When it comes to Phuket, the first things that come to travelers minds’ are beaches and relaxation. Tradition, culture and history are often left aside for their trips to Bangkok or Chiang Mai. However, the renowned “Land of Smiles” has more to offer than its gorgeous beaches, The Phuket culture is interesting and diverse.
Mixture of Cultures
In order to know about the culture of Phuket, it is important to understand its history. Although the long history of Thailand can be experienced in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, Phuket has its own unique story.
Phuket was known as a trading post for centuries. Its location near the Bay of Bengal and natural reserves including ivory, pearls, timber and gems attracted merchants from all over the world. Arab, Malay, Indian, Burmese, Chinese and Siamese merchants gathered and traded in this island.
After tin was discovered, Portugal, France and Britain colonized the land. Later, the rise of tin-mining attracted many Chinese laborers, many of whom settled in the land. Each of these cultures influenced much of Phuket.
These cultural mixtures can be seen in all parts of Phuket. Sino-Portuguese architecture can be seen in Phuket Town, which demonstrates the mixture of European and Chinese influences on the island. Visitors can also find Chinese shrines, Mosques, Catholic churches and Hindu shrines that also illustrate the island’s longs history of different cultures.
After thousands of Chinese workers migrated to the island for tin-mining, many of them married into the Siamese community. This new community created a culture known as the “Baba”, or Peranakan. With their hard work, they brought wealth into their town and built Sino-Portuguese style mansions, which visitors can see.
In Baba culture, families have huge lavish weddings filled with tradition and food. In order to uphold the tradition, there is an annual Baba wedding ceremony that everyone can witness. Visitors can enjoy tradition, ceremonies, rituals and fun throughout the festival. It is perhaps one of the biggest cultural experiences in Phuket. This event will be occurring from June 17 to 18.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
With its diversity of cultures and communities, Phuket also holds many large festivals throughout the year.
One of Phuket’s biggest festivals is the annual Vegetarian Festival. It is believed that the festival started after a Chinese opera group fell ill to malaria after performing in the island, but they all recovered after eating a vegetarian diet and praying to the Nine Emperor Gods.
In order to celebrate, people will eat vegetarian foods to achieve good health and peace of mind. However, this festival is not as hipster as it sounds. The festival also includes many ceremonies for the gods. Common sights are fire walking and extreme body piercings, many of which will make visitors doubt their very eyes. Visitors can see the festival on October 20 to 28.
In Phuket, visitors cannot only experience the finest beaches and glamorous nightlife but experience multiple cultures and the long history of the island. With the range of cultures that still remain, Phuket offers unique experiences that visitors cannot find anywhere else.
To experience the culture of Phuket, check out our Thailand Summer Holidays, Phuket City Break, Thailand Culinary, Traditional Thailand and Amazing Thailand Tour Packages. For a bigger experience, combine your tours with our other city breaks including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Krabi, Koh Samui and more.