While the provincial capital, Phang Nga town, is often viewed as little more than a transportation hub, the area is an ideal destination for visitors who want to explore “real” Thailand. Phang Nga boasts a typically Southern Thai vibe, offering cheap(er) accommodation and flavorsome food, in addition to a range of tropical wonders which visitors can enjoy.
travellers that make the journey to Phang Nga can expect to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the town, which has a picturesque backdrop of limestone karst cliffs and mountains. The largest mountain, Khao Chang, towers dramatically above the town and is home to Phung Chang Cave.
Located on the seafront district of Takua Pa, the area surrounding Khao Lak – the launching pad to the Similans – has attracted the more attention from resort developers over the years, and a visit to its fine sandy beaches makes it easy to see why.
One of the main attractions in the region is the Heaven and Hell Cave, which is situated on Tapan Road. The temple and cave are decorated according to Hindu tradition which feature prominently in Thai Buddhism. Visitors that climb the structure to the right of the cave will be rewarded by magnificent vistas of Phang Nga Bay and the surrounding mountains. It is recommended that visitors make a small donation to the temple as a token of appreciation.
The spectacular sight of the elephant-shaped rock formations in Phung Chang Cave is a favorite with tourists in the area. The cave, featuring astounding red- and gold-hued walls, is located at the base of Khao Chang Mountain, some three kilometers south of Phang Nga town center. To explore the stalagmite- and stalactite-adorned cave, visitors book onto an organized tour and discover its deepest nooks and crannies both on foot and by canoe.
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Takua Pa New Town is home to a large covered traditional fresh market, while the old part of the town has a greater traditional allure, and boasts a range of buildings that are over 100 years old in a Sino-Portugese style reminiscent of the architecture in Phuket Town. Visitors in search of typical Thai souvenirs and beach accessories can find stalls scattered around the town, but aside from this, shopping opportunities are fairly limited.
In the same area, the market on Bang Niang Beach offers a seaside retail experience three days a week – on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays – from early afternoon until shortly after sunset. In between browsing holiday essentials and souvenirs, travellers can try local snacks and hydrate accordingly.
Tours of the islands scattered across Phang Nga Bay often stop off at one of the villages that is home to the area’s indigenous sea-gypsies, including Koh Panyee, where it is possible to snap up a few locally crafted souvenirs.
Some traditional dishes that visitors may enjoy chowing down on in Phang Nga province include massaman, an Indian style curry, and khanom jeen, rice noodles in fish curry. Due to its prime position on the coast, Phang Nga is also an excellent location to gorge on freshly caught seafood. Fresh fish and shellfish are on offer at many of the beachfront restaurants in Phang Nga’s coastal towns, and are cooked in a variety of ways with a range of different seasonings. The town of Koh Panyee is particularly famous for its shrimp paste and Takuapa Chinese-style cakes.
Typically, Phang Nga province is not renowned for its vibrant nightlife scene, and its laid-back atmosphere may be a tad too slow for travellers in search of a party. The main tourist nightlife scene is based in the three villages that make up Khao Lak. Hotel resorts in the area dominate the nightlife scene, and provide comfortable beach front restaurants and bars for guests. The main road that runs through Khao Lak is also home to some great restaurants and bars that may be located away from the prime beach location, but make up for it with cheaper prices.
Like many other cities across the Land of Smiles, the most popular form of transportation for the local community is the songtaew, a public passenger pick-up vehicle with covered seating in the back. Songtaews are also a popular means of transportation with visitors, although visitors should always try to negotiate their fare before getting onboard, whether you have flagged one down or are hiring one outright.
To get to and from other districts in Phang Nga province, the public bus service is an economical way of getting around. travellers that want to get off the beaten track however may look at motorbike or car rentals.
For getting in and around Phang Nga town, motorbike taxis are an ideal choice for distances that are just a tad too far to walk.
For a day of island hopping in Phang Nga Bay, most visitors rent a longtail boat for the day. Again, it is best to negotiate a flat rate for the entire day with the driver before embarking on your water adventure.
Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, and low-cost carriers Air Asia and Nok Air all operates several flights between Bangkok and Phuket daily.
travellers can cover the relatively short distance from Phuket to Phang Nga by taking a bus, taxi, or renting a car, which will take between one to two hours depending on final destination.
From Bangkok, the train journey to Phunphin is approximately 12 hours, with an additional two hours for bus transfer to Phang Nga.