Phang Nga Travel Guide

Sailing & Boating Tours in Phang Nga Bay



The Province with a Golden Gun

Situated on the crystal shores of the Andaman Sea along Thailand's southwest, Phang Nga province serves up spectacular natural beauty both on land and underwater. Some of the kingdom's most acclaimed dive and snorkeling sites – the Surin and Similan Islands – are sprinkled in the azure waters just offshore.

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.

Yes this is aka James Bond Island

Natural Beauty

Other sites of natural beauty peppered across the area include Manora Waterfall, which is located just a few kilometers north of Phang Nga town, and to the south of the town there are an abundance of small streams and rivers which all feed into dazzling Phang Nga Bay. It is perhaps the limestone formations studded across Phang Nga Bay which have earned the area a reputation of dramatic landscapes. The bay is home to the world famous James Bond Island, a limestone outcrop that was featured in the 007 film installation, The Man with a Golden Gun.

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.

Cave peppered coastlines and offshore islands


Heaven and Hell Cave

During the reign of King Rama II, many of the areas surrounding Phang Nga – originally known as Kraphu-Nga – were occupied by Burmese forces before they were defeated by the Siamese troops in 1824. The town was designated a province in 1933 after King Rama II renamed the area “Phang Nga”, as it is known today.

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.

Caving and Waterfalls

Another of the region’s natural attractions is Manora Waterfall, which comprises a winning combination of waterfalls, streams and a natural swimming pool where it is possible to take a refreshing dip. Visitors can stroll up the two-kilometer trail that starts at Manora’s swimming pool to reach several other impressive waterfalls which cascade over rocks and crash down over sheer drops.

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.

Sea Caves including this one hide treasures like these cave paintings

Beaches and Quiet Get-Aways

However, perhaps the most popular attraction in Phang Nga are the beaches that adorn the province’s sandy coastline. The central area of the Khao Lak district comprises dazzling beaches, from Pakarang Beach in the north to Sunset Beach in the south. The other beaches include Khuk Khak Beach, Bang Niang Beach and Nang Thong Beach, and visitors should note that the most developed areas lie in the vicinity of the southern beaches and are home to a wider variety of restaurants and other amenities. Khuk Khak and Pakarang are ideal destinations for beach goers in search of somewhere to get away from the relative hustle and bustle of other beach resort areas.

Travel tip: TBC. [link to blog post]


Community Based Tourism

Many of the small communities in Phang Nga province are opening up their homes for visitors seeking to immerse themselves in local Thai culture by taking part in a home stay. Alternately, visitors can engage in some of the Tourism Authority of Thailand-supported volunteer tourism activities in The Little Big Project Thailand.

Diving

Scuba divers can marvel at the brilliant colors of Phang Nga's marine life by booking onto a diving tour of the bay. The province is home to numerous diving schools, including Sea Dragon Dive Center and Wicked Diving. Popular dive sites often include the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock.

The Similan Islands are a dive mecca and favorite day trip for snorkelers

Island Hopping

Phang Nga province is a convenient base for travellers that want to explore the plethora of islands scattered across the bay. Islands like Koh Tachai and the Surin Islands are ideal destinations for snorkeling and relaxing in the sun, and are just a short speedboat ride from the mainland.

Boat Trips in Phang Nga Bay

A selection of tour operators based in Phang Nga organize a range of boat trips out across the splendid scenery of Phang Nga Bay. Typically, tours take in Khao Ping Gan, which was featured as Scaramanga’s hideaway in the James Bond movie, “The Man With the Golden Gun”. Other popular stops for tours include the small fishing villages of the sea-gypsies that are indigenous to the bay area.

Eco-Tourism

Sea canoeing is becoming increasingly popular with visitors who are conscious of their carbon footprints. One-day tours or starlit overnight tours, that include camping on deserted beaches, offer an excellent opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of the bay’s mangrove swamps and hidden grottoes.

Exploring the mangrove swamps by sea canoe is a relaxing day trip


Takua Pa New Town

Without its own centralized tourist area, Phang Nga province does not offer the same shopping hubs that visitors can expect to find in many of southern Thailand’s other beach provinces. Phang Nga Town is home to a Big C shopping center on Phetkasem Road, where residents go to get their household bits and bobs. There's also a daily night market on Soi Bhang Kang, but do note that the stalls seems to lean quite heavily towards food (not that there's anything wrong with that, but come hungry!)

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.

Seaside Markets

Travelers in the Khao Lak area have a little more choice, and can pick up the usual handicraft knick-knacks along Highway No. 4 and trinkets along the busier tourist drags. Takua Pa Market, located 25km north of Khao Lak town, is a vibrant destination for visitors who want to try out some dishes from the street food stalls there.

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.

Koh Panyee home to indigenous sea gypsies who live in stilted homes


Traditional Dishes with a Spicey Flair

Like most of Thailand’s popular tourist destinations, Phang Nga offers up a selection of restaurants where diners can indulge in their fix of Thai or Western food. Cuisine from Southern Thailand is renowned for its intensely spicy flavor, and many of the traditional regional dishes take influences from Malay, Indian and Indonesian cuisine.

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.

Beach Front Hotels and Restaurants

In Phang Nga town, diners can enjoy a sumptuous seafood feast at Ngo Meng Heng, which is situated near the river. Indeed, many of the best restaurants in town are within the vicinity of the river, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays this area also has its own night market. To get a taste of some mouthwatering Thai dishes, Khrua Sunimit restaurant in Tambon Tai Chang is a good place to start.

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.

Nightlife and Music

Khao Lak’s Bang La On village has the greatest concentration of westernized restaurants and bars, with one of the busiest spots being at Happy Snapper, where visitors can enjoy live music performances from around 10 p.m. onwards. Tarzan Bar is also a great destination if you are in the mood for some live music, and there is a big screen on the first floor for guests that want to kick back and watch some sports. For more of a local experience, head to Bang Niang village; on the main road, Degree Bar often puts on live Thai music performances.

Aound Phang Nga

Phang Nga is well connected to its neighboring Southern provinces, as well as to Bangkok.

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.


Getting In and Out

Air

The nearest airports to Phang Nga are in neighboring Phuket (closest), or Krabi, with an added one- to two-hour land transfer to Phang Nga, depending on departing and arrival location.

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.

Train

As there is no train station in Phang Nga, visitors making their way to the area by train should purchase a ticket to Surat Thani (Phunphin) and continue the rest of the journey by bus for disembarkaion at Baan Naam Khem in Takua Pa.

From Bangkok, the train journey to Phunphin is approximately 12 hours, with an additional two hours for bus transfer to Phang Nga.