Difference between revisions of "Ranong"
Revision as of 15:15, 17 November 2012
Ranong is the first southern province on the western coast, located 568 km from Bangkok. It is known for the long rainy period, which lasts for 8 months each year. Ranong occupies an area of 3,298 square km, with the Kra Isthmus which is the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula, and is bordered by Myanmar and the Indian Ocean to the west. Within its compact area, Ranong contains various natural attractions and is blessed with hot springs and unspoiled mangrove forests.
Happy Air flys from Ranong to Bangkok every M, W, F, Sa and Su leaving at 15:10, arriving 16:40. Book online at 
The nearest train station is at Chumphon.
Minibuses to Chumphon leave from the bus station, cost 180 baht, and take around 3 hours. They drop off in most parts of Chumphon. You can mini-bus it all the way to Bangkok from Ranong.
The bus from Chumphon's central bus terminal stops at a place some 6 km out of town at the booking agency for this particular bus company (Rangsit Tours). There is little in the vicinity, and you will be approached by drivers who will take you wherever for a price.
Hotels are close by or 10 min by motorcycle taxi to the main street.
Numerous and relatively frequent full-size buses of various classes connect with Chumphon and Bangkok and all major points inbetween; with Phuket and Krabi via Takua Pa and Khao Lak and other key points in Phang Nga Province (most direct route to Trang and Satun is via Krabi); and with Surat Thani which acts as the gateway to just about everywhere else.
For any travel information you can stop at Ranong Coffee and Information, located on your left just as you walk out from the bus station to the main road. The Thai owner Nong is very helpful and speaks fluent English. They also offer free luggage storage.
Hourly boats (a little larger, also taking about 20 minutes) ferry gamblers to and from Thahtay Kyun, a small island adjacent to Kawthoung where the Andaman Club  casino and golf resort has its own immigration facilities.
Ranong has a few things to see:
Ranong's islands are quite spectacular, especially Ko Phayam and Kam Islands.
Visa run - is a likely reason to come to Ranong. You can catch a songthaew from the market on the main road. It costs 10 baht to get to Saphan Pla, the fishing port providing the link to Kawthoung (aka Victoria Point), a fishing town in Myanmar. Most songthaews end up here eventually, though some follow a longer route than others. You will either be dropped across the road from the immigration office, or at a small roadside cafe a few metres away. Your first stop is to go the immigration office where you must formally exit Thailand. Get your passport stamped and then head for the pier.
It is likely you will be offered a boat by touts. A longtail boat should cost around 300 baht (return), whether you're on your own or in a group. The price you pay for a boat should be negotiated before you get in. There have been stories of tourists being charged up to 1,000 baht. There is also a big boat which is used by more organised visa runs, and a small-scale trip via longtail usually coordinated by a white haired chap in a gold coloured pickup who hangs around the bus station. Longtails are faster and fewer people mean less waiting time at the various immigration points. The big boat is slower and takes longer because of the number of passports to be checked, but can work out cheaper.
You will need US$10 (in the form of US dollar banknotes) to enter Myanmar and they like the notes to be in top condition, especially with no writing on them. Local touts sell US dollar notes, but at very uncompetitive rates. On weekends the Myanmar authorities also require photocopies of your passport done by a small shop at the immigration office for 10 baht.
The boat will first go to a Thai Immigration checkpoint, and the driver will take your passport to be inspected, then to a Myanmar Immigration checkpoint a few km on. For some reason they don't need to see your passport there. When you arrive in Kawthoung there will be plenty of touts offering cheap whiskey/cigarettes/guided tours. You must first enter the country by going the immigration office to the left as you exit the short pier. It is here you hand over your $30 and tell them (they have English) that you're a day-tripper. In fact they'll sell you a visa which entitles you to stay for up to 2 weeks. This should be given serious consideration, Kawthoung would be well worth a few days. If you're just staying the day, Myanmar immigration will stamp you in and out in one go so you won't have to go back there again on your way out.
You'll probably be offered Valium and Viagra by touts, and helped towards shops selling cheap alcohol and cigarettes. There is a limit on what can be brought back legally, and the boat may be checked on the return journey. You'll also be offered a one-hour sight-seeing trip on a moped from the touts. At the end of the trip you may be told that the price you agreed was for the moped only and that you need to pay further for the guide himself. It's well worth spending some time in the village even if you're just doing the day trip (have a Myanmar beer!).
After the boat trip back, you must return to the Thai immigration office to formally re-enter the country.
Diving off the Similan- and Surin Islands in Thailand - is another activity that starts from Ranong. Although most companies who offer dive tours to the Surin Islands- and Similan Islands are situated further south on the west coast of Thailand in Khao Lak and Phuket, you can also go diving in these areas from remote Ranong. Also, famous dive sites like Richelieu Rock, Ko Tachai and Ko Bon are included in the liveaboard tours. In Ranong are a few liveaboard dive companies, of which The Smiling Seahorse and Aladdin Dive Safari are best known for their consistent tour schedule and various dive tours. You can also join dive tours to the remote and fantastic dive sites of the Mergui Archipelago in Burma. The dive season runs yearly from the end of October until May. You can also learn diving or enhance your diving skills while joining a PADI Dive Course at the dive centres in Ranong. Some courses are also given during the liveaboard dive tours.
By far the best restaurant in Ranong is Sophons Hideaway situated on the main street (Ruangrat Rd). This restaurant has been established for 7 years and has a very good reputation in town. This is the restaurant of choice for more affluent Thais and when they have a good crowd (often), you can really have a good night out. Thais enjoy mixing with foreigners at this restaurant. They serve both Western and Thai food.
JaJaa Coffee. Just around the corner from the bus station. Coffee is good and has free WiFi, but if you want to use their electricity there is a 20 baht charge. Food portions may seem particularly tiny for farang. Locals seemed to get better-sized portions. Do not under any circumstances order the breakfast: one piece of toast, a sloppy fried egg, a square of ham, and two 3 cm pieces of sausage.