- Key Details
- Cultural Discoveries
- Explorations of Land and Sea
- A Gourmand’s Paradise
Nearly 30 years ago, rubber and tin production on Phuket soared, and the island’s fishing communities were vibrant commercial centres. Only a few foreign tourists visited this ‘Pearl of the Andaman,’ lodging in the sparse number of coconut-thatched bungalows along Patong Beach.
Fine dining was non-existent, with visitors mingling with the locals, feasting on barbequed seafood, tangy curries and handmade noodles. As Phuket’s fame grew, eventually the airport was constructed in the mid 1970s to accommodate the many overseas visitors. Sirinath National Park, established in 1980, was one of a few measures to protect the island’s inland rainforest from the tin and rubber industries. Since then, the island has been enshrined with a permanent place on Southeast Asia’s must-see tourist map, and today, some three million people visit Phuket, drawn by its Southern charm, natural beauty and vibrant culture.
Set right in the heart of the Andaman Sea and scenic Phang Nga Bay, Phuket is Thailand’s most fabled island province, known for its temperate climate, spectacular scenery and turquoise waters. The name comes from the Malay word for ‘hill’, which perfectly describes the mountainous terrain which rises out of the emerald seas when you approach Phuket by boat. A mountain range runs on the west coast for the entire length of the island. With long stretches of gorgeous beaches and secluded coves, stunning waterfalls and vibrant rainforests covering some 70 percent of the island’s terrain, Phuket maintains a pristine natural beauty.
Hailing from diverse heritages, Phuket’s people are predominantly Thai, Chinese and Malay. The remainder consists of Chao Leh, a sea-faring population who immigrated to Phuket three centuries ago. The majority of the population practices Theravada Buddhism. Around 30 percent of the population is Muslim, and have traditionally relied upon the abundant seafood for their livelihood. Explore the fascinating crossroads of culture during your stay.
Bring out your swimsuit and sunscreen, since Phuket enjoys warm temperatures all year round. The tropical monsoon climate produces three major seasons. The ideal time to visit is November through March, when the milder temperatures and beautiful weather herald the arrival of what the Thais call the ‘Thai winter’. At this time, the weather is temperate and sunny, with plenty of sea breezes and a temperature range of 24ºC to 32ºC (75ºF to 90ºF). April marks the Thai new year, with its water-throwing festival known as Songkran – a welcome respite during the hottest days of the year, where the temperature easily tops 40ºC (105 ºF)!
The Andaman rainy season, from May to October, is the most humid period, with thunderstorms occurring more frequently than usual. The temperatures hover around 27ºC to 36ºC (80ºF to 95ºF), with many sunny days, though it is not uncommon for an hour of heavy rainfall to interrupt an otherwise beautiful afternoon. This is also the time to discover Phuket at its most tranquil, before the crowds rush in for the holiday high season, as well as when the island’s forests are at their greenest and waterfalls are running with full force.
Thailand’s national currency is the Thai Baht. The exchange rate of the baht as of March 2011 is approximately 30 Baht to the US dollar. Major currencies, such as the US Dollar, Euro, British Pound, Japanese Yen, the Chinese Renminbi, Australian Dollar, Singapore Dollar, Saudi Riyal and UAE Dirham may be exchanged at Phuket International Airport and major banks around the island. ATMs are plentiful, and most are connected to international networks for cash withdrawals from home accounts around the world.
While Phuket is generally very safe, take precautions and stow your passport, excess cash and other valuables in your in-room safe.
When swimming or boating, always check the advisories posted around the island and on the beach. The currents of the Andaman Sea can sometimes cause dangerous swimming conditions. Do not enter the water if a red warning sign is posted.
Phuket boasts a very high international standard of healthcare, and there are many cutting-edge health clinics and hospitals throughout the island. In addition to providing ambulatory care, Phuket has also gained fame as a destination for ‘medical tourism’, drawing tourists from around the world who visit Thailand partially to enjoy superlative health care at a fraction of the cost in other countries.