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Phang Nga beat

It may not be the biggest city in Thailand, but Phang Nga Town, a former tin-mining centre offers a rich variety of things to do and see. Anongnat Sartpisut gives a quick rundown on the attractions of the town and its surroundings.

March 2008
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Phang Nga has the longest stretch of beaches in Thailand, running from Kuraburi District south to the southernmost tip of the province - about 40 kilometres.

If you are coming from Phuket, as many people do, you can stop at Haad Khao Pi Lai, a long, pristine beach in Khok Kloi District. This is also a good fishing spot, though you have to be careful as the sea is deep and shelves steeply, so it is not so good for inexperienced swimmers.

Other well-known stretches of sand in the area are Bang Sak, Nang Tong and Bang Niang beaches, all in the Khao Lak area.

Caves
There are many limestone caves scattered around Phang Nga Town and the various islands in the province. One of these is Samnaksong Tham Tapan, which is decorated with depictions from Buddhism.

Here you can walk through the Dragon Cave, which is about 100 metres long and represents 'Hell', with depictions of punishments inflicted on people who have lived an immoral life. The 'Heaven' section is an 800-metre-long natural cave with running water, stalactites and stalagmites. Outside are stairs leading up to the 'Hall of Heave'. At the top are stunning views of the province.

Phung Chang (Elephants Belly) Cave is part of Khao Hua Chang (Elephant Head Hill), which is a symbol of Phang Nga. A stream flows through it and you can take a boat ride past stalactites and stalagmites that glitter when light hits them.

Other caves around Phang Nga Town are Suwan Khu Ha Cave and Reusi Cave. By the coast and on the province's islands you can find Lod Yai Cave and Nak Cave.

What to do Waterfalls, trekking and rafting
Song Phraek is in Pa Ton Priwat Wildlife Conservation Area. From Phang Nga Town drive about five kilometres to the east along Highway 4, then turn left towards Kapong. Go another three kilometres and turn right. This will take you towards Song Phraek. After about 10 kilometres you'll come to the Tambon Song Phraek rafting center.

This stretch of rapids shouldn't be missed by any traveler wanting a challenge. Rides down the river vary in length from five to 15 kilometres.

Nearby is a 2.4-kilometre forest walk. Or, if that seems like too much work, tourists can take an elephant ride through the trees. If you're lucky, you may get to see a Rafflesia, the world's largest flower.

You can finish off with a picnic or by setting up camp next to the 40-metre-high Ton Priwat waterfall. The pool at the bottom is perfect for a cooling swim.

Not far away is Sa Manora National Park which consists of a number of streams at different levels surrounded by plants and trees such as bamboo and fern.

The park is perfect for exploring the area's plants, birds and animals-such as the Asian fairy bluebird, the orange-chested flowerpecker and the pig-tailed macaque-as well as limestone caves such as Khang Khao Cave.

Islands
For a full-day boat trip, head for Tab Lamu on the west coast and take a boat to the Marine National Parks of the Surin and Similan islands off Kuraburi District. The Similan Islands have some beautiful deep-water dive sites ranked in the top in the world. Just simply snorkeling is also delightful.

The Surin Islands have the biggest and most pristine shallow-water reefs in the country, and both island groups have beautiful clear water.

Phang Nga Bay National Park is another place where you can see the beauty of nature. There are 42 islets, some well known ones are Koh Hong and Koh Tapu, better known to tourists as James Bond Island as it was used in the filming of The Man with the Golden Gun. The sea here has coral clown fish and giant clams. Even whale sharks can sometimes be seen.

Dining out
Phang Nga cuisine is heavily influenced by Phuket, with Chinese and Southern Thai food predominating. In the morning, don't forget to try Phang Nga's kanom jeen, accompanied by a wide variety of fresh vegetables. One of the most popular variations is kanom jeen tha nun.

Also on offer around the town are salabao (Chinese dumplings), dim sum, tea and traditionally-made coffee. In the market there are many khao man kai (chicken and rice) and khao kha moo (pork leg with rice) stalls.

For lunch there are many kinds of noodles to try out, particularly in the market and around the Ma Jor Po shrine.

Another famous food in the town is pork satay there are at least three excellent satay restaurants for you to choose from. The key to the dish, locals will tell you, is roasting the pork until it's tender and ensuring that the peanut sauce is really tasty.

For a main meal or seafood, Boo Dum restaurant just north of Khok Kloy has a good choice of seafood and local dishes. Lert Rot Chinese restaurant in Takua Pa District is another good choice. One thing you will remember about Phang Nga is the delicious food.

Nightlife
Phang Nga is a quiet province, so don't expect to come across too many bars, pubs or other nightspots. If you really want to go for a night out, your best bet is Ran Pu Kan in Takua Pa District but even then most of the nightspots are little karaoke bars.

How to get there
From Phuket airport to Phang Nga Town is 58 kilometres along Highway 4 from Krabi airport the distance is about 86 kilometres. In Phang Nga Town, it is easy to find songthaew (converted pickup trucks) and motorbike taxi services.

  Photo gallery : Phang Nga beat

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