Guide to Phang Nga

A gentle breeze carries the scent of the sea towards you. Your warm toes are tucked under a small mound of sand. You’re alone, watching the violet embers of the sunset flare and fade into the horizon. In that moment, time itself slows down and you can almost make out each crystalline grain on the shore.

Trips to a beach – before actually taking them – could play out like this in our heads. But a moment of solace like this, can be just as quickly dashed by crowds.

Phang Nga, however, is basically Phuket’s low-key island sibling. Think a hidden seaside haven that’s way less crowded, with similar energy.

There’s just so much to do here, including sea-canoeing expeditions to secret cavernous mangrove forests and hunting down Daisy at Donald Duck Bay, hidden within its expansive 42-island bay area.

We’ll give you the sizzle reel version of all the places worth checking out, so you can seriously consider a visit before Phang Nga reaches the same level of renown as its neighbours.

More guides to Thailand’s beach havens:

1. Sail through the waves like a pirate on a Chinese junk boat

At Phang Nga, though we can’t promise you swashbuckling sword fights à la Pirates of the Caribbean, visitors can experience something similar – the thrill of cruising along in a smol boat decked out in ruby red sails.

Image credit: @asian_oasis

More specifically, the “June Bahtra” – a traditional wooden junk boat that lets guests cruise along the shores of Phang Nga Bay’s 42 islands.

Image credit: @asian_oasis

Expect a picturesque, scenic ride along the gentle waves accompanied by stunning sunset views.

Image credit: @maly_pops

Bask in the natural beauty of islets like James Bond Island, or Koh Panyee, or simply stop for a swim in the middle of the sea.

Image credit: @asian_oasis

Commandeering a ship has only risen up our ‘Things to do before I grow old’ lists since our days of pretending we were pirates, so this activity is great for getting a feel of Phang Nga on your first day in Phuket.

Pro-Tip: Most tours include lunch or dinner, snacks & roundtrip transfers. Pick from group tours, TripAdvisor, Klook to private tours, Asian Oasis.

2. Lie flat on a sea canoe while slipping through secret caves

Perhaps catching a sunset on a junk boat is not really your scene, and you’d much prefer feeling the weight of the water on your paddle.

phang nga Image credit: John Grey Sea Canoe

With ample muscle strength and stamina, and an unquenchable thirst for exploration, rent out a sea canoe with your trusty mates.

Image credit: @johngreyseacanoe

Once you hit the water, we hope you’re ready for a roarin’ adventure while navigating the intricate maze of cavernous tunnels, woven among towering rock formations and narrow waterways.

phang nga Image credit: John Grey Sea Canoe

Paddle furiously through secret caves and lagoons known as “hongs”, or leisurely drift through mangrove forests to spot all manner of marine creatures in their natural, unvarnished habitats.

phang nga Image credit: John Grey Sea Canoe

Similar to the junk boats, private charters or group tours are available – but do check that they are SHA+ certified, and offer refunds for cancellations in the event of weather conditions.

Image credit: @mylittletony

Like the intrepid, veteran expedition expert Dora the Explorer proclaims in every episode, “If there’s a place you gotta get, I can get you there I bet.”

This time, however, you’ll get there in a sea-canoe or kayak steered through vast cave complexes via yours truly or a strong-armed professional guide.

Pro-Tip: Pick tours with food, transfers or full refunds provided like Paddle Asia’s Kayaking Day Trip (฿4,450/person). Viator’s list is extremely helpful for first-timers to get a sense of what’s out there.

3. Hunt for ‘treasure’ at James Bond island – a.k.a limestone islands

Interestingly, Phang Nga’s most famous island – a humongous limestone rock feature – is unabashedly nicknamed “James Bond Island”. No prizes for guessing why.

phang nga james bond islandJames Bond Island’s famous rock formations make for a picturesque photo-op
Image credit: @itravel.lab

The idyllic locale’s rocky overhang at Khao Ping Kan famously lit up the silver screen in a cameo in James Bond: The Man With The Golden Gun way back in 1974 as antagonist Scaramanga’s lair.

phang nga james bond island 2Image credit: @k.a.s.s.y.d

Limestone caves, and cliffs, are definitely a dime a dozen here, so make time for a proper stop at one of them for a mandatory photo-op before continuing your trek.

Limestone caves and mini-cliffs at James Bond Island.
Image credit: High On Dreams

We’d also recommend hiking up to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint for a panoramic view of the other islets. Though it’s about a 15 to 20-minute climb, we think the breathtaking scenery is its own reward.

A swing atop Samet Nangshe Viewpoint.
Image credit: @yanasuperwoman

Besides trekking, there’s a 5,000-year-old shell cemetery that offers a glimpse at ancient artwork, pieced together by thousands of tiny shells.

Count Count the shells on this wall at the 5,000-year-old Shell Cemetery.
Image credit: GirlEatWorld

You may not be able to return home with a chestful of 24-carat gold coins. But a Tumblr bucketload of pics of these unclaimed, au natural calcium-fortified treasures sounds pretty good.

phang nga caveImage credit: @nattapolc9999

A trip to James Bond Island will most likely entail close encounters with National Geographic documentary level scenes IRL.

Definitely a good fit for adventurers who are game to invest their stamina, and perspiration into the hike.

Pro-Tip: Most tours we’ve found like Project Expedition require a minimum number – usually 3 or more – of travellers to begin, so assemble your adventuring squad before booking.

4. Snorkel at Similan islands & find Donald Duck Bay

We’ve covered land expeditions, and overwater activities, now let’s move on to what secrets lie beneath the calm waters of Phang Nga’s other lesser known islands.

phang nga diveImage credit: @maynvm

Similan Islands – rumoured to have been named after a mispronunciation of “Sembilan”, which means 9 in Malay – also harks back to a rather NSFW exclamation in Hokkien.

The interesting name aside, this is arguably one of the top diving and snorkeling spots in Phang Nga, prized for its clear blue waters, and vast array of sea critters.

phang nga similan islandImage credit: @gil_mastrangelo

To put it simply, it’s like diving into an actual aquarium – but due to its shallow depth, it’s a great first-time experience for beginner divers.

phang nga similan islandImage credit: @nanasako_syd

Above ground, check out a bay area named after a pile of rocks that resemble Donald Duck’s head. If it’s not obvious on the first glance, do squint and you’ll probably be able to make it out – and perhaps find Daisy along the way.

phang nga similan island 2Image credit: @nanasako_syd

Before you leave, make sure to scale the formation for a full-panel HD display view of the setting sun against the sea, hidden just around the corner.

phang nga similan island 4Image credit: @nnuds_

Pro-Tip: Similan Islands are typically open from October to May, so do check out sites like TripAdvisor to book tours depending on the season, as they are snapped up pretty quickly.

5. Learn about egg hatching & sea life at Phang Nga’s turtle sanctuary

Those with a heart for learning about sea turtle conservation efforts will be stoked to learn about opportunities to visit turtle sanctuaries in Phang Nga.

phang nga sea turtlesImage Credit: _nastyakorolek_

Originally a mollusk culture research station, the Phang Nga Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre offers free entry to visitors, who’ll be able to learn more about Hawksbill & Olive Ridley turtles.

Image credit: @happynancyfranky

You’ll trace the journey of how sea turtle hatchlings are born – from the moment they crack open their wee little egg shells, to when they make first contact with the ocean’s waves.

Image credit: @dmitrydagaev

Adult sea turtles spotted nesting in Phang Nga have been known to span up to a whopping 125CM long and 70CM wide.

Image credit: @icyzy_chonteecha

Admiring these gentle creatures in person, of course, presents a more holistic picture of how their well-being is intertwined with their native environment’s conditions.

Image Credit: Андрей Трейтяк via Google Maps

Guests who have always been concerned about marine life conservation, or simply enjoy putting an educational spin on their trips, should definitely bookmark this free-for-entry centre.

Gaining awareness about meaningful campaigns to help native wildlife achieve sustainable growth is a large plus, but we’re definitely more excited to actually meet a sea turtle for the first time.

Phang Nga Coastal Fisheries Research and Development
Opening Hours: 8.30AM-4.30PM, Daily
Address: Thai Mueang, Thai Mueang District, Phang Nga 82120
Telephone: +66 7 660 2435

Phang Nga Coastal Fisheries WebsiteGoogle Maps

6. Float along riverways on a bamboo raft at Wang Khiang Khu

Though we have our pick from dozens of islands over at Phang Nga, the final choice for our list is clear – bamboo rafting along the Wang Khiang Khu river.

Image credit: @vcypyr

There’s no better way to get a rustic feel of the earthy aerial roots of the mangroves, than floating along smol rivers on a handcrafted bamboo raft.

Image credit: Go Rogue: ไปให้สุด

Expect to start at a small stream, with waters originating from Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park, down a forested trail and snaking stream.

Image credit: @thana_lim

You’ll be in good hands with your rafting captain, who will help you navigate the trickier currents while you kick back, relax and enjoy your ride – or take a dip in the shallows, if you so desire.

Image credit: @wassawan.kk

Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to secure a bamboo rafting package. Take Komol’s Corner Bamboo Rafting, for instance, that offers an affordable option at ฿500 for two pax.

Image credit: @junefortune

Pro-Tip: Come in swim-ready attires, as bums are most definitely going to get wet on your bamboo rafts. Probably best to keep those white sundresses tucked safely away in your backpack’s pocket.

Komol’s Corner Bamboo Rafting
Opening Hours: 8.30AM-4PM, Daily
Address: 18, 17, Lam Kaen, Thai Mueang District, Phang Nga 82210
Telephone: +66-95-410-1988

Komol Corner’s WebsiteGoogle Maps

Travelling to Phang Nga in 2021

So if you’ve stayed with us this far, you’re probably more than ready to take the plunge to travel here.

To get to Phang Nga, your best bet is a 2-hour flight from Singapore to Phuket via Singapore Airlines or Jetstar Asia, operating daily. We’ve compiled possible flight timings here, but do check both sites for updates.

Singapore Airlines
SQ 726 SIN 8:20am – HKT 9:25am (Daily)
SQ 738 SIN 5:20pm – HKT 6:10pm (Daily)

Jetstar Asia
3K 535 SIN 11.00am – HKT 12.00pm (Sundays)
3K 537 SIN 7.40pm – HKT 8.40pm (Fridays)

Next up, a 1-hour taxi ride – typically priced at ~USD45-50 – or a drive from your Phuket resort, will be all it takes to reach most of Phang Nga’s islands.

Do note that after flights are booked, travellers should apply for a Certificate of Entry, while searching for an anchor hotel or resort in Phuket to be based out of.

The Pavilions Phuket, an SHA Plus hotel.
Image credit: @coconutisland555

Guests are required to spend their first week in Phuket first, in an SHA Plus hotel, as per the Phuket Sandbox and 7+7 Extension Programme rules, before heading to Phang Nga. Also, all SHA-approved accommodations will def meet proper health and hygiene standards.

Though well-traversed beaches in Phuket’s core area are rightfully famous, Phang Nga is one of those special places we secretly hope will fly under the radar for a long time.

But if you’re the adventurous pioneer who wants to return in triumph after a wild bamboo rafting trip, with a funny story about a sea turtle or two, the first steps to herald the start of your journey is but a mere flight away.

 Find out the latest updates about Phuket here.


Other islands worth checking out in Thailand:

Cover image adapted from (Clockwise from Left): @vcypyr, @k.a.s.s.y.d, @maynvm

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This post was brought to you by the Tourism Authority of Thailand Singapore Office.