In a nutshell
The recently chaotic pier of Pak Bara has breathed life into the once sleepy and laidback town. Bridging the gap between the mainland and the nearby islands, the port is a good combination of old-town sleepiness and thriving businesses and restaurants.
Why go to Pak Bara
While there is a good chance that you’re in the neighbourhood because of your intentions to head off to the popular islands not too far offshore, you may as well make the most of your time while you wait for your boat! This is, of course, a big assumption as you may have made your way specifically to Pak Bara for the, um, food?
The pier is the lifeline of the town. Around it is a cluster of agencies and tour companies, vying for the business of paradise hunters. Because of the sheer amount of people travelling through the pier every day, a micro-economy has developed. Shopping outlets stocking beach necessities and summer clothing, restaurants, bars, and convenience stores have all popped up seemingly overnight.
Beyond the bustle and noise of the pier, the town is quiet and quaint. As such, it makes for a great place to kick back for a day or two with very little to do but soak in the sunsets and clean the sand off your feet before you take a nap in your beachside bungalow.
When to go to Pak Bara
Seeing as the best time to head through to the nearby islands is the dry season, where the sun is shining and the sales of ice-cream and sunscreen are booming, it is likely that this is when you will be in Pak Bara itself. Other than its ties to the islands, there are no activities in the area that depend largely on the weather.
Where to stay in Pak Bara
With the vast amount of travellers running through the area, there are many accommodations to choose from.
Backpackers and budget conscious couples looking for something as simple as possible would do well to check out Happy House. Just a few minutes’ walk from the pier, the guesthouse offers everything you need to pass the time in comfort. An ensuite bathroom, TV, and lots of space for the low price of 400 THB seems a steal. If it’s been a long day, pay an extra 100 THB and kick back with air-conditioning. Single people can grab a fan room for as little as 250 THB.
If you need something even cheaper than this, and you are prepared to live in a little darkness, then you can grab an air-conditioned room from Bara Bungalows for the outrageously low price of 350 THB. The bathrooms are a little sketchy and the Wi-Fi non-existent, but it is hard to complain at this price.
Possibly one of the most attractive of all the lodging options in the area is Best House Resort. Air-conditioned rooms go for 800 THB, include a TV, and to boot, the holy-grail – hot water showers. The resort is well-run and can easily organise your trip to the island.
Where and what to eat in Pak Bara
Seeing as the town is predominantly Muslim, the young and rowdy will have to wait until they land on the westernised shores of Koh Lipe for a taste of Leo. However, delicious curries and strong brewed coffees are not out of the question.
Right before your departure, grab some fare from the cluster of street vendors that line the street. Ice-cold watermelon and pineapple go brilliantly with a few kebabs of fried chicken and a tall glass of chai yen. Ah, the simple pleasures of Thailand. If you’re leaving too early or too late for your liking, spruce yourself up with a shot of espresso from the little shop right near the pier.
Several eateries nearby the Pier are great places to grab a meal too. Hole-in-the-wall and Krung Thai eateries are both classic Thai restaurants that are sure to hit the spot if you’re craving a little curry, fried rice, or spicy fish.
If you head a little further away from the pier and toward Pakbara Beach, you’re bound to find one of the several seaside restaurants. Rest beneath the thatched roof of your individual table, gaze out toward the horizon pondering the things to come, sink a few local beers and regret ordering the spicy option on your selected dish.
How to get around Pak Bara
Getting around Pak Bara is easy. The town is small and the distances between places little. Grab a songthaew to nearby stops for 20 THB, or hop on the back of a motorbike taxi for a direct route. You can also rent motorbikes from tour companies at the pier, or from selected guesthouses. Motorbikes run between 250 and 400 THB a day.
How to get in and from Pak Bara
From Pak Bara to the islands
The amount of trips through to the islands depends on the demand. In high season, as many as seven boats a day go through to Koh Lipe starting from 9.30am with the last one departing at 15.30pm and from the island from 9am till 16.00pm. In low season, there is but one boat to Koh Lipe at 11.30am, and one back to Pak Bara at 09.30am. Tickets go for around 600 THB and the trip about 2 hours or less.
To get to Koh Tarutao, you need to hop aboard the 12.30pm boat. The trip takes around 30 minutes and costs 650 THB. The boat back toward the mainland leaves Koh Tarutao at 12.30. This schedule is pretty constant, however, there is the possibility of more boats should there be the demand for them. Check with the staff at the pier you’re on to get an idea of your options.
Getting to Koh Bulone Leh is easy enough in high season via a 30 minute, 450 THB boat that leaves at 13.00pm from Pak Bara and from 9.30am from the island. In low season, however, you need to book a private long-tail boat to take you there, which is pretty darn expensive.
Is Pak Bara a safe place to visit?
The Pak Bara pier is the temporary home to crowds of people every day. It is a chaotic and vibrant scene with a sea of shoulders, different skin tones, and an assortment of holiday hats. With the mass of people heading through the pier, there lies opportunity for sly pickpockets and petty criminals to make a buck. Ensure that you keep your belongings close to you, and avoid carrying too many things in your hands. Beyond this understandable concern, there is very little trouble in the area. Should you keep your wits about you, you should be just fine.
Healthcare in the area is not superb, but is not overly problematic. Seven-eleven’s have all the simple medications that you’ll need to get you through minor issues and illnesses. However, should things go a little awry, you’ll need to get yourself to the hospital in La-Ngu.