Phuket


Dubbed the 'Pearl of the South' by the tourist industry, Phuket is Thailand's largest island and lies in the Andaman Sea off the country's south-western coast. The island is connected to the Thai mainland by a bridge, but has retained a distinct culture fused from Chinese and Portuguese influences combining with the culture of the chao naam, the indigenous sea-faring people. About 35% of the island's population is Thai Muslims.
The island's terrain varies from rocky beaches and long, broad sweeps of sand to limestone cliffs and forested hills. It has good beaches, tropical vegetation and a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere, but its ambience and ecology are under pressure from extensive and irresponsible development. The main resorts include Patong, Karon and Kata, but better beaches are scattered all around the island. Roads radiate from Phuket Town, in the south-east of the island, making it a good base for exploring. Don't ignore the island's interior which has rice paddies, plantations of rubber and cashew nut, cacao, pineapple and coconut, as well as Phuket's last slice of rainforest.