Phuket, Thailand

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Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Although it is an island, it is connected to the rest of Thailand by two bridges. Phuket is the name of the island; it is also the name of the town on Phuket and the province to which Phuket and some of the smaller islands near Phuket belong.

Phuket is about the size of Singapore and historically the island has been known to many people around the world, especially traders and travelers, due to its location on an important trade route between India and China. It has been mentioned several times in the logbooks of travelers from many countries, notably Portugal, Holland, England and France.

It was once a thriving place, formerly on tin and rubber, now largely on tourism.

In the past the island was known as Junk Celyon. The modern name “Phuket”, the same as the old name Junk Celyon, comes from Malay and means “hill”. For those who come to Phuket from the sea, the island is like a hill.

Since Phuket is a source of precious tin, in the 17th century, Western powers such as France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom competed for control of Phuket’s tin trade. The French controlled the island for a while, but were eventually driven out by the Thais. Later the Burmese tried unsuccessfully to conquer Phuket. When the Burmese army was about to invade Phuket, they were spotted by the British captain and alerted the Phuket authorities.

Two local women, the late governor’s wife and her sister, quickly organized some of the defenses they were able to muster quickly and successfully held off the Burmese invasion for a month. After a month-long siege, in which the Burmese were forced to retreat, two local women became the heroines of Phuket.

On Boxing Day, December 26, 2004, Phuket and other parts of Thailand off the Andaman coast were hit by a tsunami generated by an undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Tens of thousands of people have died in Southeast Asia, including 5,300 in Thailand, mostly foreign tourists. 250 deaths were reported in Phuket province, but many more (about 1,000) were killed by illegal Burmese workers building new beach resorts in the Khao Lak area.

Many beaches and some villages in Phuket were destroyed or damaged by the tsunami, mainly on the west coast (especially Kamala, Patong, Karon and Kata beaches) and some areas on the south coast.

After the tsunami, reconstruction work in Phuket began and progressed rapidly, with most resorts and hotels reopening in February 2005. Throughout 2005, all damaged areas in Phuket Province were restored.

Today, Phuket is protected by a US-invented tsunami protection system consisting of twenty-two buoys floating in the Indian Ocean as part of a global tsunami warning system.

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