Asia > Southeast Asia > Thailand > Southern Thailand > Northern Andaman Coast > Ao Phang Nga National Park
Ao Phang Nga National Park is known for its limestone rock formations. It has more than 40 islands with beautiful cliffs, caves and the largest remaining mangrove forests in Thailand.
Phang Nga Bay is one of the most beautiful bays of Thailand. It is famous for its gravity-defying limestone formations. Most travellers visit Ko Khao Phing Kan, that since 1974, when it was featured in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, has been popularly called James Bond Island (see also James Bond tourism). In front of it is Ko Tapu, probably the most characteristic islet of the bay and often seen on tourist brochures.
Ao Phang Nga National Park is in the province of Phang Nga, between the provinces Phuket and Krabi. It is north of the Ko Yao islands.
To get there, get on one of the songthaews (shared taxis) from the centre of Phang Nga to Tha Dan. If you have your own transport, drive south along highway 4, and after about 5 km, turn left onto the road to Tha Dan. There you will find the park headquarters. You can hire a boat at the park office for a three-hour tour of the park (1500 baht and a maximum of four passengers).
If you're coming from Phang Nga, you can make a tour with Sayan (in the bus station) or MT Tour (in the Muang Thong hotel, 100 m from the bus station). If you arrive at the bus station there is the usual harassment. But take your time and don't believe everything the people tell you there because they want to force or lure you to their tour operator or hotel. So do not immediately buy a ticket when you get off the bus. Talk with the different tour operators and see what's the best for you. Usually there are a couple of different trips available every day. Half day tours, full day tours, and tours with a night in Ko Panyi. There are also sea canoeing trips. Tours booked from Krabi or Phuket are shorter and are more expensive.
Entry to the park is 200 baht. The park headquarters is open 08ː00-16ː00 (+66 7-641-1136).
It's best to get around the park by kayak.
Tour operators organize many different tours and most of them follow the standard route around the bay passing weird rock formations, limestone outcrops, hidden lakes, tiny beaches and caves. Tours usually go to Khao Ping Gan (Leaning Rock) which was featured in the James Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun as Scaramanga's hideaway. Ko Tapu in front of James Bond Island is a popular rock. It is often used as a symbol of Phang Nga. Beware that on "the" James Bond Island, the beach is littered with trinket vendors trying to sell you something and the experience of seeing the island may be somewhat disappointing and diluted.
A Phang Nga Bay tour may take you to Ko Panyi, a village built on stilts. The mosque and the graveyard are the only places which are built on ground. It's a tourist trap during the day as many tours also stop here. Some tours will give you the option of staying overnight, which is preferable to really experience the village as the village returns to normal in the evening. If you go inland you can see more of the village and eat at local stalls. In Ko Panyi there are now many people living and working from outside, thus less authentic. Many of these people come from the poorer Isaan region. If you want to see a real fishing village go to Ko Ma Paay. Just as in other parts of southern Thailand, the inhabitants of Ko Panyi are of Malay descent.
Sea-canoeing is a popular activity in the park. It is a form of eco-tourism that is available in several variations, as popular one-day tours, or more extended tours involving overnight camping on island beaches. You will see more of the area, as many mangrove swamps and island grottoes are only accessible by canoe.
One company that offers sea-canoeing tours is Sea Tour. Their boat leaves from the North East of Phuket island (Ao Por) at 6am.
You will be flooded with tacky souvenir shops on James Bond Island.
Most people visit as a day-trip and do not spend the night at the park. It is possible, however. Some package tours include staying the night at Ko Panyi, one of the villages on stilts. Tha Dan also has lodging available.
- Phang Nga Bay Resort Hotel, 20 Thadan Panyee. 1500 baht.