Here is an unexpected funny question I get often: How do you pronounce Phuket? For most of us, it’s obvious, so obvious I’m still surprised when someone asks. I thought 2004 tsunami put Phuket and its name on the map once for all. But not… I still hear lots of hesitation, snickering and giggling. Lately some overseas offices called and asked if my residence was in:
“Fooc…” (hesitates)… “Fuuc… ” (errrr…) “Faac…kit”? (giggles).
I couldn’t help but giggle back at the embarrassed tone, the poor guy wanted to say the ‘F’ word so bad…
No sir, you just pronounce ‘Poo-ket’ [pʰuːkɛt] (in Thai: ภูเก็ต), it’s that simple! Just like ‘Phi Phi‘ is pronounced ‘Pee Pee’ and ‘Phang Nga‘ is ‘Pang Nga’ (and strangely ‘Suvarnabhumi‘ airport is pronounced “Sue-wanna-poom”!)
So where does ‘Phuket’ come from? It seems to originate from the Malay ‘Bukit’ (Book it?) which means ‘hill’, but was previously named ‘Thalang’ by locals. Thalang is still the name of the north of the island where the original main town was long ago.
In the 17th century when tin mining made Phuket very attractive to the Occident, Europeans called it ‘Jungceylon’. Yes that’s the origin of the name given to the giant Jungceylon Shopping Mall in Patong, and looking around the shopping center reveals few hints about old Phuket. If you want to know more about Phuket history, you can visit the Tin Mine Museum in Kathu.
All this story is obviously a lame excuse to post these fun photos showing some of Phuket Streets and buildings in the past and how they look like today 😀