Phang Nga Bay is a part of Phang Nga Province, located not far from Phuket Island, a popular holiday destination. In recent years the area has became one of the most popular tourist sights in Southern Thailand. This truly amazing place comprises of over 40 islands, most of them are limestone rock islands, which extend spectacularly from the calm emerald water and rise skyward, creating an astonishing landscape.
History & Geology
The most striking feature of Phang Nga Bay, are the amazing limestone rocks, which were once a part of a huge coral reef that covered much of what is now Southeast Asia from Australia to Vietnam. Millions of years of geological process has formed magnificent lagoons, caverns and narrow maze-like passages within these cliffs. Some of these caverns and lagoons are accessible by canoe only. These caverns, for its shape, are called Hongs, which means rooms in Thai.
During the reign of King Rama II, nearby areas (including Thalang, now known as Phuket) were occupied by the Burmese and 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 Phang Nga town was promoted to provincial status.
Flora & Fauna
Phang Nga Bay was declared a marine national park in 1981. And in 2002 Phang Nga Bay Marine National Park became a protected Ramsar Site (no. 1185) of international ecological significance. The marine national park consists of shallow marine waters and intertidal forested wetlands, with at least 28 species of mangrove; seagrass beds and coral reefs.
At least 88 bird species, including the globally threatened Malaysian plover and Asiatic dowitcher, can be found within the national park, as well as 82 fish species, 18 reptiles, three amphibians, and 17 mammal species. These include the dugong, white-hand gibbon, the endangered Serow, and the black finless porpoise.
What to see and what to do:
Some passages to Hongs and to the inner lagoons are so narrow that you can get through only in a tiny sea canoe or swim there. Canoeing through caves and lagoons is the best way to see and enjoy the local wildlife and nature.
Visit Koh Panyee
According to Wikipedia: “Ko Panyi is a fishing village in Phang Nga Bay notable for being built on stilts by Indonesian fishermen. The population consists of 360 families or 1,685 people descended from two seafaring Muslim families from Java.”Everything is built raised on wooden stilts. There’s no livelihood here except fishing and tourism. Even though the place looks odd, it is an alive and lovely village with everything you need, including a school, hospital, several restaurants and even a football field, yes in the middle of the sea!
Boats everywhere! You can’t get anywhere without a boat. Locals actively sell souvenirs and traditional dried snacks in numerous stalls all around the place. Walking in the narrow streets of the village, you can never see it all first time – there is always something new to discover. Some people even prefer to spend a night or two at the village to get a better feel of this unique place. However, we should note that the choice of accommodation is quite limited.
James Bond Island
The island became an iconic symbol of Phang Nga Bay after it was featured in the movie The Man with the Golden Gun. But it is not the only movie set in Phang Nga Bay. In Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the bay was used as the main setting to film scenes of the planet Kashyyyk.
Most organised group tours to Phang Nga Bay cover these three in one-day trips which can be arranged from Phuket, Khao Lak or Ko Lanta.
When to visit and comparison with other tours
Phang Nga Bay is a complete contrast to the Phi Phi, Racha or Similan Islands. This is why many choose to visit both Phang Nga and some of the islands mentioned above.
The bay is protected from the waves during the rainy season and as such is usually quiet all through the year. Therefore, the trip to Phang Nga is a better option during monsoon seasons, which occurs in April-May and in September-October.
How to visit
There are several ways to visit and to explore Phang Nga Bay. You can do it by renting a relatively expensive private yacht or a catamaran. Many local companies in Phuket offer customised yacht tours. You can also drive to Phang Nga Province with your own vehicle and rent a Thai longtail boat at Surakul Pier in Takua Thung. Or the easiest and the cheapest option is to take an organised group tour.
Of course, all options mentioned above have advantages and disadvantages, and these can be discussed further. The main differences between various types of group tours to Phang Nga Province are explained here.