Today i am re-visiting Thailand, more specifically Ao Nang. If you want to avoid the highly touristic Phuket (which i advise you do) but want to get to Ko Phi Phi and other western islands, Ao Nang is a good alternative. While still being touristy, it does not have the overcrowded or stifling feel reminiscent of Thailand’s biggest isle.
I hopped on a bus from Surat Thani, fresh off a night boat from the island of Koh Tao, and arrived at Ao Nang only £4 lighter. For a basic double room here, it could cost you as little as £2 a night. Just shop around when you arrive, or if you prefer to plan in advance, use the yellow bible (Lonely Planets Asia on a Shoestring!) or shop around on the internet.
Ao Nang is busy but hasn’t lost that laid back, friendly small-town feel. There is also a vast array of exciting soft and extreme adventure sports to be enjoyed in the area. If you want to see some of the best beaches Thailand has to offer, Railay is fifteen minutes away by boat and is well worth the trip. Ao Nang itself has two idyllic, unspoilt beaches, which are incredibly quiet and clear. If you want to find an even more remote location, pristine beaches are located on a number of outlying islands which can be accessed cheaply and quickly from Ao Nang by local longtail boats.
If scenery or sporting activities is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of other attractions. There is a Thai boxing stadium nearby, which while slightly run down, results in a more authentic and cultural experience. Don’t bother paying for the more expensive seating, as the only difference is a leather sofa to recline on. Ao Nang also has a lovely monument, which today is the only remnant of the boxing day tsunami back in 2004. The Tsunami Memorial is dedicated to the thousands of locals and foreigners who lost their lives, and can be found at Noppharat Thara, close to the national park offices.
In the end, while this is a great place to visit in itself, it is also a great base to move onto other areas of Thailand from, whether you are moving north, south or out into the western islands. Have you passed through Ao Nang, or ben to Phuket? Let us know what you thought of them in the comments below.
Until tomorrow, keep looking for new places to visit!