This southern Thai area has been voted as the happiest province in Thailand for many years in numerous polls. Along with Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Trang and Satun, Phang-Nga is located by the Andaman west coast of the country. It offers superb natural landscape, both underwater and onshore. I am proudly presenting you with these top nine heavenly places that you will not want to omit when you reach our soil (or sea!).
KOH SIMILAN AND KOH SURIN NATIONAL PARKS
Koh Similan offers the best spots for scuba diving and snorkeling. It is praised for its pictorial underwater world with coral reefs, along with unique fish, manta ray, turtles and even sharks. Its dry land and mangrove are also home to various distinctive wildlife. Koh Surin, another hour away up north, is known for its exceptional ocean habitats. There you can get to visit the sea gypsy village who have been living close to the sea or in boats for centuries.
About three decades ago, Khaolak was untouched and extremely lavish. It was named for its high mountains and hills yet it is notorious for its long, striking beaches off the Andaman sea. A few years before the tsunami hit Thailand in 2004, Khaolak became well-known among divers and tourists who came for its pure nature, mountain trekking and discreet relaxation on the beach. Separately, each beach has its own unique character. You will find black mineral sand on Nang Thong beach and impressive rocks in the sea. Kukkuk beach offers fantastic view of coconut fields, rubber plantations and white sand. Bangsak has distinctive character where you can find many local restaurants serving fresh seafood.
TAKUAPA OLD TOWN
The old city boasts a long history dating back to Ayutthaya time. During WWI and WWII, Takuapa became a significant centre for tin-mining companies, which brought many cultures and wealth to this community. Historical Sino-Portuguese architecture can be found along both sides of the streets. Its serene village on Monday to Saturday will convert to the vigorous town on Sunday when locals gather together, making indigenous cuisine, selling unique handcrafts, setting up musical bands and bringing Takuapa alive.
Besides the serenity and rubber tree plantation, Kuraburi became well-known from its waterfalls and the rough rivers that are strong enough for bamboo rafting adventures along the Nang Yon River on the Ranong border. Kuraburi is a rainforest home to the rare and almost extinct Water Onion whose scent is heavenly fragrant. There are several charming homestays, which helps you get close to the nature all day and night.
TEMPLES IN OLD PHANG-NGA
Wat Suwankuha or Wat Tam (Cave temple) is the legendary temple in Phang-Nga. Once you walk inside, you will be amazed by the 15-metre-long reclining Buddha inside the cave full of bats. You have to stay calm and speak quietly as you cannot to disturb those nocturnal animals. There are several monkeys waiting around the temple. They’re used to humans and taking selfies.
LITTLE AMAZON / RIVER TOUR
You could never believe your own eyes when you arrive to the undisturbed mangrove pier in the city. It is called “Klong Sung Nai” by Thais but it is known as Little Amazon by tourists. The journey on a long tail boat takes about 60-90 minutes exploring the jungle full of ancient Ficus, Banyan and mangrove animals. It is not recommended for those with a fear of reptiles. Be prepared to get lost in the tranquility and the sound of jungle.
PAKARANG SURF BEACH
Pakarang Surf Beach is proof of Khaolak’s hipness and fun. It is a perfect spot for surfers at beginners’ level. Pakarang means coral in Thai. This area comprises of two parts: Cape Parakrang, where you could see corals along with seashells on the beach and in the shallow water without snorkeling goggles; and the talcum-like Pakarang beach a bit further up north. The sand is soft and water is lukewarm sapphire.
PHANG-NGA BAY / CAVES AND JAMES BOND ISLAND
This huge nail-like, tall, vertical island has been a symbol of the province for decades as Jame Bonds movie’s shooting location. The surrounding area of Phang-Nga bay is equally stunning. Canoeing in the caves is the must-try. Since it is also a part of National Park, Phang-Nga bay protects the largest area of the nation’s indigenous mangrove and mysterious lagoons. Many ecotourists have fallen over this sea forest, home to many almost distinct birds and underwater species including fish and crustaceans.
Your journey to Phang-Nga, can never be completed without southern food. Besides the delectable vegetables and fruit, Phang-Nga is blessed with abundant fresh seafood, so many that the locals preserve them into other forms of ingredients. And since it has been a multicultural centre, Phang-Nga’s cuisine is very distinctive. Various dishes are influenced by Malay and Chinese cookery. Southern Thai food is known for its intensity, sharpness and spiciness. The curry is unique and full-flavoured. Rare vegetables can be found in many stir-fried dishes or soups. Famous Thai fruits like Durian, Mangosteens and Rambutans are harvested in many Phang-Nga districts.