Phang Nga Islands
The Thai word for island is normally written 'Koh' but is pronounced closer to 'Gaw'. Phang Nga province includes 105 islands. These include the spectacular Similan and Surin islands to the west which are world renowned scuba diving and snorkelling locations. Then there is the stunning limestone karst scenery of Phang Nga Bay to the southeast or the gentle paced getaway islands of Koh Yao Noi and Yai even further south. There are so many islands that it would take months to fully explore them all. There are many beautiful beaches some of which are totally deserted.
Any tour shop will be able to book you on a boat trip to see the islands of your choice. It is hard to beat the organised tours in terms of price or convenience. They will collect you from your hotel, deliver you to the boat and collect you again afterwards. The disadvantage with tours is you are on a timetable and may be in a large group. If you do not want to take a tour then it is possible to visit the closer islands yourself. If there is a group of you then it may work out cheaper than taking a tour. Simply drive to the coast nearest to the island you want to visit and rent a longtail or speedboat at the beach. The driver will take you to the island you want to see and wait while you are there. The price will depend on the season, how long you go and how far you want to go.
During the rainy season, the sea may be choppy and some of the islands will be inaccessible.
In the southeast corner of Phang Nga province is Phang Nga Bay. This area is a National Park famous for its spectacular scenery. There are more than 40 limestone islands that rise dramatically from the sea. The area came to world attention when it was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie 'The Man with the Golden Gun'. Apart from James Bond Island, the area has many other attractions such as the Sea Gypsy Village, hidden. caves, lagoons and beaches. A trip to Phang Nga Bay is a quite breathtaking experience.
The Similans are a string of granite based islands approximately 50km west of Khao Lak. They are perhaps not as visually spectacular as the limestone scenery of Phang Nga Bay but still an impressive sight. The islands are strewn with great granite boulders and there are some glorious white sand beaches. However, the real appeal of the Similans is not the beaches and scenery. The real appeal of the Similans is what lies beneath the water. They are generally accepted as being one of the world's top ten diving sites.
The Surin Islands are a marine national park archipelago comprising five main islands approximately 60km west of Phang Nga. The islands are a beautiful collection of sandy beaches, enclosed bays and forested land criss-crossed with hiking trails. They are an unspoiled haven with great snorkelling and world class diving. They are considered thee best place in all of Thailand to see sea turtles. You can do a speedboat day trip but even better is camping over and giving yourself as much time as you need to enjoy these stunning islands.
These two islands are truly an escape. They are at the very southeast corner of Phang Nga province, approximately halfway between Phuket and Krabi. The local Muslim population has strived to maintain their way of life and the natural beauty of their islands while still welcoming visitors. They are wonderfully friendly people and you will rarely pass someone without seeing a smile. The attractions of these islands are the tranquility and the lovely scenery. They are also a great base from which to explore Phang Nga Bay and Krabi Bay.
Koh Kho Khao
The island of Koh Kho Khao is off the west coast of Phang Nga just north of Khao Lak. It is a very quiet location with a beautiful long beach along its western coastline. The island is an ideal holiday destination for those who just want a beach escape. There are just a few holiday resorts dotted along the beachfront. The pace of life here is slow and there is little else to do but relax.
Koh Phra Thong
Koh Phra Thong (Golden Buddha Island) is close to the west coast of Phang Nga. It is one of the least developed beach islands in all of Thailand. Whille Koh Kho Khao (above) feels quiet, this island feels almost undiscovered. There is just one holiday resort and a handful of budget beach huts. There is also a homestay project at one of the two villages on the island. A long beach runs the full length of the western coastline.
To the north of Koh Phra Thong is the even quieter Koh Ra. The geography of this island is too rugged to allow any major settlements but there is a small eco-lodge by a beach. The interior of the island is rugged hills covered in forest. The coastline is rocky with a few small beaches.You can snorkel, hike and enjoy viewing the wildlife. The eco-lodge is very basic and is meant for people who want to enjoy the natural suurroundings and do not mind roughing it a little.
Koh Lawa Yai
Between Phang Nga and Phuket is the small island of Koh Lawa Yai. It has a couple of nice little beaches and you can easily walk around the island. The island is just within Phang Nga Bay National Park although it is distinctly different to the other islands in the park as it is a granite based island. Some of the Phang Nga tour boats include this island on their itinery. If you make your own way there, you may be charged a 200-baht national park entrance fee.