Sunday, May 4, 2008

Phuket - Jewel of the Andaman Sea

The largest and most accessible island in Thailand, Phuket, lying off the South West coast, is also one of the most diverse and developed. It is blessed with a wealth of natural resources to entice the visitor. Lime stone cliffs, white sand beaches, rocky headlands, peaceful sweeping bays and a forested tropical interior. Alongside its natural assets Phuket has a range of accommodation and entertainment to offer something for everyone.

Phuket island is about 850 kilometers South of Bangkok. The province covers 590 square kilometers including the additional 39 small islands. The main island itself covers about 540 kilometer square and measures 48 kilometers North to South and 21 kilometers East to West.

As the island is the biggest in Thailand you can find quite beaches and you can party the night away at others. It is all up to what you are looking for.

Phuket is connected to the mainland by two bridges. These cover the narrow strip of water that separates Phuket from Phang-Nga province on the North side of the island. The rest of Phuket borders only the tropical Andaman Sea.

The island is a variety of manly forested mountains stretching North to South and flat plains. However it is the jewel of the Andaman Sea and its palm fringed beaches that has contributed to making it the wealthiest and most visited island in the South. It attracts thousands of visitors a year. Many are content to relax on its many beaches, but for the more adventurous Phuket is a center for diving in the area with world class dive sites a short boat trip away and facilities for all levels.

The year is divided into the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season falls from May to October, with September and October being the wettest. The dry season, from November to April gradually gets hotter and hotter until the rains start again. The most pleasant time to visit, but also the most busy, is from November to February. At this time blue skies and spectacular sunsets are the usual, along with a cooling sea breeze and average temperatures ranging from 23c to 33c.

Phuket also has something to offer those who are looking for more than beach lounging. Phuket town with its Sino-Portugese architecture, markets, temples and friendly small town atmosphere is a place to sample real thai living and enjoy the bustle - just be careful in the narrow streets with all the motorbikes! Phuket island has food and restaurants for any taste and budget. Surrounded by the rich Andaman Sea its no surprise that its sea food is exceptional. Accommodation ranges from five star world class resorts to simple bamboo beach side bungalows with everything in between.

Nevertheless, emphasis is put on the upper sector. Phuket is not just the most popular destination in the South of Thailand but it also is extremely popular among people from Hong Kong and Singapore and other foreigners that are looking for a holiday house. In no other place in Thailand is it as expensive to buy property as in Phuket. Many rich people are living here and the offered property is very much geared to the higher end.

Due to Phuket's world known status as a tourist destination it was rightly or wrongly at the center of the media attention after the tsunami of 2004. In comparison to other provinces in Thailand, Phuket actually received less damage and had a lower death toll. Also, compared to other countries that were affected by the Tsunami Thailand had probably the least problems. Only days after the tsunami many beach front bars were open and ready for business. Since then there has been much attention and help by the Thai government (focusing on the big businesses) and other organizations to get business back up and running and to promote tourism back to the region. Now apart from the warning sirens and 'tsunami evacuation route' signs there is little evidence that the tragic events of the 26th of December, 2004 ever happened.

Richard Meyer is a professional travel writer for Excelloz which is an online travel website that specializes in hotel reservation in Asia and Oceania but soon worldwide. In addition to hotels, Excelloz provides free travel guides and independent hotel reviews.

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