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Phuket (formerly known as Tha-Laang or Talang) 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 there are no land boundaries. The island is served by Phuket International Airport, located in the north of the island. The ph of "Phuket" is an aspirated hard "p", not a soft "f", so the name is pronounced (roughly) "Poo-get". The name Phuket is apparently derived from the word Bukit in Malay which means mountain or hill, as this is what the island appears like from a distance.
Before that its old name was Ta-lang (in Thai): The word is derived from the old Malay "Telong" which means "Cape", which is still in used for one of the main districts in the Phuket area.
Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, located in the Andaman Sea, southern part of Thailand. The island is mostly mountainous with a mountain range in the west of the island from the north to the south. The mountains of Phuket form the southern end of the Phuket mountain range, which ranges for 440 km from the Kra Isthmus. The highest elevation of the island is Mai Tha Sip Song (Twelve Canes), at 529 m above sea level.
70% of the island is covered by forest. The western coast has several sandy beaches, while on the east coast are more muddy beaches. Nearly the southernmost point is Laem Promthep (Brahma's Cape), which is a popular sunset viewpoint.
In the mountainous north of the island is the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary, protecting more than 20 kmē 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 kmē (68 kmē 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 due 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 fulled of Banana leaves" in Thai.
Other popular beaches are located south of Patong. In a counter-clockwise direction these include Karon Beach, Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach, and around the southern tip of the island, Nai Harn 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.
Information provided by Wikipedia
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Particularly in the monsoon season, there are strong currents on many of the beaches and drownings are a depressingly common occurrence. Heed the warning flags on popular beaches and play it safe if off the beaten track. It is important to note that, while many tourists who flock to the beaches of Phuket are European, nudity is viewed as highly offensive to Thais. It is very rude to go topless to beaches. Thais are generally non-confrontational, but it is always best to be respectful while treading on another's home country.
The major beaches from north to south are:
Bang Tao - long, very quiet beach
Surin Beach - an up-and-coming destination
Laem Singh Beach - small bay with stunning views, between Kamala Beach and Surin Beach
Kamala Beach - a quieter beach to the north of Patong
Patong Beach - the largest beach resort, known for its nightlife
Karon Beach - a quieter beach to the south of Patong
Kata Yai Beach - busy, clean tourist beach with good surf
Kata Noi Beach - quieter sister of Kata Yai
Ao Chalong - home to Phuket's most popular yacht anchorage
Rawai Beach - set off point for lots of local islands, popular with locals for eating on the beach