Phang Nga Attractions
We have already mentioned Phang Nga's fabulous beaches, islands and national parks on other pages. There are a few other attractions around to fill your time.
The Tsunami Memorial is at Baan Naam Kem (translates to Salt Water Village). It is a sleepy fishing village and boat pier located on the coast just southwest of Takua Pa town. It is the ferry transfer point to Koh Kho Khao island. When the tsunami struck in 2004 this village was particularly hard hit with around 600 villagers losing their lives. There is barely a family in the village that did not lose loved ones. It is therefore a poignant choice for the location of the Tsunami Memorial.
The memorial is located west of the village at the north end of Bang Lut Beach. The memorial has a footpath that runs between two walls. One wall is a 4-meter high concave overhanging shape that represents the wave. The opposing wall has memorial plaques with the names and pictures of some of the victims. It is both moving and heartbreaking and brings home the impact of the tsunami to see some of the victims personalized in this way.
The surrounding area has a small garden and a couple of Buddhist shrines. The beach is long and generally very quiet. There is a nice small restaurant nearby where you can enjoy a peaceful meal or drink by the beach.
The memorial is a haunting tribute to all those that lost their lives. To get there find the turn west from highway 4 just 10k southwest of Takua Pa. It is signposted to Baan Naam Kem, Koh Kho Khao and the Tsunami Memorial.
Police Boat 813 now stands as a permanent memorial to the power of the tsunami. The tsunami picked this boat up from the sea and dumped it 2km inland like a marker showing the full reach of its power. The boat remained grounded and quickly became a notorious landmark for all to see. I remember running up and down through Khao Lak many times in the days immediately after the tsunami and the boat was a constant reminder of just how powerful the tsunami had been.
At first the boat was not moved because it simply was not a high priority. However the boat quickly became a symbol of the tsunami and it was eventually decided to make it a memorial. The boat has now been laid to rest on concrete supports and has been turned into a permanent sculpture.
Police Boat 813 is at Bang Niang Village in Khao Lak. It is on the opposite side of the road from the sea and there is a tall archway marking the entrance.
The Tsunami Museum is a small affair just 100-meters north of the entrance to the Tsunami Police Boat Sculpture. They have not put a lot of effort into this and it seems to be more about raising a bit of money for the victims than to give any serious insight into the tsunami. Downstairs they have a few photos and information displays about how the tsunami happened. Upstairs they have 3 rooms with tsunami videos on a permanent loop. There is nothing new in this footage but it is still powerful images.
Entrance to the Tsunami Museum is 100-baht.
Exploring Phung Chang Cave is an impressive 1,200-metre trip into the heart of a limestone karst cliff. The cave runs into Chang Mountain. 'Chang' is the Thai word for elephant and 'Phung' is belly so the cave name literally means 'belly of elephant mountain'.
The cave is full of stalactites, stalagmites and other interesting rock formations. As you go, your guides will point out rock formations and explain that they look like an elephnat, a crocodile, a dragon, etc. You will often look and think what are they talking about, until suddenly the shape makes sense and you can see it too.
There are many bats on the ceiling of the cave including bumblebee bats, the smallest bats in the world.
You will be given torches and taken into the cave by guides. There is shallow water and you will be taken along the first couple of levels first in a canoe and then on a bamboo raft. You will then walk the final level to the end of the cave. It is a quite spooky experience to all turn off your torches and find yourselves in total blackness in the depths of a mountain.
Phung Change Cave is on the left hand side of the road as you enter Phang Nga town from the south on route 4. Entrance price includes guides and torch and is around 400B.
A charming little attraction just outside Phang Nga town is the Dairy Hut Farm. It is in a beautiful location at the base of a limestone Karst. The farm is actually just a collection of a few different animalls that you can pet and feed. There are sheep, cows, and more curiously, llamas and wallabies. Once inside, your entrance ticket entitles you to some grass to feed the sheep. You can also buy food to feed the other animals. The park area also includes a pond and a few swings, etc for kids.
There is also a souvenir shop and a restaurant. Dairy Hut Seafood serves good fresh seafood and other dishes at very reasonable prices and is worth a visit on its own if you are passing and hungry.
Entrance to the Dairy Hut Farm is 80B for adults and 40B for children. The farm is open 7 days a week and is located on route 415 just 4 kilmoters away from Phang Nga Town.
Phang Nga province is connected to Phuket by a bridge. Well three bridges to be exact. The traffic crosses on the two more recently constructed and higher bridges. The traffic enters Phuket across Srisoonthorn Bridge and returns on the newly completed Thao Thep Krasattri Bridge.
However Sarasin Bridge is the name that everybody remembers and still tends to use when referring to any of these three bridges. Sarasin Bridge is a name with a true story that is famous across Thailand. In 1973 two star crossed lovers tied themselves together and threw themselves off the bridge. They were Dam a simple bus driver and Gew a student from a wealthy local family. They loved each other deeply but Gew’s father forbade her from continuing the relationship with the lowly bus driver. No matter how they pleaded, he would not budge. So in a final act of defiance they tied themselves together and jumped off the bridge. When their bodies were finally retrieved from the water they were still tied together. Gew’s brokenhearted father reputedly told the villagers not to untie them, it was impossible to keep them apart.
The story was turned into a movie, ‘Love Bridge Sarasin’. The new Thao Thep Krasattri Bridge was completed in 2011 to allow taller boats to sail under the bridge but the legendary Sarasin Bridge could not possibly be demolished. Instead it was redeveloped into a walking bridge and the center section was raised to allow the taller boats to pass under.
There are nice little restaurants at either end of the bridge. On the Phang Nga side there is a selection of stalls selling pineapples and other local produce.