Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. It is well-known for its sandy beaches and celebrity sightings, as well as a few scenes from “The Hangover 2.”
Most people also associate the island with tsunamis, a flamboyant nightlife and friendly people. The reputation of its spas and resorts are known around the world.
Unfortunately, most people assume that you have to go up north to experience the more cultural offerings of Thailand, but Phuket is home to museums, wats (temples) and a mummy abbot. There is a unique architectural style stemming from Phuket’s past as a trading post.
Heroines of Phuket
Unless you have visited the Two Heroines Monument or are a history buff you probably do not know the story of how cross dressing saved the island from invasion. In 1785, the Burmese attacked Phuket. The governor had just died so his wife Kunying Jan had to figure out a way to protect the island. With the help of her sister Mook the governor’s widow rallied islanders to fight off the Burmese and even dressed women as male soldiers to fool the enemy into thinking their opponent had a larger army than expected. The ploy worked and after a month’s siege, the Burmese gave up and left.
Today, a monument to the heroines stands in Phuket near the Thalang National Museum to honor the sisters. The museum is an exhibition of the way of life in old Phuket during the war with Burma (Myanmar).
Thailand’s beautiful Buddhist wats are a large draw for tourists, but if you want to visit temples on your trip you don’t have to travel 537 miles from Phuket to Bangkok. Phuket has many impressive wats of its own, including Wat Phra Nang Sang, the “temple built by a queen.” Wat Phranang Sang is Phuket’s oldest temple; it has been around for more than 545 years.
This wat has ancient Buddha statues made with tin. At the time, tin was thought to be a semiprecious metal. Nearby is a mummy of a former abbot, Luang Poh Bai. It also features a reclining Buddha, one of the things Thailand is famous for.
Phuket was a major trading post in the past and the architecture makes clear the influence of what is known as Shino-Portuguese architecture. It is a blend of Eastern and Western styles. Phuket Town has some of the best examples of Shino-Portuguese and Chinese-inspired designs, the other major architectural influence.
If you walk around Phuket, you can see the Chinese influence in the flourishes around windows, on gates and on the top of poles in the shapes of pearls, flowers and such.
Phuket has many surprises to delight any traveler. If you don’t go for the famous diving, the elephant treks, the resorts or the clubs, there are many lesser known options to amuse you and your travelling companions.Categories: Guides
Localities: Asia, Phuket, Thailand
Travel Themes: Art and Culture, Nature