as the Pearl of the Andaman, it derived much of its former glory and its enormous wealth
from tin production, which in Phuket dates back over 500 year. Today, Phuket is the major
tourist attraction of Thailand. The surrounding waters contain much varied marine
life, and the town is notable for its Sino-Portuguese architecture. It is a very
attractive island for sightseeing, with lovely seashores and forested hillsides. Its
population of 1.6 million people ranks sixth among all provinces. Approximately 1.75
million Rai of the area is forest land. The main occupation here is rice farming. The
average per capita income is 14,343 baht.
Location and Boundaries
Phuket is an island connected by bridges to southern Thailand's Andaman
Sea coast, in the Indian Ocean, lying between 7'45" and 8'15" north latitude,
and from 98'15" to 98'40" west longitude on the map. Phuket, Thailand's largest
islands, is surrounded by 32 smaller islands that form part of the same administration,
with a total area of 570 square kilometers. Measured at its widest point, Phuket is 21.3
kilometers; at its longest, 48.7 kilometers. it is bounded thus:
||Lies The Pak Prah strait,
spanned by two bridges running side-by-side, the older Sarasin Bridge, and the newer Thao
Thep Krasatri Bridge.
||Is the Andaman Sea.
||Is Phang-nga Bay (In the
jurisdiction mainly of Phang-nga Province).
||Is The Andaman Sea.
About 70 percent of Phuket is mountainous; a western range runs from
north to south from which smaller branches derive. The highest peak is Mai Tha Sip Song,
or Twelve Canes, at 529 meters, which lies within the boundaries of Tambon Patong, Kathu
District. The remaining 30 percent of the island, mainly in the center and south, is
formed by low plains. Streams include the Khlong Bang Yai, Tha Jin, Khlong Tha Rua, and
Khlong Bang Rong, none of which is large.
Phuket's weather conditions are dominated by monsoon winds that blow
year round. It is therefore always warm and humid. There are two distinct seasons, rainy
and dry. The rainy season begins in May and lasts till October, during which the monsoon
blows from the southwest.
The dry season is from
November through April, when the monsoon comes from the northeast. Highest average
temperatures, at 33.4 degree Celsius, prevail during March. Lowest averages occur in
January, when nightly lows dip to 22 degree Celsius.
Since the early 1980's the tourist business has been Phuket's chief
source of income. Hotels, restaurants, tour companies, and souvenir shops are much in
evidence on the west coast. However, while once all-importance tin mining has ceased,
tourism is by no means the island's only activity. Agriculture remains important to a
large number of people, and covers by far the most part of the island. Principal crops are
rubber, coconuts, cashews, and pineapples. Prawn farming has largly taken over the east
and south coasts. Pearl farming is also important. Phuket's fishing port is at all time
filled, and processing of marine products, mainly fish, makes a significant contribution
to the economy. With so many healthy industries supplying income, construction has become
a major factor in employment. This range from massive public works projects, large office
buildings and hotels, and housing estates with hundreds of units, down to single family
homes, apartments and additions.
Official population as of December, 1998, was 231,206. This figure
numbers those who are registered as living in Phuket. Phuket' s attraction as a center of
economic activity has resulted in many living on the island whose registration is
elsewhere. The total population of Phuket varies considerably depending on the time of
year, through it is never less than the figure given above.
The island is divided into three districts, Thalang in the north, Kathu
in the west, and Muang in the south. Thailand's system of government relies upon a strong
central authority, thus the Provincial Governor is a civil servant appointed by the
Interior Ministry in Bangkok, as are the Nai Amphoe, or District Chief. The cities of
Phuket and Patong have their own city governments, with elected city councils, the leading
members of which serve as mayor. There are also elected provincial, district, and
sub-district, or Tambon councils. The local constabulary is part of the Interior Ministry.