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NORTHERN THAILAND'S HIGHLIGHTS

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By Kanjana

Phangnga is located just to the north of Phuket, bordering the Andaman Sea on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula. Its long sandy coast (240 km.) and largest numbers of limestone islands (155) and mountains make it one of the most scenic provinces in Thailand.

The province offers superb natural beauty both onshore and underwater with many waterfalls, mountains, islands, and hot springs. Its relaxing and peaceful atmosphere and many natural attractions make it a fantastic place for those who love beaches, islands, jungle adventures, and who want to explore the real southern Thailand.

Among the best known attractions in Phangnga that make it one of the most popular tourist destinations are; Phangnga Bay featuring famous Ko Tapu (James Bond Island) and Khao Phing Kan just to name a few; Similan Islands; Surin Islands; Khao Lak.

Phangnga has a long history of human habitation with archaeological evidence traced back to the prehistoric period. From archaeological sites, mainly located at the islands and caves around Phangnga Bay and Takua Pa district, the archaeologists found ancient stone tools and weapons, pottery vessels and cave paintings dated back to many thousand years ago.

In the Ayutthaya period (1351 – 1767), Takua Pa (now a district in Phangnga) was an important port town in the South under the major city state of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Phangnga was only a district in Takua Pa town. In 1809, the Burmese troops invaded and occupied three important towns of Takua Pa, Takua Thung, and Phuket. People in those towns had to be evacuated to settle in Phangnga area and thereafter it was upgraded to a new town.

In 1840, there was a major administrative reform in the South. Takua Thung was merged with Phangnga elevating Phangnga to the province status. Blessed with natural resources, especially tin mines, it had become flourishing. And 92 years later, in 1932, Takua Pa was also merged with Phangnga. Since 1981, after the decline of the tin industry, Phangnga as well as its neighbouring provinces such as Phuket and Krabi have turned to focus on tourism industry instead.

Phangnga Bay (Ao Phangnga National Park)

Phangnga Bay is one of the most frequently visited marine national parks of Thailand. This large bay is renowned for its towering limestone cliffs sticking out of the emerald-green water. A most photogenic Ko Tapu or James Bond Island is located here.

Comprising 42 islands, it is widely recognized for its unique seascape. As the sea is quite shallow, the park is a safe place to visit throughout the year, though the best time to visit is from November to April. Here are some remarkable attractions around Phangnga Bay.

Ko Tapu (James Bond Island) is a 20-metre tall islet looking like a spike driven into the sea. It is the most photographed object in the bay, easily making it a symbol of the park. Ko Tapu was featured in the James Bond movie - The Man with the Golden Gun.

Khao Phing Kan means two hills leaning against each other. Khao Phing Kan consists of two forest-covered islands connected by a tiny beach. And one of them is split in two, with one leaning against the other. The sea at the beach here is shallow, beautifully emerald green and translucent you can see the deep bottom.

Tham Lot is a large limestone cave whose entrance is large enough for boats to pass through. It can be explored by a canoe or rubber boat, floating along seawater to view the impressive stalactites and stalagmites.

Ko Panyi is a small Muslim fishing village built almost entirely on stilts over the surrounding shallow sea. There are a handful of restaurants where tourists can enjoy a fresh seafood meal.

Ko Hong is a jewel on Phangnga Bay due to its beautiful sea views and several caves on sea accessible only by canoe.

Getting to Phangnga Bay

Boats can be hired to tour around Phangnga Bay at Surakul Pier in Takua Thung District. Or you can contact a tour agent in Phangnga town who organizes half-day, full-day and overnight tours.

Similan Islands National Park

This world-renowned marine national park is 50 km. southwest of Kuraburi District. Due to the plentiful natural beauty found on the islands and the abundant coral gardens and marine lives under the sea, the Similan Islands are rated by the Skin Diving Magazine of USA as one of the 10 best diving sites in the world.



Similan Islands are open for tourists from 16 November to 15 May every year with the best period to visit being from December through April.

Some of the well-known islands in this group are;

Ko Similan is the largest island with a long curving bay and fine sandy beach. At the northern part, there are large stones of different shapes, including one looking like a boat and another like a sailboat. It is suitable for diving to see coral reefs and colourful fish.

Ko Ba Ngu, looking like a skull, is also called Skull Island. It is well known for its wonderful underwater scenery with corals, aquatic plants and many schools of fish.

Ko Miang is the second largest island where the office and the guesthouses of the national park are located. The island also has beautiful beaches and coral reefs.

Ko Hu Yong has the longest stretch of white sandy beach where sea turtles lay eggs from November to February.
Getting to the Similan Islands

  • From Phangnga: There are boat services departing from Thap Lamu pier in Thai Mueang district. If you travel by speedboat, the journey takes between 2 – 2.5 hours. Large and liveaboard boats take 4 - 5 hours to get there.
  • From Phuket: Many tour operators run daily speedboat cruises to the best locations in the Similan Islands.

Surin Islands Marine National Park

The Surin Islands are located about 70 km. northwest of Kuraburi district. Consisting of five islands, the Surin is famous for the beautiful coral reefs in shallow water and so they are excellent for snorkeling. Two main islands are Ko Surin Nua (North Surin Island) and Ko Surin Tai (South Surin Island). On the southeast side of Ko Surin Nua is Ao Luek or Deep Bay which is famous for its dark green water and most beautiful coral reefs and aquatic plants.

About an hour and a half away from the islands are Richelieu Rocks, a spot for viewing whale sharks. Another interesting feature of the islands is the village of Moken sea gypsies which is on Sai En beach of Ko Surin Nua. The sea gypsies here are the last group which still maintains their traditional way of living.

Like Similan Islands, Surin Islands are open from 16 November to 15 May and the best time to visit is from December to April.

Getting to Surin Islands

Unless travelling with a diving tour operator, Surin Islands can only be reached by daily speedboats from the national park pier at Kuraburi. Several tour companies offer speedboat services and the trip takes about an hour and a half.

Khao Lak - Lamru National Park

This national park boasts virgin forests with abundant flora and fauna and waterfalls. The area is an ideal location for adventure activities such as bamboo rafting and elephant trekking. The cream of the park lies on Khao Lak Mountain, 25 km. from Takua Pa town. The mountain forms a scenic background for a long golden beach, which is an ideal place for relaxation and a nice viewpoint for watching the sunset.

Some interesting places in the park are; Khao Lak Beach, a 10-km beach running parallel with Khao Lak Mountain. The beach is naturally decorated with granite boulders with an offshore coral reef suitable for snorkeling. The sunset here also forms a spectacular scene. Lamru Waterfall, a high waterfall of five leaps. The most impressive beauty lies in the fifth leap with a height of 30 meters; Ton Chong Fa Waterfall, a 5-leap waterfall amidst a quiet pristine forest with water flowing all year round.

Khlong Nang Yon (Than Morakot) Bamboo Rafting

An adventure activity you should not miss is bamboo rafting on the Khlong Nang Yon canal. The canal is three kilometers long and famous for its clear, emerald green water. You can admire the natural beauty while floating on a bamboo raft through the pristine flora and fauna.

Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary

Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary is a vast protected forest area that houses rare species of birds and plants. The famous attraction in this sanctuary is the Ton Pariwat Waterfall. The low-rise waterfall has a vast green pool below which is nice for swimming. Song Phraek Canal near the waterfall is an ideal place to enjoy whitewater rafting and elephant riding.

Takua Pa District

Takua Pa Old Town The old town area features many Sino-Portuguese buildings and old Chinese row houses. Tracing back to about 2,000 years ago, Takua Pa was an important port on the trade route of Malayan Peninsula, also called the silk pathway. The Indian and Persian merchants would anchor their shiploads of goods here.

Sang Nae Canal (Little Amazon) Set amidst the lush rainforest, this canal is ideal for a relaxing canoe boat trip that rides past many old banyan trees and nipa palm trees along both sides. The boat ride also offers a chance to spot wildlife including snakes, monkeys, birds, and crabs.

Thai Mueang District

Sea Turtle Conservation Centre The centre is situated in Thap Lamu Naval Base. Visitors will learn about sea turtle life and different types of Thai sea turtles. There are also turtle ponds keeping turtles in different ages.

Lampi Waterfall Located in Thai Mueang Subdistrict, this medium sized waterfall has three levels, each about 100 metres high, and flows all year round.

Thai Mueang Beach Located in Thai Mueang Subdistrict, it is a 13-kilometre clean sandy beach parallel to the highway. From November to February, sea turtles come up to lay eggs on the beach. During this period, local people usually go to observe the turtles on moonlit nights.

Ban Bo Dan Hot Springs Ban Bo Dan Hot Springs is located in Bo Dan village, Na Toei Subdistrict. This hot springs is surrounded by a beautiful and shady landscape. The water has a high mineral content and is good for relieving stress and arthritis.

Takua Thung District

Wat Tham Suwan Kuha (Cave Temple) Located in a limestone mountain, Suwan Kuha is part of a large complex of caves. Tham Yai is the largest cave in the complex and houses an impressive 15-metre-long Reclining Buddha image.

Samet Nangshe Viewpoint Considered as Phangnga’s best sunrise and sunset spot, Samet Nangshe Viewpoint provides stunning panoramic views over the limestone islets of Phangnga Bay. There is a small camp site on the hilltop for overnight stays as well.

Kapong District

Rommanee Hot Springs Located in Bang Klang Lane, off Highway 401, the hot springs consist of five pools. The hot waters are rich in minerals which provide stress relief and effective treatment for many diseases such as arthritis, beriberi, and paralysis.

How to Get There

By Air:
There is no airport in Phangnga. You have to fly to Phuket or Krabi and take a bus. The distance from Phuket to Phangnga is 88 km. and from Krabi 78 km. Thai Airways, Thai Smile and Bangkok Airways operate daily flights to Phuket and Krabi. For more details, visit www.thaiairways.com, www.thaismileair.com, and www.bangkokair.com.

By Car: From Bangkok

  • Take Highway No.4 passing through Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Ranong, and entering Kuraburi District of Phangnga and driving further to Phangnga town. The total distance is about 800 km., taking about 13 hours.
  • Take Highway No.4 to Chumphon and then Highway No. 41 to Tha Chang District, turning right onto Highway No. 401. Keep driving to Ban Ta Khun District and then take Highway No. 415 for 30 km. to Phangnga town. The total distance is 788 km. and the trip takes about 12 hours.
    From Phuket - Use Highway No.402 passing Sarasin Bridge, Khok Kloi District and turn right to Takua Thung District. It takes about 1 hours and the distance is 88 km.

By Bus:
Air-conditioned buses leave the Southern Bus Terminal for Phangnga every day. For further details, call the Southern Bus Terminal, 0 2894 6122.
___________________________________________________________________________________
Tourism Authority of Thailand: 9/9 Sirirat Road, Taichang, Mueang, Phangnga 82000.
Tel: +66 (0) 7641 3400-2 Email: tatphangnga@tat.or.th



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