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Haad Nopphara Thara

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A stone's throw from Ao Nang beach, Haad Nopphara Thara offers a more relaxed atmosphere that's a good choice for anyone who want to get away from it all without leaving the mainland. It's a lovely area -- don't let the difficult name put you off!

The main draw here is a long, windblown stretch of sand divided in two by a small river -- the northern side is decidedly sleepy while the southern portion is more developed, though not to the extent of Ao Nang beach. Spectacular sunsets can be enjoyed from anywhere on Haad Nopphara Thara.

The side closer to Ao Nang has a road running along its edge and a range of places to stay and eat, along with some traffic and noise. The beach here is nothing to write home about, although it gets better as you head north towards the headquarters of Haad Nopphara Thara national park.

Near the river, a set of cliffs surrounded on all sides by sand are found a short distance out to sea. These can be reached at low tide by walking along a sand bar -- the scenery is quite beautiful but for some reason it seems that only Thai tourists take advantage of it. In this vicinity, you'll also find the national park headquarters, the main boat pier to Ko Phi Phi and Phuket, and a cluster of restaurants and convenience shops.

The northwestern side of the river can be reached either by a 30 second longtail boat or a 10 minute motorbike ride or drive following country roads to the north and back south again to the beach. This area has a remote island feel, and it's where you'll find the most chilled out vibes and cheapest bungalows. While the beach is lovely here, the water is very shallow and even at high tide it's better for paddling and laying around than practising for the 100 metre freestyle.

On the busier side to the south of the river the water is deeper, but the beach is more exposed and tends to get more trash, both from the tides and litter bugs who chuck garbage out their windows while driving by. Except for at its northernmost section, the road runs straight behind the beach, so no matter where you lay you'll be stuck with the continual backround hum of traffic. One advantage of this side is the great selection of cheap food stalls that set up along the road. You can have the vendors cook you up a storm and deliver it to your beach chair.

Inland you'll find a quiet little village with a lively night market and more of a local feel than Ao Nang. Just east of the beach, a string of relaxed cafes and bars near the Laughing Gecko and the muay Thai stadium are geared mainly towards backpackers. For a wider selection of eating and drinking options, hop in a songthaew or walk over to Ao Nang, which isn't more than a couple of kilometres to the south.

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Text and/or map last updated on 20th February, 2014.

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Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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