Travel Guides & Information
Phang-nga is a rural province of southern Thailand, bits of which are immensely popular for their stunning natural beauty. The Surin and Similan Islands and Phang Nga Bay are frequent stops for those visiting Phuket, which is just to the south. Much of the rest of the province is virgin jungle with striking limestone karsts punctuating the landscape.
Some parts of Phang-nga Province are becoming increasingly popular as destinations in their own right. The Khaolak area and its beautiful beaches have the peaceful charm that Phuket originally became famous for, as do the Koh Yao islands. Further inland, the rivers, waterfalls, and trekking routes are a playground for those who like some more activity on their holiday.
Koh Ta-pu (James Bond Island)
Phang Nga Bay's distinctive feature is the sheer limestone karsts that jut vertically out of the emerald-green water. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just 2 of the more famous spots in this bay. By far the best means of enjoying the spectacular scenery, with only brief encounters with the tourist crowds at James Bond and Koh Panyee, is by taking boat trips from the northern end of Phuket.
A leisurely day trip cruising through Phang Nga Bay's dramatic limestone islands, occasionally stopping to enjoy quiet beaches, is far more rewarding than the standard bus-boat tour.
James Bond Island, also called Koh Ta-pu ('Nail Island' in Thai), first found its way onto the international map through its starring role in the James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
With its signature rocky pinnacle, the entire area surrounding this island is indeed spectacular. Most tours take you up the main highway for 1 hour on the same well-worn itinerary. An integral part of these tours is lunch at Koh Panyee, a nearby Muslim fishing village.
Koh Panyee is a remarkable village – it's built out over the water on stilts, with a giant rock monolith guarding its rear. Most of it is huge, almost vertical, limestone cliffs. The hundreds of huts, shacks, restaurants and houses where the villagers live are built on stilts over the surrounding shallow sea. No one seems quite sure how many wooden and concrete piles hold up this extraordinary community, but it’s certainly a fascinating and unique feat of informal engineering.
Koh Panyee is a small island community about 20 minutes by longtail boat from Surakul pier in Phang Nga province. There are about 1,600 people from 360 families permanently living on the island. The village has a school, a mosque, a health centre, lots of small souvenir shops, and a handful of large restaurants facing the Andaman Sea. There are even bungalows offering overnight accommodation.
Samet Nangshe Viewpoint
Samet Nangshe Viewpoint is one of the most popular panoramas in Phang Nga. Located on a hilltop just a 30-minute drive from Phuket, it offers stunning views over the limestone islets of Phang Nga Bay. Being far enough away from civilisation to avoid light pollution, you can even see the Milky Way at certain times.
The east-facing view is particularly striking at sunrise. You look out at a chain of islands stretching out of sight to both the left and right in the waters of Phang Nga Bay, across about 1.6 km of mangroves. The sun rises between the limestone karsts at about 5.30am to 6am, depending on the time of year. This is often preceded by the awe-inspiring sight of the galaxy, clearly visible overhead, though this also depends on the season.
Samet Nangshe Viewpoint is still relatively undiscovered by most tourists due to its location, which requires a 25-km drive from Phuket’s Sarasin Bridge along twisting country roads. However, it's popular enough that you can expect to share the small summit with at least 50 other people, especially if you go for the sunrise.
Samet Nangshe Viewpoint
Getting to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint is quite a challenge, but well worth it if you're looking to take photos of Phang Nga Bay. Aside from the drive, you need to pay 50 baht per person (30 baht for Thais) at a little shack, where the simple car park meets the start of the hill. The ascent is quite a long and steep one, with benches at intervals along the way for you to stop for a break. It can take around 15 to 20 minutes to make it to the top, but it is very much worth the effort.
While the hill is covered in rainforest, the top has a small campsite, with tents costing about 130 baht each (or 400 baht, if you want to include a simple Thai breakfast). Slightly down the hill from the viewpoint is the Sametnangshe Boutique – a small and fairly luxurious hotel with a nice restaurant and bar.
Cruising Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is a great place for boating. The interesting limestone cliffs create a picturesque backdrop and there are many safe places to anchor. The fact that it's protected from both the northeast and the southwest monsoon seasons means that its waters remain calm year-round. This adds to the appeal of its scenic wonders and abundant wildlife.
It's possible to see many of Phang Nga Bay's attractions in a single day. Launching from any point along the east coast of Phuket will take you immediately into the bay.
There are also several launching sites on the Phang Nga province mainland, including the Ka Sohm Pier in Takua Thung district just south of Phang Nga Town. Most visit the area by booking a long-tail or speedboat day trip, joining a cruise or canoeing tour, or chartering a yacht.
Islands in Phang Nga Bay
Most of the islands are uninhabited. Many of them have spectacular caves which you can only reach by an inflatable or fibreglass kayak. Koh Hong is one of the most popular of these islands. Khao Khien near Koh Panyee is worth sailing past to see the ancient paintings of boats and animals on the rock walls.
One of the few inhabited islands, Koh Maak, sits near the top of the bay and is home to a small community of fisherfolk who maintain a traditional way of life – it's not part of any tour itinerary. Bring your own food and supplies if visiting since there are no facilities for tourists. There are also no places to stay here.
Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai are a pair of large islands in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, equidistant to Phuket and Krabi. While you'll find several luxury resorts and tourist facilities on Koh Yao Noi, the islands remain a quiet refuge that feels far removed from the crowds of Phuket. Some of the best things you can do on the Koh Yao Islands include kayaking, hiking, snorkelling, and swimming. Internet service, restaurants and shops can be found on Koh Yao Noi.
Longtail boat and ferries make daily trips to the Koh Yao Islands from Bang Rong Pier, located on the east coast of Phuket. A taxi from Phuket International Airport will take you to the pier within 25 minutes.
The ferry fare starts from 50 baht, with daily departures from Phuket at 9.30am, noon and 5pm (weather permitting). It takes around 1 hour for a 1-way journey –the boat will make a short stop on Koh Yao Yai before crossing to Koh Yao Noi, which is around 8 minutes away. You can hire longtail boats at Ao Po Pier to get to the Koh Yao Islands.
Koh Yao Noi Beach
While driving around Koh Yao Noi, you will discover a rather quiet place that has changed very little, aside from a few more motorbikes, resorts, and convenience stores.
Wooden houses along the roads, buffalos taking mudbaths in rice paddies, shaded roads passing through rubber plantations, and mangroves are just a few of the natural charms of this simple island.
A mostly paved concrete road circles the island of Koh Yao Noi, making it fairly easy for driving. The beaches are mainly on the east coast, while the west coast has miles of rice fields and mangroves.
There are a few restaurants and bars along the coastline, A small village near the pier, where you'll find small local shops and government buildings such as a school, hospital, police station, and post offices.
If you want to get around Koh Yao Noi, motorbikes and tuk-tuks are available for hire. Some shops have sea kayaks for rent, but most hotels and bungalows offer these (usually for free). You can also arrange for day trips to Koh Hong, located on the Krabi coastline.
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