Inspiring Southern Thailand Road Trip – Part Two
By Kim Waddoup
This is the second part of our Inspiring Southern Thailand Road Trip: Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi, If you missed Part One click here.
Rawai Beach, Phuket
You either love or hate Phuket and I am still not sure where I stand. The island does have some really beautiful beaches and there is some charm amongst the crass commercialism if you can find it! We explored most of the island and were most impressed with Rawai Beach and Phuket Old Town. Rawai has a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere and a lovely beach with some excellent eateries and ‘character’ cafés.
Phuket Old Town
Phuket Old Town is the absolute opposite of the rest of the Island. The Chino-Portuguese architecture has survived and old, established businesses are side-by-side with modern, chic boutiques and trendy coffee shops. However, in the busiest parts of Phuket at almost every meter there is someone trying to sell you a taxi, a boat trip or a ping-pong show.
So from Phuket, we crossed the Sarasin Bridge generally heading for Krabi. We stopped at the Tree Cups coffee house and whilst enjoying an espresso from the branches could see some of the enormous limestone karst formations that the Phang Nga area is so famous for. Going on to the Samet Nangshe Viewpoint we had to park the car, pay THB.80 to be taken up by a 4wd pickup to the viewpoint.
Phang Nga – what an amazing sight
This area is magnificent and we enjoyed an amazing long-tail boat tour of Phang Na before resuming our journey following Route 4 to Krabi. In the old town by the river, it is lovely to walk along the embankment where there are many food stalls and small restaurants. Also worth a visit is Wat Tham Suea temple also known as the Tiger Cave Temple which is a revered meditation centre with significant archaeological and historical importance. The highlight of the temple is the outlook which is 309 meters above the entrance area. There are 1260 steps and, as a word of warning, many are not of equal heights and are uneven creating quite a challenge.
The Tiger Temple in Krabi
We then drove out of Krabi to find the lovely small community of Nong Thale. Whilst boasting some up-market hotels including the impressive Sofitel it is generally a very small, laid-back community directly on Klong Muang beach. I attended a conference at the lovely Elements Resort some years ago, and have fond memories of a deserted beach with 2-3 bars and restaurants on the beach. Sadly, the rustic Jamaica Bar & Restaurant did not survive Covid and is a ruin, however, the down-to-earth Rueng Thong Restaurant remains directly on the beach.
Klong Muang Beach
We overnighted at the very charming Viangviman Luxury Resort which enjoys a quiet, rural location. Beautifully constructed of teak, the chalets are traditional, tastefully furnished and comfortable with all amenities. The resort offers two large villas with private pools and I could imagine that these could prove to be quite noisy when occupied by families or small groups.
We had avoided Ao Nang so far, but now it was time to have a look. It is a mass tourism resort that enjoys a laid-back atmosphere with the normal plethora of bars, restaurants (offering every type of food from the same kitchen), and souvenir stands. For many, this may be the Thai dream that they are looking for, but for me, it has sadly become very unoriginal.
Ao Nang beach is a lovely beach with views over to the islands and is naturally popular with longtail boat excursions. Walking through the town every 3rd shop is selling boat trips but nothing like as pushy as we had experienced in Phuket. At the end of Ao Nang beach is the main departure point for boats to the islands and further destinations. It is also where you will find Hatnoppharatthara Beach which is a lovely walk around the headland on a sandy beach. At low tide, sandy islands appear and you can walk out to the nearby rocks. We did also discover the charming Baan Ton Mai treehouse cafe, which is well worth a visit.
The charming Baan Tom Mai treehouse cafe
We decided to give Ao Nang a try for one night and stayed in the Vacation Village Phra Nang Inn. This must be one of the original hotels here and enjoys a prime position on the beach. It is an older hotel but comfortable, has full facilities and we even booked an additional night!
All Road Trips must come to an end and as the West/South of Thailand is relatively narrow we had little choice but to start to retrace our route north. The first part of the journey was a pleasant surprise on the glorious Route 44, a relatively new road that is mostly in a straight line through extensive Palm Oil plantations. With a brief overnight stay on the beach near Prachuap Kiri Kahn, we returned to Pattaya through Bangkok.
Kim Waddoup enjoyed a lifetime in the tourism business and is an active ‘Silver-Ager” living in Thailand. He writes for his age group with high varied articles covering subjects relevant to retirees living in or visiting Thailand. Any questions or comments on this post feel free to contact him directly at [email protected]