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Phuket’s heritage a magnet for Chinese visitors News Feed

The results of a recent survey show that Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai are among the top 20 most popular travel destinations for Chinese travellers and Thailand was the only country to have three cities in the most favoured destination list.

According to a poll conducted by daodao.com, a branch of Trip Advisor, carried out in July and August, Hong Kong ranks as the top destination, with Asia's commercial hub is followed by Phuket in second place, Bangkok in fourth place and Chiang Mai in twelfth place.

In 2012, China outshone the US and Germany as the globe’s largest source of tourism spending. What's more, figures released by the China Tourism Academy suggest China’s overseas travel market is expected to reach 94 million trips in 2013, up 15 percent, and this year’s Chinese travellers are predicted to spend a total of US$117.6 billion.

While destinations like Hong Kong and Macau continue to attract millions of tourists from mainland China each year, TripAdvisor has observed a definite  shift in the number of tourists travelling to destinations further afield, including Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea. In the months of July and August 2013, daodao.com recorded a 250 percent increase in the number of visitors researching destinations overseas, compared to the same period in 2012 and many of these travellers were looking further afield.

Phuket is particularly popular with Chinese visitors due to its strong local Chinese heritage, which is particularly evident in Old Phuket Town. Rich in history, Old Phuket Town features a selection of Chinese shrines, temples, quaint shop houses, museums and sprawling colonial mansions. The town was constructed on profits generated from Phuket’s tin mining boom in the 19th century. Having accumulated wealth from tin mining or as merchants, many Chinese immigrants built large mansions for their families on Phuket, featuring terraces on the upper floors, in addition to central courtyards.

Phuket’s Chinese heritage is especially evident at the island's Vegetarian Festival, which was is held in the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The 10-day festival features an assortment of sacred rituals that are supposed to bring strength and good luck to those that take part and has become famous around the world for the acts of self-mutilation that some of its participants engage in, such as fire walking and facial piercing.

The festival also provides a unique window into Phuket’s living Chinese culture, and is an excellent chance for visitors to sample some traditional Chinese vegetarian street food dishes.

This year's event drew one of the largest crowds in recent history, which tourism experts attributed mainly to the growth in Chinese visitors to Phuket, many of whom prefer to enjoy the island's cultural and shopping attractions rather than its beaches.

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