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Similan Islands December 2021

The Similan Islands are a string of 11 lslands off the coast of southern Thailand in Thai Muang District. The Similan Islands are located about 48km from Thap Lamu or Nam Kaen Piers in the Khao Lak area. Similan Islands translates from Malaysian to “Nine Islands”. When the islands came under the control of Thailand two more Islands were added to the marine park. The Similan Islands are home to a wide variety of marine life from the tiniest sea creatures to the largest behemoths in the sea.

I was fortunate to be part of an “inspection” tour of the Similan and Surin Islands for a local outfit called Seastar Plus. For now I will focus on The Similans. We met at Nam Kaen Pier early in the morning and were treated to a nice continental breakfast, welcome drink and refillable water bottle.

We boarded a 15 meter two level catamaran named Tao Talay 6. The cabin was air conditioned and there was plenty of room for the passengers. There was an upper deck for sunning once the boat was at anchor. The Tao Talay had one toilet near the captain’s chair. The vessel was designed to seat 70 people but there were about 30 of us onboard. Once seated we all were provided with a mesh bag containing a towel, mask, snorkel and fins. Captain Mac and three boat boys got us underway for the hour and 30 minute cruise to the Similan Islands. Our guide, Khun Way, Gave us a briefing about the day’s activities and A little of the islands history.

Our first stop once we reached the Similan Islands was the famous Donald Duck Bay on Island #8. Due to our early departure, we had the bay all to ourselves. We anchored and disembarked on the white sandy beach. A short hike followed up the rocks to the viewpoint. The trail and steps were easy to navigate and the view itself was tremendous. After about 40 minutes we got back on the Tao Talay 6 and headed to our first snorkel spot. Again we were the only ones there and spent an hour exploring the reefs and the sea life that made it their home.

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Next stop on our Similan Island tour was Island number 4 or Koh Miang. There we were greeted by the Marine Park Rangers. The tide was coming in so there wasn’t much beach to walk around but we were there for lunch. There are no cooking facilities on this Island so everything had to be brought in. We each received a Box Lunch with Seafood, Fried Chicken Rice, Thai Omlete, Pasta and Fresh Fruit. Soft drinks were provided from the Tao Talay’s coolers, which we were free to help ourselves to all day. There was also ice cold water to fill our bottles.

After lunch we got back on the Tao Talay 6 and headed to another snorkel spot in between Islands 5 and 6. Some chose to explore the reefs, others took advantage of the dive platforms on the upper deck. I took the time to relax on the over-sized bean bags scattered around the deck. Our last stop of the day was back to Island #8, Honeymoon Bay. There were a few speedboats already there but very few people in the water. Everyone jumped in and a few of us swam/snorkeled the 200 meters to the white sand beach. The Tao Talay picked us off the beach after a 20 minute break and we prepared for the ride back to Thap Lamu Pier.

There was fresh cut fruit and chocolate brownies offered to everyone. After a full day at the Similan Islands, most of us dozed off until we reached our home base at Nam Kaen. At the reception area there was a small buffet set up and ice cream to refresh ourselves after a long day. I highly enjoyed my day out to the Similan Islands and was very satisfied with the service and experience provided by Seastar Plus.

With people just starting to return to Thailand in 2021, now is the best time to visit the Similan Islands.

Thai Noodles in Phang Nga Town

I love noodles. I think I can safely say that I have rarely met a noodle that I didn’t like. Here in Thailand they take their noodles seriously.
Everyone knows about Pad Thai. It is on every menu in every Thai restaurant worldwide. What you get here in Thailand depends on what part of the country you live in. The basic ingredients don’t change but there are subtle differences like nuts and dried shrimp that come into the equation. We are lucky to have a good place to get not only a good Pad Thai but also a very good Pad See Eeu. For those who don’t know Pad See Eeu it is made with wide, flat rice noodles that are flash fried in a wok. I like to order it with squid because they fish for it nearby and it is always super fresh.

The north is known for a noodle dish called Khao Soy. It has been around for centuries. It is made with fresh yellow noodles, a stewed chicken leg, fried yellow noodles, One half a boiled egg, pickled cabbage and lime wedges in a sweet and spicy curry. Heavenly is a good term.
A simple noodle served all over the country from the city to the smallest village is called Kwai Tiaow. In Viet Nam they call it Pho. There are small restaurant vendors and mobile ones cruising around. If you wave at them they will pull over with their modified motorbikes and fix you up with a bowl or two. Thin rice noodles blanched in a steaming hot broth and topped with any number of toppings. All parts of the chicken, meatballs, pork loin, Thai basil, crushed dried chilies, coriander, fresh lime, the list goes on forever. It is all topped off in a piping hot broth.

The Chinese have their influence in the noodle culture here in Thailand as well. They brought with them Char Sui Pork, Dim Sum and many other things. The best Char Sui pork is sold wherever there is an ethnic Chinese population. The guy that drives around my neighborhood makes a nice version. He has yellow noodles, freshly made pork dumplings, Chinese greens and that nicely colored red pork. What makes this guy’s noodles so good is the broth he makes. It is rich without being heavy and wonderfully scented with cinnamon, and anise. He only comes around every few days and I can usually smell his cart long before it shows up on my street.

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Today we went to Phang Nga town renewing our one year visas at the always amusing circus clowns Royal Thai Immigration Office and after we went to a noodle shop that has been owned and operated by the same family for 100 years, Talad Kwang Noodle Shop. It is hidden on a small side road in a residential area and let me tell you, the noodles are out of this world. The menu is small and various types of pork are in everything. The small shop house was busy with locals happily slurping away at their tables. I wanted to ask one of the current owners a few questions but they were too busy. Fortunately I have to return to Phang Nga town in a few weeks to retrieve my passport and will go back for more lovely noodles.

See Talad Kwang on Google Earth Click HERE!

Islands you Can Get to from Khao Lak

Ever since Khao Lak first came up on the ‘Tourist Radar’, the islands along the coast of Khao Lak have been a major appeal for divers, snorkelers and anyone who has ever dreamt of spending time on a paradise island. With their clear waters and white sandy beaches, these islands are lifted straight out of the sunblock ads. But experiencing these islands in any kind of comfort can be expensive, especially as most visitors to Khao Lak travel as a family. More often than not people have to make a choice based on their budget. They can either do “Cheap Charlie’ trips to the islands and try to visit as many as possible, and run the risk of being packed onto an overcrowded boat which rushes them around the islands on a tight schedule. Or they can book a slightly more expensive trip and focus on experiencing the best of just some of these islands, and maybe return again the following year to visit the rest.

I have been lucky enough over the years to experience both of these options first-hand, and I would always recommend people to pay the money and take the higher priced option (Usually works out 100-110 Euros per adult). Mostly for comfort and safety reasons (that money has to be saved somewhere!) but also in the interests of sustainability. The cheaper the price, the larger the group needs to be in order to operate. The larger the group, the bigger the impact on the ecosystem you wish to enjoy. It’s as simple as that. Also, when you consider that it is an all-inclusive day out on a boat with a free lunch, door to door transfers and all your entrance fees already included, 100 Euros suddenly doesn’t sound that much. Anyway, the most important thing is to make sure you choose the right group of islands to visit. Here are a few pointers to help you make your choice;

Donald Duck Bay on Koh Similan

The Similan Islands
The Similans are a group of 11 islands which are arranged in an almost straight line, about 55 km directly west of Thap Lamu Pier. It takes about 1 hour 15 mins to reach the islands by speedboat. The 3 southernmost islands have been claimed by the Thai royal family as a conservation area and are closed to the public. Koh Tachai, the northernmost island is also closed at the time of writing, but there are frequent rumors that it will re-open at some point. The Similan Islands are home to some of the best beaches in Thailand. The white sand is so bright that it keeps the water crystal clear almost every day. Below the water there are plenty of coral reefs which are rich in marine life. The corals here are often not as colorful as people expect, this sometimes due to the depth of the water and also due to their exposed positions.

Most trips to the Similan Islands will include 2 beach stops and 2 snorkel stops. Although in recent years the Similans have become a bit over popular and this has of course had an effect on the health of the islands and the reefs, the islands are still worth a visit. Especially for those who want a good balance of time on the beach and time exploring the reefs.

Moken Sea Gypsy Village - Koh Surin Tai

The Surin Islands
As these islands are a bit further north, I would recommend booking a trip that leaves from Baan Nam Khem pier. From here the boat ride is about 1 hour 40 mins. It is possible to do a shorter boat ride if you leave from Kuraburi pier, but it is a much longer minibus ride to get to the pier so the overall travelling time is about the same and I would prefer to be on the boat the extra 20 mins than in a minibus.

The Surin Islands are easily the best snorkeling reefs around. It has been said that they are the best in Thailand. The reefs are shallow, often just under the surface, and full of densely packed, healthy corals that come in all shapes and colors. If you are imagining the backdrop to Finding Nemo then you are about right. The islands are also home to a tribe of Moken sea gypsies who have lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle in this area for centuries. Their village is open to the public as it gives them the opportunity to sell handmade necklaces and trinkets which provide them with money for necessities such as rice and diesel for their boats, and also keeps some of their traditional wood carving and weaving skills alive.

There are fewer beaches in Surin than Similan, and the sand here is not quite to white and picturesque. Most day tours will give customers a chance to relax on the beach for an hour or two during the trip. The main focus however is snorkeling.

Similan Islands Hawksbill Turtle

Local Snorkel Sites
For those who do not wish to travel too far there are options. Koh Pha and Khao Na Yak are both much closer to Khao Lak. Koh Pha is a small island not far from Baan Nam Khem pier. Before the tsunami Koh Pha was a beautiful little island with white sand and a couple of palm trees stuck on top. Just like in a children’s book. However, since the tsunami the island has been lowered significantly and all the palm trees have been washed away. Now it is nothing more than a sand bank that is exposed when the tide is not too high. Much of the reef was also destroyed by the tsunami. Although it is slowly coming back. The water here is not always very clear due, and there is not a huge amount of color, but there is a lot of marine life around if you look for it.

Khao Na Yak is a peninsula very close to Thap Lamu pier. It has mangrove rivers on one side and a beautiful long beach on the other. As you cruise around the peninsular it is often possible to see monkeys and fishing eagles in the trees. On the flatter land there is also a savannah grassland that is perfect for photo shoots or bird watching. The snorkel reefs are mostly at the very tip of the peninsular. The corals on the outer edge are very large and healthy. There is also a great amount of fish that call the reef home. This is my favorite local snorkel site and it is definitely a destination I would recommend for families with kids.

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2 Waterfalls to Visit in Khao Lak

When is the best time to visit the waterfalls in Khao Lak?

Khao Lak is home to a couple of beautiful local waterfalls. They have water running all year but in the summer months they are at their finest.
Chong Fa Waterfall is the one closest to town. It’s about 7 kilometers from Thanon Phet Kasem, the main highway that connects Phuket with Ranong. The road winds through the hills to the park entrance. The area is part of the national park system so there is a fee to visit. There are five levels to the falls with a mild hike through the shaded jungle canopy to get to the most popular one. The trail steepens and can be a little slippery when wet when proceeding to the upper falls. There is a back road that takes you to the top but it is hard to navigate and not recommended. The first three levels have places to get wet and depending on the time of year and water flow you can have a waterfall shower. The swimming areas have small cleaner fish swimming in them and they like to come and clean your feet. It can get humid while hiking to and from the falls so keeping hydrated is a must.

Located in Pak Weep after a winding road through rubber tree plantations is Sai Rung Waterfall. There are two levels to this water feature although the upper fall can be inaccessible due to the erosion of the hillside during the monsoon. Unlike Chong Fa, this waterfall you can almost drive up to. There is a parking area that charges 20 Baht for a car/motorbike. It’s just a few steps over a narrow footbridge and a short path to get to the swimming area. At about 15 feet, this is the most impressive fall in the Khao Lak area. There is also a small cafe near the parking area and during the winter months they will put tables and chairs in the stream for you to enjoy a cold beverage or snack.

The best time to visit the waterfalls in Khao Lak is on a weekday morning when the temperatures are cooler. On weekends the waterfalls can be quite busy with locals. At Chong Fa Waterfall young kids jump from the main waterfall into the swimming hole and families picnic on the flat rocks and shaded areas. Evenings at Sai Rung Waterfall you might witness a beautiful wedding taking place in a clearing in front of the waterfall.

Because of the close proximity between Chongfah and Sai Rung waterfalls, they are located 17 km from each other, you can easily visit both waterfalls in a few hours.

See the map on Google Earth Here

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park is a tropical forest reservation that can be found in Southern Thailand. It is considered as one of the most beautiful national parks in Thailand. The park has a total area of 738 sq.km which covers the parts of Khlong Pra Sang and Khlong Yee forests, and portions of Khao Pung and Krai Son sub-districts in Ban Ta Khun District. The park also covers a portion of Panom and Khlong Sok sub-districts in Surat Thani province. Below are some of the things to do in Khao Sok National Park that can make your vacation an unforgettable experience.

Jungle Trekking Trails
The park is one of the oldest living rainforests in the world. The place is rich in pristine hiking trails with great caves, stunning scenery, flora and fauna, and rivers waiting to be explored. Khao Sok Thailand will not disappoint tourists who are looking for an adventure.

Cheow Lan Lake
Rajjaprabha Dam Reservoir, also known as Cheow Lan Lake, is 165 sq. km. of breathtaking beauty. The lake is the haven for endangered Clouded Leopards, Wild Elephants and Monkeys of varied species . The waters of the lake that resembles emerald green stones reflect the presence of the limestone karsts that have been in this region for many centuries.

Floating Raft Houses
Your stay in Khao Sok is not complete if you do not experience a night on a floating raft house on Cheow Lan Lake. This type of accommodation will enable you to experience an overnight stay on the waters of the lake. This is one of the most memorable experiences that you’ll ever have.
Flora and Fauna.

The park is an ancient rain forest that is full of unique flora and fauna like the giant Rafflesia flower. The flower blooms only once a year, and grows up to 80cm in diameter. In addition, the park is the home of wild deer, Asiatic Black Bear, Malaysia Sun Bear, and Tapir and Macaques.

Jungle Canopy Tree House
One of the most amazing experiences that you can have in Khao Sok is spending a night or two on one of the jungle tree houses. Rest assured that spending a night in a jungle canopy tree house will make you understand that the place is truly magical.

Adventure Galore
People looking for adventure will not be disappointed in Khao Sok. You can choose day or overnight tours and go elephant trekking, canoeing, and explore the caves in the jungle. Along the magnificent jungle trails that you can explore are the many waterfalls. Wing Hin Waterfall, Wang Yao Pool, Bang Hua Rat Waterfall, Bang Leab Nam Waterfall, and Tang Nam Gorge as well as Than Sawan Waterfall, Ton Kloi Waterfall, Sip-Ed-Chun Waterfall, and San Yang Roi waterfall are all within reach, Whatever your interests are, Khao Sok National Park has something to offer to you.

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