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Phang Nga - Khao Lak Travel Information

Located next to the Andaman Sea, Phang-Nga is blessed with astonishing natural beauty and is certainly one of the kingdom�s most impressive provinces. Agriculture in the shape of rubber plantations, rice, vegetable and fruit production makes up a key component of the area�s economy - not surprisingly, tourism is the other.

Phang-Nga province offers breathtaking scenery and landscapes featuring mountainous areas alongside deciduous forest and some of the kingdom�s nicest islands and beaches (the province�s two key National Parks - Surin Islands National Marine Park and Similan Islands National Marine Park - hosting most of these). Phang-nga does though feature a range of smaller, and equally beautiful National Parks and Forest Parks all of great value to Phang-Nga�s visitors. If you are heading for this area, you have a delight in store!

The provincial capital of Phang Nga resides over the southern Thai province by the same name. Within easy striking distance of Phuket Island, Phang Nga province hosts the last leg of the overland journey from Bangkok to Phuket. With nearly two millennia of history, this region of Thailand has a long and storied past that takes multiple cultures into account.

Perched on the shores of Phang Nga bay, the capital city itself has a population of roughly 10,000 and covers only a few square miles. Largely an agricultural centre, the province is a major contributor to Thailand�s rubber production.

Limestone is another abundant commodity here, and its visible everywhere you travel throughout the province. Bizarre outcroppings of limestone protrude from the bay, while numerous caves are strung with limestone stalagmites and stalactites. Some caves are set aside as holy shrines that pay homage to the Lord Buddha.

Beaches

Hat Khaolak
(Khaolak Beach) Described as a sleepy beach, Hat Khaolak is a long stretch of coast located midway between Takua Pa and Thai Muang in Phang- Nga province (about 30 kms either way). The area, though a very well kept secret for many years, is now one of the target holiday destinations for those seeking the ultimate getaway. With a number of resorts now located along the beach, visitors can find quiet peace in modern, luxurious surroundings, and use it as a venture point to some of the wonderful natural attractions of Phang-Nga province.

Hat Thai Muang
or "Turtle Beach" is located in Thai Muang National Park at the southern end of Phang-Nga Province. The 20-km stretch of shoreline is clean and swimming is excellent. During the months of November through to February, seaturtles come to lay their eggs. Species include the leatherback turtle amongst others, although in recent years numbers and sightings have reportedly been on the decrease.

Hat Bang Sak
North of Hat Khaolak in Tambon Bang Muang, this beach does not match Hat Khaolak , though it features a long strip of fine white sand shaded by casuarina trees. A popular spot for picnics with locals, there are several seafood stalls set up and limited accommodations available. Easy to find, the beach lies 1km off Highway 4, about 14kms out of Takua Pa Town.

Islands

Similan Islands
This group of rocks and islands lies 3 hours by boat off the coast of Phang-Nga, or eight or more hours by boat from Phuket. The area was declared a marine national park in 1982 and consequently remains largely undeveloped. Derived from the Malay term sembilan, meaning 'nine', Similan refers to the nine main islands in the group.

The waters surrounding the Similans are teeming with tropical fish, colourful coral, and offer exceptional underwater visibility. As a result, the diving is generally considered to be the best in the region, and compares favourably with some of the best in the world. (see more about diving here). Part of the reason for this is the very interesting submarine topography, due in part to the huge granite boulders which not only litter the shorelines, but also lie in jumbled heaps beneath the waves to depths of 35 metres and beyond. On surface the boulders, together with the lush rainforest and white sand beaches, provide a peaceful refuge.

The islands attract an increasing number of visitors annually, particularly during the high season months between December to March, when the visibility of waters surrounding the islands is at its best.
Day trips to the islands for diving and snorkelling are popular, however serious divers are recommended to come on liveaboard trips to take full advantage of all the islands' have to offer in terms of diving opportunities. Dive companies operating from Phuket and Phang-Nga offer a number of tour itineraries with diving instruction for beginners.

For budget travellers, the Similan Islands can be reached via national park service boat from the pier at Thap Lamu or by boat from anywhere along Hat Khaolak. Boat charters can also be organised, costs depending on the quality and speed of the vessel and the number of persons to travel.

Limited accommodation is available on Koh Miang (Island 4) where the National Park headquarters are based, but it is advised to come prepared with food and water supplies if intending to overnight there. Contact the Similan Island National Park Offices at Moo 1, Tambon Lam Kaen, Thai Muang District, Phang-Nga. Tel. (076) 411913-4 for information and reservations.

Surin Islands
Surin Islands are located about 60 km off the west coast of Phang-Nga Province, well known for diving, snorkelling and hiking in the surrounds of what is designated national park area. Of the five islands that make up the group, Koh Surin Neua (north island) and Koh Surin Tai (south island) are the principal islands - lying just across a small bay from each other, and where basic bungalow style accommodation and camping grounds can be found for overnight visits.

Like the Similan Islands, Surin Islands are best visited during the months of December to March when the seas are at their most calm, and for divers and snorkellers, water visibility is good. Local nature enthusiasts particularly favour these islands for the great hiking opportunities afforded here. A number of trails can be found, especially on the north island.

To reach Surin Islands, charter a boat from any of the major piers in any of Phang-Nga, Phuket or Ranong provinces. From Khaolak, charter a boat from any beachside location or zip up to the village of Ban Hin Lat for the easiest ( and cheapest!) access from the mainland.

National Parks

Khaolak/Laem Ru National Park
One of the many national parks in the province of Phang-Nga, Khaolak/Laem Ru covers a total area of 125sqm along the west shoreline. It includes parts of Thai Muang, Kapong, Takua Pa, and Phang-Nga Town districts, about 33 kms south of Takua Pa Town on Route 4. The park offers a myriad of sightseeing opportunities for nature lovers, harbouring lots of exotic plants and wildlife amidst landscape that includes beaches, hills, mountains, forested valleys, mangroves and estuaries. One of the park's many points of interest is Kao Lak mountain, situated beside the sea with a Chinese temple dedicated to the wizard of the mountain. The temple lies close to Thai Muang district.

Sri Phang -Nga National Park
Located in the districts of Kuraburi and Takua Pa, the park is about 60 kms from Khaolak. Worth a drive, visitors can see fine virgin forest, spend a day hiking, and even stay over in the park camping grounds. Several picturesque waterfalls lie at various walking distances from the Park headquarters - depending on your level of fitness and time factor. Travel to the park from Takua Pa Town on the Highway 4 north toward Ranong about 26 kms. At km. 756 turn right and go on another 5 kms to the Park.

Thai Muang National Park
Formerly the site for tin mining activities, the area covered by the park comprises 45,000 rai, and is 25 kms from Khaolak via highway 4 on the way down to Phuket. Several points of interest lie within the park including Lumpee Falls, Tohn Prai Falls, and Hat Thai Muang, or Turtle Beach.

Getting There

By Air
From Bangkok, the easiest option for travel to Khaolak is by air to either of Phuket or Krabi International Airports, then continue the trip overland (see below). Daily flights from Bangkok to Krabi and Bangkok to Phuket (and return) are conducted by Thai Airways in both high and low seasons. Flight schedules can be found on the Thai Airways web page or by Tel: (02) 232 8000 (Bangkok office).

Overland by road
From Bangkok, travel via Highway 4 down through Prachuap Khirikhan, Chumphon, Ranong to Phang-Nga province. Khaolak lies 30 kms past the town of Takua Pa on the main highway. Travel time from Bangkok is about 12 hours. Daily bus services running from Bangkok to Phang-Nga leave from the southern bus terminal in Thonburi, and there are many private services available from almost any travel agent and hotel tour desk in the city.

From Phuket, take route 402, over the bridge to Phang-Nga province. Turn onto Highway 4 and head towards Thai Muang and Thap Lamu - Hat Khaolak lies just beyond at Ban La-on.Travel time is about 90 minutes. Bus services from Phuket to Phang-Nga town are also available hourly from the Phuket bus terminal. The trip takes about 2 hours. From Phang-Nga town catch a local bus to Takua Pa and asked to be set down at Hat Khaolak, or Ban La-on.

From Krabi, take Route 4 up to Phang-Nga, through the town and continue on Route 4 through Takua Thung, Thai Muang, up to Khaolak. The trip can take up to 2 hours depending on weather and road conditions. If going by bus from Krabi, take one heading towards Phuket, and change at Kochloi to a bus heading for Takua Pa and Ranong. Asked to be set down at Hat Khaolak, or Ban La-on.

Climate

Phang Nga�s climate is characterised by three seasons: hot, rainy and cool. The changes in climate are ultimately driven by seasonal shifts in the trade winds. During the hottest summer months the land in southern Thailand is hotter than the water in the Indian Ocean, a fact which draws moist air from the ocean to the land, resulting in the monsoon season.

The rains begin as early as May and persist to various degrees throughout the summer, with further spikes in rainfall during September and October. While rain does fall from June to August, these months are usually relatively dry and remain suitable for tourists planning outdoor activities.

The cool season begins in November, during which time daytime highs dip below 30�C and night-time lows fall to the mid to low 20s (�C). Temperatures climb again in late December, a trend which continues until the onset of the monsoon season. Generally, December to February is a good time to visit Phang Nga, as temperatures are comfortably warm and rainfall is scarce.

As temperatures rise, the heat continues to build, and the months of May and April can become quite hot (average temperatures exceeding 30�C). Tourists are advised to take it slow if visiting during this season. It is a good idea to do as the locals do and avoid the heat of the day, reserving mornings and late afternoons for outdoor sightseeing.

 
 
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