Everyone loves the beaches and affordable resort life of Phuket. It is by far one of the most affordable and popular beach holiday location that can be accessed easily with a short flight from Singapore. That said, there is only so many times one can visit Soi Bangla in Patong for the boisterous nightlife or take another scenic albeit rushed island-hopping tour. It’s time to consider a getaway to Phang-Nga, an idyllic coastal province in Southern Thailand, which is slightly over 80km from both Krabi and Phuket.
You may have possibly heard of Phang Nga because of scenic James Bond Island or Koh Panyee, both ridiculously famous tourist beach destinations. But if like me, you’re on the lookout for new experiences and adventures, here are seven truly amazing experiences you can have there.
1. RELEASE TURTLES BACK TO NATURE
Phang-Nga, being one of the coastal areas of the Andaman Sea, is a major nesting area for turtles. However, possibly due to heavy fishing, loss of habitat and aggressive turtle egg harvesting, the turtle population and female nesting rates have declined and certain turtle species found in the area are at worst critically endangered and at best vulnerable.
The Phang Nga Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre, established in 1985, is one initiative that grew from the “Queens Project on Sea Turtle Conservation” by Queen Sirikit. One of the successful projects by the centre is the incubation of turtle eggs and protection of the endangered sea turtles in the turtle sanctuary. These efforts increase the chances of the juvenile or rehabilitated turtles’ survival, keeping them away from predators till they are mature or healthy enough to be released and make their return to the sea.
Fussing over mischievous leatherback turtles which were hatched and raised in the conservatory
Visitors can learn more about the life cycle of Leatherback Turtles and, with a small donation at the right time of the year, you get to name “your” turtle, carry it to the Thai Muang Beach nearby and release it. Watch and wave goodbye as these playful reptiles eagerly (or in some cases, cautiously) make a beeline across the sandy beach towards the splashing waves and disappear into the deep blue sea.
Carrying the turtles to the sea to release them back to the wild
These turtles from the sanctuary are all micro-chipped and tracked, so if you’ve released a female turtle, return during nesting season and you may just find your ol’ gal on the shore coming home to where they’ve hatched to lay their own eggs on the same beach.
Phang Nga Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre
164 Moo 9 Thai Muang,
Phang Nga 82120 Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 76 432 212
The centre is open to public daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm and admission is free.
2. LEARN ABOUT BANG PHAT’S “CRAB BANK”
That’s not the end of conservation efforts in Phang Nga! Make your way to the sustainable Muslim fishing village, Bang Phat. It is more than a hundred years old and sit on stilts above the sea. To truly appreciate the fresh seafood you can have in Southern Thailand, especially in the local restaurants in Bang Phat, you’ll need to learn about Bang Phat’s “Crab Bank”.
Learn about the “Crab Bank”, one of the royal conservation projects, in this Muslim fishing village
With finding traditional crab harvests shrinking, one of the royal projects was to conserve the crab population of Bang Phat.
The fishermen were taught how to nurture the smallest crabs caught in their fishing nets, which were otherwise considered unfit for commercial sale. A hatching place for crabs was also crafted by villagers. Once the crabs were mature, they would release the egg bearing female crabs back to the wild.
Mature female crab being released
This successful initiative was awarded with a community pilot project award in 2008.
As a visitor, you’ll be able to gently release these crabs placed within plastic containers.
3. BE WELCOMED BY A TRADITIONAL RONG-NGENG
Since you’re in Bang Phat, don’t miss the energetic Rong-Ngeng. This traditional folk dance is popular in Thailand’s southernmost provinces, originating from Northern Malaysia. Hosts typically welcome their special guests with this dance performance.
Marvel at the Rong-Ngeng, a dance popular in Thailand’s southernmost provinces
It depicts the courtship between man and woman with an exchange, like a question and answer, as the male leads and the female responds, moving backwards and forwards with spirited footwork and jumps along with deft hand actions. The music is rousing to the rhythmic beat of Rammana (a one-sided Thai drum) and melody of the Saw U (a traditional Thai bowed string instrument).
Couples exchange poetic verses and sashay in beautiful traditional attire
Another eye catching part of the performance is the outfits donned by the dancers which are reminiscent of Malay Muslim traditional attire, but with touches of Thai influence.
4. PLANT MANGROVE TREES
I’m still not done with Bang Phat. Yet another refreshing activity you can consider is experiencing planting mangrove trees in the mangrove swamps of the fishing village.
Experience planting mangrove trees
Bang Phat is built on the sea next to mangrove forests and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit first visited the village in 2011 when she learnt about their attempts of the locals in conserving the environment. Impressed by the villagers efforts, she extended her support.
One of the ways was by funding the construction of a walking trail into the mangrove area of Bang Phat so that those who were keen to learn more about the conversation activities would be able to do so.
Tying the mangrove plants to sticks
Dressed in raincoats (it was rainy season in August) and these super cute lace up cloth boots, I had the opportunity to plant a mangrove sapling in the muddy forest with the guidance of course.
Thanks to conservation efforts of the mangrove forest, species that had previously not been seen, began returning to Bang Phat and were spotted by locals after over 40 years.
5. ART JAM AT KO YAO NOI WITH BATIK PAINTING
Another Muslim fishing village in Southern Thailand, just a short distance from Phuket and Krabi, is Ko Yao Noi.
Drawing outlines of beautiful pictures of flowers and nature in pencil before putting on the wax
In bid to stay competitive and protect the coastal area of the island from destruction and encroachment due to aggressive fishery by larger trawl net ships, the locals focused on ecotourism with the revenue gained distributed to the local residents.
Applying water to desired areas and using fingers to dab and create a gorgeous “ombre” effect
One of the memorable activities you can enjoy in Ko Yao Noi, is to try your hand at Batik Painting. The locals outline designs, some floral, others of nature, in gold hot wax and visitors can colour their selected design with different coloured dyes.
Get creative and “art jam” an afternoon away by the sea and bring home your very own batik painting at the end of your session. If you’d prefer a refined piece to take home as a souvenir (and if you’re lacking in the artistic department), you can also purchase one of the ready batik handicrafts instead.
6. FEAST ON SUCCULENT SEAFOOD AT NERN KHAO VIEW TALAY
Don’t visit Phang Nga without a hearty meal complete with sweet and succulent crabs. I recommend popping by the open-air Nern Khao View Talay, a seafood restaurant and home stay with a view of the sea.
Nern Khao View Talay is both a viewpoint restaurant and home stay
While not a fancy restaurant, it was still well maintained and very cosy and offered delicious Southern Thai-Muslim fare, served communal style.
Fresh stir-fried fish, steamed crabs and prawns
Completely worth a visit, seafood is so incredibly fresh and sweet that items like crabs and prawns are merely steamed without marinade and only come with a spicy, savoury dip. While tasty with the dip, both the crab and prawns were fresh enough to be eaten on their own. I found the food here very suited for my Singaporean palate!
Nern Kao View Talay
Khok Kloi, Phang Nga, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 76 582 182
7. STAY AT LUXURY ECO-RESORT, ALEENTA PHUKET PHANG-NGA
You’d be surprised by the level of luxury offered at Aleenta Phuket Phang-Nga. The delightful eco-resort offers luxury boutique accommodation in the form of lofts, suites and villas.
It offers an “all suites, all private” concept with plenty of space (smallest accommodation available are the 80m ocean view lofts) for a restful and relaxing stay.
Chill and relax in the privacy of your own pool villa
I had the pleasure of staying in the Grand Deluxe Pool Villa for a night during my trip to Phang Nga which had all the creature comforts a girl could desire. Quality complimentary WiFi throughout resort premises, comfortable plush bed covered in 360 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, all natural toiletries with essential oil extracts (designed for Aleenta).
The view from… your bathroom
This jaw dropping villa designed in chic contemporary monochrome shades and dark wood furnishings. Wake up to the view of your own private pool and outdoor living area and enjoy complete privacy in your outdoor jacuzzi.
Prices for the Grand Deluxe Pool Villas begin at 7,200฿ (Approximately S$280).
Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa
33 Moo 5, Takua Thung, Khok Kloi
Phang Nga, Phuket 82140 Thailand
T : +66 (0) 76 580 333
About 84 Perspectives of Thailand
84 international journalists, bloggers and photographers were flown to Thailand to experience the best of Thai culture and learn more about the Royal Projects inspired by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in Northern, Southern, Northeastern and Central regions.
Organised in the month of August when Her Majesty Queen Sirikit celebrates her 84th birthday, 84 Perspectives of Thailand is part of the Women’s Journey Thailand campaign by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to encourage women travellers to visit the Kingdom of Thailand.