PHUKET, PHI PHI, PHANG NGA AND THE ISLANDS AND BEACHES AROUND THEM

PHUKET

PHUKET (862 kilometers south of Bangkok) is Thailand’s largest island and currently one of its premier tourist destinations. Situated on the west side of Thailand and connected to the mainland by a causeway, it is 30 miles long and covers 810 square kilometers and features a stunning Andaman Sea coastline with beautiful white sand beaches broken up periodically by hills and rock outcroppings. Fortunately, it is large enough to accommodate the large number of travelers, of all different persuasions and nationalities, that come here. While some beaches—named Patong, Karon and Kata—can be crowded and developed, others are quiet and isolated.

Phuket (pronounced Poo-get) has consistently been rated one of the world top 10 islands by Travel and Leisure magazine. It drew about 7 million tourists in 2012, about a third of all those who visited in Thailand. Phuket had its own airlines, Phuket Air, but it has gone out of business. It’s airport can even handle 747 jumbo jets. Even though it is quite developed construction continues at a blistering pace. Tourism, plus lucrative rubber, cashew and tin sectors, and the presence of a number of Chinese businessmen has helped make Phuket Thailand’s richest province. There are only two seasons in a year the green season (May to October) and the hot season (November to April).

Phuket's high season population is estimated to be around 500,000.

History of Phuket: Phuket Town, along with the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore, is home to a peculiar hybrid of Chinese commercial culture and tropical laissez-faire that dates back centuries. In the early days of regional maritime trade, the cape of Phuket was locally referred to as Jung Ceylon, while locals called it Thalang, which evolved to be the name of the main town to the north of the island. As the perfect stopover sheltering traders from monsoons, Jung Ceylon welcomed merchants from India, Persia, Arabia, Burma, China, and also Siam. During the 16th century, the island was a popular trading port for tin. Among those who showed up at that time were the Portuguese and the Dutch and later the French and English. Pirates found hide outs in the maze of islands and lafoons.

In 1785, Thalang town was surrounded by Burmese troops who invaded the coastal area. It was under the leadership of Chan, the widow of the governor, and her sister, Muk, who united the local residents and successfully fought and drove the invaders out of Phuket. It took over 30 days for the defending troops of Phuket, under the command of Chan and Muk, to claim their victory. As a result of such heroic deeds, noble titles were granted to Chan and Muk as Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Soonthorn, respectively. They are still highly respected by Phuket residents even today. When the city was in a peaceful state, the development of mining was so unprecedented. Chinese businessmen and miners later migrated to Phuket and soon enjoy thriving wealth. The island's long history has shaped the Phuket of the present with its diverse ethnic groups, culture, architectural influence, and fine cuisine.

GREAT TSUNAMI OF 2004 IN THAILAND

The first waves from the December 2004 tsunami hit the west coast of Thailand just around 8:30am on December 26th, about a half hour after the Sumatra earthquake and kept coming for another two hours. The waves that did the most damage were slow, steep and closely-packed. This is because the sea around the west coast of Thailand is relatively shallow, which slowed the waves down considerably.

The tsunami struck six provinces in Thailand. The final death toll was 5,395, of which 1,953 were believed to be foreigners. Another 2,929 were listed as missing, An estimated 2,000 people were killed in the fishing village of Ban Nam Khem. The village lost half of its residents.

Thailand was in the middle of the tourist season. There were hundreds of thousands of foreigner in the country. Hotels were filled foreigners. In many places the sea receded a great distance before the largest waves hit. When the water went out many people thought it had something to do with the moon. Bill O’Leary, an employee of the Amanouri resort, knew it was a sign of a tsunami. He is credited with saving scores of lives by warning people to run inland before the waves arrived. But others were killed because they had no clue what was happening. The New York Times reported: “Bodies littered the once crowded beach resorts. Near the devastated Similan Beach and Spa Resort, where mostly German tourists were staying, a naked corpse hung suspended from a tree as if crucified.”

Many coral reefs were destroyed by the tsunami. The great waves snapped hundreds of sea fans. Debris from the tsunami littered natural areas. On green turtle was washed almost a mile inland and deposited in a pond north of Phuket. Some people in boats rescued survivors pulled out to sea. Others kept their distance.

See Separate Articles on the 2004 Tsunami factsanddetails.com

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Phuket Office, 191 Thalang Road , Tambon Thaladyai, Amphoe Mueang, Phuket 83000, Tel. +66 7621 1036, +66 7621 7138, +66 7621 2213, Fax. +66 7621 3582, E-mail Address: tatphket@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/phuket . Book: “Exploring Phuket & Phi Phi” by Oliver Hargreave (Odyssey, 2008)

Accommodation: Phuket features a dizzying array of accommodation options ranging from luxury hotels to family friendly beach resorts, secluded island villas to budget hotels. With so many types of accommodation available in Phuket, you may actually have a challenging time trying to decide which is the best to suit your needs; it may be helpful to learn about the attractions (or lack thereof) near each of the beaches in Phuket and then narrow your search once you have a couple different beaches in mind.

There are more than 500 hotels in Phuket. If you have money you can stay at Banyan Tree Phuket, selected by Condé Nast Traveler reader's poll as the world's best spa resort; the Amanpuri Resort in Phuket, which made it into the Condé Nast Traveler top five and ranked high on Travel and Leisure reading rankings of hotels; and the Royal Meriden, which has rooms between $280 and $900 a night. Six rooms at Amanpuri with oceanside views go for $6,000 a night.

If you don't have money you can stay down the beach from the Royal Meriden, off a gravel road, in a guesthouse or a bamboo bungalow for $10 or $15 a night. In 2004, about 3,000 hotel rooms were damaged of completely washed away by the tsunami but 70 percent of the island’s hotels were operating normally a few days after the disaster.

PHUKET TRANSPORTATION

Getting Around in Phuket: Car Rental Service: There are numerous car rental services on Phuket. Cars or jeeps can be rented at the airport, in Phuket Town, and at most of the more popular beaches. Be aware that only Commercial First Class Insurance provides full coverage on rental cars (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance). Most international car rental agencies will offer this insurance (some only for those with a valid international driver’s license) while local companies may or may not. You may wish to 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 Thailand can be quite confusing, especially the habit of Thai motorcycles drivers to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Motorbike Rental: For around 150 to 300 baht per day you can hire your own 100-150cc 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. Motorcycles can be rented from rental agencies located on Rasada Road or from different operators at various beaches. Motorcycle taxis: It costs approximately 20 baht / person / trip to travel via motorbike taxi around Phuket Town.

Songtaew and Tuk-Tuk: Songtaews are operated along Ranong Road in Phuket Town to various destinations including most beaches. The cost ranges from 20 baht to 25 baht / person / trip. Normally the service is provided from 7.00am until 5.00pm Tuk-Tuks can be chartered for travel between the beaches and Phuket Town or between different beaches; however, rates are negotiable and will cost at least 200 baht to Patong Beach, 230 baht to Karon and Kata Beaches and 300 baht to Nai Han and Kamala Beaches. Within Phuket Town, Tuk-Tuks should cost 20 baht for short distances. Taxi Meter: Visitors can call 076 232157-8 to get a metered taxi that will take them anywhere on Phuket. The metered fare will include a 20 baht surcharge. Boat to islands nearby Phuket:

Boats to nearby islands can be found at the following ports: 1) Rawai Beach: An old local port, it is from here that long-tail boats depart for nearby islands such as Koh He, Koh Racha Yai, Koh Mai Thon, Koh Lon, etc. The chartered price depends on the distance. 2) Ao Chalong: The largest port of Phuket servicing all kinds of boats, including cruisers of tour companies that organize package tours to other islands. 3) Ao Makham: Located near Phanwa Cape, this port is only for cruisers and container ships. 4) Boat Lagoon Port (Ao Sapam): This port is for traveling boats of tour companies.

SIGHTS IN PHUKET

Sights and Attractions in Phuket include watersports, bars, Buddhist temples, Chinese pagodas and Muslim mosques. Sino-Portugueses mansion are reminder of the time when the area was the center of a tin ming boom. Many rubber and coconut plantations in the area date back to early 20th century. The road along Patong Bay buzzes with bars and clubs and late nigh shopping. Surin Bay features a more upscale boutique plaza with a number of designer store, Backpackers, many of them from Australia and Scandinavia, gather around Rasada Road in Phuket Town. As you might expect there are lots bars and cheap restaurants here. The relatively new Phuket museum houses a collection of old cannons, ceramics and other objects.

Some sea gypsies live around Rawai Beach. Phanwa Cape is the location o Phuket’s marine Biological Research Center and Phuket’s Aquariuam, which boats hundreds of colorful marine species. The Thai Village hosts cultural shows with dancing, sword fighting, Thai boxing and elephants. Handicrafts are also displayed. Also check out the Phuket Butterfly Farm and Insect World. There are also some Pearl Farms.

Phuket Thaihua Museum has been renovated with the aim of becoming Phuket’s main historical attractions. Housed in a Sino-Portuguese mansion built in the 1930s, it houses a photo exhibition and video media which tells the history of the Chinese people in Phuket and displays on mining, local costumes, Sino-Portuguese architecture, local foods and traditions and culture of Phuket. It is located on 28,Krabi Road, Tambon Talat Yai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Phuket. Tel. 0 7621 1224. The Museum opens from everyday except Wednesday, between 8:30am a.m and 5.30pm.

Pung Chang Cave (between Ao Nang and Phuket) is a destination for tourists who love adventure since rafts or canoes are required to travel through it. Pung Chang cave is near the area of Prajimkate Temple, where there is stream flowing all year and many big and small caves with stalagmites and stalactites and incredible limestone formations and colors. Drops of water on the surface of each stalactites shine brightly like diamonds when reflected in the lamps worn by visitors. The formations appear in various figures such as fishermen, fish and different figures of elephants. It takes around one hour and a half to tour this cave, which is about 600 meters long. Apart from the beauty, Pung Chang cave is the second location where the Khun Kitti bat, the smallest bat in the world, was discovered. To take this trip you have to arrive at the caves between 10am and 2pm.The entrance fee to Pung Chang cave is 200 baht per person.

Laem Phromthep is a headland forming the extreme south end of Phuket. "Phrom" is Thai for the Hindu term, "Brahma," signifying purity, and "Thep" means "God." Local villagers used to refer to the cape as "Laem Chao", or the God's Cape, and it was an easily recognisable landmark for the early seafarers travelling up theMalay Peninsulafrom the sub-continent.

PHUKET BEACHES

The main Phuket beaches are Patong, Kata, Karon, and Surin. People like to gather at Phrom Thep cape to watch the sunset. The beaches of the south coast are typically crowded, while the north is far more tranquil. Nai Harn in the south is fairly quiet. Mai Khao in the north is nearly deserted. Karon Beach and Kata Beach have cheap bungalow accommodation, lots of outdoor hostess bars and beaches with sand that is so white and fine it squeaks when you along it. Kata Beach is popular with the European partying set. Some of them stay here for long stretches of time. Karon has become more developed in recent years. All the major beaches (such as Patong, Kata, Karon, Nai Han, Mai Khao and Nai Yang) offer instruction and equipment for diving, snorkling, wind surfing and sailing.

Patong Beach (15 kilometers from Phuket city) is the most developed area of Phuket. Here, there are beaches with large resort hotels, bars, bunjee-jumping operations, miniature golf courses, lively nightclubs, prostitutes, and tourists from all over the globe.Many young people come here. In the peak season the atmosphere is like Cancun during Spring Break. Patong Beach is a major center for the Thai sex trade.

Masseuses and drink sellers roam the beaches. Along Bangla Road are pubs, souvenir shops, herbal therapists and food stands, Some of the nightclubs offer performances by katoys (transvestites). There are also a number of souvenir shops, beauty parlors and custom tailers. Make sure to check out the Artist Studio (Soi Bangla, Patong Beach), where you can have copies of works made by Warhol, Piccaso, Jasper Johns, Matisse, Gauguin, Monet, van Gogh and Modigliani made to order. the artist make up $5,000 a month selling paintings that cost between $100 and $1,000.

Hat Patong has a wide range of accommodations and shopping arcades, and provides magnificent leisure activities and energetic night-time entertainment. Its postcard-perfect three-kilometer-long white sandy beach is perfect for swimming, lazing, and enjoying water sports such as jet skiing, windsurfing snorkeling, sailing, and parasailing.Among the entertainment places there are: 1) Phuket Water Ski Cableways: Tel: 0 7620 2525-7, 2) Simon Cabaret: Tel: 0 7634 2011-5, 3) Tarzans Jungle Bungy Jump: Tel: 0 7632 1351, 4) Tazans Catapult Bungy: Tel: 0 1464 1581, 5) Patong Go-kart Speedway: Tel: 0 7632 1949, 6) Phuket Joyland: Tel: 0 7620 3005, 7) Horror House: Tel: 0 7629 3123. In addition, Patong offers gastronomical delights for seafood lovers. There are plenty of good restaurants located along the beach.

Hat Karon is a three-kilometer-long straight beach with fewer visitors than some other Phuket beaches. Nightlife is pretty much confined to dining and a few beer bars. One of the nice parts of the beach has been taken over by the Le Meridien resort. Kata Karon Viewpoint is the most famous observation point of the three beaches—Kata Not, Kata and Karon. It is located on the road half-way between Nai Harn Beach and Kata Noi Beach. Hat Kata (20 kilometers from Phuket) is a nice place separated by Karon by a headland. The small island of Ko Pu is within swimming distance of the shore. South of Kata is Kata Noi, a smaller beach with only a few hotels and little other development. The beach is superb. Many fish inhabit the rocks and corals along the beachless shoreline stretching to the south. To get there, one can take the narrow beach road up over the hill from Kata. Hat Kamala (north of Patong) is a two-kilometer-long beach favored for witnessing sunsets. The northern end of Kamala Beach is suitable for swimming.

Hat Nai Han (a few kilometers from Kata Beach, next to Phromthep Cape, 18 kilometers from Phuket) is a nice beach that has white powdery sand and crystal clear water. The beach borders on two charming landscaped lagoons surrounded by rubber trees and other tropical plants. As the beach has not yet been fully developed to its full potential, it is less crowded, more peaceful, thus is ideal for people seeking solitude. Holidaymakers are not recommended to swim during the monsoon season from May to October. Watch out for the red flag! Despite having a rather limited selection of accommodations, they range from budget bungalows to the top-class Yacht Club. Check with the TAT Phuket Office for more up-to-date information and room rates. This beach can be reached by songthaeos, which leaves from the intersection of Ranong Road and the fountain circle. The fare is 25 baht / person / trip. In addition, visitors can also charter tuk-tuks which costs a lot more at 150 baht to 200 baht / trip.

ISLANDS NEAR PHUKET

Koh Racha (south of Phuket) embraces Racha Yai and Racha Noi islands. Koh Racha Yai (Big Racha) has an enchanting beach located on the west between the valleys that resembles horseshoes. The area is known as Ao Bungalow which is famous for its white powdery beach and crystal clear water. Visitors can marvel at the delightful panoramic view of the whole island from the vantage point at the peak of the mountain located south of the bay. Koh Racha Yai is the ultimate place to explore the wonders of the underwater world, especially at Ao Siam, Ao Tue and Khon Kae. Accommodations are available. Koh Racha Noi (Small Racha) is located just 10 kilometers from Big Racha Island. Originating from the accumulation of coral stones, the island has more rocky hills than beaches, thus the island is more suitable for fishing. To get there, visitors can charter long-tailed or speed boats from Chalong Pier. Alternatively, they can buy a package tour from reliable travel agencies.

Koh He 'Coral Island' (southwest of Cape Panwa) is famous for its white powdery beach and rich coral reefs which are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and other water sports. As the island is not affected very much by the monsoon, would be visitors can enjoy traveling to the place year round. Koh He has become a popular one-day tour from Phuket as it is only half an hour from the Chalong Pier. It is also dubbed the Coral Island by tourists. Accommodations and basic tourist facilities are available. Open everyday from 07.00 -5:00pm. Contact: TAT Phuket or Tambon Chalong, Amphoe mueang, Phuket, Tel. 0 7621 2213,

ACTIVITIES IN PHUKET

Activities in Phuket include yachting, scuba diving, golf, spa treatments, jet skiing, windsurfing, snorkeing, waterskiing and other watersports. There is no shortage of things to do in Phuket. Scuba and snorkeling trips can be arranged to some of the out lying islands. Popular dive spots include Ko Do Pai and Koh Phi Phi. There are dive sites with whale sharks, manta rays and turtles. Shark Point is famous for it docile leopard sharks. Boat tours of James Bond Island and Phangnga Bay and the Andaman Island are offered. There are nice beach tracks which follow the perimeter of the island as well as some nice walks to waterfalls. Phuket Fanta Sea (9 kilometers south of Pating) is a family-style theme park on Kamala beach with a 4,000-seat restaurant and a Palace fo Elephants, which hosts an evening show with acrobats, dancers and elephants.

There are four top 18-hole golf courses in Phuket. Horseback riding if offered by three riding clubs: 1) on Thanon Patak on the way to Hat Kata; 2) Ban Sai Yuan on the way to Hat Nai han; and 3) Laguna Phuket at Bang Thao.

Among the entertainment places on Patong Beach are: 1) Phuket Water Ski Cableways: Tel: 0 7620 2525-7, 2) Simon Cabaret: Tel: 0 7634 2011-5, 3) Tarzans Jungle Bungy Jump: Tel: 0 7632 1351, 4) Tazans Catapult Bungy: Tel: 0 1464 1581, 5) Patong Go-kart Speedway: Tel: 0 7632 1949, 6) Phuket Joyland: Tel: 0 7620 3005, 7) Horror House: Tel: 0 7629 3123. In addition, Patong offers gastronomical delights for seafood lovers. There are plenty of good restaurants located along the beach.

GETTING TO PHUKET

As the most popular island destination in Thailand, Phuket has numerous options for traveling to the island and getting around once you arrive. Both domestic and international airlines service Phuket Airport with direct flights from numerous destinations in Thailand and around Asia. Once on the island, the size of Phuket makes a rental car arguably the best option, though there are various modes of transportation if you do not wish to drive. Phuket is 14 hours by bus from Bangkok, or a $157 roundtrip on Thai airways from Bangkok.

By Train: There is no direct train service to Phuket. Travelers arriving by train must get off at Phun Phin Railway Station in Surat Thani Province and continue by regular bus to Phuket. For more information, call the State Railway of Thailand, 1690, 0 2223 7010, or 0 2223 7020 or visit www.railway.co.th. By Car: From Bangkok, take Highway No.4 (Petchakasem Road) through Petchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Surat Thani and Phang Nga Provinces, then cross the Thep Krasattri Bridge or Sarasin Bridge to Phuket Island. The total distance is 862 kilometers and the travel time is approximately 12 hours.

By Bus: Air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses leave Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal for Phuket several times daily. Trips by air-conditioned bus, which normally leave in the evening, take about 13 hours. Call 0 2434 7192, 0 2435 1199 or visit www.transport.co.th for more information. There are also regular bus services (VIP, air-conditioned, and non-air-conditioned) between Phuket and neighboring provinces such as Krabi, Phang Nga, Chumphon, Koh Samui (bus/boat), Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ranong, Surat Thani, Satun, Hat Yai, Takua-Pa, and Trang. Departures are from the Phuket Bus Terminal off Phang Nga Road. For more up-to-date schedules and fares, call Phuket Air-conditioned Bus Station, tel. 0 7621 1977.

By Air: Flying to Phuket is arguably the easiest way to get to the island. Most domestic airlines operate several flights daily between Phuket and Bangkok, Samui, and Chiang Mai. Some domestic airlines operate flights from Phuket to Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Trang, and Hat Yai. There are also numerous international airlines that fly directly to Phuket from various cities around Asia, including Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Penang, Singapore, and Sydney.

Phuket International Airport is located approximately 30 kilometers north of Phuket Town. Taxis between Phuket Town and the airport cost approximately 400 baht, but the fares to the beaches range between 500 and 600 baht. Minivans charge approximately 80 baht /person to town, but 120 baht/person to Patong, Kata, and Karon Beaches. Phuket Limousine (tel. 076 248596), located approximately 1 kilometer west of the city, operates hourly shuttles to the airport from 6.30am to 7.30pm

SIMILAN ISLANDS

SIMILAN ISLANDS (70 kilometers from Phang-nga town, 60 kilometers from the mainland, four hours by boat from Phuket, or two hours by boat from the mainland town of Thap Lamu) is an uninhabited chain of islands off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. Declared a national park and a turtle sanctuary for leatherback and Ridley turtles by the Thai government in 1983, these islands are Thailand's premier scuba diving destination. The Surin Islands reportedly have greatest variety of corals while the Similans have the greatest variety of fish.

On the western windward side of the Similans are steep granite cliffs and fairly big surf; on the leeward eastern side are calm waters, forests and beaches. The islands are uninhabited because there is no sheltered anchorage or year-round water supply. The forests contains 180-foot trees filled with land crabs. In the largely undisturbed coral reefs in the crystal clear waters around the islands are orange-and-white clownfish, sea anemones, crown-of-thorn starfish, multicolored crinoids, huge octopuses, shy but deadly sea snakes, and scorpion fish. Biologist say that the Similans have some of the densest fish populations and largest fish in the world because there is little fishing in the area and upwelling currents bring up nutrients from the ocean depths.

The Similan Islands have become quite popular. There are 80 dive boats a week off the islands in the high season. The Similans can be reached from Phuket by Jet Cat ($64 for a day trip arranged through Seatran Travel in Bangkok or Phuket, ☎ 662-249-0241). Visitors can visit the islands on a day trip or sleep over night in $20-per-night two-person tents, huts on stilts, or 100-foot-long temporary lean-to with five sleeping quarters and a tin roof. There are showers and privies.

Similan is a Yawi or Malay word, which means nine or a group of nine islands. Collectively occupying about 32,000 acres of land, the nine islands are (stretching from north to south) are: Koh Bon, Koh Bayu, Koh Similan, Koh Payu, Koh Miang (two adjoining islands), Koh Payan, Koh Payang, and Koh Huyong. The National Parks office is located on Koh Miang. Best time to visit is between November and April.

Similan Islands National Park is a marine national park said to have Nowadays, there is another island which joins the Similan Islands National Park called Ta Chai Island. This island is between Similan Island and Surin Island. There are two possible routes to take around the national park. The first one is the general trip at Paet Island or Similan Island where you can camp overnight. The notable features of this island are the horseshoe-shaped bay and the sailboat-shaped stone. The second possible route is Si Island or Miang Island where the office of the national park is located. You can see the stunning beach and visit the Lan Kha Luang viewpoint. At the viewpoint, the scene is as beautiful as the one from the Hin Ruea Bai Viewpoint at Paet Island. There are resorts and a source of fresh water available for tourists.

There is an island called Nueng Island or Hu Yong Island, where tourists are not allowed to travel. This is the most naturally preserved island in the entire park. The island is reserved for sea turtles which lay their eggs around November to February. You can experience both snorkeling and diving around the national park. The high season of Similad Islands is from November to April. It is stormy during the month of May, so the national park is closed.

Getting to the Similan Islands: The nearest pier is Thup Lamu Pier which is about 20 kilometers from Tagua Pa District. Follow the route no. 4 (Tagua Pa-Tai Muang). Around Ban Kaen, there is a junction on the right, it is about 5 kilometers to the pier. Before reaching the pier you can see the office of Similan Islands National Park on your left. It is a comfortable two hour trip to Similan Island. There are several daily powerboat services available for tourists in high season (November-April). It is 1,500 baht for a roundtrip. It is possible to stay overnight and return the next day. Additionally, you can get there by charter boat. Ask for more information as this service is not available every day. Expect to pay 20,000-40,000 baht to charter a boat if you travel as a group.

Contacts and Accommodation: Camping is available at Paet Island and there is a guest house at Si Island resort with fan or air-conditioner including facilities. Address: 93, Mu 5, Ban Thup Lamu, Phetkasem Road, Lum Kaen Sub District, Tai Muang District, Phang Nga Province, Thailand 82210For more information, you can contact Similan Islands National Park. Tel. 0 7645 3272, 07642 1365 , Office 0 7659 5045, Website: www.dnp.go.th, Tour Service: Medsye Tour 0 7644 3276, 08 1893 8042 / Seatran Travel 0 7621 3510, 0 2240 2572-6.

MU KOH SIMILAN NATIONAL PARK

MU KOH SIMILAN NATIONAL PARK embraces Koh Similan, or Koh Paet is the largest island in this group of islands. It has a distinctive horseshoe-shaped bay. The average depth of the water is 60 feet. Underwater is full of rock formations and coral reefs in several shapes and forms such as deer, leaf, brain, and mushroom. The latter one is the most unspoiled coral found in the country. Its soft sandy beach is very beautiful and diving around here will let you see a lot of fishes and coral. To the north, lies a striking large rock formation with astonishing shapes such as boot and Donald Ducks head. The upper part of the beach is an ideal lookout point with a rock of a sailing boat shape.

Koh Ba-ngu is the ninth island of the Similan group of islands. It has a strange feature. Looking from one point, the shape of a skull can be seen. Underwater is as beautiful as a valley full of coral reefs, deep gorge, and various sizes of fish. Koh Huyong, the island offers the whitest and longest beach of all the nine islands. During turtles ’egg laying season, from November to February, there would be tracks on the beach from turtles that come onshore to lay eggs, resembling centipede tracks. Koh Miang is the second largest island among 9 islands after Similan Island. It is where the office of the National Park is located. The island offers a scenic beach which is suitable for camping.

Diving Spots in Mu Koh Similan National Park : There are several diving spots that suit both snorkelling and scuba diving. The famous scuba diving spots including rock formations that lie to the west of Koh Tachai where whale sharks can be seen, Koh Bon, Christmas Point rock formation, Fantasy rock formation, and Ao Kwang En (to the east of Koh Paet), etc. Snorkelling spots are scattered around these nine islands. The interesting points are by the sailing boat rock, Ao Kwang En, and behind Miang Island.

Contacts Fees, Accommodation and Transport Info: Contact: Mu 1, Thap Lamu, Tambon Lam Kaen, Amphoe Thai Mueang, Phang-nga 82120, Tel. 0 7642 1365 or 0 7659 5045, 0 2562 0760 Thap Lamu Pier, located 70 kilometers north of Phang-nga at Amphoe Thai Mueang, is the nearest point to Similan. A boat trip takes around 2 hours. There is no regular boat service for travellers to the island. Boats leaving from Thap Lamu are suitable for group tours and the boat rentals range from 30,000-40,000 baht, depending on various factors. Tourists can contact the travel agents as follows: Medsye Travel and Tours, tel: 0 7644 3276, 0 7644 3340, 08 1893 8042 e-mail: metsine@ksc.th.com, www.similanthailand.com, Jack Similan Travel, tel: 0 7652 2052-3, 08 1402 7705 fax: 0 7652 2053 e-mail: info@jacksimilan.com, www.jacksimilan.com, Thaplamu Andaman Tour Tel: 0 7644 3411, 08 7265 4747, 08 4187 0011, 08 1892 4646, Phuket Office tel: 0 7627 4430, 08 1788 4458 e-mail: info@toursimilan.com, www.toursimilan.com , South Siam Divers Tel: 0 7628 6016-8, fax: 0 7628 6020 e-mail: info@southsiamdivers.com, www.southsiamdivers.com

It is sometimes possible for individuals to hitch a ride or pay a reasonable fraction of the rental cost on a boat chartered by a group. This method is by no means certain and should be an obtion only for the adventurous who have time to spare. Visitors may contact the park office at Thap Lamu (Tel: 0 7659 5045) for further information. A boat trip from Patong Beach, Phuket takes around four hours. Visitors can contact Seatran Travel Tel: 0 76219391-2. Diving companies in Phuket also organise a three-day trip. Prices range from 9,000 to 25,000 baht, depending on the level of luxury, and include food, and accommodations.

Accommodation: There are bungalows and tents as well as restaurants available on the island. For reservation, contact Mu Koh Similan National Park, tel: 0 2562 0760, www.dnp.go.th Admission Fee: Adult 400 baht and Child 200 baht For more information contact Mu Koh Similan National Park, Mu 1, Thap Lamu, Tambon Lam Kaen, Amphoe Thai Mueang, Phang-nga 82120, tel. 0 7642 1365 or 0 7659 5045. You can also contact the tour operators: Fantastic Similan Travel at tel. 0 7648 5998, 08 6601 1563. Medsine Tour at tel. 0 7648 6268, 08 6089-1777 or visit www.similanthailand.com . Mantapoint at tel. 0 7648 5745, 08 1273 9279. Thaplamu Andaman Tour at tel. 0 7644 3411. A boat trip from Patong Beach, Phuket takes around four hours. Visitors can contact Seatran Travel Tel: 0 76219391-2. Diving companies in Phuket also organise a three-day trip. Prices range from 9,000 to 25,000 baht, depending on the level of luxury, and include food, and accommodations.

PHI PHI

PHI PHI (45 minutes by boat from Phuket, also accessible by boat from Krabi) is one of the world's most beautiful islands, although in recent years it has become spoiled somewhat by the hundreds of thousands of visitors who visit the relatively small island every year.What makes Phi Phi (pronounced pee pee) so incredible are the vegetation covered- limestone formations that rise up hundreds of feet from the beaches. Inside these formations are caves where bird's nests are harvested by men who climb to the cave's ceiling on flimsy vines and bamboo scaffolding. The most awesome of these is Rimau cave.

One of Phi Phi's premier attractions is a splendid beach, often shown in tourist brochures, that is a 200-meter-wide strip of sand separated by the sea on boh sides. In front of the beach is a bay with calm clear water. Behind it is another bay with calm clear water. Phi Phi has some good restaurants and its own transvestite sex cabaret. Damage to the reef and the island has to brought about limits on day travelers.

Abby Goodnough wrote in the New York Times, “Miles out in the Andaman Sea, this place of craggy limestone cliffs, whitest sand and crystalline lagoons had become the ultimate Thai getaway spot for travelers from around the world. Phi Phi's largest and only inhabited island is a dumbell-shaped jewel famed for its pair of hourglass beaches on its east and west that are separated by just 200 meters (yards) of land. Between them lay a haphazard village packed with restaurants, flophouses, photolabs, internet cafes and trinket shops.

For years it has drawn hoardes of backpackers, who soak up the sun on pristine white-sand beaches, snorkel or dive the islands' azure waters or trek into the national marine park to scale limestone cliffs and dip in lagoons.[Source: Abby Goodnough, New York Times, January 11, 2005]

Koh Phi Phi is the collective name for a small archipelago in Krabi Province just an hour boat ride from Phuket. Known as the 'jewels of the Andaman Sea', there are six islands in Mu Koh Phi Phi-Nopparathara National Park: Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Ley, Bamboo Island , Yung Island , Bida Nok, and Bida Nai. Only Phi Phi Don is inhabited; all others are undeveloped and protected by their National Park status and are frequently visited as day trips from Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi On. Phi Phi Ley is perhaps the most picturesque island. It almost all sheer cliffs, peppered here and there with caves occupied by bird nest swiftlets. Maya Bay on Phi Phi Ley was featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach . Maya Bay was a suitable choice as it epitomizes the stunning beauty of these islands: a bay of pellucid aquamarine water surrounded by towering limestone cliffs that harbors an arcing, white sand beach.

The waters surrounding the Phi Phi Islands are filled with exotic marine life, including docile leopard sharks, and snorkeling and diving day trips rival lounging on the beach as top activities on Koh Phi Phi.Koh Phi Phi also features a vibrant nightlife, with Tonsai Beach containing dozens of beach bars and restaurants and lively Tonsai Village consisting of a maze of shops, bars, and restaurants. Smaller beaches around the island are alternatively ideal for honeymooners, families, those on a budget, and those looking for the ultimate luxury resort retreat. There are both five-star resorts and budget beach bungalows; and both raucous nightlife and secluded isolation, depending on which beach you choose to stay at.

The best time to visit Koh Phi Phi is between the months of November and April when the weather is more temperate and the rains are less frequent. In the low season visitors can expect discounted room rates. In the peak season (around Christmas and New Years) it is recommended that you book your room in advance. If you plan to scuba dive, make sure your scuba diving instructor is fully accredited.

PHI PHI TOURISM, HOTELS AND TRANSPORT

Tourist Office and Website: Uttarakit Road , Amphoe Mueang, Krabi 81000, 0 7562 2163, 0 7562 2164. Warning: 1) Don’t go to the beach to walk or swim alone at night. 2) Don’t purchase or consume any illegal drugs. 3) Don’t go topless on the beach if you are woman and don’t walk around shirtless if you are a man unless you are at the beach; please respect Thai values regarding appropriate attire.

Accommodation: Because of its relatively small size and stunning beauty, accommodation on Koh Phi Phi is more expensive than in many parts of Thailand. Most accommodation options are mid-range and up, although there are still a few charming budget resorts here and there on the island. High demand is also a factor, as the islands are incredibly popular places to visit; those arriving without pre-booked accommodation often spend much of their first day wandering from hotel to hotel looking for a vacancy. The high season, which lasts from October/November until May, is the busiest and most expensive time in regards to accommodation.That said, Koh Phi Phi has a number of different beaches on which to find accommodation. The largest resorts are mostly located on Tonsai and Loh Dalum, though there are expansive five-star resorts occupying prime beaches elsewhere on the island. Long Beach features a wide variety of lodging options not far from the action, including family friendly and more reasonably priced resorts.

Getting Around in Koh Phi Phi: As there are no roads on Koh Phi Phi the only ways to get around the island are walking or hiring a boat, either a long-tail boat or speedboat. Most visitors staying in Tonsai, Loh Dalam, and Long Beach can walk around and between the beaches, the former two connected via proper walkways, while those staying in Loh Lana and Loh Ba Kao can walk between the two beaches via jungle path. Otherwise, the only way to get around is by hiring a long-tail boat for a one way/round-trip journey or a half/full day beach and/or island hopping excursion. Long-tail boat drivers typically hang out in the shade near the top of the beach not far from their boats. Simply walk up to them and say you need a ride.

Getting to Phi Phi: Getting to Koh Phi Phi is relatively straightforward. Visitors must first travel to Phuket or Krabi and then get aboard one of several ferries that service the island. Both Phuket and Krabi have international airports serviced by both domestic and international air carriers. Phuket and Krabi are both major bus destinations as well, so it’s not difficult to get to either Phuket or Krabi (Krabi Town or Ao Nang Beach) via bus and it’s simple to get to Koh Phi Phi by ferry once there.

By Air: The only direct air service to Koh Phi Phi is via seaplane from Phuket Airport. The sea planes land off the coast of Laem Thong near the northern tip of the island and transportation to Tonsai, if required, is about 30 minutes by long-tail boat. Otherwise, the nearest airports to Koh Phi Phi are in Phuket and Krabi, both of which have international airports serviced by multiple air carriers, domestic and international. From either airport it is not difficult to arrange ground transportation to the respective ports, where visitors can easily get ferry service to Koh Phi Phi unless arriving in the evening after boats have stopped for the day.

PHANG NGA

PHANG NGA is a province equally renowned for its beautiful land, spectacular bay, and amazing islands. Not to be confused with Koh Phangan, the island in the Gulf of Thailand, Phang Nga province lies on the Andaman coast on the Thai mainland immediately north of Phuket. ; Phang Nga national parks feature magnificent scenery with immensely different attractions.Most famous is Phang Nga Bay National Park, a geological wonder filled with islets, sunken caverns, and startling rock formations rising vertically out of the sea. Phang Nga's Andaman coast offers equally stunning national parks of a different kind; the island groups of Surin and Similan are renowned for their beautiful, unspoiled beaches and spectacular underwater scenery, attracting divers from around the world. On the Phang Nga mainland, Khao Lak features a coastal park full of rare birds, exotic mammals, and scenic waterfalls, as well as many luxury and budget hotels along the spectacular coast that was devastated by the 2004 Tsunami but has since been completely rebuilt. Tourist Office and Website: Phetkasem Road, Mueang District, Phang-Nga 82000, 0 7641 1586, 0 7641 1720, 0 7641 3515, 0 7641 4482. Accommodation: The accommodation options in Phang Nga are arguably greater than any other province in Thailand, including camping, live aboard dive boats and luxury schooners, village home stays, budget beach bungalows, boutique resorts, and luxurious five-star hotels.

Getting Around in Phang Nga: By Rental Car: The best way to get around Phang Nga is in a rental car. The attractions around the province are quite spread out, even around Khao Lak, which covers an enormous stretch of coastline. Cars can be rented in Phuket or Krabi. That said, it is possible to get around the more densely populated areas via songtaew, pickup trucks with benches in the rear, that pick up and drop off passengers at any location along a fixed route. Motorbike-taxis can also be found in the town areas and are convenient for very short distances.

To get to the Similan Islands from the Khao Lak area, Thap Lamu Pier is located 70 kilometers north of Phang Nga town at Amphoe Thai Mueang. A boat trip by speedboat takes around 2 hours. However, there is no regular boat services to the Similan Islands; boats are only available through group tours or via private boat rental, the latter of which can cost upwards of 30,000-40,000 baht. Jack Similan Travel(www.jacksimilan.com), Thaplamu Andaman Tour (www.toursimilan.com), and South Siam Divers (www.southsiamdivers.com) are several companies that can arrange for you to book passage on a boat to the islands, even if you are planning to camp on one of the islands.

A boat trip from Patong Beach, Phuket takes around four hours. These are typically day trips or multi-day live-aboards for snorkelers and scuba divers. To get to the Surin Islands there is ferry that leaves the dock on Highway No.4, six kilometers north of Kuraburi town, between Takua Pa and Kapoe. The ferry takes around 4 hours to get to the islands.

Getting to Phang Nga: Because of its location, bordering both Phuket and Krabi provinces, it’s quite easy to get to Phang Nga from either destination. Day trips to Phang Nga’s national parks depart Phuket and Krabi frequently. As the attractions around Phang Nga are so widespread, the best way to explore the area is with a rental car or with an organized tour. By Train: There is no direct train to Phang Nga. The State Railways of Thailand operates daily train services between Bangkok and Surat Thani. Visitors can get to Phang Nga by getting off at the Surat Thani Railway Station and then transferring to a bus for another two hours. For more information call Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Railway Station at tel. 1690, 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020 or visit www.railway.co.th

By Car: From Bangkok there are two driving routes to Phang Nga, which is located 788 kilometers from Bangkok, an approximately 12 hour drive. 1: Take Highway No. 4 through the provinces of Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, and Ranong directly to Phang Nga. 2: Take Highway No.4 to Chumphon and then Highway No. 41 to Amphoe Tha Chang, turning right onto Highway No. 401. Keep driving to Amphoe Ban Ta Khun (about 50 kilometers) and then take Highway No. 415 for the final 30 kilometers to Phang Nga town. Visitors traveling from Phuket should use Highway No. 402, over the Sarasin Bridge. Highway No.4 north (left) leads towards Khao Lak, while Highway No.4 “south” (right, but still in a northerly direction) leads to Phang Nga town. Both Khao Lak and Phang Nga town are around 90 kilometers from Phuket, a journey of around 1 hour and 30 minutes.

By Bus: There are daily bus services from Bangkok to Phang Nga departing in the morning and evening. Traveling time is around 12 hours. For more information call the Southern Bus Terminal at tel. 0 2435 1199-200 or the Phang Nga Bus Terminal at tel: 0 7641 2300, 0 7641 2014 or visit www.transport.co.th . By Air: The nearest airport to Phan Nga is Phuket, which is serviced by numerous Thai and international carriers from destinations within Thailand and abroad. From Phuket, visitors can take a bus, rent a car, or take a taxi (around 1200 baht) to Phang Nga, around 90 kilometers away. It is also possible to fly to Krabi, where it is then possible to rent a car or get mini-bus transportation to Phang Nga, an approximately 2 hour trip.

PHANGNGA BAY

PHANGNGA BAY (60 kilometers from Phuket) is famous for its karst landscape with spectacular limestone formations. Similar to Guilin in China and Halong Bay in Vietnam, it features rock pinacles of all shapes and sizes, set in a beautiful calm water bay. There are also hidden lakes, flooded caves and white sand beaches. The approach to the bay is on river estuary lined by mangroves. Some Sea Gypsies still live on one of the many islands in the bay.

Phang Nga Bay is extremely sheltered and therefore ideal for expeditions on sea kayak that explore the many fascinating caverns and islands throughout the bay. The most famous place in the bay is James Bond Island, a cylindrical rock pinnacle that rises straight out of the sea and the island headquarters for the villain in the 1974 Roger Moore, 007 film, Man with the Golden Gun . Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai feature laid back communities that allow for cultural home stay experiences. The most the spectacular karst scenery that is found through out the north of the bay. Among the other places visited by the boat tours are Tham Lawt (a large water cave), Ko Khao Tapu (Nail Mountain Island), Ko Phing (Leaning Island), Tham Naga and Khao Khian (drawing Cave, containing cave murals).

Boat Trips to Phangnga Bay can be arranged from Phuket or from the pier north of the bay on the road between Phuket and Krabi. Trips are also available in engine-powered quasi-junks and long-tailed boats. Small boats are better than large ones; they pass close by the formations and cruise through caves so that the cave roof skims right above your head.

Kayaking in Phangnga Bay is very popular these days. The Sea Canoe company pioneered kayaking trips in Phang-Nga Bay. Kayaking paddle among the spectacular islands and wander into caves. Particularly amazing are “hongs”—open-to-the sky caves—with walls cloaked in jungle, created when sink holes or caves collapse. About 20 or so companies offer kayak trips. Sea Canoe is more expensive than the others but goes the extra mile to make sure the environment is treated with respect and local people are paid reasonably well. Sometimes more than 1,000 kayakers a day are set loose in the bay and some of them are not so respectful. Some leave behind graffiti and broke off stalactites. An effort is being to clamp down on rowdiness and limit the number of kayaks.

PHANG NGA BAY NATIONAL PARK

PHANG NGA BAY NATIONAL PARK covers a total area of approximately 250,000 rai. Also known as Ao Phang Nga National Park, it is Thailand’s second marine national park where most of the area is sea water and islands of limestone mountains. Declared a ntional park in 1981, it is also the home of mangrove forest and a breeding area of marine animals. December to April is the best time to visit the park whereas May to October is the period of heavy rainfalls and strong waves.

Ko Panyi is a small island with a plain of approximately 1 rai and 200 houses. Most of the dwellers are Thai Muslims, earning their living by fishing and selling souvenirs and food to visitors. There is a school and public health centre, as well. Ko Phanak is a beautiful island with stalactite and stalagmite caves and a small tiered waterfall inside.

Khao Phing Kan is an island on the beach that derives its name from the fact that a stone mountain split in two and the smaller part slid down, so that its base was buried into the soil while the top parts still lean against each other. The scenery behind Khao Phing Kan is very picturesque with “Khao Tapu”, otherwise known as “James Bond Island” is seen in the sea in the background, looking like a nail – Tapu – stuck into the water. Admission for climbing Khao Phing Kan is 200 Baht for adults and 100 Baht for children. Khao Ma Chu is on the way to Ko Panyi and looks similar to a dog, with a head, body, and a hairy tail.

Khao Khian or Rock Paintings is on the way to Ko Panyi and houses rock paintings on the cliff of various animals believed to have been painted by sailors who moored their ships here to take shelter from the monsoon. According to the Fine Arts Department, the paintings are at least 3,000 years old. Tham Lot is a mountain similar to Ko Thalu. The opening of the cave is approximately 50 meters wide and 40 meters high, through which a small boat can sail to the other end of the cave. There are weird stalactites on the cave’s ceiling. Ko Hong features undulated hills hugging the sea, looking like a large chamber with 2 doors and housing beautiful coral reefs.

Like Railay, the beach of Pranang can only be reached by boat, and is similarly popular for swimming and rock climbing. Pranang Cave, which often lends its name to the beach, is a small but memorable cave, shrouded in mythology and mystery. The stalactites and stalagmites are one outstanding feature. Ao Pranang is a beautiful, 600 m long beach, blessed with pure, white sands. It is quite a hot spot, and is sure not to disappoint sun lovers.

Hours, Fees, Contact, Accommodation and Transport Info: Open everyday from 8:00am -5:00pm. Contact: 80 Mu 1 Tambon Ko Panyi, Amphoe Mueang Phang-nga, Phang-nga 82000, Tel. 0 2562 0760. Ao Phang-nga National Park is situated 12 kilometers from Phang-nga town. Travel 8 kilometers from the town via Highway No. 4, then turn left into Highway No. 4114 and continue for 4 kilometers to the Ao Phang-nga National Park’s headquarters where visitors can obtain tourist information. The trip can also be made by riding a local bus from Phang-nga town. Several tour operators in Phang-nga and Phuket organise a day trip to Phang-nga Bay.

A trip to Ao Phang-Nga National Park takes around three hours, with a half-day tour arrangeable. Admission fee is 200 baht. Boat Cruises in Ao Phang Nga is available from various piers, as follows: 1) Customs Checkpoint Pier, near the Phang Nga Bay Resort, boats of different sizes are available. Contact Khun Han Karaket at Tel. 08 1894 1499. Boat for 1 - 8 persons 1,200 Baht. Boat for 8 - 20 persons 2,000 Baht. Boat for 20 - 40 persons 4,500 Baht The cruise takes about 3 - 4 hours. 2) Surakun or Kasom Pier, Amphoe Takua Thung, provides boats for rent of different sizes. Boat for 1 - 10 persons 1,200 Baht. Boat for 1 - 20 persons 1,500 Baht. Boat for 1 - 30 persons 1,600 Baht. For more information call: Kiatjaroenchai 1 at tel. 0 7649 6475, 08 1677 5971, Kiatjaroenchai 2 at tel. 0 7649 6342, 08 1676 2906, Raan Pol at tel. 0 7649 6381, 08 6691 4802. Or contact the following businesses: Sayan Tour at tel. 0 7643 0348 3) Ao Phang Nga National Park Pier provides boats of many sizes. Boat for 2 - 6 persons 1,000 Baht. Boat for 7 - 12 persons 1,500 Baht. Boat for 35 - 45 persons 4,500 Baht The Cruise takes about 3 - 4 hours. For more information call 0 7641 1136, 0 7641 2188. Note: Boat rental rates are changeable.

Accommodation: The Park provides 8 bungalows for visitors. For 4 persons 700 Baht For 8 persons 1,000 Baht. For 10 - 12 persons 1,200 Baht. For 15 Persons 1,500 Baht In case visitors bring their own tents, a fee of 20 Baht each will be charged for showering. For further details, please contact the Ao Phang Nga National Park, 80 Mu 1 Tambon Ko Panyi, Amphoe Mueang Phang Nga, Phang Nga 82000, Tel. 0 7641 1136, 0 7641 2188, or National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department Tel. 0 2562 0760, or visit www.dnp.go.th. The Phang-Nga Bay Resort near the Tha Dan pier offers comfortable accommodation.

KHAO LUK

KHAO LUK (75 kilometers north of Phuket) was devasted by the tsunami. Most of the European who died in the tragedy were on Khao Luk and nearly half of all the people that died in Thailand in the disatser died there. Khao Luk is known for being quieter and oriented more for families than Phuket. The number hotel rooms increased by a rate of 50 percent a year starting in 2001 and reached 6,000 in 2004. Khao Lak has a wide sandy beach studded with rocks of different sizes. The atmosphere is relaxing and suitable for swimming. It is a nice place to admire the setting sun. It is also a location of many hotels and resorts with designs of accommodation and landscapes that blend harmoniously with the seaside ambience: serene and shady with pine trees and coconut groves on the beach. Its intact nature is gaining popularity among Thai as well as foreign visitors. Opposite the entrance to the Park is situated Chaopho Khao Lak Shrine, which is much revered by villagers. Hat Khao Lak. Contact: Phetkasem Road, Tambon Bang Muang, Amphoe Takuapa, Phang Nga, Tel. 0 7562 2163. See Separate Articles on the 2004 Tsunami factsanddetails.com

Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park (80 kilometers north of Phuket) was established in 1991 and covers a total area of 78,125 rai. Bordering the Andaman Sea, it features seaside cliffs, beaches, estuaries and undulating 1000-meter-high mountains including Khao Lak, Khao Saeng Thong, Khao Mai Kaeo, and Khao Plai Bang. Wildlife seen here includes Malayan tapir, tiger, Sumatran serow, monkey, langur, deer, barking deer, great argus pheasant, hornbill, woodpecker, bulbul, and hill myna. There are two main trails: five -kilometer-long and seven -kilometers-long Namtok Ton Chong Fa Nature Trails, taking about 2 and 5 hours, respectively. There are nature interpretation signs along the steep routes. A guide is needed.

The mountains are covered with evergreen forests where several species of flora can be found such as Yang – Dipterocarpus alatus, Phayom – Shorea roxburghii, Malacca teak, Bunnak – Mesua ferria, Takhian Thong – Hopea odorata, Krabak – Anisoptera costata, etc. The highest mountaintop is about 1,077 meters above sea level and is the watershed of the province’s major rivers including the Phang-nga and Takua Pa. Accommodation and tents are available. For further details, please contact the Khao Lak – Lam Ru National Park, Mu 7 Tambon Khuekkhak, Amphoe Takua Pa, Phang-nga 82110, Tel. 0 7648 5414, 0 7648 5243 or National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Bangkok Office: Tel. 0 2562 0760 or visit www.dnp.go.th.

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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