Incredible pictures showing a a deserted Phuket in 1977 – before tourism took over and it became the biggest beach resort in Asia. Millions of tourists from around the world flock to the Thai holiday island every year with visitors reaching record highs of 700,000 a month in 2017.
While the sprawling beaches and secluded mountainside resorts have become favourites of celebrities including Sam Allardyce, Rihanna, Lindsay Lohan, Kate Moss, Jay-Z and Beyonce. It’s also one of the most popular destinations for Australians, Russians and Chinese.
But as these photographs show, the golden sands were once empty, lush green hillsides bare, wildlife flourished and the only accommodation was traditional bamboo huts. The only boats on the beaches were handmade wooden longtails used by fisherman eking out a meagre living. While a handful of local farmers kept the island’s agricultural industry alive collecting rice from paddy fields with weary buffalos trudging through the mud.
Such scenes scenes have been lost forever, with tourists cramming every night into a neon-lit red-light street on Patong Beach and hoards of Russian mafia allegedly controlling prime businesses and real-estate in the once deserted tropical island. The island’s airport receives direct flights from around the world for package holidays and is set for major expansion in the coming years – making it the most expensive destination in Thailand with a local economy embedded in tourism.