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Phuket history

Phuket Culture | History of Phuket Thailand

Phuket history is a long and varied one, almost stretching back 1700 years with a mention by Ptolemy, the Greek geographer. In Phuket history the island has been called ‘Jang Si Lang' or ‘Junk Ceylon', a name that is celebrated today by a shopping Mall in Patong and tremendous old fashion sailing junk tour in the Phang Nga Bay.

The more recent and attestable Phuket history starts around the time when the French and Dutch vied with each other over the colonial rights and it's precious metals. Phuket has long since been known for its tin mines, timber, animal hides, ivory, pearls, gems and along with its historic military significance, it was a prize for the Europeans and a world of explorers and chancers of the 1600 and 1700s.

Another European nation plays his part in the Phuket history story in the events surrounding the 1785 Burmese invasion of Phuket. Captain Light of the British East India Company was scouting the coast for a permanent island for his forces when he spotted the Burmese invasion fleet. On notifying the Governor of Phuket, the islands were able to prepare themselves. Unfortunately the Governor had died without replacement so it was up to his wife, Than Phu Ying Chan, and her sister, Mook, to devise a strategy to overthrow the invaders. Dressing up as soldiers the women of the island made the impression of having a larger military force than they did. Also they sent in wine and women to the Burmese camp at night and then while the Burmese were asleep, the Phuket forces were able to slaughter their enemies. The King of Siam honoured the 2 women with the titles Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Si Sunthon from King Rama I. To this day the main road from the Airport to Phuket Town is called Thepkrassattri Rd and the roundabout 5km north of Phuket town is called the Heroines Monument in honour of this momentous event in Phuket history.

Phuket Old town

Phuket historical centres

Phuket grew up around the 3 main towns of the island, Phuket Town, Talang, and Kahtu and the older temples like Wat Chalong. As most of the traditional construction before the 1900 century was out of wood, most of it has been lost to fire or termites. However if you go the Talang Temple and temples and shrines around Kahtu you will find some beautiful examples of southern Thai Buddhist and Chinese temples reflecting the whole gamut of eastern religious belief.

Phuket history today

Phuket history is still the dominant feature of Phuket town, where the Sino Portuguese architectural streets show off that heritage that can be seen in large parts of Penang, Malaysia and Singapore. Beautifully ornate long and thin properties with wonderful street frontages have been turned into smart restaurants, bars and cafes making Phuket town one of the up and coming areas of the island.

Phuket Beach History

The history of the main tourist beaches like Kata, Karon, Patong Beach, and Kamala are almost an accident. These cut off beaches were covered in coconut groves and banana plantations and deemed worthless compared to the land on the eastern shore. This land was often in the hands of the poorer Muslim settlers or left to second, third born child or to the women. This is why many of the key beachfront sites are owned by women and Muslim families.

Phuket Tourist History

A lot talk about how tourism came to Phuket is urban myth but my favourite reality is based on the Vietnam war. Long before for luxury resorts like the La Flora Resort Patong and Holiday Inn Resort Phuket took up their position on Patong beachfront, Patong beach was just a simple Muslim village which had coconut tree plantations on the beach land. These Vietnam vets fell in love with the beauty and simplicity of the setting and stayed, unable to return to the normalcy of American living and happy to find peace after the traumas of war. The rest, as they say is Phuket history.

Other Thai historical articles

More Thai history can be found here Grand Palace Bangkok, Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok.


Last Updated: 14 Mar 2012