Early History of Phuket and Tourism
Phuket has a rich history, it all began because Phuket was Located on trading routes and China, foreign influences had an effect on Phuket way earlier than those same influences effected any other parts of Thailand. Back in the old days beautiful trading ships that were used to carry and transport all the goods for trading, would anchor in the many safe harbors off the Phuket coast line, and wait for the northeast monsoon winds to blow and those ships then used those winds to fill the sails of their ships and make their way on the trading route to India.
The jungles and forests in the center of Phuket were home to the local indigenous people, but after centuries of t]living there, the tin mining companies came in to Phuket to Mine for Tin and those same companies forcefully relocated the people from their homes. The Chao Leh, sea-gypsies, lived off the coasts of Phuket back then and they made their money and their living through piracy and fishing for pearls. Although threatened by development, Chao Leh villages can still be found along the coast of Phuket and neighbouring islands.
Phuket first became part of a Thai state during the thirteenth century when Thai armies from Sukhothai fought for control of the island from the Sirivijaya Empire based in Sumatra. Phuket was first found to have a major source of Tin in the sixteenth century when the island became an important source of revenue for the Thai kingdom at Ayutthaya, as well as an important trading post. It was also during this period that the first Europeans arrived on Phuket.
Due to Phuket’s abundant supply of tin and its importance as a trading port, the island’s economy continued to prosper. Back then during the tin mining era, the British almost claimed Phuket to be declared part of the United Kingdom, but thankfully they chose Penang instead because of it’s its safer harbours. At the beginning of the twentieth century, large areas of the island were cleared to make way for rubber plantations, which unfortunately changed the entire landscape of the island forever.
The first tourists and the start of tourism in Phuket was in the 1970s with the first beach bungalows at Patong Beach The travelers loved to come to Phuket to see the amazing beaches, beautiful islands and weather, and to taste the lovely Thai food. Once there was an airport built in Phuket in the mid- 1970s, this enabled many thousands more tourists to travel to Phuket and for tourism to grow to what it has become today.
Today, tourism is by far the island’s biggest industry with over 3 million tourists visiting annually, making Phuket one of the most popular travel destinations in South-East Asia. The name Phuket comes from the Malay word bukit, meaning hill. The island was previously named Junk Ceylon on European charts, a corruption of the Malay Tanjung Salang meaning Cape Salang. Later it became known as Thalang, after the name of the main town on the island. The island did not come to be known as Phuket until quite late in its history when the administrative centre was moved to a mining town in the centre of the island called Phuket.