In a nutshell
Located in the south of Thailand immediately north of Phuket, Phang Nga province features breathtaking natural attractions and is a perfect destination for those in search of a genuine and more relaxed Thai atmosphere.
Why go to Phang Nga
Attr: Andrew-Hyde (cc by)
Khao Lak with its 30 km of beautiful beaches is a tropical paradise for family and couples; the Similan and Surin islands are a definite must-visit for all the diving enthusiasts and Phang Nga National Marine Park is a serious rival to the outstanding Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
Phang Nga town itself, the province capital, is too often overlooked by western tourists in favour of other more popular destinations, but a few days stop here will give you the chance to discover an unspoiled southern city with its great culinary traditions and affordable accommodation options.
Phang Nga town also serves as a perfect starting point for trips to Phang Nga Bay which is located just few km south of town. With more time in your pocket to organize your visit, Phang Nga a much better alternative for day tours to the Bay than Phuket or Krabi. Starting from Phang Nga you will be able to beat the crowd escaping the busiest hours of the day and get a more memorable and private experience.
But that’s not all. In fact the spectacular Phung Chang cave and the beautiful and deserted Manora Waterfall are just few km away and are a pure delight for nature lovers, while temple enthusiasts will enjoy some interesting attractions nearby.
When to go to Phang Nga
The best time to visit Phang Nga is the coolest season from November till February. The weather is dry, the temperature is cooler than during the rest of the year, the water is calm and the colours of the sky and the sea are exactly how you would imagine them on a postcard. An obvious downside of this period is that it is the busiest time of the year, and especially Phang Nga Bay and Khao Lak are more crowded with international and domestic tourists.
The hot months of March and April are already quieter, but you’ll have to deal with the heat during the day and night.
The rainy season is still a good period to visit for the first two months of June and July, after that you’ll have high chances to see your vacation partly ruined by heavy and long rain.
Phang Nga is in fact the second wettest province in Thailand.
Where to stay in Phang Nga
The majority of the accommodation options are scattered around the old bus station in the city centre. No reservation is needed and a stroll around the area is the best way to check out some of the available rooms.
The majority of the cheapest hotels and guesthouses are not even listed on internet websites and even when they are, walk-in rates will be better, especially during the low season.
A simple fan room with an attached bathroom in an old property normally comes for as low as THB200, while more modern guesthouses offer better furnished double rooms with an air-con starting from THB550. Check out Baan Phangnga on the main road if this is your budget.
Mid-budget solutions in a natural environment can be found in quieter locations a bit away from the main road. Home Phang Nga Guesthouse (Soi Klangmuang) is where we stayed during our last visit and it was well worth it. Prices start from THB900. High end category is completely non-existent in Phang Nga.
Where to eat in Phang Nga
A nice night market opens every night near the hospital, a couple of km south of the old bus station. This is the best place to go for dinner if you have only one night in town. Beside all the classic market dishes such as meat skewers, chicken barbecue, noodle soups and papaya salad, you will find some traditional southern curries to have a real taste of the regional cuisine. Don’t expect English signs or menus but all the dishes are on display, so ordering is quite easy anyway. Prices are within the THB30/THB70 range.
For a more comfortable dining experience on seafood and freshwater fish check out one of the restaurants on the riverside.
Western food options are limited to the hotels’ restaurants where some pasta, pizza and steak are offered, none of which is particularly memorable. Baan Phangnga has the widest menu (in English) and the strongest reputation among foreigners.
How to get around Phang Nga
The area where the majority of guesthouses and restaurants are located is quite compact and easy to explore on foot.
For longer trips motorbike taxis are available at every corner and they will take you anywhere in town for THB30/THB50.
If you plan to explore the surrounding area by yourself, renting a motorbike is possible at many shops and hotels for THB250 a day. Alternatively you can hire a songthaew for the day with prices starting from THB1500. Not a bad idea if you’re a group of 4 people or more.
To visit Phang Nga Bay a private long tail boat is a much better experience than an organized tour. Head to Surakul Pier, 15 km west of town, in the early morning before the big crowd will get there and expect to pay THB2000 for a boat accommodating up to 10 people.
How to get to and from Phang Nga
There’s a bit of confusion as the old bus station in the city centre is currently being replaced by a new one 10 km out of town. At the moment of writing (September 2017) the transition is underway and while the bigger long-distance buses already use the new terminal, some of the short distance routes and especially those served by minivans still operate from the old one.
If your bus drops you at the new station, a blue public songthaew will take you to town for THB50. Before leaving Phang Nga ask your guesthouse to direct you to the correct terminal according to your destination.
At least 3 buses leave for Phang Nga daily in the afternoon from the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok. The trip takes 13 hours and prices start from THB500 for an express bus, while a more comfortable VIP that departs at 5.30pm costs THB920. An early morning bus leaves at 6.30am, but keep in mind that you will arrive in town by 8.00pm and you’ll waste your entire day on the bus.
Multiple buses and minibuses head from Phang Nga to Phuket, with ticket prices starting from THB80. The trip takes 1,5 hour.
To go to Khao Lak, take a bus to Khok Kloi and from there get on any north-bound bus – ask the driver to stop at the beach you prefer.
There are direct links to many other destinations from Phang Nga including Krabi, Surat Thani, Ranong, Hat Yai, Satun, Trang, Khao Sok National Park and much more.
If you’re looking for a quicker way to get to Phang Nga from Bangkok, you can fly to Phuket or Krabi and get a bus from there.
Is Phang Nga a safe place to visit?
As always in Thailand be extra careful when renting a motorbike, wear a helmet all the time and drive slowly. If you go snorkelling or swimming in Phang Nga Bay be aware of the boat traffic and if you hire a private boat ask your captain to take you to a safe place suitable for these activities.
A large hospital in the south of town should be enough to treat any problem you could eventually face.
Phang Nga station guide
Khao Lak - Bus
Khao Lak is most famous for the 20-kilometre stretch of pretty sandy beaches set against a stunning backdrop of forested mountainous areas. The place is home to a wide range of tourist amenities and resorts. Since the devastating tsunami of 2004, Khao Lak has made an amazing recovery and today this region is once again a favoured travel destination.
The small bus station in Khao Lak is centrally located in Khuk Khak within a short walk of the fresh market. There are no direct bus services to and from Khao Lak; however, the area is well-serviced by bus routes originating in Surat Thani, Ranong, Phuket, Chumphon and a 12-hour service from Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal. From Krabi also, Khao Lak can be reached by one of the daily mini-buses. Visitors can also fly to Phuket and get a bus transfer from there to Khao Lak.
Diving is one of Khao Lak’s main tourist attractions. With the Surin Islands and Similan Islands, the place offers some of Asia’s greatest diving and snorkelling adventures. Decent accommodation can be found throughout the region.
The majority of the huge, high-end resort facilities are positioned at the area’s north end. Outstanding smaller resorts are available along the scenic coastline. Khao Lak is also home to plenty of good seafood restaurants as well as lively pubs and bars.
Phangnga - Bus
Set on the beautiful Andaman Sea, to the north of the tourist mecca of Phuket, is the small town of Phangnga. The bus station is in the centre of town on Phet Paset Road and from here you can get buses to Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal and all across the south of the country.
Given its proximity to Phuket, Phangnga is relatively easy to get to by plane. Travellers flying into Phuket International Airport can take taxis or minibuses to the neighbouring province. It is also possible to catch boats to popular tourist spots such as Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi.
The town may have a population of just 10,000, but its bus station serves as major transport hub, particularly for the south. There are several daily buses to Bangkok, with the trip generally taking around 12 to 13 hours. There are also regular daytime buses to Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, Takua Pa, Trang and Hat Yai. For the longer trips in particular, it’s advisable to book online in advance as seats can fill up rather quickly.
Among the most popular destinations near the town of Phangnga is Khao Lak, a strip of beautiful seaside resorts that are well worth a visit. The stunning beaches, array of waterfalls and spectacular landscape make Phangnga seem like a world away from the rather more hectic Phuket.
Kapong - Bus
Kapong is a district that forms part of Phang Nga province in the south of Thailand. Access to the area is via the town of Phang Nga, which is connected to Bangkok by several daily bus services from the Southern bus station, a journey of 12 hours. Once in Phang Nga, local transportation to Kapong and other places of interest can be obtained.
Within easy reach of here are national parks such as Khao Lak-Lam Ru, Khlong Phanom and Than Bok Khorani, situated on the sea shore. Popular activities for travellers in the area include jungle treks, cycling tours, tubing and elephant safaris. Good local options for accommodation include Kapong Garden Resort, the Shambala Khaolak Resort and Tony Lodge.
Takua Pa - Bus
Takua Pa is a mid-sized town in the northern Andaman coast region of southern Thailand, some 600kms south of Bangkok and 130kms north of Phuket. Air-conditioned buses leave Bangkok’s Southern Terminal every morning and there are also four overnight buses, with the journey taking around nine hours.
The closest airport is in Phuket, with buses leaving the island for Takua Pa hourly. Buses en route from Phuket to Surat Thani and Chumphon also make a stop here. It is also possible to arrive by train via Surat Thani and take a local bus from there to the town.
Takua Pa is home to one of the largest bus stations in the region and has connections to many smaller towns. There is a restaurant in the bus station plus a few local shops to buy snacks and water. Takua Pa is the main transportation hub in the region, so buses can easily fill up. It is recommended to reserve a seat online in advance.
The town itself does not have much to see and do, though it is worthwhile visiting the Sunday market on Sri Takua Pa Street, as it is more of a transfer point for visiting Khao Sok National Park, Kho Khao Island, Khao Lak or the Kapong Hot Spring. There are a few places to spend the night, such as Extra Hotel, Ban Ton Ruk and Friend House Resort.
Khok Kloi - Bus
Khok Kloi, located approximately 185kms from Surat Thani on the west coast, serves as a fairly busy bus interchange for buses coming from Phuket, Phangnga and Khao Lak. These services go on to Bangkok’s Mochit and Southern bus terminals as well as to the south as far as Hat Yai.
Khok Kloi has a small selection of accommodation options, and motorbike tours are offered at the appropriate season to see the giant Rafflesia flowers, which have been known to grow up to one metre in diameter in some cases and have a very distinct, if somewhat unpleasant smell. There are various waterfalls in the area also worth a visit.
Thap Put - Bus
The Phang Nga district of Thap Put in southern Thailand is named after a shelter covered in tree leaves that was built to protect locals from Burmese troops in 1785. Today, Thap Put is a far more peaceful place. There is frequent bus travel between the small Thap Put Transport Company Limited bus stop and Bangkok's Mochit station, a distance of about 735kms.
Thap Put's most famous landmark is the hilltop Wat Bang Riang. The Phang Nga Bay view from the top of this temple is as outstanding as the statues and relics situated inside this ancient landmark. The small Natai Villa vacation rental and the larger Bor Saen Villa and Spa are Thap Put's main places to stay. Baan Phangnga Beds and Bakery is best known for its freshly baked goods.
Takua Thung - Bus
Located on the southern tip of the province of Phang-Nga, Takua Thung is a district that sits just across the water from the tourist mecca of Phuket. The district is easily accessible, with VIP, 1st class and 2nd class buses from Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani and Bangkok’s Southern terminal passing through on the main Route 4 on a daily basis. Provincial buses also run within Phang-Nga.
Takua Thung is an ancient city and features several important temples such as Wat Tham (Cave Temple) as well as limestone mountains with caves that have Buddha images inside, Thanun Beach (where sea turtles lay eggs between November and February) and Ramam waterfall.