PATTAYA, HUA HIN AND PLACES SOUTH OF BANGKOK AND NORTH OF PHUKET

PATTAYA

PATTAYA (150 kilometers south of Bangkok, accessible by bus from Bangkok’s international airport) is beach resort city situated on a wide bay with a hotel- and umbrella-lined beach, where wandering vendors will cater to your every need: from barbequed shrimp to a foot massage. Sometimes touted by tourist brochures as the "Riviera of Thailand," it can be noisy place filled with package-tour families, jet skies, nightclubs and a local population endures all the tourists because of the money it can make from them. Attracting visitors from all over world but increasingly becoming dominated by Chinese tourists, it is a place to enjoy water activities, thrill sports and crowded beaches in the day and party at night. There are discos, tour ferries, elephant shows, a tiger zoo, a cultural village, cabaret floor shows, transvestite shows, motor-powered watersports and cheesy tourist attractions.

The prices for waterskiiing, parasailing and boat fishing are said to be quite reasonable. It’s a convenient place to learn to scuba dive and is famouse for its go-karting. For a while there were worries about outbreaks of water-borne diseases as a result of large amounts of raw sewage dumped into the sea water but that problem was largely fixed with a $60 million clean water project and the fining of hotels and other businesses that dumped sewage.

Just so things are clear there is a major beach in Pattaya and and another one at Jomtien Beach, three kilometers from Pattya. There is a wide selection of accommodation and restaurants in both Pattaya City and Jomtien, and elsewhere too. Pattaya has been known for its lively night life and sex trade since the Vietnam War era. The Chinese tourist are particularly fond of Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, where you can have your picture taken with orangutan. The most popular nightclubs feature female impersonators and transvestite revues. The sex shows and bar girls are popular with gang members from Russia, Japan and Britain on holiday.

Pattaya is situated on the Gulf of Thailand, a mere two-hour drive from Bangkok. In recent years it has tried to downplay its seedy side and promote itself as a more family-friendly destination; highlighting the activities offered: windsurfing, water skiing, swimming, bungee jumping, cycling, skydiving, go-karting, Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and paintball. Golfers, both novice and expert, are well catered to as well, with a wide selection of golf courses around Pattaya. Another major draw for visitors to Pattaya is the wide selection of restaurants serving some of Thailand's freshest seafood. Due to the high number of expatriate foreigners in Pattaya there is also an excellent selection of authentic foreign eateries serving French, Italian, Swiss, German, Hungarian, Scandinavian, English, Indian, Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine.

Warnings and Tips: 1) Only fish during the appropriate fishing season. 2) Dress politely and take off your shoes before entering Buddhist temples. 3) Examine rental motorbikes and cars thoroughly before renting. 4) Drive motorbikes and rental cars with extreme caution. 5) Beware of con-artists who prey on new tourists to Thailand. While most Thai people are just being friendly, be careful of those offering to do you too many favors or promising you incredible bargains. 6) Beware of pick pockets, especially on Walking Street when it's crowded. 7) Beware of entertainment venues that have poor signage or are poorly lit inside; some venues offer free admission and then refuse to allow visitors to leave until they have paid exorbitant bar bills. 8) Do not purchase or consume illegal drugs or participate in illegal gambling. 9) Show respect to the local Thai people and the Thai police. Guilty or not, your display of anger will only make things worse. 11) Haggle in a good natured way with small shop vendors. A polite “no thank you” will be more effective than a loud display of emotion. 12) Ask for the price first when ordering food and before getting a massage or manicure on the beach. Do likewise before renting a jet ski or getting in a tuk tuk or taxi. 13) The sun in Pattaya is very strong; apply sunscreen liberally and frequently. 14) Tap water in Thailand is not safe to drink; however, bottled water is cheap and readily available. 15) While illegal, the sex industry is a reality in Pattaya. It is strongly advised to protect yourself accordingly, both from sexually transmitted diseases and from theft.

PATTAYA TOURISM AND TRANSPORTATION

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Pattaya Office, 609 Mu 10, Pratamnak Road.Tambon Nong Prue, Amphoe Bang Lamung, Chon Buri 20260, Tel. +66 3842 7667 , +66 3842 8750 , +66 3842 3990, Fax. +66 3842 9113, E-mail Address: tatchon@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/pattaya .

Accommodation: As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, Pattaya features a wide spectrum of accommodation options including hotels, resorts, apartments, condominiums, and villas. Rooms are available for as little as 400 baht a night for air-conditioning, cable TV, and hot shower or as much as 30,000 baht a month for three bedroom villas ideal for families. There are international chain hotels, such as the Hard Rock and Marriott, as well as locally owned guesthouses. It should be noted that high season dates vary from hotel to hotel, but prices go up considerably at all Pattaya hotels during the Christmas-New Years period, when guests are typically required to pay for "Compulsory Gala Dinners" on the two celebratory eves. Otherwise, long holiday weekends and Songkran (Thai new years) cause hotels to fill up well in advance, so it is best to reserve early if your visit coincides with a local holiday.

Getting to Pattaya: Most visitors to Pattaya come directly from Bangkok, either by bus from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport or Ekkamai Bus Terminal, or by minibus, taxi, rental car, or even train. There is an airport at nearby U-Tapao that is serviced by Bangkok airways; however this flight only connects Pattaya with Koh Samui. A third-class train connects Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Station with Pattaya, a journey that departs Bangkok weekday mornings around 7am and costs less than 40 baht for the three hour trip.

By Bus: It is possible to get a bus directly from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Pattaya or from Bangkok’s Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal. At Suvarnabhumi Airport the direct buses to Pattaya leave from the airport's Transport Center, which is served by a complimentary shuttle bus that circles the airport. These air conditioned buses leave every couple of hours and cost just over 100 baht. They arrive at the North Pattaya Road bus station about 1 ½ hours later. From the Eastern Bus Terminal (next to the BTS Ekkamai station, opposite Sukhumvit Road soi 63) there are bus departures throughout the day, leaving approximately every thirty minutes from around 5 am to nearly midnight. These air-conditioned buses cost just over 100 baht for a one way ticket and complete the journey from Bangkok to Pattaya in around two hours. From Bangkok’s Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal and the Sai Tai Mai Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai), buses leave less frequently throughout the day, but at similar cost and travel time as those from Ekkamai.

If your final destination is Jomtien Beach it may be preferable to get a 2nd class bus rather than the 1st class buses mentioned above, as many 2nd class buses continue on to Jomtien thus saving you the time and hassle of arranging a transfer from North Pattaya Road bus station. The bus station for the 2nd class buses is on South Pattaya Road.

From Chiang Mai and Mai Sai there are direct buses to Pattaya. From the Northeast (Isaarn) and the NorthThere are direct air conditioned buses from Nong Khai, Khon Kaen and Nahkorn Ratchasima (Khorat) to Pattaya. From other northeastern towns it’s best to get a bus to Ratchasima (Khorat) and then buy a ticket from there to Pattaya.

By Air: The nearest airport to Pattaya is U-Tapao, which is serviced by Bangkok airways; however, this flight only connects Pattaya with Koh Samui. The other nearest airport is Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, where there is bus, taxi, and limousine service to Pattaya, a 1 ½ to 2 hour drive from the airport.

Getting Around in Pattaya: By songtaew: Hands down the kings of Pattaya public transportation are the dark blue songtaews, pickup-trucks with benches in the rear. Most songtaews follow established routes and passengers can hop on and off wherever they choose for a fixed rate (typically higher for foreigners). If a songtaew is not parked or is devoid of passengers it may be hired as a private vehicle at considerably higher rates. The most common songtaew route in Pattaya is the beach circuit that follows Second Road to the Dolphin Circle roundabout and then south along the full length of Beach Road, connecting the loop by traveling east along South Pattaya Road. Be sure to tell a songtaew driver where you’re headed so as to be sure he’s headed that way, but also ask how much the fare is so that you aren’t charged for a private hire. Stating the typical fare is usually more effective than asking an open ended question, provided you know what the one way fares currently are.

By local bus: A government sponsored public bus system with established rates of 20 baht/trip, 90 baht/day, 180 baht/3-day, and 900 baht/month provides limited service around Pattaya. Many bus-stop signs indicate bus stops that are no longer in use. Brochures with details of the routes/stops are available from bus drivers.

By motorbike taxi: Less expensive, faster, and far more dangerous than songtaews, motorbike-taxis are located at various intersections throughout Pattaya, although they can be flagged down while they are driving. Motorbike taxi drivers are easily identified by their colored vests. Foreigners can expect to pay around 30-40 baht for trips around Pattaya Beach. By taxi: Meter-taxis from Bangkok are common in and around Pattaya, all of which are looking to make some extra money after dropping off passengers from Bangkok. These are fine for trips around town, but if you are looking for a car and driver for a day trip outside of Pattaya Beach it may be better to charter a private car and driver, a non-metered taxi, or a minibus that operates on an on-call basis. These can be arranged through most travel agencies and many hotels and guesthouses.

Car Rental: There are opportunities to rent cars from both local and international car rental agencies in Pattaya. Be aware however, that for insurance purposes it may be required to have a valid international driver’s license, though most nations’ drivers’ licenses are sufficient to legally drive in Thailand. Car rentals without insurance are possible for as little as 600 baht/day for Suzuki Samurai style jeeps and 800 baht/day for small cars; rental cars that include insurance cost around 1000 baht/day, slightly less in the low season, more in the high season.

Commercial First Class Insurance provides full coverage (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance). Most international car rental agencies will offer this insurance (some only for those with international driver’s licenses) while local companies may or may not. You can request a copy of their insurance policy and ensure that it states "For Commercial Use". Regardless, inspect rental vehicles prior to rental and drive with caution, particularly as traffic in Pattaya can be quite confusing, including the habit of motorcycles to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Rental Motorbikes: Motorcycle rentals are a very popular, if dangerous way to get around Pattaya. In addition to the risk of injury (a frequent result for foreigners unaccustomed to riding motorbikes or to driving on the left hand side of the road) there are occasionally scams involving rental motorbikes as well as bag snatchings from baskets in the front of rental motorbikes. As you must typically leave your passport as a deposit for a motorbike it is best to look for a reputable motorbike dealer even if the price is slightly higher and inspect bikes carefully prior to rental. Be aware that motorcycle rentals do not include insurance and both motorcycling accidents and motorbike thefts are common. Also note that parking beside a "No Parking" sign will result in a fine of 400 to 500 baht. Finally, while helmets are required by law, closed toes shoes are recommended by common sense.

BEACHES AND SIGHTS IN PATTAYA

Sights and Attractions in Pattaya include pineapple-shaped bungalows, a tourist hill tribe village, tourist-oriented museums, Thailand's premier miniature village, and an elephant park. Fishing trips to catch marlin and shark can be arranged; snorkeling is done near some of the nearby islands; kayaks and windsurfers can be rented at Jomtien Beach. Quieter beachers can found at Bang Saaen and the offshore island of Ko Si Chang.

Jomtien Beach (4 kilometers south from Pattaya) is where former paddy fields have turned into a thriving beach. Also spelled Chomthian, the six-kilometer long, largely straight beach is popular with windsurfers and watersports enthusiasts. It is a wee bit quieter and more relaxing than Pattaya Beach. Hotels and other accommodation facilities are available along the road that parallels the beach.

Pattaya Park (at Jomtien) features a large water park with giant slides and a tower with a revolving restaurant, which offers a panoramic view of Pattaya. Visitors can enjoy many amusements.

Underwater World Pattaya (200 meters south of Tesco Lotus in South Pattaya) is a relatively new tourist attraction. One of the largest and most modern ocean aquariums in Asia, it boasts a 100-meter-long, 6.4-centimeter-thick acrylic pedestrian tunnel through an underwater environment filled with dozens of marine species. The park covers a total area of 12-rai and is housed in a structure similar to a large circus tent. The aquarium itself houses more than 4,000 marine animals, comprising more than 200 different species found in Thai waters as well as some rare creatures from overseas. One popular fish is the rare shovelnose ray, a hybrid between a shark and a stingray. Hours, Fees and Contact Info: Open everyday from 9:00am to 6:00pm. Contact: Sukhumvit Road, South Pattaya, Chon Buri, Tel. 0 3875 6879. Fax: 0 3875 6875. Admission fee for adults is 450 baht and children is 250 baht. Thai adults is 250 baht and children is 150 baht.

Pattaya Elephant Village (on Phonpraphanimit Road, which is off of Highway No.3 at km. 145) showcases daily life of elephants and their masters. It also offers stage shows, which demonstrate how to catch wild elephants, elephants-at-work in the jungle, elephants playing football, a grand war, and elephants' parades. Elephant rides around the village are recommended. The one-hour-long elephant shows are held at 14.30 hrs. Hours and Contact Info: Open everyday from 8:00am -5:30pm. Contact: Amphoe Bang Lamung, Chon Buri, Tel. 0 3824 9145-7, 0 3824 9818 Contact the counter in the Tropicana Hotel, Tel: 0 3824 9145-7, 0 3824 9818.

Elephant Shows are also operated in other places. Most of them are located on Sukhumvit Road. These include Ban Chang Thai Tel: 0 3870 628-91, Utthayan Chang Tel: 0 38 71 6379, Thin Chang Thai Tel: 0 3875 6516, 0 3875 6577, Suan Chang Tel: 0 3875 6517 and Farm Chang Thai Tel: 0 3823 7825.

In April 2000, a 20-year-old British nurse trainee, Andrea Taylor, was killed and her sisters and father were badly injured when a bull elephant ran amok at a show at the Nong Nooch elephant village in Pattaya, Thailand and charged into the audience. The elephant went berserk and threw its train to the ground and trampled and attacked Taylor and her family with its tusks. It was not known why the elephant attacked. It was not in musth. [Source: Reuters, April 25, 2000]

The father, Geoffrey Taylor told the Independent he had seen several performances at the same place before. “There had never been any bother before but this time the elephant just lunged at us. We were sitting in the front row and it started digging its tusks into Andrea’s stomach We tried to help her but it just knocked us out of the way and was really goring into her. There was blood everywhere, it was terrifying. There was total panic.”

Alex Spillius and Nigel Bunyan wrote in The Telegraph, “Taylor, 20, who was sitting with her family in the front row at the show, was gored repeatedly in the stomach by the bull elephant's tusks and was tossed into the air after being impaled on one of the animal's tusks. Miss Taylor's sister, Helen, 23, suffered serious abdominal injuries and their father, Geoffrey, had surgery for leg wounds. Mr Taylor, 51, learned of his daughter's death after his operation at the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital. His surviving daughter, who is in intensive care, has yet to be told for fear that it slows her recovery. Taylor said: "I did not see the moment the animal attacked as I had turned away. All I recall is being flung to the side. After it was over I saw Andrea and knew she was seriously injured." [Source: Alex Spillius and Nigel Bunyan, The Telegraph, April 26, 2001]

From his hospital bed Mr. Taylor told The Telegraph, "The elephants had done their usual tricks. It was about 4pm and we were sitting in the front row. It suddenly lunged at the three of us. You know the size of them. "It was just digging its tusks into us - into my younger daughter's intestines. We tried to help her but it just knocked us out of the way and just kept really goring into her. There was total panic and blood everywhere. It was terrifying. I knew I'd been hurt but I didn't know to what extent until I saw a gaping wound in my leg." The family were rushed to the nearby Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital by car. Mr Taylor, a regular visitor to Thailand, said: "The girls were screaming and the driver was going through red lights and everything." Dr Pichit Kangwolkij, director of the hospital, said Miss Taylor's injuries put her into shock. "Surgery was performed right away for about three hours. She was given 13 units of blood but we were unable to save her."

Nigel Bunyan wrote in The Telegraph, “The owners of the showground yesterday erected an iron fence around its perimeter. They accepted responsibility for the Taylors' medical costs but had "no idea" why the elephant attacked. A spokesman said: "I think it was confused." The rogue elephant's trainer, or mahout, was later charged with negligence and causing death and injuries. Paveena Hongsakul, Thailand minister of tourism, has ordered security to be tightened at 700 similar venues. North Merseyside coroner, Christopher Sumner, ruled that Miss Taylor's death on April 24 last year was accidental. He told her relatives: "Unfortunately, I cannot be sure there was gross negligence, so I must record a verdict of accidental death." [Source: Nigel Bunyan, The Telegraph, April 26, 2001]

Alex Spillius and Nigel Bunyan wrote in The Telegraph, “Witnesses to the attack at Nong Nooch, near the resort of Pattaya, claimed the dead woman had been teasing the elephant with a banana moments before it lunged over a ledge towards her. Other reports suggested that the elephant, which was later recaptured, had initially attacked another animal's mahout before clambering towards the audience. [Source: Alex Spillius and Nigel Bunyan, The Telegraph, April 26, 2001]

Part of the tragedy was captured on an amateur video and later broadcast on Thai television. This showed mahouts, or handlers, standing on the tusks of several elephants as part of a trick. The camera then cut abruptly to the bull elephant stretching over the ledge towards the audience. It was digging at the ground with its tusks. A woman's body could be seen on the ground, with other tourists scrambling away from the elephant in panic.

Sethaphan Buddhani, a Pattaya-based director of the Tourist Authority of Thailand, said the elephant's mahout had claimed that Miss Taylor tried to feed the elephant a banana and then teased it by twice pulling back her hand. He said: "The manager said the elephant tried to grab the banana and hit her. Everybody tried to run away and the elephant thought he was in danger." Such a serious attack was unprecedented in the 30 years that the elephant village had been operating, said Mr Buddhani. The bull elephant involved had grown up there with its mahout.

“Mr Taylor, said he believed the rogue elephant, Phlai Ngoen, had been teased by Chinese tourists seated behind his party. But his theory was dismissed by Nick Ellerton, a warden at Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, who said: "We cannot be sure what caused this animal to attack. "The elephant put its head down and persistently attacked. It was not going after food. Elephants can and do target individuals, but it is unlikely they would attack anyone offering bananas as they must have seen this happen thousands of times before." Mr Ellerton added: "All elephants are unpredictable, bull elephants especially. There have been 25 keeper deaths in the last 10 years in Western zoos, and allowing mature bull elephants into contact with people in an enclosed space is an accident waiting to happen." [Ibid]

Helen Taylor, an engineering manager, said: "I saw the two elephants getting nearer and thought they would stop. But I suddenly noticed a change in one elephant's eye and it came towards us and started to attack."

Sanctuary of Truth (situated by the sea at Laem Ratchawet on Na Klua Road, North Pattaya) covers an area of more than two rais. Within the compound is a gigantic temple-like structure entirely made of wood that is 105 meters high. With exquisite architectural features, the sanctuary was conceived out of the vision that human civilization has been achieved and nurtured by religious and philosophical truths. Open everyday from 8:00am - 6:00pm. Contact: Laem Ratchawet on Na Klua Road, North Pattaya, Chon Buri, Tel. 0 3822 5407 Admission fee is 500 baht with Dolphin Training Shows at 11.30am and 3.30pm Tel: 0 3822 5407, or visit www.sanctuaryoftruth.com for more information.

Koh Lan (7.5 kilometers off of Pattaya, reached by 45-minute ferry or 15-minutes speed boat) is an island that measures two kilometers by five kilometers and offers several white sandy beaches, notably Hat Ta Waen, Hat Laem Thian and Hat Thong Long, the latter facing coral reefs. Visitors can choose either snorkeling or viewing the coral from glass bottom boats. Ferries to the island leave South Pattaya pier daily from 10.00am to 6.30pm Cruises by sailing junks, with lunch provided are also available.

How to get there: A ferry service departs Laem Bali Hai Pier to Ko Lan everyday. Departure time is from 7.00am-6.30pm. Return ferries leave Ko Lan from 6.30am-6.00pm. The cost is 20 baht. The boat stops at Na Ban Pier. Long-tailed boats can be rented or a taxi can be hired. Speed boats for 10 persons are available along Pattaya beach. Visitors can stop at Ta Waen Beach and Thong Lang Beach. The rental fee for the speed boat is 2,500-3,000 baht or depending on the agreement. Contact: Ko Lan, South Pattaya, Chon Buri, Tel. 0 3842 7667, 0 3842 8750, 0 3842 3990.

Mini Siam (at km. 143 on Highway No. 3) features miniature replicas of sights in Thailand such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Democracy Monument, the Bridge over the River Kwai and Prasat Hin Phimai. Replicas of well-known sights around the world include the Tower Bridge, Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and Trevi Fountain. It is open daily from 9:00am until 10:00pm. The admission fee is 200 bahts. Contact: Sukhumvit Road, North Pattaya, Chon Buri, Tel. 0 3842 1628, 0 3842 4232, 0 2271 1896, 0 2616 1533.

RAYONG

RAYONG (east of Pattaya, 220 kilometers south of Bangkok) is located on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast. Most of Rayong Province is marked by mountains interspersed by flat plains and large tracts of fruit plantations and forests. However, the province is most well known for its pristine beaches stretching along its 100-kilometer coastline and its scenic waterfalls. Aside from these natural attractions, Rayong produces an abundance of seafood products, such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, and dried seafood, and grows a number of tropical fruits of which rambutan, mangosteen and durian are the most famous. The best months to visit Rayong are from November to February.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Rayong Office, 153/4 Sukhumvit Road, Tambon Taphong,Amphoe Mueang, Rayong 21000, Tel. +66 3865 5420-1 , +66 3866 4585, Fax. +66 3865 5422, E-mail Address: tatryong@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/rayong . Accommodation: Both coastal Rayong and the islands offshore, including Koh Samet, have a variety of accommodation for visitors including luxury hotels, guesthouses, and home stays.

Getting to Rayong: As a province located along a highly traveled route, Rayong is easily reached by private car, public bus, and even air from Samui and Phuket on Bangkok Airways. By Air: Bangkok Airways operates flights from Phuket and Koh Samui to Rayong/U-Tapao. For more information contact Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com) in Bangkok, tel: 66(0)2-265 5555 or travel agencies in Rayong.

By Car: Route No.1: Follow Sukhumvit Road (Highway No. 3) from Bangkok through Bangpu District, Chonburi town, Bangsaen, Sri Racha District, Pattaya, Hat Jomtien, Sattahip District, Ban Chang District before finally arriving in the center of Rayong Province. The total distance is 220 kilometers. Route No.2: The most popular route starts from Bangna-Trat Road (Highway No.34) via Bang Phli and Bang Bo District (Samut Prakan Province) and Highway No.3 at km. 70. The total distance is 220. Route No.3: Drive along Sukhumvit Road (Highway No. 3) to Bang Lamung, then turn off of Highway No.3 at km.140 and continue on Highway No. 36 to Rayong. The total distance is 210 kilometers. Route No.4: Take Highway No. 344 (Ban Bung-Klaeng) at Chonburi town, passing through Ban Bung, Nong Yai, Wang Chan to Klaeng District, Rayong Province. The total distance is 100 kilometers. (Bangkok-Chonburi is 80 kilometers) - This route is suitable for those who like to go sightseeing in Klaeng District and Khao Chamao-Khao Wong National Park or pass through Chanthaburi Province. Route No.5: Use the Motorway, starting from Phatthanakarn Road, Prawet District, Bangkok and drive all the way to Pattaya (120 kilometers), then switch to use Highway No.36 and proceed for another 50 kilometers to Rayong.

By Bus: Rayong is the eastern gateway to the north and northeast of Thailand. As such, there are many regular bus services connecting Rayong and Bangkok and other provinces such as Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Nong Khai. Buses from Bangkok to Rayong depart regularly from Ekkamai eastern bus terminal (near BTS Ekkamai). There are specific buses for those who wish to go to Koh Samet that terminate at Ban Phe opposite the boat pier.

By Boat: (to Koh Samet): Ferry Timetables (from Ban Phe): Destination: Nadan Pier (Saikaeo / Ao Phai / Ao Thapthim). Departure from Ban Phe: Every hour. Fare/Trip: 50 baht. Destination: Ao Wong Duen (Ao Nuan / Ao Saengthian). Departure from Ban Phe to Samet: 9.00am, 12.00pm, 1.30pm, 5.00pm Fare/Trip: 60 baht. Departure times returning from Samet: 8.30am, 12.00pm, 3.30pm, 4.00pm Destination: Ao Wai . Departure from Ban Phe to Samet: 11.30am, 2.00pm Fare/Trip: 100 baht. Departure times returning from Samet: 2.00pm Destination: Ao Kui . Departure from Ban Phe to Samet:: 10.00am Fare/Trip: 120 baht. Departure times returning from Samet: 10.00am, 12.30pm, 3.00pm, 5.00pm For charters (15-60 persons) from Ban Phe Pier Contact: Nuan Tip Pier Tel: 0 3865 1956, 651 508 or Sri Ban Phe Pier Tel: 0 3865 1902.

Sights in the Rayong Area: Samet Island is a popular attraction for sea lovers because it is not far from Bangkok and the transportation links are quite easy (See Below). Khao Wong Cave is an amazing maze in a limestone forest of Klaeng District. Talard Nam See Park (4-region water market) is located in Pattaya. In one day, tourists can experience foods from four regions of Thailand since this market combines them all here. Agricultural products, handicrafts products and many kinds of food are sold on both sides of the river. Baan Pae Market in Rayong is a great place to find fresh and dried seafood especially shrimp paste. It is the center for seafood because it is where the fishing boats land their catches. There are also many local items, which make this market a combination of both regional and marine products. Herb Garden of H.R.H Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has more than 260 types of Thai herbs and categorizes them orderly for the visitors to learn. The fascinating thing about this garden is the NGV cable car that will take the visitors all around the garden with a lecturer that will talk about the origin and the facts of each herb at the same time.

KO SAMET

KO SAMET (neat Pattaya, 200 kilometers southeast of Bangkok and just over five kilometers off the coast of Rayong province) is an eight-square mile island in the Gulf of Thailand. Protected as national park since 1981 and well-known to Thais because of it place in a famous poem about a lovesick-female giant by Sunthorn Phu, it is a popular weekend getaway for Bangkokians and is less developed than other Thai islands in part because malaria was present here until the late 1990s. Most people stay in bungalow-style huts hidden by palm trees at the beach. Hat Sai Kaew, the northernmost and longest beach, attract large tour groups and offers a lot of activities. Nearby Ao Hin Kok and Aao Phai are quieter and attract mainly budget travelers.

Samet derives its name from the cajeput trees (“samet” in Thai) that grow on the island, In the past however, it was called Koh Kaew Phitsadan, the "Magic Crystal Island". Technically part of Khao Laem Ya - Koh Samet National Park, Koh Samet is a popular weekend getaway for Thais and foreigners living in Bangkok, so there are dozens of beach resorts, bars, and restaurants on nearly every beach, although visitors are allowed to camp if they wish to do so. Quiet and relaxing on the weekdays, raucous and fun on the weekends, Koh Samet is, despite its proximity to Bangkok, a beautiful island with powdery white sand, generally great year round weather. Wildlife species found on the island include monkeys, hornbills, gibbons, and butterflies.

Ko Samet Warning and Tips: 1) Make sure that you wear mosquito repellent around dawn and dusk as it is possible to contract Dengue Fever on the island. 2) The best time of the year to visit Koh Samet is during the cool season between November and February when the weather is cooler and the seas are calmer. 3) Room rates are considerably lower than published the low season (March – October). 4) Koh Samet has no fresh water source; water must be brought in from the mainland or gathered from the rain; please used sparingly. 5) There are three ATMs on Koh Samet: one outside the 7-Eleven at the arrivals pier in Nadan, and two near the 7-Eleven just outside the national park entrance booth by Haad Sai Kaew. 6) Prices for goods such as mosquito repellent and rates for motorcycle rentals are slightly lower in Nadan, where passengers alight from mainland ferries.

Tourist Office and Website: 153/4 Sukhumvit Road, Tambon Taphong,Amphoe Mueang, Rayong 21000, 038-655-420-1 , 038-664-585, 038-655-422. Accommodation: While all 14 of Koh Samet’s beaches feature accommodation, the majority of the island’s hotels, resorts, and bungalows are located on the east coast, which features accommodation for a range of budgets from budget to luxury, while the quieter west coast has fewer resorts, all of which are all more upscale and expensive than those on the east. During peak seasons and over Thai holiday weekends booking in advance is essential and rates are much higher than during the remainder of the year. The northern-most beaches of the east coast, Haad Sai Keaw and Ao Hin Kok, have the most basic, budget bungalows, though there are a few nicer resorts on the far northern end of the east coast. If you have arrived on the island without making a pre-arranged booking, touts at the pier in Nadan will descend upon you to pitch their resorts. Always ask to see the room before agreeing to take it. Many budget rooms will have minimal bedding, and towels and toiletries may not be provided.

Getting to Ko Samet: As it is such a popular island, Koh Samet is easy to get to, with various boat companies providing ferry and speedboat service to the island from the pier at Ban Phe on mainland Ranong. Once at Nadan pier on Koh Samet, songtaews (covered pick-up trucks with seats in the back) provide transportation to the national park entrance 1 kilometers away and then onto Haad Sai Kaew or Ao Pai for 10 or 20 baht. For beaches farther south, the fare increases dramatically, particularly if there are fewer passengers. Once on the island it is possible to get around with your own vehicle, if you brought one, or via songtaew or rental motorbike, both of which are available on most beaches.

By Car: From Bangkok to Rayong: Rayong is roughly 200 kilometers southeast of Bangkok. There are several different routes to drive between Bangkok and Rayong and the boat pier in Ban Phe. By Bus: Buses from Bangkok to the boat pier in Ban Phe, Rayong depart Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal. From Ekkamai, the buses, which leave throughout the day, complete the journey in about 3 ½ hours. There are also buses from Bangkok’s Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal to Rayong town, from where visitors must take a songtaew to Ban Phe. From Pattaya, buses also head to Rayong, from where visitors must also get a songtaew or tuk tuk to the pier at Ban Phe. Minibuses from Pattaya go directly to Ban Phe. By Air: The nearest airport to Koh Samet is U-Tapao, about 45 kilometers from Ban Phe. There are limited flights on Bangkok Airways to and from U-Tapao, namely into and out of Koh Samui and Phuket.

Getting Around in Koh Samet: Unless you have brought your own car, getting around in Koh Samet is possible by walking, hiring a motorbike, or climbing in the back of a songtaew (a pick-up truck with benches in the back). The island is fairly small, so getting around in is not much of a problem. By Foot: Haad Sai Kaew (Diamond Beach), the most developed beach on the northeast coast of Koh Samet, has a sandy path that is fine for walking between guesthouses and restaurants. Diamond Beach is only a 10 minute walk from the ferry port at Nadan and most of the beaches from Diamond Beach to Ao Pai and Ao Cho are accessible by walking along the shoreline or the sandy path that connects the beaches.

By Songtaew: There is only one main road on Koh Samet, which runs north to south and has smaller roads branching off it that lead down to each of the island’s beaches. Some parts of the road are concrete and some parts are dirt. Songtaews will pick up passengers at each destination, as well as passengers along the way. Songtaew journeys between beaches cost around 30 to 40 baht per person per trip, depending on distance and negotiating skills. If there is no one else to join the drive, then expect to pay 200 baht for a private trip. It is also possible to hire a songtaew for the entire day.

By Rental Motorbike: Motorbikes are available for rent for around 300 to 500 baht per day. It is typically required to leave your passport as a deposit. Make sure to inspect motorbikes carefully and drive cautiously so as not to pay exorbitant fees for damage (real or otherwise) in order to get your passport back. 4x4 ATVs are also available for rent at around 1600 baht per day.

CHANTHABURI

CHANTHABURI (100 kilometers east of Pattaya, near Cambodia) is a center for cutting and polishing Burmese gems and is home to some large durian, mangosteen and rambutan plantations. Known as the Garden Province of Thailand, it was also the site of Thailand’s famous ruby and sapphire mines. Although the mines were played out long ago the area remains a center of the gem trade. The province of Chanthaburi is also blessed with rich, verdant forests and scenic waterfalls. The Chanthaburi River flows through the provincial capital, which has been occupied since ancient times. Quiet fishing villages and peaceful beaches are not far from town. Chanthaburi was occupied by the French during the end of the 19th century. Their influence can be seen in the architecture of many buildings within Chanthaburi town, including the largest Catholic cathedral in Thailand, which today caters to a sizeable Christian population, many of whom are ethnic Vietnamese.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Rayong Office, 153/4 Sukhumvit Road, Tambon Taphong,Amphoe Mueang, Rayong 21000, Tel. +66 3865 5420-1 , +66 3866 4585, Fax. +66 3865 5422, E-mail Address: tatryong@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/rayong . Accommodation: Both Chanthaburi city and some areas around the province have accommodation for visitors including luxury hotels, guesthouses, and home stays.

Getting to Chanthaburi: As a province somewhat off the typical tourist route, Chanthaburi is best reached via private car or public bus. Once there, it may be easier to get around with your own car, but there are standard forms of local transport available for visitors: i.e. songtaews, motorbike taxis, and tuk tuks. By Car: From Bangkok, take Highway No. 34 (Bang Na-Trat) or the Motorway to Chonburi, then use Highway No. 344 (Ban Bung-Klaeng) and proceed to Chanthaburi along Highway No. 3. By Bus: Both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) to Chanthaburi every hour from 4am-midnight. For more information, contact the Transport Co. Ltd at Tel: 0 2391 2504; Choet Chai Tour Tel: 0 2391 4146; or Phonnipha Tour Tel: 0 2391 5179.

Sights in the Chanthaburi Area : Pilgrims pay respects to the Buddha’s footprint on the mountain peak of Khao Khitchakut in Chanthaburi. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the largest church in Thailand. It is located at Chanthanimit Road on the left bank of the Chanthaburi River at M.5, Santisook Road. There are fishing villages on the coast where tourists can explore Thailand’s coastal culture.

Chantaburi is especially famous for its red gemstone known as Siam Ruby. This jewel and also topaz and amethyst are commonly found at Amphur Taa Mai and Amphur Klung. Here, tourists will find many shops that sell gems and can learn the techniques of preparing them. The technique to get a nice gem is to heat it to more than 1,000 degree Celsius for 4 to 5 hours in order to get a clear and dark colored piece. In Chanthaburi town the geam dealers have traditionally been centered around Si Chan Road and Trok Kachang and Thetsaban 4 Roads off Si Chan Road.

The area known as Taa Luang is the old business quarter of Chantabun, situated on the west bank of Chantaburi River. This is where Chinese and Vietnamese have lived since the Rattanakosin Era. There are many old houses in the colonial style; a combination of Western and Chinese styles. The buildings are built next to each other in a curved line and decorated with carved wood. Many shops still preserve the old styles such as a hair salon that was built with wood, and a Chinese folk medicine shop. At Kung Krabaen Bay nature lovers can enjoy bird watching and see many species of flora in unspoilt mangrove swamps.

TRAT

TRAT (between Chanthaburi and Cambodia) in the old days was known for its lawlessness because of its gem mines and nearness to Cambodia. Lately it has tried to improve its image and is now pushing itself as a mellower alternative to Phuket, Pattaya and Ko Samui. Lying eight kilometers off the coast is Ko Chang, Thailand’s second largest island. It is the main isle in a 52-island archipelago that lies off Trat. Here you will find Muko Chang Marine Park and nice beaches that have only recently been discovered by international travelers.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Trat Office, 100 Mu 1 , Trat-Laem Ngob Road, Tambon Laem Ngob , Amphoe Laem Ngob, Trat 23120, Tel. +66 3959 7259-60, Fax. +66 3959 7255, E-mail Address: tattrat@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/trat . Accommodation: Both Trat city and some areas around the province have accommodation for visitors including luxury hotels, guesthouses, and home stays.

Getting to Trat: Trat and its island destinations can be reached via private car, public bus, or airplane from Bangkok. Once there, it may be easier to get around with your own car, but there are standard forms of local transport available for visitors: i.e. songtaews, motorbike taxis, tuk tuks, and public buses, and rental cars and motorbikes are easy to procure both on the mainland and on Koh Chang. By Air: Bangkok Airways has daily air services between Bangkok and Trat. From the Trat airport (not far from the ferry pier in Laem Ngop) there are numerous transportation options for transferring to Koh Chang, including minibus and rental car. Visit www.bangkokair.com for more information. By Car: From Bangkok, take Highway No. 34 (Bang Na-Trat) or the Motorway to Chonburi, then use Highway No. 344 (Ban Bung-Klaeng) to Klaeng, where you must turn onto Highway No. 3 which leads to Trat. The total distance from Bangkok to Trat is 318 kilometers.

By Bus: Both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) to Trat every hour from 6am to midnight. From Bangkok the buses to Trat cost 197 baht for 24-seat VIP air-conditioned service, 169 baht for 1st class air-conditioned service (132 baht for 2nd class), or 113 baht for regular bus service. The trip takes five to six hours by air-conditioned bus and about eight hours by regular bus. From Bangkok there are also direct bus and minibus services to the boat pier for Koh Chang that depart regularly from Ekkamai bus station (BTS Ekkamai) and Khao San Road. Simply make it clear you with to travel to Koh Chang rather than Trat. For more information contact the Transport Co. Ltd at Tel: 0-2391-4164, Choet Chai Tour Tel: 0-2391-2237, Chok Anukun Tour Tel: 0-2392-7680 and Suppharat Tour Tel: 0-2391-2331. To travel from Chanthaburi to Trat, the regular bus takes about 30 minutes. If one goes by taxi from Chanthaburi to Trat, it takes around 45 minutes.

Getting to the Islands Off Trat: Laem Ngop, about 20 kilometers from Trat, is main embarkation point for boats to Ko Chang and other islands. Numerous ferry services and private boat charters service Koh Chang and some of the larger islands surrounding it Ferries depart either from Ao Thammachat Pier or Koh Chang Centre Point Landings between 07.30am - 4.30pm, with travel times of approximately 30 minutes depending on weather and boat capacity. Private vehicles can be loaded onto the ferry. Please note that vehicles used on the island should be 4 wheel drive vehicles as road conditions are bumpy and there are steep slopes to be negotiated. From the landing on Koh Chang there are songtaew services to various points. Fares should be settled beforehand.

ISLANDS AROUND TRAT

Koh Mak (south of Koh Chang) is a large island that is blessed with several beautiful bays and beaches and coral reefs nearby that are still in perfect condition.The islanders make their living by growing rubber and coconut trees. The best time to visit is from November until late April. There are a number of accommodations and tourist facilities available. A passenger boat departs Laem Ngob daily at 3.00pm and returns from Koh Mak at 7.00am, traveling time is 3.5 hours.

Koh Kham (near Koh Mak) is an island endowed with natural wonders such as crystal clear seas, chie sandy beaches, coral reefs and most importantly, tranquility and privacy. Ideal for swimming and diving. Kham Island is the only island in the Trat area comprised of volcanic rock. The trip to Koh Kham from Laem Ngob takes 2.5 hours.

Koh Kradat (northeast of Koh Mak) was known in the past of its abundance of Kradad trees (paper trees); hence, the name of the island. This island is notable for the fact that it is the only island in Thailand to be issued a land title deed during the period of King Rama V as a measure to protect the island from French colonization. Koh Kradad is famous for its white long sandy beach and wonderful coral reefs. Kradad Island is like a nature park because there are thousands of deer living here freely. Some people call this island The Safari of the Gulf of Thailand.

Koh Rang is a small island at the west of Koh Mak does not have enough flat area suitable for setting up of any resorts and bungalows. However, Koh Rung is well known as the location for its birds nest concessions, sea turtle eggs and bat's dung. The main attractions at the island are the stone knolls and the magnificent deep-sea corals.

Tree Top Adventure Park allows you to experience breathtaking views and new sensations while cruising through the tops of trees. From one platform to another…from tree to tree… balance yourself through an assortment of games such as rope bridges, tarzan swings, flying skateboards, and giant zip lines. No matter how old you are, you will enjoy hours of fun and excitement!Our mandatory briefing will teach you how to use the slings, carabiners, pulleys, and harnesses safely. Plus, our adventure course is made, maintained, and certified by French experts. Join them to take an adventure with total safety in the beautiful forest of Koh Chang, Thailand.

Tree Top Adventure Park was created by Little World Co., Ltd., a company formed by a transnational group of individuals who love to travel and appreciate the unique activities that the world offers. As they are nature admirers, they also go ape over tree climbing. Their French experts have brought the know how and techniques to do this activity safely and with special care for the trees you climb. Enjoy rope and harness tree climbing so much and want to share the fun activities and amazing views that can experience from the top of the trees. It does not matter how old you are- their assortment of rope bridges, tarzan swings, and giant zip lines will bring you hours of fun and excitement. Hours and Contact Info: Open everyday from 8:00am -5:00pm. Contact: Tree Top Adventure Park Tree Top Adventure Park, 115 Mu 1 Tambon Ko Chang Tai, Amphoe Ko Chang, Trat 23170, Tel. 08 4310 7600. Emai:l thelittleworld@gmail.com, www.treetopadventurepark.com

KOH CHANG

KOH CHANG (east side of the Gulf of Thailand, near Cambodia, 300 kilometers and6 hours by bus from Bangkok) is a quiet island with clear water, nice, sandy, coconut-lined beach, some bars, resorts and restaurant and not much else. Once the quiet refuge of backpackers in the know, the island has grown in popularity as a tourist destination since 2000, when the Thai government hoped to develop the island as the next Phuket. Fortunately, as Koh Chang is nearly as large as Phuket, a decade of development that has seen the construction of an airport in Trat and numerous hotels and restaurants has done little to sully its appeal as an island of spectacular natural beauty. Bangkok Airways offer flights to from nearby town of Trat.

Ko Chang (Elephant Island) is Thailand’s second largest island. It is approximately 30 kilometers long and 14 kilometers wide, with a total area of roughly 217 square kilometers. Located in Trat Province not far from the Cambodian border, Ko Chang is 70 percent covered by unspoiled rainforest and the island’s permanent residents are only gradually becoming more involved in tourism as development has increased in the past decade. Drawn to Ko Chang’s pristine beaches and sparkling water, more well-to-do Thai and international travelers have been discovering Ko Chang and numerous luxury spas and resorts have sprung up to cater to them. Nonetheless, the island still has a wide variety of affordable accommodation options for budget travelers and families.

Koh Chang National Marine Park covers an area of 650 square kilometers, of which 70 percent is offshore, and includes dozens of unspoiled islands. On Koh Chang itself you will find arguably the best island rain forest in Southeast Asia. In addition to natural beauty, Ko Chang island is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including barking deer, king cobra, reticulated pythons, Javan mongoose, wild pigs, small Indian civet, monitor lizards, native birds, and even a number of elephants. As for activities, Ko Chang and the nearby islands that make up the national park are great for snorkeling, diving, camping, and jungle hiking.

Tourist Office and Website: 100 Mu 1 , Trat-Laem Ngob Road, Tambon Laem Ngob , Amphoe Laem Ngob, Trat 23120, 039-597-259-60, 039- 597-255. Accommodation: Most of the Koh Chang hotel and guesthouse options are located on the beaches along the west coast of the island, namely Haad Sai Khao (White Sands), Klong Prao, Kai Bae, Bailan, Lonely Beach, and Bang Bao towns and beaches. The majority of tourists stay at Hat Sai Khao, Hat Kai Muk, Hat Ta Nam, and Laem Bang Bao, all of which are linked by a single road running down the west coast. There are a wide variety of accommodation options to choose from, including budget beach bungalows and luxury spa resorts.

Getting to Koh Chang: Koh Chang, in Trat Province, is located approximately 315 kilometers east-southeast of Bangkok, not far from the Cambodian border. Visitors can travel to Koh Chang by ferry boat after arriving in Trat via air, air-conditioned bus, taxi, car, or motorcycle. Once upon Koh Chang there are songtaew taxis and both motorbike and mountain bike rentals for exploring the island.

By Bus: Buses directly to Centerpoint Pier in Laem Ngop, Trat depart from the Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal in Bangkok at 745 am and 945 pm. The journey takes approximately five hours. Return service departs Laem Ngop at 2 and 4 pm. In addition, there are 1st class and 2nd bus class services from both the Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal and the Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal that connect Bangkok with the provincial capital of Trat, from which visitors must take a 30 minute songtaew to the port at Laem Ngop, where the boats depart to Koh Chang.

By Air: As the owner of the airport in the provincial capital of Trat, Bangkok Airways is the sole air carrier for service to Trat and Koh Chang. There are two flights a day from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport to Trat. One should be aware that even after the roughly one hour flight from Bangkok to Trat, visitors must still get a 30 minute transfer to the ferry pier at Laem Ngop and take a 45 minute ferry to Koh Chang.

Getting Around in Koh Chang isn’t particularly difficult as there are only two major roads on the island: one on the east coast and one on the west coast, both of which run parallel to the sea. Other smaller roads branch off these main roads to provide access to individual beaches and various attractions, namely, Keereephet, Klong Neung and Klong Phu waterfalls. By Motorbike: Getting around in by motorbike is convenient and inexpensive, around 150-200 baht/day. Visitors can either hire their own motorbikes or get around via motorbike-taxi. As the island has some particularly steep and dangerous hills it is best to drive with extreme caution and dress in appropriate attire, including closed toes shoes and helmets, the latter of which are required by law.

By Rental Car: It is possible to hire a car or four wheel drive truck on the island. As Koh Chang has some particularly steep and dangerous hills it is best to use a 4x4 if you wish to rent a car. By Songtaew: The easiest way to get around the island is via songtaew, a pickup truck with padded benches in the rear. Songtaews provide service along the two main roads and can be used as public transport or can be hired privately for a half or full day. By Long-tail Boat: For beach hopping or visiting nearby islands, long-tail boats can be hired for half day or full day excursions.

Sights in Ko Chang: Koh Chang Noi and Laem Chang Noi lie to the north of Koh Chang. The sea between Koh Chang Noi and Laem Chang Noi is abundant with corals. Koh Ngam is an enchanting island with a very narrow sand dune that forms a gorgeous contour holding the northeast and southwest section of the island together. The almost kidney-shaped island would look like 2 separate islands from afar. Besides holding the island in one piece, the sand dune creates 2 crescent-shaped lagoons which are only 50 meters apart. For the more adventurous, a rope-guided hike up the rocks to a 100 meter-high hill on the southwest side of the island is both challenging and rewarding. Koh Ngam is situated southeast of Koh Chang and is comprised of twin mountains linked by huge rocks with a huge sand knoll at the middle.The little bay formed by the lines of the mountain stretching into the sea makes the island a splendid and serene site worth visiting. Accommodations are available.

KOH HOOD

KOH KOOD (Just south of Koh Chang) is far quieter and less developed than neighboring Koh Chang, Koh Kood is a pristine island ideal for a relaxing beach holiday. A rather flat island covered almost entirely with native forest or coconut and rubber plantations, Koh Kood has a number of pristine beaches with crystal clear water. Koh Kood is located near the Cambodian border and consequently has an ethnically mixed population of roughly 2,000 residents that is slowly transitioning from an exclusive plantation and fishing economy to an incipient tourism oriented one. Development of accommodation on Koh Kood has focused on attracting a middle and upper class Thai clientele that is drawn by the island’s beauty and tranquility. Both 4-5 hour slow boats and one hour speedboats from Laem Ngob and Dan Kao Piers in Trat Province provide service to the island though nicer resorts have their own boat service.

Despite being the fourth largest island in Thailand, Koh Kood has managed to remain an unspoiled slice of tropical heaven. Located in Trat Province, Koh Kood is the southernmost of the Koh Chang island chain. With gorgeous beaches and little other infrastructure it’s a resort destination that caters to those looking for a quiet beach paradise, with soft sand, crystal clear water, and little else. Relaxing is the predominate activity on this island, whose unspoiled nature and leisurely local lifestyle are the prime attractions. Snorkeling or exploring the islands beaches and forests are activities for the more adventurous, although boat trips to nearby islands for sightseeing, snorkeling, and scuba diving are also options. A small fishing village, located at Ao Salat on the Northeast of the island, provides an opportunity to experience island culture.

Koh Kood Warnings: 1) Koh Kood has malaria infected mosquitoes and visitors should bring a supply of mosquito repellent with DEET. 2) There are no banks or ATMs on the island, so make sure to bring sufficient funds or use the ATM on the mainland near the pier prior to departure. 3) Trat airport is the most convenient airport for access to Koh Kood. 4) The best time to travel to Koh Kood is between November and February although the monsoon rains are moderate even during the rainy season months. 5) In the low season, between April and November, there is limited boat service to the island as tourist arrivals are less frequent.

Koh Sai Kaow (near Ko Chang) is famous for its Talay Waek or the Seperated Sea. Like the better known one at Koh Kai, Koh Tub and Koh Mor in the Andaman sea near Krabi, this new Talay Waek has a white sand ridge that separates the sea, but it is not far from Bangkok, in the eastern sea around Koh Chang. Visit a perfect mangrove forest at Baan Pred Nai, Amphur Muang, Trat.

Khao Aung Ru Nai Wildlife Sanctuary (3 hours east of Bangkok) is a 200,000-acre reserve with Asian elephants, gaur, barking deer, and tigers. A species of freshwater crocodiles, thought to be extinct in thw wild, was found here.

HUAN HIN

HUA HIN (less than 200 kilometers south of Bangkok) is Thailand's oldest sea resort and home to about 60,000 people. Situated on the Gulf of Thailand on the top of kingdom’s southern isthmus, it features a beautiful, powdery sand beach, numerous seaside seafood restaurants, a lively night market and some of Thailand’s most renowned golf courses. Klai Kagwan—the seaside, summer home of the Thai royal family—is located here. It was built in the 1920s by King Rama VI and is used more often by the current Royal Family than the Royal Palace in Bangkok. The resort is popular with young couples, families and Thais. Visitors tend to be less noisy and flashy than those that dominate some parts of Phuket and Pattaya. Before he became too frail, Thailand’s King Bhumibol stayed in Hua Hin when he suffered from health problems.

Joshua Kurlantzick wrote in the New York Times: As the late afternoon sun bathes the horizon in purple and crimson, I wander slowly down the long, curving beach. Though rocks mar part of the five-mile-long stretch, most of the waterfront is covered with white sand. On the southern end, a towering golden Buddha statue peers out over the sea, and I can see small white and yellow shrines cut into the rocks of a nearby mountain fringed with low mist. When I sit in the surf, I notice young Thai men riding black-and-white spotted horses up and down the beach, offering rides to tourists. Thai families dog-paddle near me, luxuriating in the bath-warm water. Not one Jet Ski, tour group or powerboat in sight. There are not many places left in Thailand where travelers can sit in the surf undisturbed. So I was surprised, on a trip in March, to find that Hua Hin, the country's oldest beach resort, just a three-hour train ride from Bangkok, had not yet fallen to the wave of building and water sports. [Source: Joshua Kurlantzick, New York Times, May 4, 2007].

Arriving in Hua Hin, in fact, I quickly notice the mellow atmosphere far different from the blaring beer bars and neon dance shows of other Thai beaches like Pattaya. At the colonial-style train station, all white-and-red columns and mahogany floors, a small group of taxi drivers sleeps in the shade of a jackfruit tree. When I try to rouse them for a ride into town, they nod "no" and then nod off again. Friends say there are several reasons for Hua Hin's slow pace of life. Because it is so close to Bangkok, many foreign tourists skip it for other resorts like Phuket; Hua Hin now attracts mostly Thai families. Because Thailand's revered royal family spends much of its time in Hua Hin - in a palace of marble and teak named, aptly, Far From Worries - developers may be reluctant to overbuild, knowing that the king has made sustainable development a centerpiece of his reign.

From the beginning of the 20th century until the development of other resorts like Phuket, Hua Hin was the place for wealthy Thais to escape Bangkok's heat. The Sofitel's coffee bar, which still serves tea each afternoon, features aging photographs of that era, a time when the king and queen were host to royal parties at the hotel, and people gathered around the radio to hear the latest jazz from America.

Hua Hin is one of the most popular weekend getaway destinations for Bangkok residents. Hua Hin means “Stone Head”, a reference to the rocks at the north end of the powdery sand beach. Hua Hin became Thailand's first beach resort after a train line was laid in the 1920s to provide access from Bangkok and King Rama VII established his summer retreat in the area.

HUAN HIN TOURISM AND TRANSPORATION

Tourist Office and Website: 500/51 Phetkasem Rd. Amphoe Cha-am, Phetchburi 76120, 0 3247 1005-6, 0 3247 1502. The office of the Tourist Police is located at the end of Damnoen Kasem Road at the entrance to the beach. The Hua Hin Police Station is located on Damnoen Kasem Road, opposite the CAT offices and Post Office. Their telephone number is 1155.

Accommodation: Hua Hin hotels range from five star to budget backpacker, from modern and luxurious to quaint and rustic. There are international five-star resort-spas located along the powdery sands of Hua Hin beach as well as mid-range options built upon piers extending over the waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Resorts near the city center cater to families with children and those looking for a little nightlife, while those farther from town are ideal for visitors looking to get away from it all or have a romantic rendezvous.

In recent years Hua Hin has become famous for its boutique hotels and spa-retreats. Joshua Kurlantzick wrote in the New York Times: The laid-back, small-scale life has also made Hua Hin Thailand's pioneer in boutique hotels. Thirty minutes south of Hua Hin town, I drive to Aleenta, a boutique hotel in the beach village of Pranburi made up of bungalow-style buildings with thatched roofs. Aleenta's burnt sienna walls, curving outdoor staircases and crimson tiles give it the feel of a Mediterranean or Mexican beach resort. A resort at the end of nowhere: in the lap pool adjacent to a swim-up bar, I paddle around without seeing another guest. Aleenta also quickly coddles me with homey touches. My room, built from natural wood, thatch and smooth tile, looks out onto a lonely long-tail fishing boat bobbing in the surf outside. The hotel staff has programmed an iPod in my room, and when I request coffee at bizarre, late-night hours, they laugh and bring Thai Java. [Source: Joshua Kurlantzick, New York Times, May 4, 2007].

Aleenta has spawned a boutique hotel industry. Along the Pranburi beach road, other developers are building small bungalows and spas with Mediterranean and Moroccan themes, and Hua Hin town now features Let's Sea Hua Hin al Fresco Resort, a cheaper yet still charming 40-room boutique hotel on the water. Near the Aleenta lies the Evason Hideaway, another high-end boutique. And this spring, the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin will open its own boutique, the Barai, eight suites with their own gardens or plunge pools. I wander up to Aleenta's spa, which advertises unusual detox treatments featuring Thai herbs and tamarind juice and massages with kaffir lime, lemon grass and jasmine flavors. On the roof of the hotel restaurant, it commands a stunning panoramic view of the sea, but I decide to head back into town, where massages will be cheaper.

Getting to Hua Hin: Visitors to Hua Hin may arrive by train, bus, car, or even plane from destinations both north and south of Hua Hin. By Train: Most trains headed south from Bangkok stop at the Hua Hin Railway Station, so there are numerous trains leaving throughout the day that provide service to Hua Hin. Generally speaking, the train ride takes between 4 and 6 hours; considerably longer than the 2 to 3 hour car ride. However, train fare is cheaper than taxi fare, seats costing between 40 and 100 baht depending on the class and speed of the train. The Hua Hin Station Office is located on Damnoenkasem Rd. For more information, call Tel:66(0)32-511-073 or visit www.railway.co.th

By Car: The approximately 200 kilometers drive between Bangkok and Hua Hin can be traveled in 2 to 3 hours. The most direct driving route from Bangkok to Hua Hin is to follow Highway 35 south to Highway No. 4. By Bus: Buses between Bangkok and Hua Hin are served by Bangkok’s Sai Tai Mai terminal, and depart every 20 minutes for the 3 ½ hour journey. Fares for first class bus seats cost around 200 baht. There is also bus service that is scheduled to connect Hua Hin with Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport Buses to and from cities in southern Thailand are generally overnight services, departing Hua Hin around 10 pm and arriving early in the morning; such buses cost between 750-1000 baht depending on destination.

By Air: There are several daily flights between Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and Hua Hin Airport, which is served by SGA Airlines in association with Nok Air, a subsidiary of Thai Airways. The less than one hour flight aboard a Cessna 208 aircraft costs just over 3,000 baht for a one way ticket.

Getting Around in Hua Hin: Within the town center visitors can get around Hua Hin by foot or on rental bicycles and motorbikes, which allow visitors to explore the area more quickly. Within Hua Hin, many hotels and guesthouses are located near the town center; those farther away typically provide shuttle service to and from town. Taxis and tuk-tuks are easily found and are reasonably priced for those who wish to explore the nearby attractions, though visitors may also rent cars, motorbikes, and even bicycles to tour the area on their own.

By Songtaew: For getting from Hua Hin town to nearby beaches, songtaews (covered pick-up trucks with benches in the back) act as local buses for trips between Hua Hin and Khao Takiab, Khao Tam, and Suan Son. Songtaew service runs approximately from 6am to 6pm By Tuk Tuk: To get more quickly between destinations in and around town, tuk tuks are quite prevalent and can be hired for a single journey or a full day, the fares for both of which should be agreed upon before setting out.

By Rental Motorbike: For around 150 to 300 baht per day you can hire your own motorbike, which will typically require you to leave your passport as a deposit. Be sure to inspect bikes prior to rental and drive with extreme caution as rental motorbikes are not normally insured and accidents are frequent. Helmets are required by Thai law. By Local Bus: Local buses from Hua Hin to Pranburi and other destinations within the province are also available for very reasonable prices. By Boat: For boat service to nearby Koh Singtoh, local boat charters are available for around 800 baht a day, either at the Hua Hin Pier or at Hat Takiab, where it is possible to get a slightly cheaper rate.

SIGHTS IN HUAN HIN

Places of Interest in Hua Hin include the town’s five-kilometer-long beach and one Thailand’s oldest and finest golf courses. The town is also known for its gingerbread-house railway station; a lively bar and transvestite show scene; and a cool, relatively rain-free climate. Germans are among the most numerous foreigners.

Just down the coast at Takiab Bay visitors can take seaside horseback rides and visit a hilltop Buddhist temple with a spectacular view. In central Hua Hin, make sure to check out the Sofitel Central, a renovated version of the town's classic colonial-era Railway Hotel, famed for its topiary gardens full of bushes shaped like elephants and its wide, curved balconies. Kurlantzick wrote: Gardeners obsessively trim the bushes with clippers so small they look like nail scissors.

Spas in Hua Hin: In recent years Hua Hin has became famous internationally for its spas such as the Chiva-Som spa, a $26 millon facility with Thai-style pavilion rooms, the latest exercise equipment, massages included in the basic room rate. The Hua Hin area set the world record for the largest group massage.) See Spas Under Facts

On the smaller street-side massage places, Joshua Kurlantzick wrote in the New York Times: I peek into Hua Hin Thai Massage, a small shop near a beach market selling towels and trinkets. The massage parlor truly feels like a family affair. Local women sit in circles massaging one another's feet and gossiping about their clients. When I interrupt them to ask for a foot rubdown, one reluctantly pulls herself away to bathe my feet in warm water and then prod and poke them for an hour, all for only $10.

Hat Hua Hin is a 5-kilometer white sandy beach lined with a wide range of accommodations, from bungalows to five-star hotels and resorts. Located at the sunrise side of the city, the beach runs from a rocky headland which separates it from a tiny fishing pier, and gently curves for some three kilometers to the south where the Giant Standing Buddha Sculpture is located at the foot of Khao Takiap. While offering a tranquil atmosphere, the beach is also the place for fun-filled activities ranging from jogging, walking, sun bathing, horse riding, kite boarding, and other kinds of water sports.

Khao Takiap (4 kilometers from Hua Hin) is a hill is situated at the southern end of Hua Hin, only from the town. It can be easily reached by local minibus. Visitors can go up the hilltop to enjoy a bird's eye view of Hua Hin, which is one of the delightful views either during the day or night. There is a temple call Wat Khao Takiap situated on top of the hill. The nearby Khao Takiap Beach offers mostly bungalow accommodations. The giant golden Buddha Statue standing against the cliff has become a landmark of Khao Takiap.

Khao Tao ( between kilometers 243 and 244 markers, 13 kilometers south of Hua Hin) is a small beach at the foot of Khao Tao Hill. It is located on a pine-fringed beach and is more secluded than Hua Hin. The signature of the place is a large Buddha image which faces out to the sea. Bungalows are available.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park (53 kilometers south of Hua Hin) embraces limestone hills, mangroves and caves and is home to 300 species of bird. Established in 1966 as the first coastal national park of Thailand., it covers 98. square kilometers of which about 21 square kilometers are marine areas. The name Khao Sam Roi Yot means Mountains with 300 peaks, which describes the landscape of the park quite well. The limestone hills are a subrange of the Tenasserim Hills that rises directly at the shore of the Gulf of Thailand, with the highest elevation Khao Krachom 605 meters above sea level. Between the hills are freshwater marshes. However several of these marshes were converted into shrimp farms, as only 36 square kilometers of the total 69 square kilometers of marshes are part of the national park.

Two white sand beaches are located within the park namely Hat Laem Sala and Hat Sam Phraya. Hat Laem Sala is 17 kilometers away from the park's head quarters and can be reached from the village Ban Pu either by boat or by climbing up and down over a hill for nearly 30 minutes. There are also some outstanding caves in the park. Tham Kaew is illuminated by a collapsed sinhole ad reached by a permananet ladder. Some of the stalactites and stalagmites glisten like icicles thanks to calcite crystals in them. Rare animals in the park include serow, dusky langurs and birds such as species black-headed ibis, painted stork and purple swamp hen. In the ocean occasionally Irrawaddy dolphins show up.

RANONG

RANONG (568 kilometers south of Bangkok and 200 kilometers north of Phuket) is situated where Thailand, Myanmar and the Andaman Sea ll come together. It is known for its hot spirngs, mangrove forests, dense tropical greenery, picturesque waterfalls and coastal areas dotted with small island. From Ranong it is possible to take a day trip into Myanmar. A short boat ride across the Chan River brings one to Kawthoung which in the days of British Burma was known as Victoria Point.

Ranong is a rainy province filled with pristine natural beauty that serves as a gateway to southern Myanmar. It is the most northerly province on Thailand’s Andaman coast. Because it is affected Indian Ocean monsoons as well the rainy season to the east it has a long rainy season, which lasts for 8 months each year. As a result the mountains are covered with dense forests. The city of Ranong is a major fishing and trading port. It was originally settled by the Hokkian Chinese, and their strong influence remains evident in the town. Colorful longboats ferry produce and people across the narrow divide that separates Thailand and Myanmar. The traffic is even heavier these days since a casino opened at Victoria Point in Myanmar. Just outside of Ranong town are the famous Ranong hot springs, where an arboretum and various first-class hotels cater to visitors eager to benefit from the medicinal properties of the mineral waters.

Ranong also features 62 islands, many fine beaches, unspoiled forests, and refreshing waterfalls, many of which are incorporated in national parks or wildlife sanctuaries. It lies on the narrowest point on the Malayan Peninsula. May through October are the rainiest of all Ranong’s Rainy Months. For a real off-the-beaten path Thai island, Ranong’s Phayam is one of the least visited in Thailand.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Chumphon Office Areas of Responsibility: Chumphon, Ranong, 111/11-12 Thavisinkha Road, Tambon Thatapao, Amphoe Muang, Chumphon 86000 (Temporary Office), Tel. +66 7750 1831-2, +66 7750 2775-6, Fax. +66 7750 1832, E-mail Address: tatchumphon@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/chumphon . Accommodation: Both Ranong city and some areas along the coast have accommodation for visitors, including luxury hotels, guesthouses, beach resorts, and bungalows.

Getting to Ranong: By Car: Ranong can be reached from Bangkok by taking Highway No. 4 via Petchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Chumphon, a total distance of 568 kilometers. By Bus: Both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal to Ranong everyday.. For a current schedule and further information, please call the Southern Bus Terminal at tel: 0 2435 1199, 0 2435 1200 or the Ranong Bus Station at tel: 0 7781 1548 or visit www.transport.co.th There are also buses from the Ranong Bus Terminal to nearby provinces including Chumphon, Surat Thani, Phang Nga, and Phuket. By Air: There are currently no regularly scheduled flights to Ranong. Ranong airport is 20 kilometers south of town, off Hwy 4 but is serviced only by small charter aircraft.

Sights in the Ranong Area: Hot Springs and Raksawarin Public Park (2 kilometers east of the provincial office) have been a popular tourist spot ever since King Rama V visited Ranong in 1890, and named the road to the hot springs 'Chon Ra-u', meaning 'hot water'. Koh Phayam (two hours by boat from the Ranong Pier) is famous for both its long fine white sandy beaches and for the cashew nuts which are grown on the island. How to get there: To get to Ko Phayam, visitors can charter boats from Ranong Pier for about 1,000 baht per trip. Visitors can also charter speedboats from Ko Phayam Resort. Prices range from 2,000 to 4,000 baht, depending on the size of the boat. Reservations can be made by calling 0 7781 2297, 0 1323 0436

Ban Phon Rang Hot Springs (in the Ngao Waterfall National Park) are surrounded by natural beauties, such as towering mountains, dazzling streams and aromatic flowers, which will make your hot spring experience enjoyable and delightful. The blooms of tropical pitcher plants Dendrobium Formasum, a kind of wild orchid which is the symbolic flower of Rayong are spread out throughout the entire area. Raksawarin Thermal Springs are regarded as a spa for natural therapy. As they are closer to downtown than any other thermal springs, the place is bustling with tourists. Laem Son National Park (turn off 58 kilometers from Ranong) covers 315 square kilometers, including 20 silands and the longest protected shore in Thailand. On much of the coast are dense mangroves, home to a variety of birds, crab-eating macaques and deer.

SURIN ISLANDS

SURIN ISLANDS (70 kilometers off the west coast Thailand, 150 kilometers southwest of Ranong, and 150 kilometers northwest of Phang-nga) is an archipelago in the Andaman Sea near the maritime border of far southern Myanmar and southeast Thailand. The islands occupy a total area of approximately 84,375 rai out of which about 20,594 rai is an on land area. The Surin Islands reportedly have greatest variety of corals while the Similans have the greatest variety of fish. Sea gypsies are still active in the waters off the islands.

Surin Islands National Park is a marine national park that embraces five islands: Surin Nuea, Surin Tai, Kai (Torrinla Island), Klang (Pachumba), and Ri (Satok Island). The most important and largest islands are Surin Nuea Island and Surin Tai Island. The Protection of National Park provide resorts, the facility is located at Surin Nuea Island. The shallow corals at this national park are various and stunning offering a perfect place to experience snorkeling. As well as the marine attractions, the park is covered with 141.25 square kilometers of rich forests. The central part of Pha-yam Island is covered by mountains, and forests. There are many animals, such as birds, monkeys and boars. The locals earn a living from coconut, rubber and cashew nuts. The shore is embraced by coves, reefs and sandy beaches.

Travelling around the area of Surin Islands National Parks can be separated into four choices. 1) The first choice is experiencing how beautiful and natural the islands are. Tourists can walk from the Protection of National Park to Mai Ngam Beach. This is a good choice for tourists who love camping. 2) The second choice is snorkeling around large shallow corals at Mae Yai Bay, Chong Kad Bay, Suthep Bay, Pak Kad Bay, Torrinla Island, and Pachumba Island. Surin Island National Park offers long-tailed boats for tourists to go snorkeling. These can be found at Bon Bay. 3) The third choice is visiting the Mokan local community of fishermen at Sai En Bay and Bon Bay. The Moken people emigrated from Myanmar before these islands became a national park. Formerly, they lived on boats around Chong Kad Bay. 4) The last choice is diving around Richelieu rock where tourists can see numerous species of fish and corals. The most thrilling thing is the chance to see big whale sharks.

Fees, Contact, Accommodation and Transport Info: Catch a boat at Kuraburi Pier. If leaving from at Ranong Province, take route no. 4. The pier can be found before Kuraburi District. About nine kilometers at 721 kilometers , turn right for about two kilometers. Then, take a boat (various kinds of boat available). It is about 1.5-2 hours costing 1500 baht for the round trip. At the island, there are resorts, tents, and restaurants around Chong Kad Bay. At Mai Ngam Bay, there are just tents available. For more information, please contact Surin Islands National Park, Kuraburi District, Phang Nga Province, 82150 or call: 0 7647 2145, 0 7647 2146 or 0 7649 1378

MU KOH SURIN NATIONAL PARK

MU KOH SURIN NATIONAL PARK (70 kilometers off the west coast Thailand, 150 kilometers southwest of Ranong, and 150 kilometers northwest of Phang-nga) was proclaimed a national park in 1981. and includes islands with beautiful coral reefs in the shallows and various schools of fish of different colours. It offers ideal spots for snorkelling to admire coral reefs in the shallows, especially at Koh Torinla and Koh Pachumba. An ideal spot for scuba diving is the Richeliu Rock, 10 kilometers to the southwest of Koh Surin. This is a site of fertile undersea nature, habitat of various kinds of fish, colourful corals, and where whale shark, the kind Giant of the Sea, is frequently encountered. The most suitable period for a visit is between November and April whereas from May to October is the period of monsoons when there are heavy rainfalls and windy wavy sea.

Koh Surin Nuea and Koh Surin Tai are two attached islands separated by a water channel. There are both large and small bays scattered around the islands, all with distinctively beautiful beaches and sea water. Koh Surin Nuea is where the Park’s Ranger Station is located. There is a Tourist Service Centre, bungalows, camping site, and long-tailed boats for rent to visit various islands. Ao Chong Khat is located south of Koh Surin Nuea and has a camping spot on a clean white sandy beach suitable for swimming. There are also coral reefs and various kinds of fish such as the colourful parrotfish and wrasse.

Ao Mae Yai is also south of Koh Surin Nuea and offers a bay of calm sea. It is the largest island in the Surin Archipelago with coral reefs in the shallows. Ao Sai En is situated east of Koh Surin Nuea, with boat people known as Chao Le or Mogen People living their simple and folk way of life. They believe in Indian icons carved out of wood which are regarded as their sacred items. During the full moon day’s period of April every year, they will gather to pay respect to their revered spirits for 3 days.

Ao Luek is to the southeast of Koh Surin Nuea and offers coral reefs in the shallows, seaweeds, anemones, sea fans, schools of clown fish, and various kinds of colourful fish. Ao Chak is to the north of Koh Surin Nuea and offers a white powdery beach and snorkelling spot to admire coral reefs in the shallows.

Ao Mai Ngam is to the west of Koh Surin Nuea next to the headquarters bay. It is a large bay with a long curving beach, beautiful coral reefs, and various kinds of colourful fish. Moreover, there is Ao Mai Ngam Nature Trail through an evergreen forest along the beach, with nature interpretation signs along the 2-kilometers route, taking approximately 1 hour. Along the route, various species of wildlife and flora such as mouse deer, flying lemur, and rare birds like Nicobar pigeon and pied imperial pigeon can be seen.

Ao Bon is located east of Koh Surin Tai and inhabited by another group of the Mogen or Chao Le people. Ao Tao is located east of Koh Surin Tai and a habitat of a large number of sea turtles near the coral reefs. It offers a snorkelling spot to view soft corals and sea fans. Ao Phak Kat is to the south of Koh Surin Tai and offers a snorkelling spot to view staghorn coral reefs, and also a scuba diving spot. Ao Suthep is to the north of Koh Surin Tai and offers a snorkelling spot to view beautiful coral reefs.

Koh Pachumba or Koh Klang is situated north of Koh Surin Tai and offers clean white powdery beaches and intact coral reefs where Manta rays, various species of fish, and lobsters which are rare to be seen are so abundant that the bay is called Ao Mangkon after the Thai name of lobster, Kung Mangkon. It is also a spawning site for sea turtles. Koh Khai or Koh Torinla is south of Koh Surin Tai. To the east of the island, there is a very long stretch of coral reefs that are still in perfect condition and ideal for scuba diving.

Fees, Contact, Accommodation and Transport Info: Mu Koh Surin National Park. Contact: Tambon Khura. Amphoe Khura Buri, Phang-nga 82150, Tel. 0 7649 1378, 0 7649 1582, 0 2562 0760. Accommodation: The Park provides 16 bungalow rooms, each room for 2 persons, at 2,000 Baht / bungalow. A tent for rent is also available at 300 – 450 Baht / night. A camping site fee of 40 Baht / night will be charged for visitors bringing their own tents. Admission to the Park is 400 Baht for adults and 200 Baht for children. A boat is also provided to view around the islands 2 times daily at 60 Baht / person. Diving gear is available at 150 Baht. For further information, contact the Mu Ko Surin National Park, Tambon Khura. Amphoe Khura Buri, Phang-nga 82150, Tel. 0 7649 1378, 0 7649 1582, or the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Flora, Bangkok, Tel. 0 2562 0760 or visit www.dnp.go.th.

Travelling to Mu Ko Surin can be initiated from several different points: A) Khura Buri Pier is the nearest point to Mu Ko Surin. Khura Buri is some 125 kilometers north of Phang-nga. A boat trip takes around 3 hours. There is no regular boat service for travellers to Ko Surin. Boats leaving from Khura Buri are suitable for group tours. For more information Contact: 1) Diamond coral Tours at tel. 0 7649 1055; 2) Kuraburi Green View Travel at tel. 0 7640 1400, 0 7642 1360 or visit www.kuraburigreenview.com ; 3) Mantapoint at tel. 0 7648 5745, 08 1273 9279 ; 4) Rung Arun Tours at tel. 0 7649 1142 ; 5) Sabina Tour at tel. 0 7649 1867,08 1737 5801.

Amphoe Kapoe Pier is in Ranong Province. The trip takes 7 hours. Visitors may contact Chansom Tara Hotel (tel: 0 7783 5317-9) which has boats leaving Chan Damri Beach for trips to Mu Ko Surin. Note: The best way for individual travellers is to join a trip out of Phuket that includes Mu Ko Surin on the itinerary. This typically lasts at least 3 days and includes visits to Mu Ko Similan.

By car, from Amphoe Mueang Phang-nga, take Highway No. 4 (Phetchakasem Road) toward Amphoe Khura Buri and turn left at km. 721, 6 kilometers before reaching Amphoe Khura Buri, for 3 kilometers. The Park’s direction sign will be seen on the right. By bus, the Transport Company Limited operates air–conditioned buses from the Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal on Borommaratchachonnani Road once a day, leaving Bangkok at 8.00pm and arriving in Amphoe Khura Buri at 8.00am, taking a total of 12 hours. For further information, please call the Bangkok Office, Tel. 0 2894 6122, Amphoe Khura Buri Office, Tel. 0 7649 1218. Lignite Tour Company Limited operates a daily bus leaving Bangkok at 7.05pm and arriving in Amphoe Khura Buri at 5.00am For more details, please call the Bangkok Office at Tel. 0 2435 5016, 0 2435 7428, Phang-nga Office, Tel. 0 7641 2300, 0 7641 2014, Takua Pa Office, Tel. 0 7644 1107.

To Get to Thap Lamu Pier: From Bangkok, take the Bangkok – Ranong or Bangkok – Surat Thani bus and get off at the Lam Kaen T-junction, Amphoe Thai Mueang. Then, take a motorcycle to Thap Lamu Pier. From Phang-nga provincial town, take the Phang-nga – Thap Lamu Pier bus, leaving Phang-nga Bus Terminal, or the Bangkok – Surat Thani or Bangkok – Ranong bus, to Lam Kaen T-junction. Then, take a motorcycle to the pier. From Amphoe Thai Mueang, take a songthaew minibus running on the Thai Mueang – Thap Lamu route, Phuket – Takua Pa bus, or Phuket - Surat Thani bus from the market on Phetchakasem Road and get off at Lam Kaen T-junction. Then, take a motorcycle to the pier.

Ferry and Charter Boat: Visitors travelling in groups may contact a ferry or charter boat at: 1) Khura Buri Pier, Amphoe Khura Buri, 60 kilometers from the Park, taking some 4 hours. Contact Mu Ko Surin National Park at Tel. 0 7649 1378 and Khura Buri Green View Resort, Tel. 0 7649 1477 - 8. 2) Thap Lamu Pier, Amphoe Thai Mueang, taking about 4 hours. For a ferry, visitors may contact any travel agency nearby.

Koh Phra Thung (accessible from the Surin Islands) and neighbor islands contain nesting sites for four species of sea turtle. They are also home to Naycrates conservation project for sea turtles. The nesting season extends from id December to late March.. The number of nest has been reduced by 85 percent in the last 20 years.

Ko Phra Thong (or Phra Thong Island) is situated in Mu Ko Ra- Ko Phra Thong national park. It has satellites on the Andaman Sea - including Ko Ra, Ko Kho Khao, Ko Pling, Ko Pho Ta, Ko Luk Tum, Ko Tung Na Dam to and a group of 37 small islands scattering around a mangrove swamp. Ko Phra Thong is perfect for those who love a tranquil retreat. Not only is the natural beauty so spectacular, but under the water is also well worth a look. A gorgeous beach, crystal clear sea water and a coral reef awaits your visit. Additionally, there are ferryboats to Ko Ra in the northern part of the island.

Ko Phra Thong is given the name ‘Safari in the midst of the Andaman’ because the main geographical feature on the island is a vast plain. In addition to this, there is a beach stretching along the west coast, and mangrove swamps on the northern and eastern part of the island. It comprises grassland, a melaleuca forest and a peat swamp forest that is home to a large variety of animals. Such an atmosphere reminds tourists of an African safari, the habitat of various animals, and this makes the island incomparably fascinating.

The broad area of Ko Phra Thong is a plain without any hills. The eastern side is an adjoining area of mangrove swamps; whilst the plain in the west is mainly occupied by a secondary forest of melaleuca trees alternating with spacious fields like an African savannah. Apart from this, there are several kinds of exotic plants, and more importantly, it is the habitat of various mammals, such as sixty wild deer, boar, dusky langur, macaque monkeys, palm civet, otter, armadillo, pallas squirrel, grey-bellied squirrel, flying fox, flying lemur and island mouse. One of Thailand’s endangered bird species, and dugongs, a very rare mammal in Thai territorial waters are frequently reported to be seen by the locals of Ko Phra Thong and Ko Ra.

This area is suitable for camping as well. Campers find it an ideal place to pitch their tents and spend the night observing various nocturnal lives of animals, mainly deer and boars. After enjoying nature and spectacular wildlife trekking, for those who like seaside or water activities, the beach, which lies, from the north to the south of the island is recommended. When the tide of the sparkling blue sea goes out it reveals a white, long and sandy beachfront for various seaside activities. In the area where the beach is close to mangrove swamps, ecological diversity is a compensation for the unclear water.

How to get there: Take state highway number 4 from Bangkok to Kura Buri district, and then catch a motorbike or a minibus to Kura Buri pier, the main port that takes you to the Surin islands. By the tourist information centre on the Surin islands sits Nang Yon pier. It provides ferries from the Surin islands to Ko Phra Thong which takes only 30 minutes.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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