In addition, it also has a long history as a safe port where traders from Arabia, India, China and Europe did business with local Malays and Siamese.
Phuket’s population has changed over the centuries, with different people and cultures being dominant, but in general Phuket and Siam (Thailand) has always stayed open to all religions.
Thailand is a secular country, the laws of the country are not set by any religion and there is freedom of religious practice. The south of Thailand has a large Muslim population and this includes Phuket. I have never seen exact population figures, but everyone seems to agree that about 25 to 30 per cent of the local population in Phuket is Muslim. Some parts of the island such as Kamala, Rawai or large parts of the north of the island have a large Muslim population. I’ve been here so long that the mix of people is normal, but I know it surprises some visitors who may be expecting Phuket to be all Buddhist. Some Muslims here dress in western clothes, though you may see people in more traditional Muslim clothes around the island.
Despite the large Muslim population here, I have rarely mentioned Islam. I did once write about a Halal festival, and Muslim-run restaurants such as Abdul’s Roti Shop or the Bang Rong Floating Restaurant. You may find quite a few restaurants in Phuket that don’t have pork on the menu as they are Muslim run. People do ask me sometimes to recommend Halal restaurants. I don’t really know about this, but if you eat somewhere near a mosque in a Muslim area, you will probably be okay.
This article is not meant to be a discussion about Halal food, Phuket history or Islam. I wanted to write about mosques in Phuket and have been out and about recently taking photos, although I realise that there are many mosques that I have not seen, especially north of the island. They are often a bit hard to find. I have enjoyed taking some little drives to find mosques and discovering hidden streets and different corners of Phuket. As there are many more mosques than those I photographed, I think some more exploration trips are needed.
So where are the mosques in Phuket? Let’s start with the south of the island. I drove past the entrance to one mosque in Rawai many times but never stopped. It’s located down a side street, near the sea. I had never been down here before.
There is one more mosque in the backroads between Rawai and Naiharn beaches, but otherwise the whole south of Phuket (Chalong, Kata, Karon, Naiharn) has no other mosques that I know of.
Many years ago (around the year 2000) I lived in a now-demolished apartment at the north end of Patong with a Muslim restaurant over the street and a mosque just a couple of hundred metres away. Yes, Patong has a Muslim community too. A new mosque was built a few years ago, I think it in about 2011.
If you head north from Patong, pass the Novotel and Diamond Cliff resorts, you reach Kalim, home to several hotels and fancy restaurants, and up a small side road which I’d not explored until a few days ago is a mosque!
The road from Patong, passing Kalim, winds up, down and round many bends on its way to Kamala beach, which is largely Muslim, or was ... I remember 15 years ago Kamala was quite non-touristy, no bars, hard to get a drink. However, the beach area is now quite busy, but you still have a Muslim graveyard taking up a huge area of beachfront land, and that is not going to change despite the price of property. The main Kamala mosque is inland towards the hills and there’s a smaller mosque too which has a fancy new mosque being built next to it, also on the back roads.
Moving away from the west coast, the area around Phuket Town is a real mixed bag of cultures and religions. There’s a street close to the old town which features a Chinese shrine, a mosque and a Catholic church within about 300 metres. The Yameay mosque is the only one near the centre of town, which does tend to have a much more Chinese-Thai population.
To the south of town, the Cape Panwa area is largely Muslim and there’s one big mosque (Issatul Islam Mosque) close to the deep sea port on the way to Phuket Aquarium. There is also a smaller mosque on a side street which we pass on the way to The Beach Bar (one of our favourite hangouts).
On the east side of town close to the main port is a new mosque, the Al Madinah Mosque. Many of the Muslims in the Phuket area were (or still are) fishing folk, so it’s no surprise to find a mosque in this area. Looks like this mosque is almost complete. There was scaffolding around the golden dome when I passed recently.
And a little north of town, another Muslim fishing community is found at Laem Hin – home to Laem Hin Seafood, a favourite restaurant or ours, and you can also get a longtail boat over to several floating restaurants from here. To reach the restaurant and jetty you pass the mosque, which is another that has been recently rebuilt.
Heading north from Laem Hin you pass Boat Lagoon and there’s a Muslim school on the east side of the road which has a mosque in the grounds. I did stop here to take a photo, but the school gates were closed. There’s another (I found on Google Earth) not much further north. Actually, I found about 10 mosques on Google Earth which I have not seen or photographed. Reaching the Heroine’s Monument, if you turn left, the road heads back to the west coast via the Cherng Talay area, before reaching Surin and Bang Tao beaches. The mosque close to Bang Tao (Mukaram Mosque) is quite impressive.
I hope this is useful and/or interesting for Muslim visitors to Phuket and for anyone (like me) with an interest in culture and history. Check out the original blog post for a map with locations for most mosques in Phuket. I may have missed a few small ones. For now, thank you, shukran and see you in Phuket!
Jamie Monk blogs about all things Phuket. Visit his website JamiesPhuket.com for more.