- Key Details
- Cultural Discoveries
- Explorations of Land and Sea
- A Gourmand’s Paradise
Set at the crossroads of ancient trading routes and graced with excellent harbours, Phuket has long been enriched by the inflow of exotic goods, ideas and customs from around the world. Ships would moor and wait out the monsoon season in the island’s protected harbours before heading to their final destination. The areas now dotted with beach umbrellas used to be the home for sea-roving pirates who would smuggle, steal and fish for pearls. Their descendents still live in villages along the coast and other islands.
The island, laden with resources and poised along a major trading route, found itself in a constant tug of war between British, Burmese and Thai empires. The island was absorbed into Thailand when armies from Sukhothai wrestled the island away from foreign occupiers. The Burmese continuously vied for control, failing for the last time in 1785, when the islanders defeated their siege. The most illustrious heroes in Phuket’s history are Lady Chan and Lady Muk, who lead the people to defeat the Burmese in the Battle of Thalang.
In the early 20th century, European miners were attracted to the island to participate in tin mining. The civically-minded governor of Phuket wisely demanded payment in money as well as public infrastructure, such as roads, canals and government buildings. As the businessmen amassed wealth, they also built stupendous Sino-Colonial buildings.
Today, rubber plantations provide an important source of income to the local population. Each plantation is typically managed by one family. As you drive throughout the island, check out the rubber plantations, marked by even rows of tall, slender trees with cups placed along the trunk to collect latex, the primary ingredient of natural rubber.