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Phuket (pronounced 'Poo-get')is a large island in the Indian Ocean about the size of Singapore and with some 40km (25 miles) of beach. It is located about 900 kms from the capital and connected to the mainland by a bridge

It is Thailand's major tourist island and therefore it has become a regional headquarter. Phuket, known also as the Pearl of the Andaman, has also derived its wealth from tin production, which in Phuket dates back over 500 year. Therefore it is not surprising that Phuket has a culture of its own due to influences from the Chinese and Portuguese. About 35% of the island's population are Thai Muslims.

Along with the incredible beaches, limestone cliffs, hills and lush jungle, Phuket is a water lover's paradise. The reefs teem with marine life and a host of water activities including scuba diving, yachting, water-skiing, windsurfing, jet-skiing and parasailing are on offer. Other attractions are the Phuket aquarium and the Pa Pra Taew National Park and three 18-hole golf courses. Its population of 1.6 million people ranks sixth among all provinces and the province is the richest of Thailand (on a per capita basis).

Several popular day trips leave from Phuket, making this an ideal base from which to explore southern Thailand. The Nakha Noi Pearl Farm is where you can see how cultured pearls are produced by seeding oysters; a trip to Phang Nga, where a scene from the Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun was shot, reveals the impossibly sheer limestone outcrops that rise out of the sea and many caves and weirdly shaped islands. Or visit Phi Phi island, ideal for snorkeling and diving.

Don't ignore the interior of the island if you have time. It offers rice paddies, plantations of rubber, cacao, cashew nut, coconut and pineapple and small, tiny rest of Phuket's once beautiful rainforest.

Patong, across the island from Phuket Town, is the noisy nightlife centre of the island with great beaches and facilities. Quieter beaches such as Kata, Karon and Surin cater for up-market tourists.


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