PHUKET & Koh Phi Phi
Phuket is Thailand's largest island (approximately the size of Singapore) and nestles against the Indian Ocean coast some 890km (556 miles) south of Bangkok. Known 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.
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. Phuket's weather is typical of its location near in an area influenced by monsoon winds: warm, humid, but pleasant all year long.
There are only two seasons: the rainy season, from May to November, during the southwest monsoon, and the hot season, from December to April, when the monsoon winds blow from the northeast. March has the highest average temperature, 33.4 c, and the lowest average temperatures are experienced early mornings in January, when the thermometer fails to 22 c.
Phuket Island has a long recorded history, and remains dating back to A.D. 1025 indicate that the island's present day name derives in meaning from the Tamil manikram, or crystal mountain. For most of history, however, it was known as Junk Ceylon, which, with variations, is the name found on old maps. The name is thought to have its roots in Ptolemy's Geographia, written by the Alexandrian geographer in the Third Century A.D.
Phuket was a way station on the route between India and China where seafarers stopped to shelter. The island appears to have been part of the Shivite empire that established itself on the Malay Peninsula during the first Millenium A.D. Later, as Muang Takua-Talang, it was part of the Srivichai and Siri Tahm empires. Governed as the eleventh in a constellation of twelve cities, Phuket's emblem, by which it was known to others in those largely pre-literate times, was the dog.
During the Sukothai Period Phuket was associated with Takua Pa in what is now Phang-nga Province, another area with vast tin reserves. The Dutch established a trading post during the Ayuthaya Period in the 16th Cent. The island's northern and central regions then were governed by the Thais, and the southern and western parts were given over to the tin trade, a concession in the hands of foreigners. After Ayuthaya was sacked by the Burmese in 1767 there was a short interregnum in Thailand, ended by King Taksin, who drove out the Burmese and re-unified the country. The Burmese, however, were anxious to return to the offensive. They outfitted a fleet to raid the southern provinces, and carry off the populations to slavery in Burma. This led to Phuket's most memorable historic event. A passing sea captain, Francis Light, sent word that the Burmese were en route to attack.
Forces in Phuket were assembled led by the two heroines, Kunying Jan, wife of Phuket's recently deceased governor, and her sister Mook, After a month's siege the Burmese were forced to depart on 13 March, 1785. Kunying Jan and her sister were credited with the successful defense. In recognition King Rama I bestowed upon Kunying Jan the honorific Thao Thep Kasatri, a title of nobility usually reserved for royalty, by which she is known today. Her sister became Thao Sri Sunthon.
During the Nineteenth Century Chinese immigrants arrived in such numbers to work for the tin mines that the ethnic character of the island's interior became predominantly Chinese, while the coastal settlements remained populated chiefly by Muslim fishermen.
In Rama V's reign, Phuket became the administrative center of a group of tin mining provinces called Monton Phuket, and in 1933, with the change in government from absolute monarchy to a parliamentary system, the island was established as a province by itself.
The Island of Phuket is home to the ancient people of the Sea Gypsies. They live - as they have done for hundreds of years - on Koh Sireh, a little island divided from main Phuket by a small street of water and at Rawaii, a beach at the southernmost part of Phuket. A few hundred "Thai-mai" as they are officially called, have their homes and their heritage here. The Sea Gypsies are making a living from fishing and fishery-related work, like they have done for ages. And from the tourists that visit their villages to experience authentic Phuket culture.
No written or other testimonies exist to verify the origin of the Sea Gypsies. Their culture is nomadic without permanent habitats and without writing tools. One theory holds that the Sea Gypsies are descendants of the Malaysian colonies that evaded the Muslim invasion of Burma. Another theory sees them as descendants of the original Indian race, the Vedas.
PHI PHI ISLANDS
Are part of a national park perched at the southern end of the Phang-nga chain, 34km (20miles) southeast of Phuket. Two islands of awesome beauty studded with huge emerald green limestone mountains. The two enormous mountains that dominate the islands -- one 498m (1630ft) tall -- are linked by a strip of sand to create what from the air would look like a giant dumbbell. The strand of sand separating the islands is so narrow that one can stand on one shore and kick a football most of the way to the to the opposite shore.
The larger of the two, Phi Phi Don, is 20 km in circumference. The nine shimmering coves of powdery sand, adjoining coral reefs, and warm turquoise blue water give the island its reputation for sublime beauty. Its small population lives in a scattering of fishing villages that are rapidly disappearing in the onslaught of resort development. Phi Phi Le lies just offshore, and is almost all sheer cliffs, with a few caves and a sea lake formed by a cleft between two cliffs that allows water to enter into a
bowl-shaped canyon. It is uninhabited but has several nice beaches, but its major claim to fame is the caves that are the favorite nesting ground for the migratory Forktail Swift. The swifts who favor lofty limestone caves and cliffs as a nesting habitat. Between January and April each year, thousands of these birds descend on Phi Phi Le to spend about 2 weeks in the caves building nests held together by their saliva.
Pictures and full description of hotels
Thara Patong Beach Resort
Phang Nga Bay (James Bond island) - lunch
It is unquestionably one of the great scenic attractions in the world and a must do during your stay in Phuket. Fringing Phang-nga Bay is a complex network of river estuaries with dense forests of mangrove and nipa palm growing right out into the sea. Protecting the shoreline is a series of sheer-sided limestone mountains and other artistic rock formations that soar up to 300m (980 feet) out of the sea like an eerie army of stone monoliths. Touring by boat allows you to explore the mysteries of the mangrove swamps and provides a scenic view of distance forested limestone hills. The natural beauty of the bay is breathtaking as you pass coves and bays many with remote idyllic tropical beaches.
Phi Phi island - lunch
The boats land at an old fishing village on Ton Sai beach where most of the tourist activity is centered. On one side of the bay, sheer limestone cliffs shaggy with jungle growth rise hundreds of feet out of the aquamarine sea, while on the other side there are a series of beaches that offer excellent swimming and snorkeling. Upon arrival there is time for a swim while others take off on a 30-40 minute glass bottom boat ride to see the nearby coral reefs. After a standard seafood lunch you are off to Phi Phi Le for a look at the caves that hold the birds’ nests and to the Viking Cave.
Sea Cave Canoe (Phang Nga)
The unusual geology in Phang nga Bay makes it a sea kayaking paradise. Capable of reaching places inaccessible by any other means, the sea canoe (or sea kayak) is the ideal craft for a close inspection of this unique landscape.
Sitting two people to a canoe, your guide will paddle you through tiny sea caves and along narrow tunnels under huge limestone hills rising from the bay. Hidden in many of these odd rock formations are caves, tunnels and lagoons, better known as "hongs" (Thai for room), eroded by natural forces over millions of years and can only be entered via the tunnels when the tide is just right. Many visitors claim that being paddled in a canoe through the side of a limestone mountain that emerges into a pristine tidal lagoon isolated from the world and surrounded by sheer rock evokes a feeling of going back in time a million years, to a time before people walked the Earth.
This is clearly one of the most remarkable journeys you will ever make. The appeal is universal, it's the perfect all-season, all-weather outdoor adventure, ideal for everyone in the family.
Enjoy a 60-minute elephant trekking tour through the Jungle and canals to experience the unspoiled nature of Phuket island, overlooking Chalong bay, Coral Island, Lone Island and Hay Island from the highest viewpoint.
Experience the villagers' way of living from a local farmer's ox-cart. During this 45-minute ride you will see trained monkeys at work picking coconuts high in the trees, an old tradition in Phuket.
Simon Cabaret show with transfer
Going to the cabaret on Phuket has a different meaning than almost anywhere else in the world. The island boasts extravagant cabaret shows with stunning costumes, bright lights, expensive sets and a unique feature, most of the performers are men dressed as women. At the Simon Cabaret, famous well beyond Phuket, an all-male revue with the the utmost extravaganza can be experienced. Performers recreate a traditional Thai dance or lip-synch songs popular in countries around the world.
Fantasea Show with Diner and transfer
Inspired by Thailand's rich and exotic heritage, Phuket FantaSea not only showcases the charm and beauty of Thailand, but also enriches ancient Thai traditions with the wonder of cutting edge technology and special effects. The result is a stunning 140-acre theme complex, packed with a multitude of activities and entertainment: a festival village with carnivals, games, handicrafts and shopping; a 4,000 seat theme restaurant offering a grand buffet of Thai and international cuisines; and a breath-taking Las Vegas-style theatrical show, where state-of-the-art technology and special effects enhance the grace and beauty of Thailand's Myths, Mysteries and Magic in a wondrous extravaganza certain to delight the whole family.
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