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Phuket (Thai: ภูเก็ต, pronounced [pʰūː.kèt]), formerly known as Thalang (ถลาง Tha-Laang) and, in Western sources and navigation charts, Jung Ceylon (a corruption of the Malay Tanjung Salang, i.e. “Cape Salang”), is one of the southern provinces (changwat) of Thailand. Neighbouring provinces are (from north clockwise) Phang Nga and Krabi, but as Phuket is an island it has no land boundaries.
Phuket, which is somewhat smaller than the size of Singapore, is Thailand’s largest island. The island is connected to mainland Thailand by two bridges. It is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. Phuket formerly derived its wealth fromtin and rubber, and enjoys a rich and colorful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign ship logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traders. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.
The relatively recent name “Phuket” (of which the digraph ph represents an aspirated is apparently derived from the word bukit(Jawi: بوكيت) in Malay which means “hill”, as this is what the island appears like from a distance. An alternative suggestion is that the name originates from two Thai words, phu (mountain) of ket (jewel), and this is said to be recorded in a Thai chronicle.
The region was formerly referred to as “Thalang,” (ถลาง) derived from the old Malay “Telong” (Jawi: تلوڠ) which means “Cape”. The northern district of the province, which was the location of the old capital, still uses this name.
The island of Phuket was originally named Jung Ceylon on European navigation charts, a corruption of the Malay Tanjung Salang meaning Cape Salang. One of the main shopping malls in the town of Patong in Phuket is accordingly thus named.
On December 26, 2004, Phuket and other nearby areas on Thailand’s western coast suffered extensive damage when they were struck by the Boxing Day tsunami, caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The waves destroyed several highly populated areas in the region, killing up to 5,300 people nationwide and tens of thousands more throughout the Asian region. Some 250 were reported dead in Phuket, including foreign tourists, and as many perhaps as a thousand of the illegal Burmese workers building new beach resorts in the Khao Lak area. Almost all of the major beaches on the west coast, especially Kamala, Patong, Karon and Kata, sustained major damage, with some damage caused to resorts and villages on the island’s southern beaches.
By February 2005 many damaged resorts were back to business, and life slowly returned to normal. Following strenuous recovery programs, no tsunami damage can now be seen except in the most remote beaches.
In early December 2006, Thailand launched the first of the 22 U.S.-made tsunami-detection buoys to be positioned around the Indian Ocean as part of a regional warning system. The satellite-linked deep-sea buoy floats 1,000 km (620 mi) offshore, roughly midway between Thailand and Sri Lanka.
The Indian Ocean Tsunami rolled in over the west of Phuket on December 26th and killed and injured many and destroyed a large amount of property along the sea front.
Unlike many other hotel and resort beaches like Patong, Karon and Kata Beaches, the old village of Kamala had large areas constructed of tin and wood and this with a giant wave cut through the low lying village and caused many deaths and injuries.
The tsunami of 2004 was a complete shock to Phuket and the Thai government who have since laid early warning bouys along the coast and loud speakers for warning in the beach areas are now ready to respond should a tsunami happen again. Records show that tsunamis happen in this part of Thailand every 175-250 years.