- 1 What's On, Where to Eat, What to SeeGO TO PAGE
- 2 The Island's Facilities & InfrastructureGO TO PAGE
- 3 Living & Working in PhuketGO TO PAGE
- 4 Geography, Climate & WildlifeGO TO PAGE
CyanSiam's Phuket Guide Index
Introduction - A Brief History of Phuket
Phuket's history dates back to 1025 AD and for most of this time the island was known as Junk Ceylon or variations of the name as noted by an Alexandrian geographer in the Third Century AD when describing a journey to the Malay Peninsula passing by the cape of Jang Si Lang. Phuket became a safe harbour and trading post, due to the tin ore deposits, for merchants from India, China, Persia and Arabia and in the 16th Century the Dutch established a trading post. The northern and central areas of Phuket were governed by Thais and the west and south parts turned over to foreigners and tin mining.
In 1767 the Burmese attacked Ayuthaya, the capital and for a short while took control until King Taksin managed to repel the Burmese and reunify the country. The Burmese then raided the southern provinces looking for slaves so leading to one of Phuket's historic events. A British sea captain, Francis Light, was scouting the area around Phuket and saw Burmese forces heading to the island. He alerted the local government office but unfortunately the Governor had recently passed away leaving the island without a leader. The Governor's wife, Kunying Jan and her sister Mook, took charge of the military, dressed the local women in men's clothes so that the Burmese would think they were facing a large army defending the island. The Burmese attacked anyway but after a month gave up the siege. Kunying Jan was given the title 'Thao Thep Kasattn' by King Rama l, a title only normally awarded to royalty and her sister became Thao Sri Sunthon. You can see Phuket's homage to the two sisters at Heroines Monument which was erected in 1966 at the Tha Ruea Intersection on Thepkrasattri Road.
The Burmese succeeded in taking the island 24 years later causing the population to flee North. In 1825 they returned, but the old capital,Thalang, was no longer as important as the west and southern areas due to the tin mining and Phuket Town soon became the important centre of the island and was elevated to town status in 1894. Phuket was promoted to a monthon in 1902 and a province in 1916. The Tin mining industry has played an important part in Phuket's development causing on influx of migrant chinese workers and businessmen. They brought with them their beliefs and cuisine and marriage with local Thais created a new culture called 'Baba'. The riches made from tin mining and their chinese influences can be seen in Phuket Town especially the mansions built in sino portuguese style with chinese accents and the shop houses, many of which have been restored to their former glory. By 1985 the tin industry had died a death mainly due to dropping tin prices and exploitation.
The Sarasin Bridge
Finally in 1967 the Sarasin Bridge was constructed so linking Phuket to the mainland at a reputed cost of almost 29 million Baht. Named after Pote Sarasin, who served as head of the now-defunct National Development Ministry. With a span of 600 metres it opened up the Island to road traffic, supplies and easy access. This bridge has since been replaced (2012) by the higher Thao Thep Krasattri Bridge and Srisoonthorn Bridge, as you will notice from earlier, named after Phuket's Heroines.
The Re-birth of the Island
Luckily 1970 saw the start of Phuket as a backpacker destination with the advent of cheap flights - by the 1980s tourism was in full swing and the island changed from isolated villages to one of the most popular destinations in the world. Apart from being a place to holiday and soak up the sun, Phuket's natural beauty and friendly people has resulted in it being used many times over for film locations. 1974 saw one of our local islands, Khao Phing Kan or 'the Nail' becoming known now as "James Bond Island" when "The Man with the Golden Gun" hit the world's cinemas. Since then we have our scenery immortalised in "The Beach" (2000) and most recently the hilarious "Hangover II" (2011) and "The Impossible" (2012), a more serious look at the effects of the 2004 Tsunami. Many ex-pats as well as locals get the chance to appear as extras and can be quite a source of income at times!