One of the highlights of our three-month trip will always be a very memorable day visit to the Similan Islands, Thailand, a group of islands in the Andaman Sea off the coast of, and part of, Phang Nga Province, southern Thailand, and since 1982 a national park.
The nine granite islands are postcard perfect images of paradise, covered in tropical jungle and equipped with beaches of chalk-white sand. This is rated by many as the best dive site in Thailand, which is a mecca for divers from around the world. Indeed Skin-Diver Magazine has acclaimed the Similans to be one of the ten most beautiful places in the world (Wikitravel).
For some stunning photos of the Similan Islands in the public domain, open this link.
Before describing our amazing trip to the Similan Islands, we’ll bring regular readers up to date. We said a farewell to Cambodia and it’s delightful people, flying AirAsia to Krabi, Thailand, changing planes in Bangkok. Our Andaman Sea facing hotel in Khao Lak, Phang Nga Province, which was our base for six days, arranged a transfer from the airport – it took two and a half hours and the journey was very memorable, with lush green vegetation and lots of limestone rocks (Karst with their amazing irregular shapes). Khao Lak provides a 20 Km stretch of beautiful beaches, along the Andaman Sea coastline, set against a backdrop of jungle-covered mountains. The region is dotted with numerous resorts and tourist facilities; we stayed at the southern end of the town in a resort hotel overlooking the sea. Whilst the setting was stunning, the resort and the facilities, were not that exciting. We’re now convinced that we prefer quirky boutique hotels in lively cities to sprawling resort hotels. During the stay at Khao Lak, we made two separate visits to Phuket Old Town for Alf to see a physio for a back problem. The old town, with its charming Sino-Portuguese architecture, quaint shops, boutique restaurants and trendy hotels, is well worth a visit – Whilst Alf had physiotherapy, Marilyn had retail therapy and both were a success! Open this link to see some of our best photos of the old town.
The highlight of the six days was on the last day, our unforgettable trip to the Similan Islands, where we swam and snorkeled in the warm, clear, still waters of the Andaman and actually swam alongside sea turtles – really quite amazing! We visited four of the islands, jumping boat and snorkelling amongst the beautiful corals and fish. We walked on the soft, powder, white sand and took shade amongst the huge rock formations. So what’s our verdict on the Similan Islands? Well, if your’re visiting Thailand’s beautiful coastline on the Andaman Sea, then make a special detour and visit the Similan Islands. Tours from Phuket are circa BHT4,000 (GBP80) for the day including lunch and from Khao Lak BHT3,500 (GBP70) – we shopped around and got an amazing deal for BHT1,900 (GBP38) and it was fantastic service and quality. Our trip started and ended at our hotel, then we went to the pier and boarded our speedboat; it took about twenty people, with a crew of five, and had three massive Honda four-stroke engines, each rated at 225BHP. The mainland to the islands takes about 90 minutes in these powerful boats. Coming back Alf spotted nine powerboats trailing us. The islands are, of course, teaming with tourists as well as fish! For example, Alf asked a couple with an iphone the time and was given Moscow time! It was full of Russian, Chinese, German, French and Italian tourists, with a few Aussies – we didn’t encounter any other Brits.
The bottom line for us is that whilst the Similan Islands were fantastic, the Andaman Islands were probably better and certainly had far less tourists. The Andaman Islands are 700 Km Northwest of the Similan Islands and are politically part of India, located in the Andaman Sea. Other than flights and ships from India, the Andaman Islands are not that accessible – they’re certainly not on the mass travel circuit. Open this link to view our account of our trip to the Andaman Islands – it’s entitled ‘The Andaman Islands India, a new paradise on Earth’.