Claudius Ptolemy, who was a noted Greek philosopher in 157 AD, first made mention of this Island nation. Then, Phuket was attached to the Thai mainland and appeared as a Cape to the onlookers. In his book, he gives a vivid description of a place called Junk Ceylon or Thalang, which must be crossed to reach the Malay Peninsula. Phuket includes a district still known as Thalang.
Phuket was coveted by many imperialist countries including Burma because it is considered a gateway to the Malay Straits. It was in the fateful year of 1785 that the province faced Burmese aggression when troops of Burma besieged Phuket taking advantage of the unexpected death of the military governor.
However, the Burmese military was forced to withdraw thanks to the chivalry of two brave hearts, the widow of the Governor, Khun Jan and Khun Mook who was her sister. These two women rallied every able-bodied woman and man to protect the city from destruction. Women were instructed to dress as men and the new army was stationed on the city walls to prevent any attempt to breach it.
The besieging Burmese army failed to make inroads and returned. The two women are honored for their exemplary attempt and their statues adorn Thalang even to this day. However, the Burmese returned with a vengeance raising the city to the ground and gutting its landmarks after a brief phase of lull which lasted for 40 years. The unbearable atrocities perpetrated on the citizens forced them to flee the land. However, king Rama III liberated Phuket from Burma after twenty years and the people returned to the cherished land and reconstructed the city.
In the beginning of the 19th century, Phuket’s ethnic composition experienced some transformation. The tin mines attracted large numbers of Chinese laborers. They began to settle down in the interiors and hence the traditional ethnic structures changed. The inhabitants of the interiors of Phuket became mainly Chinese. Phuket began to function as the center of administration for a group of provinces involved in tin mining known as Monton Phuket. Many Malaysians also came and settled in the coastal villages of Phuket. They are followers of Islam.
In 1933, political changes happened in Thailand. The parliamentary system of rule was introduced and the island became a province.
The old town of Phuket has several significant buildings from days past. These buildings portray in detail the traditional lifestyles of the people who once inhabited Thailand. Some buildings have amazing resemblances with Chinese architectural styles, while others have a profound British and Portuguese influence. In Thalang, the statues of the two Heroines who were saviors of the city during the bleak phase still stand erect. In the old town, there are also several shop houses, which have identical layouts. These houses once operated as business centers and housing complexes for business. Some interesting, intricate patterns and styles of these shop houses can be observed. There are also some sprawling Sino Colonial mansions.
Phuket has changed radically from a few backward fishing villages along the coastline into a modern day township with a booming economy and praiseworthy infrastructure. The eye boggling shopping malls, plazas, posh pubs, nightclubs, majestic resorts and top-notch hotels exist alongside small hotels and taverns, which fit into any kind of budget perfectly. However, the government of Thailand has also taken special care not to mar the natural beauty of the coastline and the conservation efforts have paid off brilliantly.