Phuket, Thailand

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

The Phuket Island is of the size similar to Singapore and the island was well known to many people all over the world throughout the history, especially to merchants and travelers, as it was on the important trade route between India and China. It used to be mentioned many times in the ship logs of travelers from many countries, especially from Portugal, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and France.

It has been a prosperous place, previously prospering from tin and rubber, and nowadays mostly from tourism.

In the past the island was called Junk Celyon. The modern name “Phuket”, the same as the previous name Junk Celyon, comes from Malay and means “hill”. For people coming to Phuket from the sea, the island appears as a hill.

Because Phuket was the source of valuable tin, in the 17th century the western powers of France, Netherlands and England competed for the control of the trade of tin from Phuket. The French controlled the island for some time, but ultimately were driven away by Thais. Later the Burmese tried to conquer Phuket but were unsuccessful. When the Burmese forces were preparing to invade Phuket they were spotted by the British captain who warned the Phuket’s authorities.

Two local women, the wife of the deceased governor and her sister quickly organized some defensive forces that they were able to gather quickly and successfully resisted the Burmese invasion for one month. After the one month siege the Burmese were forced to withdraw and the two local women became the Phuket’s heroines.

On the Boxing Day of December 26, 2004 Phuket and the other areas of Thailand on the Andaman Coast were struck by tsunami waves caused by the earthquake under the Indian Ocean. Tens of thousands of people died in South East Asia and 5,300 people in Thailand, mostly foreign tourists. In Phuket Province 250 deaths were reported, but there were many more deaths (about thousand) of illegal Burmese worker who were building a new beach resort in the area of Khao Lak.

Many beaches and some villages in Phuket were destroyed or damaged by the tsunami, mostly on the western coast (especially Kamala, Patong, Karon and Kata beaches) and also some areas on the southern coast.

The rebuilding of Phuket started and progressed very fast after the tsunami and most of the resorts and hotels were back in business in February 2005. Throughout the 2005 all the damage areas of Phuket Province were restored.

Nowadays Phuket is protected by American invented tsunami protection system made of twenty-two buoys that are floating in the Indian Ocean and are part of the global tsunami warning system.

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