"Phuket is one of Thailand’s most successful tourist destinations, and it certainly has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re after five-star luxuries or more frugal backpacker offerings, you’ll find businesses, accommodation and activities to suit your budget in Phuket.
The name Phuket is actually used in a couple of different ways. To begin with, the entire island, which lies immediately off the mainland, is called Phuket Island (or Koh Phuket). This is the largest island in Thailand and remains one of the country’s most sought-after travel destinations.
There is also a town called Phuket at the center of the island. This is where most of the locals and artists live, having their open space galleries in Phang-gna Road and close by. Here in the inland region, you could easily forget that you were on an island at all, though a relatively short drive in any direction delivers you back to the beach.
The island first gained international attention in the 1600s, when traders from Europe discovered significant tin deposits on Phuket. They established trade relations with Siam and developed mining facilities on the island to exploit these resources. In an effort to keep the English and Dutch (who were viewed as encroaching imperialists) at bay, the Siamese monarchy granted exclusive mining rights to France.
However, it didn’t take long for the local authorities to realize that they were better off exploiting their own resources. As a result, Phuket became a valuable asset to the Kingdom of Siam. The island’s history of mining combines with the advent rubber plantations and modern-day tourism.
Phuket’s wealth is far from evenly distributed across the local population. This is a community of haves and have-nots, and there is certainly room for social services and volunteer programs on the island.
In late 2004 when the tsunami struck and devastated coastal villages across the region, the prosperity gap widened. Many who were already living well below the poverty level suddenly found themselves without a home or a means of supplying for their families.
At this point, a generous outpouring of donations and willing workers rushed to Phuket and other communities along the Andaman coast. Thanks to their work and support, many people who were living in at-risk communities were able to pull through and survive this devastating event. Had it not been for these services, Phuket might look very different today."