History of Phuket

Most geologists believe that the area known as Phuket today was once a cape that extended into the Andaman Sea. Geographical formations gradually changed the cape’s location, finally detaching it from the mainland.

A famous Greek philosopher, Claudius Ptolemy, was the first person who mentioned the cape in his book written in the year 157. The cape was locally referred to as Jung Ceylon, which was located between latitudes 6 N and 8 N (the present site of Phuket Island). Natives called the place Cha Lang, which evolved to Thalang, the name of the main town to the north of the island.

As a perfect stopover sheltering traders from monsoons, Jung Ceylon welcomed merchants from India, Persia, Arabia, Burma, China and also Siam. During the 16th century, the island was also a popular trading port for tin with Portuguese, Dutch, English and French traders flocking to the island. This contributed to making the development of mining so unprecedented that Chinese businessmen and miners later migrated to Phuket and soon enjoyed the thriving business wealth.

Apart from serving as a meeting point for traders from Europe, Central Asia and China, Phuket also attracted ambitious immigrants, especially those from Portugal and China, to work in the tin mines. With its colourful history, visitors admire the Sino-Portuguese style architecture in the city especially those buildings located along the Thalang and Yaowarat Roads.

Thalang town was surrounded by Burmese troops who invaded the coastal area in 1785. It was under the leadership of Chan, the widow of the governor, and her sister, Muk, who united local residents and successfully fought and drove the invaders out of Phuket. It took over 30 days for the defending troops of Phuket, under the command of Chan and Muk, to claim their victory. As a result of such heroic deeds, noble titles were granted to Chan and Muk as Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthon respectively. To honor them, a monument was established at Tha Ruea Intersection, 12 kilometers to the north of Phuket City in 1966. They are still highly respected by Phuket residents even today.

However, 24 years later, the Burmese succeeded in seizing Thalang causing many local residents to flee to Phang-nga and Krabi. In 1825, some of them returned to re-establish a town and established a rice farming community. On the other hand, the area to the south of the island (Phuket City today) was developed and became a tin trading center.

When Phuket was elevated to a town in 1850, it attracted more immigrants from Thalang and nearby communities. In 1894, Phuket was promoted to be a Monthon administrative unit under the supervision of the central administrative body (located in Bangkok).

In 1902, Phraya Ratsada Korsimbi, a Sino-Thai businessman who contributed to developing the modern city of Phuket was appointed Governor of Phuket. He also helped to improve the welfare of local residents and set up the market system in the countryside. In 1916, Phuket became a province.

The tin mining industry has gradually failed to generate economic growth in Phuket, especially after 1985 when the price of tin fell by half. However, with its natural resources, Phuket later emerged as a tourist destination with great potential. This polished pearl of the Andaman is truly a destination that provides visitors with memorable experiences.

The island’s long history has shaped the distinctive Phuket of the present with its diverse ethnic groups, culture, architectural influence, and fine cuisine. With approximately 35 percent of the population being comprised of Thai-Muslims, it is possible to see an equal number of Wats (Thai temples) located next to Mosques


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