This is one of the most representative tourist resorts in Asia, Phuket Island is situated in the Andaman Sea and west of the Malaysian Peninsula. As the largest island of Thailand, it is a well frequented tourist resort. The tourist industry is the major source of income to the island. Apart from that, more than 30% of the island’s area is used for the plantation of Hevea brasiliensis, the rubber tree, making Thailand the greatest exporter of natural latex.
Since the 16th century the main industry of the island had been tin mining. In the 20th century it petered out, and the last mine was closed in 1992.
Apart from numerous sandy beaches with regular tourist infrastructure, there are national parks on Phuket, which conserve many species of plants and animals. One such parks is Khao Phra Thaeo, which is located in the northeastern part of the island and is the location of its last remaining significant rainforest. Phuket’s landscape may also offer picturesque waterfalls, such as Bang Pae and Ton Sai, and although Bang Pae is the biggest one on the island, of about 15 m in height, it is rather small on the world scale, yet, still worth seeing. The distance between the above mentioned waterfalls is 8 km on foot, and leads through a magnificent tropical forest.
Another interesting attraction in the park is a volunteer-run gibbon rehabilitation centre, where gibbons, earlier being kept as pets, are reintroduced into the wild. How do they find themselves in captivity in the first place? Poachers often hunt for female gibbons with young and, after killing the mother, they take baby apes to sell them as pets. Baby gibbons are cute animals, therefore, they are kept as pets, however, when they reach five years of age, they become aggressive and not suitable for keeping. This is the reason why they are often abandoned. Used to domestic conditions, the animals are unable to live in wilderness. Therefore, they are brought to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, where they are taught the ways to survive in the wild.
Phuket Town, (as it referred to but is actually a city) is the capital of both the island and province, lies near the eastern coast of the island where two huge Buddha monuments may also be seen. The monuments were erected on a hill top in the 21th century and were funded exclusively from donations. One, made of brass, and measuring 12 m, is overshadowed by the second one, the Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha, which is 45 m high.
In 2004, all buildings adjacent to the beaches on Thailand’s western coast were struck by the great tsunami. Thais made an uncommon resolve to rebuild all the destroyed structures, therefore, nowadays, there is no sign of the disaster.
The best time for spending a vacation in Phuket is between December and Feburary. Temperatures are about 30 degrees Celsius all year round, but the months of May to October can expect heavy rain due to it monsoon climate.
Photos: Bruno Valsangiacomo