Phuket is Thailand’s most popular island destination, and may be too bustling for those seeking a peaceful vacation. It has a wealth of resorts and the warm waters of the Andaman sea attract surfers, scuba divers and sun worshippers. Its beaches are packed with luxury hotels. One can visit Buddhist temples in the rural areas, such as Wat Pra Tong, built around a Buddha image which is buried underground. Local history claims that tragedy has befallen any who try to dig out the Buddha here, so the temple itself was built around a post protruding from the ground over the Buddha’s buried image.
Sea Gypsies, the descendents of Malaysian and Thai tribes live on floating villages in Pha Nag Bay. Their culture is quickly vanishing, as the fish they survive on are depleted by shoreline development and the fishing industry. Monkeys owned by local bars entertain patrons, but mistreatment of these animals is common, so the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project was formed to heal the damage. Visitors can tour the facility for free, but donations are welcomed. The Butterfly Garden and Aquarium, and the Phuket Shell Museum offer displays of local natural treasures. The beauty of the island has earned Phuket the nickname 'Pearl of the South'.