Phuket was for a long time a nation of fishermen until large tin deposits were discovered on Phuket between the 14th and 18th centuries and tin mining came to the fore. The trim of tin attracted numerous other nations, such as Europeans and Arabs, to the island. Many Chinese migrants settled on Phuket to work in the tin mines. Koh Phuket is extremely conveniently located between India and China, so the trade in tin flourished quickly and helped the island to its wealth. In the 18th century, tin mining was placed under a royal monopoly to limit access to the valuable mineral treasure by other countries. Because Phuket did not have infinite tin resources, tin mining soon played only a minor role in the overall economy, but laid the foundation for Phuket’s prosperity.
Phuket Population and Economy Today
With the discovery of the tin on Phuket, the number of Chinese immigrants rose sharply. The Chinese brought not only their labor power, but also their traditions and knowledge to Phuket. Many young, Chinese men married Thai women and the cultures gradually mingled. After tin stocks had been depleted, the Chinese, now rooted in Phuket, focused on trade and, as merchants, contributed significantly to the development of cities like Phuket Town.
Other Phuket industries are in rubber construction on large plantations. Around 1900, the first rubber tree was planted on Phuket. What hardly anyone knows-Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of natural rubber. Around 3.9 million tonnes of rubber are produced annually. On Phuket, however, rubber cultivation competes with tourism as the second strongest sector of the economy. The large, wide plantations have to make way for the expansion of accommodation for tourists in some places. The same goes for the farming of cashew, pineapple or coconuts.
Another important cornerstone of Phuket’s economy is fishing. However, due to the high demand for fish, there is a gradual overfishing of the waters by large companies, which poses major problems, especially for local fishermen.
information: Phuket is considered the most expensive province in Thailand, along with Bangkok. Surely you can still find cheap accommodation or restaurants. In general terms, however, the price standard on Phuket is not comparable to that in the rest of Thailand.
Over the centuries, Phuket has created a melting pot of different nations and religions. In addition to the Chinese, who had immigrated with the tin at the latest, many Thais also live on the island, who have relocated from the mainland. Another population group is the Malays, who mainly work as fishermen on the coast of Phuket or on rubber plantations.
In the 1980s, tourism began to develop on Phuket. First came the backpackers and adventure tourists who discovered the secluded beaches for themselves. With its stunning wildlife, white beaches under coconut trees and crystal blue sea, Phuket attracts millions of holidaymakers every year today. As a result, of course, tourist hotspots such as Patang are relatively busy. But not all cities and beaches are touristically crowded on Phuket. There are still many deserted beaches to discover on Phuket.
Phuket-Tradition and Religion
The dominant religion on Phuket is the so-called Theravada Buddhism, nearly 95 of the Thais are followers of Buddhism. On Phuket, about 78 of the island’s population are Buddhist. Buddhism is a religion that, with its philosophy, is also reflected in everyday life and architecture. For this reason, Buddhist temples are not only a tourist attraction, but are also actively used by the locals on Phuket for offerings and prayers. The second largest religious group is the Islamists, which are largely made up of Phuket’s Malay inhabitants. The peace-loving religion of Buddhism allows for the coexistence of the different religions on the island, which so far in its history has been without bloody conflicts and conflicts.
Phuket offers its visitors a variety of cultural attractions that are closely linked to the traditions of the inhabitants. So you can welcome the New Year three times on Phuket. First, the regular New Year on January 1, then the Chinese New Year, celebrated between early January and mid-February, and the Thai New Year in mid-April. In general, festivals of all kinds are celebrated on many occasions on Phuket. A particularly bizarre highlight in the island’s own calendar of events is certainly the Vegetarian Festival, which is celebrated for a few days in October. The festival will host parades and processions around the Chinese temples. Street stalls with vegetarian food line the paths. The Vegetarian Festival dates back to the 19th century. A Chinese acting troupe fell seriously ill when she wanted to play for Chinese tin miners. Thanks to a vegetarian diet and the worship of their deities, the group quickly regained its feet and Phuket’s native population took over the ritual. During the Vegetarian Festival, it’s all about the Mah Song sacrificing their bodies to ensure welfare for everyone in the community. Visitors to the festival will witness the chosen iron bars drill their way through the bake, walk over glowing coals or otherwise accept injuries and mutilations.
tip: The Vegetarian Festival is one of the most famous and most visited festivals on Phuket. If you are on the island at the time of the festival, you should not miss one of the many removals. But beware, the sight of the Mah Song is not for the faint-hearted.
The People of Phuket – The smiling island
Thais are considered the friendliest people in the world. It is not for nothing that Thailand is referred to as the “land of smiles.” But smiles have different meanings here, which are not always easy to see through, especially for Europeans. Smiling can be a means of defusing a conflict or giving a little more emphasis to a request. It is also used to signal to its counterpart that an error that has been made will be forgiven immediately and that a contentious matter is off the table. Although Phuket has various influences throughout its history, including from China and Malaysia, it still attaches importance to Thai customs.
tip: Let the kindness infect you. With a smile, you not only get to your destination faster, it also makes it easier to get there.
There are still social hierarchies in Thailand, which may seem a little alien to Europeans at first glance. The same is true, albeit in attenuated form, for Phuket. These are mainly reflected in the tone of interaction with each other or in the use of different greetings depending on the social state of play. Family and traditions are a top priority on Phuket as well as in the whole of Thailand. So it is not uncommon for different generations to live under one roof.
For Thais, one of the most important pillars of social coexistence is the true of the face, not only of one’s own, but also of one’s own counterpart. So Thais try to avoid conflict and, if possible, not embarrass themselves and others. Holidaymakers on Phuket should therefore definitely follow some rules!
- Always stay calm with a problem that occurs
- Do not voice direct criticism and certainly not in public
- to smile. A grumpy face isn’t seen on Phuket
Phuket’s rise to tourist magnet
Tourism on the island in the Andaman Sea has been booming since the 1980s. Phuket and its sparsely populated neighboring islands fulfilled the dreams of all those seeking an adventure in solitude. Year after year, holidaymakers ‘ numbers increased and insider tip Phuket has become a tourist hot spot. In 2016, over 30 million people spent their holidays on Phuket. With its variety of activities, this hardly surprises. Phuket offers the right holiday experience for everyone.
Even today, backpackers are drawn to Koh Phuket, the connection is good and Southeast Asia remains high on the list of the most popular destinations for backpackers. The unique island landscape around Phuket also enchants millions of divers every year. The neighbouring islands of Kho Phi Phi or the Similan Islands are considered one of the most breathtaking diving destinations in the world.
Phuket is not just a dream island for active holidaymakers. On the beautiful beaches along the west coast or in the southeast, relaxing hours can be spent on the beach under palm trees.
“Health tourism” is still quite unknown. The hospitals on Phuket meet modern standards and most local doctors speak excellent English. This is what many people use to get cheap treatment.
The best time to travel to Phuket is between the end of November and March. In time it is dry, not too hot and the temperatures can be endured, especially for Europeans. From April to May, temperatures are rising significantly. The rainy season from May to the end of October is the official low season on Phuket. Prices for accommodation and meals are falling significantly. Many tourist activities and restaurants have closed, some national parks are closed. Nevertheless, you should not exclude a holiday on Phuket during the rainy season from the outset. The rainy season doesn’t mean it’s pouring continuously for months like buckets. Rainy days alternate with days without rain.
information: Depending on your preference, the low season can also provide a relaxed holiday feeling. However, many tourist attractions have closed and some national parks are closed. It is worth checking out in advance
If you would like to spend a beach and beach holiday on Phuket, avoid the rainy season better. As the wind blows from the sea to the island in time, there may be a higher swell and an altogether more troubled sea. Dangerous currents can put careless beach holidaymakers in mortal danger. Therefore, it is essential, and not only in the rainy season, to observe and follow the warnings put in place.
Getting to Phuket is easily accessible by air, as the island has its own and modern airport. This is where flights from the Thai national and international airlines land. Some also German airlines offer direct flights to Phuket. The most used routes run via Bangkok or make a stopover in the United Emirates. Phuket is connected to the Thai mainland by a bridge. This allows tourists to easily translate with the most common means of transport on Phuket. Buses periodically commute back and forth between the provinces and the capital, Phuket Town.
The surrounding islands are served either by speed or longtail boats or by a passenger ferry. Regular shipping, for example, connects Phuket with Koh Phi Phi or Ao Nang in the neighboring province of Krabi. If you have booked an island tour during your stay in Phuket, you will usually be picked up by the provider comfortably at the hotel and then transfer to the respective island by boat. The islands are also well connected to each other, so island hopping is definitely possible. However, a train connection to Phuket is sought in vain.
Phuket’s beaches – a dream setting for any holiday
The beaches on Phuket are with the most beautiful in the world. White sandy beaches, secluded coves and palm trees as far as the eye can see. Probably the most famous beach is Patong Beach on the west coast of Phuket. Over a length of 2.5 km, holidaymakers from the surrounding hotels romp around here. Patong is known not only for its enchanting beach, but also for its nightlife. Another highlight among the beaches is Kata Beach in the southwest. Picturesquely surrounded by a cape on two sides, he captivates his visitors with stunning views of the crystal blue sea. In addition to Patong, the beach in Kata is one of the most popular beaches on Phuket. On both beaches you have the opportunity to spend your holidays in a hotel near the beach.
Traffic on Phuket – an adventure in itself
Traffic on Phuket is not for everyone. With the increasing number of tourists, traffic has also risen rapidly and with it, unfortunately, also the injured and the dead. Infrastructure is not yet keeping pace with the multitude of cars, buses, mopeds and trucks. Numerous accidents caused by a mixture of poor road conditions, aggressive driving style and sometimes alcohol and drugs make road traffic a real nightmare in some places. If you don’t dare to drive on the island yourself, you can resort to one of the many taxis, tuk-tuks or private driving services. However, you should absolutely negotiate the price in advance, so there is no nasty surprise afterwards and you face an aggressive taxi driver looking to collect a completely overpriced price. Public transport is thinly seeded on Phuket and the further away you get from the airport, the harder it is to find. Here, it helps to ask the hotel in more detail where the nearest stop is located.
General info for a holiday on Phuke
The official language on Phuket is Thai, but many of Phuket’s inhabitants speak English very well. The local currency is baht and 1 euro equals about 37 baht.
A visa is not necessary for tourists from Germany, Austria or Switzerland on a holiday of up to four weeks. A 30-day residence permit is automatically granted upon entry. The first 30 days can be extended for a further four weeks for a one-time fee. A short exit and re-entry to a neighbouring country to obtain a new residence permit for thirty days is no longer permitted. If you already know beforehand that you would like to spend more than a month on Phuket, then a tourist visa over 180 days is worthwhile with the possibility of multi-emptied entry. However, the 180 days validity does not mean a residence permit for the same time at the same time. The tourist visa gives you the option of a 60-day stay on Phuket and a one-time extension of 30 days. Then, however, you have to leave for a neighbouring country and return to Thailand to get a new residence permit for 60 days.
information: Thai consulates are happy to provide information on the respective visa requirements. A required visa is also granted there. Thai consulates can be found in Germany in Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Munich and Essen.
A visit to Phuket is generally considered very safe. Problems are causing the province, however, to be the now mafia structures of the taxi and TukTuk drivers, who outbid each other with extremely high prices and the corrupt police, who are not necessarily always a help.
On a culinary journey of discovery through Phuket
On a holiday in Phuket, you should definitely feast through the local cuisine and discover the culinary variety of impressive flavors and fresh fruits and vegetables. Whoever has the choice is agony. Small hot meals on the side of the road, restaurants or drivable kitchens invite you to a culinary journey through the light and low-fat Thai cuisine. Thai cuisine is spicy, whoever has a more sensitive palate should promise that when ordering. Many restaurants have now adapted to the tastes of their holiday guests and serve dishes adapted to the more delicate palates.
tip: If you originally want to eat, you prefer to take a close look at the menu beforehand or put it on a small kitchen.
Food at restaurants is usually served in bite-sized pieces and eaten with either a spoon or chopsticks.
The fruit buffet on Phuket is rich. In addition to mango, durian and lychees, there are also some lesser-known delicacies on offer, such as nous apples (different coloured, bell-shaped fruit) or mangosteen (pleasantly sour, purple fruit). The range of restaurants on Phuket ranges from fine dining to fast open-air cuisine on the street corner. Many restaurants have now also adapted to the countries of origin of tourists, so you don’t necessarily have to do without a schnitzel even with Phuket. Thai cuisine, however, has traditionally relied more heavily on poultry and marine animals than on other meats. The vegetables are cooked gently so that all healthy ingredients are preserved during cooking.
The 2004 tsunami – A disaster hits Phuket
On December 26, 2004, a massive tsunami overtakes the holiday islands of Phuket and Khao Lak. In the massive tidal wave, a total of over 230,000 people in various coastal regions from Bangladesh to Thailand died either directly or as a result. The cause was an undersea quake that triggered several tsunamis at the same time. Entire villages and hotels were swept away and destroyed by the masses of water. Phuket hit the tsunami in the middle of the peak season, when many tourists spent their Christmas holiday on the island. A total of 407 villages have been destroyed and the death toll, including many tourists, is estimated to total around 8,000 people. There are no exact figures. Today, thoughts of the tsunami are far away. The disaster that December day hit Phuket completely unprepared. There was no time for comprehensive evacuations.
Today, a modern early warning system is intended to ensure that such a disaster is no longer repeated. 136 control stations in the Indian Ocean and off the coasts register every small sea quake. The data collected can be analysed in minutes and warned by both authorities and the population. The villages and hotels on Phuket and Khao Lak in the neighboring province of Phang Nga, swept along by the tidal wave, have now been completely rebuilt.
information: Statistically, another tsunami on the scale is relatively unlikely to hit Phuket. However, it can’t hurt to familiarize yourself with possible escape routes and security measures in the hotel.
Phuket, the pearl in the Andaman Sea is rightly one of the most popular destinations. After all, the island offers so much for its visitors. Beautiful beaches, secluded islands, delicious cuisine and countless activities. Almost too much for just one holiday. That’s why most tourists come back to Phuket several times in their lives and who can blame them?