Southern Thailand: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Southern Thailand is a distinct region on the Malay Peninsula. It is connected with Central Thailand by the Kra Isthmus; the narrowest part of the peninsula. The region consists of the Andaman Sea coast, the beautiful underwater world, and the offshore islands. There are 14 main provinces; Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, and Yala. The main international beach resorts of Thailand are located in this region. The main destinations are Phuket, Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao, and Ao Nang in Krabi.
The island of Phuket is Thailand's largest island that has an area of 576 square kilometers. Phuket was once one of the major trading routes between India and China. Nowadays, its economy is centered in tourism making it the wealthiest province in the country. The island is a popular beach destination that offers a warm blue sea with white palm-lined beaches, great value in terms of accommodation, and the vibrant nightlife. Patong is the most popular beach town in the island. It offers a wide variety of activities and nightlife making it an ideal place to party and play. Patong hosts an outstanding choice of restaurants, shops, nightlife entertainment venues, and accommodation for thousands of visitors per year. It also boasts some of its beautiful attractions like the Kathu Waterfall; a series of drop pools with cool water ideal to plunge in to beat the heat. Aside from the beaches, there are temples, museums, zoo and gardens, and national parks. The Big Buddha in Phuket is one of the most important landmarks on the island. The 45 meters tall image sits on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata.
Ko Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand and it is the one of the largest islands in the country that has an area of about 247 square kilometers. The island is a part of the Samui Archipelago with its two neighboring islands; Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao. Ko Samui is blessed with world-famous beaches with fine white sands and crystal clear waters. There are some beaches that play host to nightly parties and some beaches that offer peace and relaxation. The most popular and commercialized beaches are the Chaweng Beach and the Lamai Beach. Chaweng is Ko Samui's busiest and biggest town that has became one of the island's best beaches. The beach has a majestic five kilometer long crescent that is bordered by rocky headlands. The Lamai Beach is the second largest resort area after Chaweng. Compared to the bustling Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach is more peaceful and more tranquil, but still offers plenty accommodation, resorts, shopping options, and some tourist sites to explore. In addition, there are cheaper tourist facilities in Lamai than Chaweng. The beach itself is considered to be the most beautiful one in the island. Aside from the stunning beaches, Ko Samui has a lot to offer in terms of attractions; both natural and cultural attractions. There are waterfalls, rock formations, man-made attractions, temples, and recreational sites. The Big Buddha Temple, also known as the Wat Phra Yai locally, is the most well-known landmark in the island. It's 12 meter high golden Buddha can be seen from several kilometers away.
Ko Pha Ngan is the home of the world's best beach Full Moon Party. The island has a gift of beautiful beaches and nightlife. The beaches have an array of restaurants, bars, hotels, and resorts. The main tourist attraction is the Haad Rin hosting the Full Moon Party. It actually consists of two beaches; the Haad Rin Nok and the Haad Rin Nai. The Haad Rin Nok is situated in the southeast of the island and is considered as one of the best in the island of Ko Pha Ngan. There are other attractions in Ko Pha Ngan aside from the beaches. There are also other natural attractions in the island that are mostly visited by tourists, some of the most beautiful views are the Island's Tallest Tree, the Khao Ra, and the Phaeng Waterfall. There are also temples and other religious monuments. Some of the most visited temples are the Kuan Yin Chinese Temple, the Wat Pho, and the Wat Phu Khao Noi.
Ko Tao is the smallest island in the Samui Archipelago. Its name means "Turtle Island" because of the island's turtle-like shape. It is also an important breeding ground for species like hawks bill and green turtles. The economy of the island is centered in tourism especially in scuba diving. Ko Tao offers the best scuba diving in the Gulf of Thailand. It is also Asia's premier Instructor Development Center (IDC) for all pro-level qualifications to full Diving Instructor. There are dive training courses that international diving agencies like PADI, SSI IANTD, BSAC, and NAUI are offering in partnership with the dive centers and resorts. All course levels are available from beginner to professional. Ko Tao is the home of loads of beach dive sites. Two major dive sites are the Shark Island and the Southwest Pinnacle. Both are loaded with a great variety of reef fish and rock formations. Since the main attraction is diving, the beaches remain tranquil and uncrowded. Ko Tao is blessed with some of the country's most beautiful beaches and bays. Mae Haad is the capital of Ko Tao and it is also the most developed area on the island with a great number of shops, restaurants, bars, and resorts. It is also the main port of the island. The Mae Haad Beach is long with soft white sand.
Krabi is an emerald on the Andaman Sea. It is divided into 8 districts; the Amphoe Muang or the Krabi Town, the Khao Panom, the Khlong Thom, the Plai Phraya, the Ko Lanta, the Ao Luk, the Lam Thap, and the Nhua Khlong. The Krabi Town is the main gateway and the capital of the province. Although it is a sleeping capital, it offers authentic Thai cuisine and night market that tourists often visit. Krabi is blessed with coastal vistas featuring towering limestone cliffs, soft white sand beaches, small coves, and offshore islands. Krabi's beaches are almost never crowded compare to the other coastal destinations in the country. Some of the most beautiful beaches are the Ao Nang Beach, the Railay Beach, the Klong Muang Beach, the Nopparat Thara Beach, the Tubkaak Beach, and the Haad Yao. Ao Nang is Krabi's vibrant tourist center. It is the the most westernized beach in Krabi making it the busiest and most tourist-oriented beach town. Other attractions in Krabi can be found at the national parks. The Than Bok Khorani National Park is a home to the mangrove forests, the limestone mountains, the caves, and the islands. Aside from the most beautiful natural attractions that Krabi boasts, there are also temples that reflect its cultural and religious heritage. Some of the most visited temples that Krabi is homing are the Wat Tham Sua, the Wat Kaew Korawaram, the Wat Klong Thom, and the Wat Sai Thai.
Ao Nang is a resort town and a sub district in Krabi. Ao Nang is known for its long Andaman coast beachfront and access to dive sites off the nearby islands in its bay. The main beach, Ao Nang Beach, mainly consists of a seaside strip of guesthouses, hotels, bars, and restaurants. The beach town is also the home of the Nopparat Thara Beach. It is a national park of a long beach located at the western tip of Ao Nang. The western half of the beach is located at the vicinity of the neighboring Nong Thale sub district and the eastern half belongs to Ao Nang. It is a quieter beach offering visitors to have a nice stroll and watch a sunrise or sunset. Ao Nang offers a lot of great activities like kite boarding, scuba diving, and boat trips to the nearby islands. One of the most unique attractions in Ao Nang is the popular Susan Hoi or the Fossil Shell Beach Cemetery. There are a lot of activities in Ao Nang. Some of these are the island hopping, scuba diving, the Krabi Fun Park, the jungle tours, and the Thai massage and the Muay Thai.