Phuket has undergone a number of name changes over the years. One commonly used was Junk Ceylon, which can be found on most old maps.
On a major trading route and a port of call for many over the years, Phuket has been influenced by passing merchants some of which have remained to shape the island into what we see today, a cultural melting pot. Chinese, Malay, Portuguese, Burmese, they have all left their mark on the culture and religious make-up of Phuket and also in its architecture, as can been seen in the old sector of Phuket Town and the Chinese temples and Muslim mosques dotted around the island.
Probably Phuket’s most significant event was the stand by Phuketians against an invasion from the Burmese.Khunying Jan, wife of the recently deceased Phuket Governor, and her sister, Mook, assembled forces, mainly women, and held the Burmese off for over a month, until they finally left on 13th March 1785. With a small male population at the time and lack of weapons, the women cut their hair short to look like men, made “fake” weapons and created the illusion of a sizeable army. As a result of this, King Rama I bestowed titles of nobility on the two sisters.Today on the bypass road north of Phuket Town south of Thalang, you will see a monument in memory of the two sisters and their bravery. This is known locally as the heroines monument and is an island landmark.
The 19th century saw the arrival in numbers of Chinese immigrants. They came to work in the tin mines, a booming industry, and later established businesses and their own community on Phuket.Signs of Chinese influence can be found around the island today, with the older communities still in Phuket Town.
Due to the multi-cultural nature of Phuket people, there are numerous festivals from a variety of religions and cultures throughout the year. Today, the majority religion is Buddhism, with significant populations of Malay Muslims, Thai Chinese Buddhists and Christians from the early Portuguese presence, but more recently from expatriates who have made Phuket their home.