Known to foreign travellers mainly as a transport hub, Takua Pa is worthy of being called a destination in its own right, especially for those seeking a dose of traditional southern Thai culture after the tourist oriented atmospheres of nearby Ko Kho Khao, Khao Sok National Park, Khao Lak, and Phuket. While a quick drive through on the main road or pit stop at the busy bus station doesn't make for a very appealing glimpse of Takua Pa, those who put in a little effort are rightly rewarded.
Well known to local tourists but largely off the radar for foreigners, the old Sri Takua Pa district located about 7 km south of the main town features picturesque old architecture that descends from Takua Pa's glory days as a tin mining and port centre that was influenced by Sino-Portuguese as well as Thai.
There's a scenic riverfront area, and a charming old quarter that features some of the best of the old town's architecture and which comes to life every late Sunday afternoon as a traditional local street market. The locals here are exceptionally friendly and are delighted to share their culture with visitors. Some outstanding traditional local food is also available.
In the other direction, about 10 km northwest of the bus station along the way to the Ko Kho Khao pier lies the charming fishing village of Ban Nam Khem. Many only pass through on their way to Ko Kho Khao, but Ban Nam Khem is another excellent place to soak up local culture. Aside from narrow roads snaking through picturesque homes, Ban Nam Khem is also home to a large 2004 Tsunami memorial, and some decent beaches.
Back in the main town Takua Pa is home to one of the area's largest bus stations, and while this area lacks the charm of Sri Takua Pa and Ban Nam Khem, there are some good authentic restaurants and a few places to stay scattered along the main road. We wouldn't recommend staying in Takua Pa town itself, but one could do a lot worse if needing to overnight here.
The modern town of Takua Pa is clustered around Phet Kasem Rd (Rte. 4), which is a major thoroughfare running all the way from Ranong to Phang Nga town and beyond. The town's large bus station and a couple of small places to stay are set just to the east of what could be considered the town's centre near Extra Hotel and the police station.
Rat Bumrung Road is another major thoroughfare that shoots south off Rte. 4 and leads to the old quarter of Sri Takua Pa village. To the west lies another cluster of local shops and restaurants along Rte. 4, and then a clearly marked road northwest towards the villages of Ban Nam Khem and Bang Muang, the Ko Kho Khao pier, Tsunami memorial, and the Andaman Sea. Continue south along the coast on Rte. 4 and you'll hit the Khao Lak area after about 30 km.
The Takua Pa police station is just off the main road, on the right if heading away from the bus station, just before the road curves sharply to the left and greets Rat Bumrung Rd at a traffic light.
There is also a large tourist information centre at the intersection of these two roads.
A hospital is situated another km further to the west on Rte. 4, on the left if going away from the bus station. There are a few ATMs scattered around town, including one at the bus station, which also hosts a small but decent local market and a 7-eleven and mini Tops Supermarket.
By David Luekens.