Southern Thailand begins with Chumphon, a silver of a province with a long coastline facing the Gulf of Thailand, where a number of
unspoilt beach afford the opportunity for a quiet escape. There are offshore islands, too, in particular Ko Tao, which although
falling in Surat Thani province is conveniently accessed from Chumphon and offers some of the very best dive sites in the whole of
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Next to Chumphon, but located on the opposite side of Thailand’s southern peninsula and bordering first Myanmar and then Andaman Sea,
is Ranong. The province is distinguished largely by its natural attributes-hot spring spas, dense tropical greenery, picturesque
waterfalls and coastal waters dotted with islands. All of this makes for an intriguing area to explore, somewhere off the beaten
track and quieter than other holiday destinations. Ranong also has the unique bonus of allowing a day excursion into Myanmar.
A short boat ride across the Chan river estuary brings you to Kawthoung, which in the days of British Burma was known as Victoria Point.
It’s truly a memorable excursion that adds a different dimension to a journey south.
Justly famous as one of the world’s premier tropical beach resorts, Phuket blends extraordinary natural beauty with superb tourism
facilities to ensure the perfect vacation in the sun. Against a backdrop of green hills, the west coast of what is Thailand’s largest
island is blessed with a whole string of magnificent beaches and coves bathed by the clear blue waters of the Andaman Sea. Nature’s
bounty is then matched by luxury hotels and resorts of the highest international standard, while for your leisure, pleasure and sheer
indulgence there are water sports, yachting, scuba diving, golf, spa treatment, exquisite dinning and more.
Yet Phuket is not just an island in the sun; as a province in its own right it has a wealth of scenic and cultural attractions. Buddhist
temples, Chinese pagodas and Muslim mosques, as well as the fabulous annual Vegetarian Festival, attest to a multi-cultural history;
magnificent mansions built in the Sino-Portuguese style tell the story of riches made from tin mining in the 19th and early 20th
centuries, and rubber and coconut plantation contrast with areas of surviving virgin forest in a refreshingly green landscape. In all,
Phuket is an island of unparalleled beauty and unique cultural traditions, a place to explore as well as to relax totally and relish
the vacation of lifetime.
Drive to Phuket with full day sightseeing to Phi Phi
Located immediately north of Phuket, Phang-nga is renewed for its island-studded bay of haunting natural beauty. Typically, you approach
this wondrous seascape down a river estuary where mangrove swamps evoke a primeval mood. The eeriness takes a dramatic turn as the
estuary widens and the bay is suddenly revealed sprouting countless, weirdly shaped limestone outcrops swathed in tangles of creepers
and shrubs. Some raise sheer from the water, others are humped or jagged and all present an unearthly aspect. One is particularly
famous; known as “James Bond Island”, it was the location for the movie Tha Man With the Golden Gun.
A different attraction awaits off the northern shores of Phang-Nga, where the waters around the Similan and Surin island groups present
ideal conditions for scuba diving, the underwater world teeming with tropical fish and abounding in breathtaking coral formations.
For many travelers, Krabi is the most beautiful province along the Andaman coast. It is the kind of place where tried clichés like
idyllic and pristine take on fresh meaning, with the beaches displaying the characteristic qualities of the Andaman coat-soft, fine
white sand, warm clear water and lush tropical greenery spilling on to the shore. Providing a dramatic backdrop to the most beautiful
locations are rust-hued cliffs, some soaring to 1,000 feet. There are also offshore islands, most famously the twin Phi Phi Islands,
location for the movie The Beach, and newly popular Ko Lanta.
Much also beckons island, and among Krabi’s wealth of “green” attractions is Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, a lush nature preserve
covering some 50 square kilometers of rainforest and noted for its impressive waterfalls, as well as a comparative wealth of wildlife.
Further north is Than Bokkhorani National Park, another immensely picturesque area of limestone mountains, waterfalls, pools, mangrove
forests, caves and islands.
South of Krabi, the province of Trang is something of a mid point, figuratively speaking, and an up-and-coming tourism destination
that has yet to achieve the status of Krabi or Phuket. It is also distinguished by offering both coastal and inland attractions.
Cruising the coastal waters, visiting such notable sights as Emerald Cave and offshore islands, is Trang’s prime marine attraction,
along with excellent opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving. Then, for a change of scene, inland excursions are equally rewarding,
with a lush and hilly landscape dotted with caves and waterfalls. Some of the caves, such as Tham Phra Phut, have the added cultural
interest of Buddha images, while other are sheer natural wonders. As with caves, Trang can boast more than its fair share of waterfalls
with at half a dozen cascades well worth seeking out. Some fall sharply, others tumble prettily over rocky steps, but all are stunningly
picturesque both in themselves and in their tranquil forest settings.
The southernmost and smallest of the Andaman coast provinces, Satun is one of those quiet, peaceful places that most travelers overlook.
Topping the list of natural sights is Tarutao Marine National Park, which comprise 51 mountainous and forested islands, with caves,
mangrove swamps and beaches strung along their shorelines. For the visitor there are various walking trails, fine beaches, superb views
and much more to discover, including a comparatively rich fauna among which wild pigs, crab-eating macaques, dusky langurs and monitor
lizards are all fairly common. The surrounding waters are home to dolphins and sea turtles, while whales and dugongs, although rare,
have also been spotted.
Less well known than Tarutao is Satun’s other big attraction, Thale Ban National Park, which in its limestone hills and dense cover
of rainforest affords a glimpse of how the southern Thai peninsula must have appeared before modern-day development took hold.
The virtually untouched scenery is complemented by a remarkable variety of wildlife, and bird watching is richly rewarding with well
over 200 species having been sighted within the preserve.
Ko Samui :
Moving across to the eastern side of the southern peninsula, facing the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Samui in Surat Thani province is a tropical
isle that vies with Phuket as the country’s most popular beach resort destination. Like Phuket, it combines natural beauty with an
exceptionally good standard of hotels, spas and other tourism facilities that afford the luxury, the dining and the entertainment to
complete the perfect holiday in the sun.
Moreover, Samui provides plenty of variety, and you can choose your style of holiday in paradise. The beaches on the island’s east
coast are long majestic sweeps of sand, hugely popular and backed by a host of hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and discos, but if you
seek something quieter you’ll find your favourite spot elsewhere on the south, west or north shores where each locale has its own
character and ambience. Matching the blue of the sea with the green of lush tropical vegetation is Samui’s hilly interior,
where there is plenty of scope for excursions. Alternatively, nearby Ang Thong Marine National Park is a group of protected islands
of spectacular natural beauty. With its classic tropical island looks and splendid range if facilities, Samui really does fulfill
dreams of the ideal escape.
This province has the odd distinction of its administrative capital not being the major town. Big bustling Hat Yai is the commercial
hub of it all, but capital status belongs to the small, laid-back coastal town of Songkhla, a place altogether much more interesting
for the traveler. Today a relaxed-and relaxing-beach resort, charming for its total lack of pretensions, Songkhla dates back to the 8th
century and has a long history as a trading port, the legacy of which survives in traces of old architecture and a population mix of Thai,
Chinese and ethnic Malays. The beach is not the finest in Thailand, but it does afford the simple pleasure of taking it easy and
absorbing the atmosphere of what is an unusually appealing resort. North of the town is Songkhla Lake, the country’s largest body
of inland water and home water to a wide variety of waterfowl.