Thailand · Phuket
Phuket Island (pronounced puu gèt) (ภูเก็ต), has long been misunderstood. Firstly, the ‘h’ is silent. And secondly, Phuket does not feel like an island at all. It is Thailand’s largest at 48km in length and 21km at its widest. It is in Southern Thailand, on the west-facing Andaman Sea coastline, suspended from the southern tip of Phang Nga Province by a pair of short but substantial road bridges. Branded the ‘pearl of the Andaman’, this is Thailand’s original flavour of tailor-made fun in the sun.
Phuket nestles in balmy Andaman Sea waters on Thailand’s Indian Ocean coastline 862 kilometers south of Bangkok. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoyed a rich and colourful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign trader’s ship logs.
In recent times, though, Phuket’s top earner has been tourism, which has transformed the island into Thailand’s wealthiest province. Expect prices to be a bit higher than on the mainland. The west coast of Phuket was hit severely by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, but almost no evidence of the damage now remains. Phuket enjoys great popularity as a travel destination. Most beaches are on the west coast, with Phuket Town to the southeast and the airport in the north.
Phuket’s sin city of Patong is the biggest town and busiest beach. It is the ultimate gong show where beachaholics sizzle off their hangovers and go-go girls play ping pong…without paddles. But there is space for all kinds here. Phuket Town has morphed into an artsy, culturally rich capital, while Rawai on the island’s southern tip remains blissfully laid-back, despite development. The twin west-coast beaches of Kata and Karon reel in holidaymakers who like their trips easy. An upmarket twist awaits along Hat Surin and Ao Bang Thao, while, further north, things quieten down as you thread through Sirinat National Park and Khao Phra Thaew reserve.