Phang Nga, Thailand

On land, the region nurtures mangrove ecosystems and ancient primary rainforest; offshore, the Similan and Surin islands beckon with some of the world’s most gasp-worthy dive spots. Exuding a laid-back vibe, Phang Nga’s hub – and diving jump-off point – coastal Khao Lak lacks the razzle-dazzle of Phuket and Krabi, but that’s just the way visitors like it. Sun-soakers, nature-lovers and thrill-seekers won’t fail to be awestruck.

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When to go

Sunshine is an everyday occurrence from November to April, when waters are clear and calm. Low season (May–October) can be a little stormy and wet on the Northern Andaman Coast, but you’ll find it much quieter – to the point where it can seem a tad deserted. If you’re diving at the Similan Islands National Marine Park aim for December to May (it closes mid-May–early November due to rough seas).

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Fly into Phuket International Airport (www.phuketairportonline.com), just south of Phang Nga province, on Phuket island. Connecting from Bangkok is a cinch due to the many domestic and regional carriers plying the route. Arrange a transfer north to the mainland with your hotel: Khao Lak is about an hour and a half’s drive up Highway 4; Phang Nga Bay is around an hour to the north-east.
  • Boats

    If you’re arriving from Phuket, you can grab a boat to Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Noi islands in Phang Nga Bay: hop aboard at Bang Rong pier on the north-east coast.
  • Trains

    Thailand may have a natty rail service but this region has been sadly neglected. You can catch an overnight train from Bangkok (www.railway.co.th) to Surat Thani, but you’ll then need to grab a bus west into Phang Nga (it’s a 150km drive to Khao Lak).
  • Automobiles

    It takes a steady 11–12 hours to drive from Bangkok to Khao Lak but there are plenty of scenic stop-offs en route. There’s only one road to follow so it’s hard to get lost – or hire a driver to take the strain.
  • Taxis

    Outside of resort areas, you’re more likely to find motorcycle taxis (for short hops), tuk tuks and shared jeep-style pick-up trucks rather than regular taxis. You can rent motorbikes too – owing to strict fines for not wearing a helmet, Khao Lak has a lower accident record than elsewhere, although you still ride at your own risk.