You may have heard of alluring unpopulated Ranong, and Surat Thani the ‘City of Good People’ and most surely, majestic bustling Krabi. You may have perhaps even enjoyed a couple of memorable holidays in these destinations. But meanwhile, you have unfortunately completely overlooked the rich and beautiful province that is Phang Nga. If that’s the case, you are still in time to rectify, grab your bags and go explore!
Phang Nga is located on the west side of the Malay Peninsula, one of the provinces located at the south of Thailand, with the refreshing shore of the Andaman Sea to its west, Phang Nga Bay to the south as well as Phuket Province which is connected by a highway bridge. This province is blessed with the many islands located in what’s known as the Phang Nga Bay, amongst them lays the famous James Bond Island; a limestone rock in the middle of the sea, shaped in the magnificent form of an upside-down cone. This fairy tale-like sight was featured in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974, a James Bond movie which made Thailand a marvelled touristic destination with an only upward trajectory. To ensure the protection of these rare, almost mystic islands, in 1981, the Phang Nga Bay National Park was established, which is how the Bay remains exotic and humble even with the many local and international visitors. Two other famous islands in the Bay, which also form part of the province are the Similan Islands and the Surin Islands; two of Thailand’s most prominent diving destinations.
Transportation in the district is a little unconventional, the nearest airport to Phang Nga Province is the Phuket International Airport. Although there are frequent buses from Bangkok and other provinces both air conditioned and non-air-conditioned which are mostly the intra-provincial buses, the main mode of public transport around the large towns are the famous songthaews, bulky pickup trucks with a convenient seating arrangement at the back for customers. In Phang Nga town one can also find motorbike-taxis which are used mainly for very short distances. The favorite mode of transport however, would undoubtedly have to be strolling through the towns while getting a golden tan.
What makes Phang Nga a great holiday destination are the many beautiful sights all around the province. Apart from the James Bond Island, there are many other great things to see such as Ko Panyi, a unique fishing village on stilts giving it the impression of it floating right next to an enormous island which itself looks like a floating bolder. The village is comprised of a large Thai Muslim community providing an extra zest to those who enjoy culturally dynamic trips.
Phang Nga is a culturally rich province with a large majority of Muslims in rural areas who do not suffer from any tensions and who live in peace and harmony with other religious groups. A thick Southern dialect is used in the rural areas, difficult for even Thai people to understand. The people, in this southern province are warm, approachable and gentle. A place is made by its population, and Phang Nga’s diverse society makes it even more special as a holiday destination. An interesting community, are the Sea Gypsies, who live on the small island of Ko Surin. This little seafaring community live their life as traditionally as it gets, even with the many curious tourists around.
Perhaps you may consider your holiday destination with a focus on all the new or all time favorite activities you may be able to carry out. If snorkeling enters your list of top activities to make a holiday more fun, the Mu Ko Surin National Park is a must visit. This archipelago of five paradisiac islands was declared a national park in 1981 and is not only on the Andaman Sea itself, but it is also right next to the Thai-Burmese oceanic border. The area is undeniably rich in beauty, and the addition of coral reefs create a picturesque and colorful scene perfect for snorkeling enthusiasts.
Snorkeling is not the only water sport you may enjoy during your visit to Phang Nga. You can also enjoy canoeing through and around the bay while exploring the natural caves or travel with a motorboat or kayak through the more undiscovered parts of the bay. The friendly local guides make sure every guest gets a feel of the many hidden caves and secret lagoons as well as ensure that you go back to your hotel with a deeper understanding of the large variety of wildlife, plants and geology of the area.
Another extraordinary National Park declared as such in 1988 is the Kha Lampi-Hat Thai Mueang National Park. Here, one can go to both Namtok Ton Phrai and Namtok Lampi, large waterfalls with various levels which flow smoothly all year round. The Hat Thai Mueang is also one of the largest attractions, a long beach where the sea turtle festival is held year after year to create awareness, foster and protect the highly-endangered species that is the turtle. Between October and March, turtles lay their eggs on the beach, these are put a fence around so predators don’t have access to them. Once the eggs hatch, the turtles are taken care of and looked after until they are released back into the wild, a process that usually takes place at the beginning of March.
Similar to the freeing of sea turtles, Phang Nga is notorious for its many enchanting annual festivals. Some of these include, Watermelon Day; when plenty of watermelon is offered and a beauty contest is held, Songkran Festival; a national holiday which celebrates water, a water-pouring ceremony is held to pay respects to Buddhist monks and the elderly and water fights occur all over the country. Other festivals include the Vegetarian Festival and the Sea Gypsy Boat Floating Festival which celebrates and worships ancestor’s spirits, fortune telling is practiced, and music and dance performances take place all over the province.
The list does not end there, from the many islands, the activities and the festivities, we move onto an important aspect of Thai culture; the temples. Although you may feel like you have seen it all in Bangkok, there are a couple of temples that are of great importance in Phang Nga and are completely unlike those you may have visited in the big capital city. One of them is Wat Suwannakhuha, also known as the Cave Temple. This magical place has various caves within the boundaries of the temple itself; exemplifying the inexplicable greatness of mother nature. Another famous temle is the Wat Rat Uppatham also known as Wat Bang Riang. The temple, located on top of Khao Lan hill contains several structures such as an extremely detailed bell shaped pagoda known as Chedi Phutthanthambanlue. The Pagoda, at the very top of the hill, gives vistiros the chance to overlook the many surrounding mountains as well as a large Buddha statue and the angelical beauty of a Guan-yin Chinese Goddess statue; a clear representation of the beauty of coexisting religions.
Phang Nga, a land by the vastness of the ocean is one which makes you see time go by slowly and intensely, liberating you from all the constraints of a scheduled life. There is so much to see; the Phang Nga Bay, the Pak Weep Beach, the White Sand Beach, the Similan Islands National Park, the Panak Island. And there is indeed so much to do; visiting rare temples, having a look at the turtle conservation centre in charge of the annual sea turtle release, snorkelling, cannoning, and or simply doing nothing while basking beneath the great Thai sunshine. All in all, Phang Nga is a place which possesses eternal sunshine, the warmth of local people, translucent water bodies that magnify rare beautiful animal creatures, and the gentle breeze of the sea. All of which work in perfect unison to make this province the unimaginable paradisiac holiday spot you thought you could never find.