Phuket has a moist, tropical climate, influenced chiefly by monsoon
winds that vary in direction according to the season.
to September, as the sun's rays strike directly above the equator,
the land mass of Asia is heated more than is the Indian Ocean. This
draws moist hot air from the ocean over Phuket and southern Thailand,
bringing the rains of the southwest monsoon. By mid-April the winds
are mainly from the southwest and are heavy with moisture.
During the month of May, it will rain an average of 25 days making
it one of the wettest months of the year. When the tilt of the earth
brings the direct sun rays south of the equator, the heating of
the Indian Ocean draws the cooler dry air of the northeast monsoon
from the highlands of Asia across the countries of South and Southeast
By October the direction of the wind will have shifted to
the northeast and Phuket will experience another intense but briefer
wet period as the northeast monsoon sweeps down the east coast of
Thailand and moves back into the Indian Ocean.
By mid November the
weather on Phuket will be somewhat cooler and dryer, until March
when the weather becomes perceptively warmer and more humid preceding
the onset of the next monsoon.
Visiting Phuket during the monsoon
season is not unpleasant because most days are rain-free except
for showers in the afternoon. Phuket averages 2540 mm (or about
100 inches) of rain each year.
Phuket has a population of 200,000. The main centers of population
are on opposite sides of the island. Phuket Town, with a population
of about 63,000, is located on the east side and Patong Beach, whose
population varies widely depending on the time of year, is located
on the west side.
The residents are Thais who migrated from the mainland, Chinese
who arrived to work the tin mines, Muslims of Malaysian extraction
-- many of who come to work the rubber plantations -- and Chao Nam
or sea gypsies -- who may have occupied the area for a millennium
The Chinese now comprise 35 percent of the island’s population.
They differ from those who settled in Bangkok and many other areas
of Thailand in that they came from the Hokkien region of China,
as did those who settled in Singapore and Malaysia. As elsewhere
in Asia, many of the Chinese have made the transition from providing
cheap labor to being merchants. The Chinese have inter-married with
native Thais and have largely been assimilated into Thai culture.
Today the descendants of the early Chinese settlers are responsible
for much of the trade and commerce that take place on the island.
The influence of Indonesian-Malayan culture is still apparent today
in the ethnic makeup, language, art, and religion of the southern
Thais. About 35% of the Thais living on Phuket are Muslims. Concentrated
mostly around Surin and a few other big villages, they work as rice
and rubber farmers. In addition to Thai and Malay languages many
also speak 'Yawi', an ancient dialect of the Malayan
One of the most interesting groups of people who have lived on
Phuket are the (or Sea Gypsies), traditionally a nomadic peoples
who traveled from cove to cove, staying until the fish and other
resources were depleted. They then moved on, allowing the cove to
re-establish its former ecological balance before returning to repeat
the cycle. Their history and cultural lifestyles are hard to trace
as they do not have a written language. Sea gypsies are said to
have originated in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands between India
and Burma. They are generally darker skinned and heavier with curly
black hair. They speak their own language and follow their own animistic
Sea Gypsies consist of three groups. The Mokens still prefer their
ancestral sea nomad-style of living and are commonly found occupying
the islands north of Phuket. The Orung Laut and the Moklens have
settled on coastal areas. There are three Sea Gypsy villages in
Phuket. The one located at Rawai is thought to be the oldest and
is visited by busloads of tourists everyday. Another village is
located 8km north of Phuket Town at Sapam Coast, and a third village
is located on Siray Island which is accessible by bridge from Phuket
The King, Queen and the Royal Family are genuinely respected by
the Thais. Most homes and businesses, have one or more photographs
of the King or the royal family prominently displayed.
form of disrespect to the Royal Family will not be appreciated by
the Thais and could cause you serious problems.
If you attend a
cinema during your stay, when the portrait of the King is shown
on the screen during the national anthem you are expected to rise
and remain standing for the duration.
Thailand is known as the "Land of Smiles", and for its
tolerance and hospitality. The simple rule is that if you smile
people will like you. A smile is an easy way to say "thank
you" and can also be used to 'excuse yourself'
for small inconveniences. A smile is the proper response to acknowledge
the wai or greetings of small children, and with hotel and restaurant
Most of us were raised with the "Golden Rule" and
that will work for you as well in Thailand as it does at home. Nevertheless,
we will provide you with a short list of things that you should
know to help you overcome any ‘culture shock’ you may
- If you are invited into a Thai home, you are expected to remove
your footwear before entering the door
- It is considered disrespectful for anyone to put his feet on
the table while sitting. When seated make sure your feet are not
pointed at anyone as this is offensive to Thais
- Thais regard the head as the highest (purest) part of the body,
so refrain from touching or patting the head in a friendly gesture
because it is considered impolite
- It is not proper to lose one's temper or show exasperation
during a misunderstanding. "Jai yen", or a "cool
heart" the Thais believe will solve the problem
Visiting a temple
Is one of the more interesting cultural activities for visitors
during their stay in Thailand. Visitors are welcome and discreet
photographs may be taken. Shoes must be taken off before entering
a temple, wearing shorts or other revealing clothing is frowned
Monks are the most important people in Thai society and must be
treated with respect at all times. A monk's vow of chastity
prohibits him from touching or being touched by a woman. Women are
usually advised to smile and slightly bow when encountering a monk
and maintain enough distance to prevent any contact with the monk
or his robes.
Temple fairs are held during the cool season (November through
early March) to raise money for temple maintenance. They are great
fun. There is a carnival atmosphere lots of good food and a chance
to see normal Thai people enjoying themselves.
If you get up early (sunrise) for a walk, you are likely to encounter
monks making their rounds for offering of food. Monks carrying a
bowl will be approached by Thais (usually women) who will offer
food to the monks (merit making). Thailand is a Buddhist country
and this ritual can be seen every day all over the country.
The Khao Pra Thaeo National Park is Phuket's last natural
reserve and a beautiful place where ferns and mosses grow on rocks
and fallen trunks while handsome hardwood tress soar straight up
into the sky. Palm trees and other jungle growth combine to give
that majestic feel of a virgin triple canopy forest.
The park was
declared a natural preserve in July 1980 and covers over 22 sq.
kilometers of virgin rain forest. The park is known for its many
species of trees especially palms, one of which the'White
Backed Palm' grows nowhere else on earth.
Many kinds of wild
animals can still be found in the park including langurs, monkeys,
barking deer, wild boars, squirrels, and numerous species of birds
and reptiles. The park is an important source of water for the island
and streams in the park feed two waterfalls of interest.
Even a modest attempt to speak Thai will earn you a happy smile
and respect from many Thais. Thai is a tonal language and by slightly
rising or lowering the tone will change the meaning of the word.
The word "my" can have five different meanings all controlled
by the tone in which it is pronounced.
Thai also uses a slightly different vocabulary for men and women.
The masculine Thai word for "me" or "I"
is pom , the feminine equivalent is dichan. Thais always include
a polite closing word to a statement, men finish a sentence with
the Thai word Krup and women close with Ka. The words have little
if any direct translation but a Thai will think very highly of you
if you use it.
Farang may be the first Thai word that you encounter during your
stay in Thailand. Thais use the word "farang" to refer
to Caucasian people, or things associated with them (such as western
food ahan farang). The word is commonly believed to be derived from
the Thai pronunciation of the name of a early visitor from Greece,
Constantine Phaulkon who figures prominently in Thai history.
Founded a little over a century ago by Chinese and Malaysian merchants
to service the nearby tin mines, and the harbor near Phuket was
better suited to handle larger ships than the traditional capital
city of Thalang. It spite of growing pains that come with being
a boom town and a major fire that destroyed much of the city Phuket
town grew and prospered to become the commercial, social, and political
center of the island.
The beginning of the 20th century was a period of positive growth
for Phuket. Tin mining boomed, and the very capable and benevolent
governor Rasada Korsimbi helped diversify the island’s economy
and the capital city of Phuket began its modern expansion. The town
of Phuket grew rapidly, its streets lined with handsome buildings,
and ships from all over the world called at its bustling port.
Today the main attractions in Phuket Town are the old Sino-Portuguese
buildings, the elaborate Chinese and Thai temples, and the public
markets. Most of the buildings in Phuket’s city center were
constructed nearly a hundred years ago, during the period of the
first great tin boom. These building show mixed Chinese and western
influences in their architecture called Sino-Portuguese.
It is a
style common to all coastal tin-mining settlements on the Malay
Peninsula. The buildings are characteristically much longer than
they are wide, and the entry ways have fancy latticework. Many lovely
examples can be found on Dibuk Road, if you take the town walk-a-about
you will pass many of the more important of these buildings. Phuket’s
Town Hall, Provincial Court, and Nakorn Luang Bank are also good
examples of this style of architecture. Phuket’s Town’s
oldest public structure, Government House, is a wonderful example
of architecture from earlier this century. Moviegoers may recognize
it as the ‘American Embassy’ in Phnom Phen in The Killing
The last few years Phuket has experienced a significant growth
but has managed to retain a lot of its original flavor derived from
its multicultural roots. The best way to appreciate the full layout
of Phuket is to hike up Rang Hill, just to the town’s north.
Thailand's Currency is the Thai Baht, and the exchange rate towards
the US$ is around 32 Baht for 1 US$. Commercial banks, currency
exchanges, ATM Machines and major hotels provide currency exchange
services at Phuket's major beach centers. Credit cards are widely
Phuket has many different types of accommodation to choose from.
These range from basic bungalows/guesthouses with fan and approx
5 minutes walk to the beach for $10-15 USD; air-con guesthouses/hotels
for $20-40 USD; and luxury resort hotels from $50 USD and upwards.
Accommodation can be found in all major centers, either with plenty
of night-life or in quiet, secluded bays around the island.
Tap water is not safe for drinking. Drink only bottled water or
from a flask supplied by the hotel. Water provided in restaurants
is safe for drinking, but avoid all shaved or crushed ice particularly
from roadside fruit venders.
Few places in the world can provide the quality and variety of
food available here in Phuket. You can choose between local Thai
restaurants and every kind of Western/European cuisine. Thai food
in Phuket, and throughout southern Thailand, is heavily influenced
by the bountiful harvest of fresh seafood from the Andaman Sea.
Seafood served southern style is unique, likely to be barbecued,
and employs numerous herbs and spices, garlic, lemon grass, chilies,
mint, cumin, basil, coriander, and shrimp paste.
Thais love to eat, and you will rarely be more than five minutes
from a place serving food. The most common Thai eating place is
a roadside hawker food stall. A local Thai will have a favorite
hawker food stall for just about every different type of Thai food.
Some may look a little shabby by western standards, but a visitor
with a little sense of adventure will discover some of the tastiest
and most inexpensive food ever eaten. To locate a good hawker stall
watch where the Thais eat and join them.
During your stay in Thailand it is recommended that you eat Thai
food as often as possible. Thais are justifiably proud of their
food. It is always made from fresh ingredients, usually purchased
from the market that day and is sure be well prepared.
Most Thai food is not spicy or hot. The condiments and sauces served
with your meal (mostly for dipping food into) can be very hot and
spicy. Simply control the use of these and you will generally be
able to enjoy a wide array of Thai food and not have an unpleasant
Phuket Island is a tropical fruit version of heaven. Every day
all year long a variety of sweet succulent delicious fruits are
in season and ready for you to enjoy. Thais traditionally finish
a meal with a serving of fruit and save the sweeter Thai desserts
for snacking between meals. Many tropical fruits are grown right
here on Phuket Island.
- Pineapple - Pineapple grown here is famous
throughout Thailand for being particularly sweet and crunchy and
is a major export product.
- Rambutan - a cute, small red oval fruit with
hair. On your first encounter you may not know if you should eat
it or pet it; but inside is a sweet taste treat that is unfortunately
too fragile for export.
- Bananas - small and sweet. Available all year.
- Papaya - has a sweet orange flesh and is a
favorite dessert. Like many tropical fruits, it is also eaten
green, served in the famous Som Tam (papaya salad).
- Durian – perhaps the king of tropical
fruits. It has a bit of an odor problem, but definitely is a taste
treat you don’t want to miss. Available in the spring months
- Rose Apples – a bell-shaped, green,
waxy-looking fruit available most of the year, the flesh is sweet
and crunchy - a favorite with children.
- Mango – the national fruit is delicious,
sweet and juicy when ripe, but can also eaten green - dipped into
a blend of sugar, salt and chili.
Postal and Overseas Telephone Services
The Post Office in Patong is on the Beach Road. Upstairs is a overseas
telephone service that is much cheaper than that offered by hotels
and guest houses. The hours are 8 am to 11 pm daily.
There are two
post offices in Phuket Town. The largest is located on Montri Road
and the branch is on Yaowarat Road behind the market square. There
is also a smaller post office on Kata Beach and Chalong.
Phuket Town has three modern hospitals that offer 24-hour emergency
medical services with patient transfer services to larger hospitals
located in Bangkok and Hat Yai.
In addition, Phuket hospitals are
linked to the SOS International for medical assisted homeward flights.
Most hotels and guest houses are linked with a 24-hour medical service.
Ambulance services are available if needed. In Patong the Kathu
Hospital has nurses available to treat minor medical ailments and
a ambulance service for more serious medical conditions.
Are there to assure your visit is as safe and pleasant as possible.
Tourist Police stations are located in the major tourist areas of
the island, in Patong the police office is located in the middle
of the beach at the intersection of the Beach Road and Soi Bangla.
Most tourist police speak English and a few will speak Japanese
other European languages. If you become involved in a dispute during
your stay and do not feel you are being treated fairly, hold your
ground and call for the Tourist Police. That, in many cases, will
be enough to resolve the issue. The tourist police are very familiar
with all the local scams, and the operators who run them.