People

Population
The ever-increasing official population of Phuket is now over 320,000 (Jan 2009). However, this only includes those registered as permanently resident in Phuket. In addition, there is a large transient population. Many Thais come from other provinces to take advantage of the work opportunities in Phuket on a temporary or semi-permanent basis.

The high season population is thought to be over 700,000. The main population centre is Phuket Town with 70,000 people. The other main population centers are Patong, Karon, Kata, Nai Harn, Rawai, Chalong, Kamala, Surin, Thalang and Kathu.

Etnics
The main population groups are Thai Buddhists (71%), Muslims mostly of Malay descent (24%) and Sea Gypsies (4%). Around 30% of the population is of Chinese descent from migrants who originally came to work in the tin mines. They are fully integrated into Phuket society.

They speak Thai, have inter-married with Thais and are Buddhist although many of them also practice Daoism. They originally came as cheap labour but their diligent wok ethic has made many of these families affluent members of Phuket society.

The Sea Gypsies are the oldest inhabitants of the island. Originally nomadic fisherman, they have their own language and religion. They traveled from cove to cove, staying until the fish and other resources were depleted. They then moved on, allowing the cove to reestablish its former ecological balance before returning to repeat the cycle. Their history and cultural lifestyles are hard to trace as they do not have a written language.

Sea gypsies are said to have originated in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands between India and Burma. They are generally darker skinned and heavier with curly black hair and speak their own language and follow their own animistic religion. There are three Sea Gypsy villages in Phuket. One at Rawai, one at Koh Sirey and one at Sapham Coast.

Friendliness and hospitality
Thais are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality and the people of Phuket are no exception. The warm welcome is genuine and they really do want you to enjoy their country. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles and for good reason. They smile easily and if you do the same, it will get you a long way with them. The Thai word sanook (fun) is an integral part of Thai culture and whatever they are doing they like it to be 'sanook'.

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Last Update This Page:Sunday, October 23/2016