How does one go about exploring the following attractions independently and cheaply:
1. Similan Islands
2. Koh Pan Yee (Muslim fishing village on stilts)
3. James Bond Island and surrounding limestone formations
4. Canoeing around the phang nga bay visiting caves and lagoons
5. Khao Lak
Any recommendations? I know about Sayan tour but I don't know if they still operate but I'd rather do the tour by myself still. Where should I base my travels around the bay to make it more efficient, low cost travelling to the above mentioned sites, Krabi, Phuket or Phang Nga town itself? I have 3 days maximum. Any tips, suggestions or comments are very much appreciated.
Wow, fitting this all in within 3 days is an ask - Khao Lak and the Similans are are a long way from Phang Nga Bay even though in the same province or whatever they call them in LOS.
And doing it all independently will waste too much time finding piers, hire places and probably end up more expensive than getting someone to handle a lot of the details.
I'd base myself at the start in Phang Nga town and use Mr Kean who has a shop in the bus station and often meets incoming buses. When I did the bay and stayed on Ko Panyi last year i noticed Sayan had a shop about two doors up - have been there for years and I'm sure they can do much the same as Mr Kean.
Day 1: do Mr Kean's one day budget Phang Nga Bay tour. Get him to organise a stay overnight on Ko Panyi. I did this, inexpensive and a great experience.
Day 2 Haven't got any kayaking in yet. You could almost certainly organise a kayak off Ko Panyi (I didn't see any when I stayed overnight but for sure someone would have one - bet Mr Kean could organise this - note English is not too common on Ko Panyi) fang around the nearby islands and mangroves most of the day and get Mr Kean to pick you up when he calls by in the afternoon.
However Ko Panyi is not near the key kayaking areas of the bay - I noticed Mr Kean offers a kayaking add-on using one of the specialists like Sea Canoe - you could get him to pick you up at Ko Panyi 2nd morning, drop you off at Sea Canoe and then pick you up later in the day (of course you could do this in Day 1 but I think you might miss a big slab of the bay trip0.
This would get you back to Phang Nga town 1600-1700. I don't think there are direct buses that time of day to Khao Lak (Mr Kean etc would know - they sell bus tickets at their office) but for sure there would be buses passing thru heading for Phuket - jump on one and get them to put you out at the security checkpoint at the entry to Phuket island, cross to the other side of the divided road and hop on the next bus by heading thru Khao Lak. Buses crawl thru here and all stop and ask Farangs where they are going. I used this route last time I went to Khao Lak, except I was coming from Trang south of Phang Nga town.
Day 3 - you have hopefully stayed overnight in Khao Lak town. You have to make a choice here - either do a daytrip to the Similans (you need to arrange this the night before - the daytrips kick off early. Plenty of small travel desks in the main street stay open late and most accommodation can also ring up and book a seat on a speedboat.....or grab a motorcycle from one of the dozens of hire places in town and explore the 20km or so of coast which makes up Khao Lak.
Now if you decide to stay in Phang Nga town overnight Day 2 you will arrive in Khao Lak fairly late in the morning with even an early start - this will only give time to motorcycle-explore. But if you are super keen on the Similans option - I bet Mr Kean could arrange one of the Similans daytrip operators coming thru from Krabi to pick you up real early. This would not be cheap.
Tezza pretty much covered it for you... It's not actually possible to do Phang Nga Bay or the Similans independently unless you have your own boat. You could find a private longtail for Phang Nga Bay (would be somewhere around 1500 baht for a day I reckon) but for the Similans you'd need to charter a yacht or a speedboat.
With three days, I'd base myself in Khao Lak, explore the coast or relax on the beach for day 1 (the day you get there I guess?), book a tour of Phang Nga Bay from a travel office there for day 2, which would include transport to Phang Nga and back (hope you like getting up real early), and book a day tour of Similans for day 3. It's not going to be "low cost" or "independent" traveling though. A day tour of the Similans runs 1800 baht minimum.
Oh my goodness Tezza, I did not expect such a detailed explanation of things but thank you so much. I really appreciate all that juicy info. I think I'll take DLueks suggestion of basing my travels around Khao Lak and I might also be extending another day so I'd have 4 days in total to go around the area.
Oh I forgot to ask but how do I get away from Khao Lak? I am heading to Penang, Malaysia next and I plan to cross the borders in Hat Yai to Butterworth. What is easiest and most convenient way of doing this. Bus or by train?
Research should have told you there was no way you could fit all that in 3 days.
The budget option from Khao Lak would be bus/minivan across to the north/south train line. Have a look at a map.
Re the above - Surathani bound buses come thru Lak fairly regularly, they go via the railway station some distance west of Surathani proper.
An alternative would be to take a bus down to Phuket and then a bus to Hat Yai and then a bus or train down to Butterworth.
You can save time by jumping out of the Phuket town bus some 35km north at the security check point I mention up page and jumping on the next Hat Yai bus thru.
You can save more time by using one of the travellers' minivans that leave Lak each morning for Krabi using a more direct route than the public buses, getting out at Krabi bus station and jumping on a Hat Yai bus.
Don't know which alternative - bus/van to Surathani station/train onwards or bus/van via north Phuket/Krabi and then onwards would be cheaper and/or quicker. The second is a lot more direct and those trains aint exactly quick. But it may depend a lot on waiting times.