The history of Phuket

The history of PhuketPhuket Island is thought to have once been a cape, attached to the mainland of Thailand. This cape is mentioned in a book written in 157AD by Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek Philosopher. He writes that to travel to the Malay Penninsula by ship, travellers must pass by a cape known as Jang Si Lang. The name Jang Si Lang or Junk Ceylon comes from the Malay Tanjung Salang meaning Cape Salang. This cape was located between latitudes 6N and 8N which is the present location of Phuket Island.

Junk Ceylon later became known as Thalang which was, at that time, the main town on the island. The name Thalang is derived from the old malaysian word 'Telong' which means 'Cape'. The name Thalang remains the name of one of the main districts in Phuket.

The name Phuket is also derived from the Malay word Bukit, which means mountain or hill, this is how the island would have appeared to passers by from a distance, as it does today.

The Burmese seige

The most significant event in the history of Phuket ocuured in 1785 when the island was beseiged by Burmese troops.

Sir francis Light, a British East India Company captain who was passing the island sent word to the local admistration that he had observed Burmese forces preparing to attack Phuket. The military governor had just died and the Island was unprepared for such an attack. In desperation the widow of the deceased governor, Khun Jan, and her sister Khun Mook assembled what forces they could muster, dressing the women of the town as men, and positioned them on the Thalang city walls.

The attach came but after a month long seige the Burmese were forced to retreat due to starvation and the two women became local heroines. They received the honorary titles, Thao Thep Kasatri and Thao Sri Sunthon from King Rama I and in 1966 a monument, The Heroine´s monument, was erected in their honour near the town of Thalang.

Forty years later, however, the Burmese returned to take revenge, destroying the town of Thalang and other parts of Phuket Island and created such a disaster that the inhabitants left their beloved island and settled on the mainland, in an area that is now known as Phang-Nga.

Twenty years later, during the reign of King Rama III, the Burmese threat abated and the islanders returned to Phuket. Thalang was rebuilt, but it did not stay as the capital of Phuket Island for long, instead, Phuket Town (now Phuket City) was founded in the south of the island and became the new capital.

The Tin Mines

During the Nineteenth Century Chinese immigrants arrived in such numbers to work the tin mines that the ethnic character of the island's interior became predominantly Chinese, while the coastal settlements remained populated chiefly by Muslim fishermen. In Rama V's reign, Phuket became the administration center of a group of tin mining provinces called Monton Phuket.

In 1933, with the change in the Thai government system from absolute monarchy to a parliamentary system, the island was established as a province by itself.

Phuket today

Today Phuket welcomes visitors and is Thailand's most popular tourist destination. Over four million tourists are expected to visit Phuket this year(2006), many drawn by the long white sandy beaches, excellent snorkelling and dive sites and the availability of top class hotels and Thai hospitality.

Yet, Phuket still retains some of its traditional character. In Phuket town you can still find traditional Chinese shop houses and businesses where families still continue thier crafts and trades as they did many years ago. There are also many fishermen and their families who live a traditional Thai lifestyle well away from the western luxuries and tourism which surrounds them.

Phuket today is an interesting and enjoyable place to visit. A place where East meets West and 5 star luxury sits comfortably alongside traditional cultures and customs.

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