Phang Nga, Thailand
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).
PlanesFly 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.
BoatsIf 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.
TrainsThailand 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).
AutomobilesIt 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.
TaxisOutside 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.
Criss-crossed with canals, a mighty river and a handy Skytrain, Bangkok is a city of mega-malls, historic royal temples and gold-leafed pagodas. It’s also surprisingly easy going and affordable: indulge in sumptuous day spas, exquisite dining and on-the-hoof street snacks. To the north, Chiang Mai (Burmese-style temples, boho-chic boutiques and lots of elephants) and Chiang Rai (sleepy backstreets, mist-shrouded hills and, yes, elephant-packed too) are gateways to densely packed jungle, glittering waterways and local hill communities. To the south, Thailand’s party beaches, sybaritic islands and crystal-clear waters beckon: hop on a long-tail boat to under-the-radar Koh Kood, carefree Koh Samui or spectacular Phang Nga bay.