Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and is almost the same size as Singapore. The island is connected to the mainland Thailand by a bridge which spans a narrow channel. It is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. The region has an area of approximately 570squar miles and it’s made up of 1 large and 39 smaller islands. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign trader’s ship logs. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.
The western coast has sandy beaches, while on the east coast beaches are more often muddy. Near the southernmost point is Laem Promthep which is a popular sunset viewing point. In the mountainous north of the island is the Khao Phra Thaeo protecting more than 20 km² of rainforest. The three highest peaks of this reserve are the Khao Prathiu (384 m), Khao Bang Pae (388 m) and Khao Phara (422 m). The Sirinat National Park on the northwestern coast was established in 1981 and protects an area of 90 km² (68 km² marine area), including the Nai Yang beach where sea turtles lay their eggs. One of the most popular tourist areas on Phuket is Patong Beach on the central western coast, perhaps owing to the easy access to its wide and long beach. Most of Phuket's nightlife and its cheap shopping is located in Patong, and the area has become increasingly developed. Patong means "the forest filled with banana leaves" in Thai.
Other popular beaches are located south of Patong which include Karon Beach, Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach, and around the southern tip of the island, Nai Harn Beach and Rawai. To the north of Patong are Kamala Beach, Surin Beach and Bang Tao Beach. These areas are generally much less developed than Patong, and sought out by individuals, families and other groups with a preference for more relaxed and less crowded environs than Patong. There are many islands to the southeast, including Bon Island, just a short boat trip away. There are several coral islands to the south of Phuket, the Similan Islands lie to the north west, and Phi Phi Islands to the south east. Islanders engage in a lively tourist trade, catering to snorkellers and scuba divers.
In the centre of the island is the Big Buddha positioned at the top of a mountain with panoramic views over the entire island. The Buddah is easily reached by car up the winding roads that have been cut into the mountain.