While most travellers view the small town of Phang Nga as little more than a transport hub, those who take a day or two to give it a chance are rewarded by a relaxed atmosphere, cheap and authentic food, and some surprisingly spectacular sights nearby. Phang Nga is the perfect place to get a dose of everyday southern Thailand if you're tired of nearby tourist hotspots like Phuket and Khao Lak. With some solid accommodation options in town, there's no reason not to stop here for a night or two.
Similar to Phuket Town, the capital of Phuket province, Phang Nga town has a multicultural flavour, with mosques, Buddhist temples and Taoist Chinese shrines all found within walking distance of one another. The town has grown at a slow and steady pace to its current population of about 12,000 since being set up as a safe haven in the early 1800s by Phuket island residents fleeing attacks by the Burmese.
Unlike many a Thai provincial capital, Phang Nga has a markedly sleepy atmosphere, and the surrounding limestone karst cliffs and mountains make it a scenic town as well. Khao Chang, a karst mountain that soars dramatically upwards at a near 90 degree angle looms over the town to the southwest, and this is also the site of the massive Phung Chang Cave.
Well known as the jumping off point for trips into karst filled Ao Phang Nga just to the south of Phang Nga town, the area is also home to a lesser known waterfall -- Sa Nang Manora -- that's situated a few km north of town and is worth a visit in its own right.
Phet Kasem Rd (aka Rte. 4) is the main thoroughfare running north to south through Phang Nga, and it's along this road that most of the town's markets, restaurants, and hotels are located.
The bus station is also off Phet Kasem, within easy walking distance of the cluster of guesthouses and hotels right at the centre of town, which is where most travellers end up staying.
By Lana Willocks.