The only invasion Phuket faces these days is by the millions of tourists visiting in search of a sun-soaked tropical holiday. But some 200 years ago, the island was threatened by a far more brutal form of siege.
In 1785, thousands Burmese invaders hit the island as part of a larger battle being waged between the Burmese and Siamese kingdoms of that era. It seemed like a prime time to attack since the island was without a leader — the governor of Phuket had died of illness just weeks before.
But the governor’s wife, known as Lady Chan, bravely took up the mantle to lead the Phuket resistance, together with her sister Lady Mook.
The sisters gathered up a motley militia force and managed to beat back the Burmese fighters, finally winning the island back on March 13, 1785. The sisters’ efforts were honoured by King Rama I, who bestowed them with the royal titles Thao Thepkrasattri and Thao Srisunthorn.
The Heroines of Phuket
Phuket residents still hold the sisters in high respect for their efforts to protect the island. The Phuket Heroines monument built in their honour at the traffic circle along the airport road is now one of the first landmarks visitors see when arriving on the island.
The great battle for Phuket is still played out – but just on stage – in Phuket’s Thalang district during the annual Thao Thep Krasattri-Thao Srisunthorn Culture Festival held every March. This year’s festival will run from March 3 to 17.
Entertainment and costumes at the festival reflect the way of life in the early Rattanakosin era, the time of King Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty. The historical show is a colourful and intricate drama that depicts the battles fought on Phuket, while other highlights include Phuket local food stalls, a floating market, youth talent shows, village handicrafts and contemporary art and culture displays.
For those in search of a Phuket festival with a truly local flavour, this is the one to visit. The festival’s name is a bit of a challenge for non-Thai speakers, so it’s often just called the Heroines Festival.
Find the full event schedule for the 2018 festival on the Phuket News.
Thao Thep Krasattri-Thao Srisunthorn Culture Festival
When: Every year in March. In 2018 it will be held from 3-17 March.
Where: Thalang Victory Field, about 2km west of Thalang Town, Phuket