Difference between revisions of "Phang Nga"
Revision as of 13:31, 30 March 2012
Phang Nga is a seaside province by the Andaman Sea with scenic views of forests and islands. The province offers superb natural beauty both onshore and underwater.
Phang Nga was originally inhabited by small communities and named Kraphu-nga. During the reign of King Rama II, nearby areas (including Thalung, now known as Phuket) were occupied by the Burmese and so many people fled to Kraphu-nga. In 1824, Siamese troops defeated the Burmese and the invaders were expelled. King Rama III renamed the area Phang Nga and in 1933 the town was expanded to be a province.
Phang-nga is a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and even sea gypsies. The majority of the population in the rural areas is Muslim. Phang-nga however, does not suffer from any religious tension and the folk live in peace and harmony. Outside of the provincial town, the rural folk speak with a thick Southern dialect which is difficult for even other Thais to understand.
With this kind of mixture, Phang Nga is always celebrating something be it part of Thai Buddhist, Thai-Chinese or Thai-Islamic tradition.
Situated on the small island of Ko Surin is a community of Morgan Sea Gypsies who still live their traditional life as sea-faring people. These sea gypsies speak Yawi dialect and are more than welcome to tourists. However, just like the Long-necked Karen in Mae Hong Son, some folk complain that their village resembles a bit like a human zoo with hoards of tourists walking around gawking at the villagers. There are organized tours from Phang Nga which go there.
The State Railways of Thailand operates daily train services between Bangkok and Surat Thani. A trip to Phang-nga can be made by getting off at the Surat Thani Railway Station and then take on a bus for another two hours. For more information call Bangkok’s Hualamphong Railway Station  tel. 1690, 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020.
Buses from Phuket, Takua Pa and Krabi pass through Phang-Nga. During daytime there are many buses from the bus station to Phuket, Krabi, Takua Pa and Surat Thani. In the evening however there are hardly buses but if you're lucky you might catch a bus on the Phuket-Krabi road. (4 km from the city) The phone number of the bus station is +66 76 412014
There are daily bus services from Bangkok to Phang-nga. Air-conditioned buses, varying in 3 types, depart from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal at the following times:
Travelling time is 12 hours. For more information call the Southern Bus Terminal at tel. 0 2435 1199-200 or the Phang-nga Bus Terminal at tel: +66 76 412300, +66 76 412014.
The pier, Tha Dan, is 9 km south of the town.
From Phuket there are a variety of taxi and private car-hire services. However there is a stranglehold on many of these agencies through local "associations" that demand high prices and disallow competition. It is a common complaint that passengers are made to stop at local gem and/or travel agencies allowing the drivers to collect a commission. To avoid this - demand a meter to be turned on or agree to price ahead of time - with no stops. You may also used licensed and certified agencies.
The most popular form of getting around in Phang-nga is by Songthaew (public passenger pick-up vehicles). To get to and from other districts, there is a public non air-conditioned bus service or even cars for rent. And for a day out on the islands, there are long-tailed boats for hire.
You can use the songthaews for travel in the city. If you want to explore the area, it is better to rent a motorbike. You can rent a motorbike at M.T. Tour (Muang Thong hotel, from the bus station; go to the exit, turn right at the main road, walk 100 m and it's at your left side). If you have an own car or a motorbike already you still can go to MT Tour +66 89 289 2566) to get a free detailed map of the area. In general, everything (tours, accommodation, food) in Phang Nga is cheap, especially compared with Phuket. It's not possible to rent a car in Phang Nga. But in Khao Lak, Krabi or Phuket you can rent a car.
Phang Nga has a beautiful landscape with many waterfalls, mountains, islands, rivers and hot springs. You can get a good map at M.T. Tour and visit the various attractions. Phang Nga has also special temples, each one with different characteristics. Attractions near the city are: The elephant mountain (temple), Sanong Manora waterfall, Dragon cave (offering gruesome images of hell and corny ones of heaven), Somdet Phra Srinagarindra Park. Further away are: Namtok Lamru a 5-tiered waterfall, Khao Lak (beach), Ko Similan National Park (diving & snorkeling), Ko Surin National Park (diving & snorkeling). There are also jungle tours with rafting and temple tours.
Another great thing to do is Community Based Tourism. Communities around the Phang nga province are opening up their villages to one day tours and overnight home stays. They usually come at a base price and list everything that will be included in the tour from Batik painting to tin mining.
Phang Nga city is not a mass tourist destination. There are many banks and ATM's in the city. But there are no exchange booths. So if you have cash change it before 15.30 on weekdays.
Tesco Lotus carries all brand names for nappies and convenience food. Boots the Chemist and other chemists and pharmacies are within reach.
During daytime you can get cheap and delicious meals at the market or at the restaurant in the Muang Thong hotel. In this hotel it's also possible to have a breakfast (eggs, toast, butter & jam). There is also a vegetarian restaurant on the main road if you walk south from the bus station. At night it is worth to try the restaurants at the riverside. Tuesdays and Thursdays there is also a night market 500m south of the bus station (on the main road. Many guidebooks recommend Duang as a good place to eat. However as a tourist you will probably pay more than Thais. And Malaysians may have to pay even more than other tourists.
There are several hotels throughout the city, although they are all of relatively low standard and rather old. If you plan to see Phang Nga Bay and you want to stay overnight only for that reason you might want to reconsider your choice. In that case it might be better to stay in Phuket, Khao Lak or Krabi and take one of the frequent and inexpensive buses to Phang Nga early in the morning. You will likely get better quality of accommodation at comparable prices that way.
All of the budget hotels are within 400 m of the bus station so it won't be hard to walk to them. Exit the bus station and turn right.
Other budget options are Rattanapong (located between Muang Thong and Phang Nga Guesthouse), Thaweesuk (150 Baht) and Lak Muang.
Other hotels are not near the bus station and they're more expensive.
The Phang Nga Bay is famous for its gravity-defying limestone formations. You can make the tour with Sayan  (in the bus station) or MT Tour (in the Muang Thong hotel, 100 metres from the bus station).