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Ranong

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Ranong (ระนอง) is both a town and a province on the Northern Andaman Coast in the south of Thailand.

Understand

View from Market Street in Ranong

A small border town with limited tourist interest and hence still quaintly Thai. Border access via boat to Kawthoung in Myanmar makes Ranong a popular visa run destination.

Ranong is the first southern province on the west 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.

Get in

By plane

Happy Air flies from Bangkok Suvarnaphumi (BKK) to Ranong (IATA: UNN, ICAO: VTSR) every day except Tu at 13:20 with an additional flight on W at 09:00. Flight time is 90 min.

Happy Air flies from Ranong to Bangkok BKK every M/W/F/Sa/Su leaving at 15:10 and arriving at 16:40.

The airport is 23 km south of town and is well-served by taxis.

Train

The nearest train station is at Chumphon.

Mini-bus

Mini-buses to Chumphon leave from the bus station, cost 180 baht and take around 3 hr. They drop off in most parts of Chumphon. Mini-buses run all the way from Ranong to Bangkok.

By bus

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. Most other buses stop on the main road passing by Ranong, about 1.5km from town. You can jump in a Songtheaw to take you into town for about 15 baht (2013)

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.

As of March 2013, travel from Takua Pa to Ranong by air-con VIP bus cost 160 baht and took 3 hr.

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.

By boat

Hundreds of longtail boats connect Ranong with Kawthoung in Myanmar, and take about 20 minutes to cross. They can be chartered individually or shared with other travellers and/or locals.

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 [1] casino and golf resort has its own immigration facilities.

Get around

See

Waterfall in national park near Ranong

Ranong has a few things to see:

  • Bald Hill
  • Hot Springs
  • Ranong Canyon
  • Waterfalls

Ranong's off-shore islands are quite spectacular, especially Ko Phayam and Kam Islands.

Do

Ranong's famous Bald Hill

Visa Run - is the most likely reason people visit to Ranong. To start the process, 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 are reports 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.

Entry into Myanmar costs US$10, and notes should be in good condition, especially with no writing on them. Local touts sell US dollar notes but at bad exchange rates. There is a bank in front of the pier, you can exchange your money there with normal exchange 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 to pay US$10 and tell the officals, who speak English, that you're a day-tripper. Two weeks visa are sold, which could be useful as Kawthoung could 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 return on your way out.

You'll probably be offered counterfeit Valium and Viagra by touts, and steered 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.

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 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 Oct until May. You can also learn diving or enhance your diving skills by joining a PADI dive course at the dive centres in Ranong. Some courses are also given during the liveaboard dive tours.

Buy

Durian vendor on Market Street

Eat

  • Ranong Hideaway (Sophon's), 323/7 Ruangrat Rd (on the main street), +66 77 832730, [2]. 10:00-23:00. This restaurant has been established since 2004 and has a good reputation. Popular with affluent Thais, and the locals appear to enjoy mixing with foreigners. Serves both Western and Thai food.

Drink

JaJaa Coffee. Just around the corner from the bus station. Coffee is good and has free Wi-Fi, but use of electricity has a 20 baht charge. Food portions may seem small for a farang, and breakfast is just one piece of toast, a sloppy fried egg, a square of ham and a few small pieces of sausage.

Black Cheap Coffee. When you go out of the bus station, it's on your left, it's the pink one. Free Wi-Fi. Good smoothies, good sandwiches made with fresh bread. The owwner, Nong, speak english and is very friendly, he can help you to find you way in Ranong and can give you informations about the visa run.

Sleep

Budget

  • Bakhla Bar, (on Market Street two doors down from the 7-11, opposite the first main right turn). Mattress-on-floor rooms with shared bathrooms 100-120 baht.
  • Kiwi Orchid, (yellow building close to the bus station behind the tourist information building). Don't buy boat tickets from here, as you will be charged 100 baht per person to be driven 10 minutes to the ferry. Walk round to the bus station and take songthaew No. 2 to close to the ferry stop. Also, do not book accommodation on the islands through them, as contrary to what you might be told there is plenty of accommodation available. 250 baht for a room (double/twin) with fan and shared bathroom.
  • Sintavee Hotel, (on Market St, 100 m north of the market). Chinese-run and sometimes used for short-time action by the local working girls and their clients. Large double room, private bathroom for 200 baht.
  • Sunny Lodge, 41/32-34 Tah-Muang Rd, +66 84 2459888, [3]. checkout: 12pm. Open 24/7. Good service, friendly staff, small menu. Free Wi-Fi. 250 baht for a fan room, 500 baht for a/c.

Mid-range

View of Night Market from Royal Princess Hotel
  • Tinidee Hotel, 41/144 Tamuang Rd (well signposted), +66 77 835240, [4]. Best hotel in Ranong. from around 1,200 baht.

Get out


Routes through Ranong
BangkokChumphon  N noframe S  Takua PaSadao




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