Top Ten Things to do in Ao Nang, Thailand
1 Visit Railay
Railay is only 15 minutes away. There is no pier at either end of the journey so expect to get at least your feet, probably your knees and possibly your bottom wet. Whatever you do, don't come to Ao Nang and not go and see Railay.
Ao Nang Beach: for a battery-charging day, while away an afternoon at or near the tranquil Last Fisherman's beach restaurant, then catch the sunset there. The broad beach occupies a lovely setting, framed by the huge limestone rock-face at the southern end of the beach and by a skyscraper-sized rock tower 500 metres off-shore. Good swimming and kayaking, no noise or motor vehicles, 11 open-air massage shops.
Nopparat Thara Beach is a long and picturesque beach at the northern end of Ao Nang. During low tide you can follow the sand-crabs across a sandbar to some nearby craggy limestone islands. The very shallow water here makes it ideal for children, but not for skinny-dipping - it takes a long time to get back out of the water:
After an evening's dancing at the Luna bar, we felt like cooling off with a midnight dip. We walked a couple of hundred metres away, untill we were opposite our resort, the Ao Nang Buri. There was noone about, so we decided to shed our clothes on the way into the water. Not a problem on the way in, but getting out half an hour later was a different story. It was low tide and the water was extremely shallow, so it seemed to take an age to reach the beach. The sun-tan on the rest of my body seemed to draw attention to my lilly-white midriff, and the road seemed to have twice as many cars on it as when we entered the sea, all of whose occupants I was sure were staring at me and were policemen. If the sea had had a large enough crack in its bed I would have gladly dived in it and been swallowed whole. To make matters worse, when I reached the beach I couldn't find our clothes. Maybe it's a man thing, but I can never find anything. After a couple of fruitless laps up and down the beach I decided there was only one thing for it and ran into the Ao Nang Buri, stark naked, to collect a couple of pool towels. Thankfully there was nobody around except the security guard, who I waved at with a 'sawasdee kap', pretending that this sort of behaviour was completely normal. When I returned to the beach to give my girlfriend a towel she was changing, having used her feminine stuff-locator sensor to find our clothes.
3 Island Hopping
Ao Nang is a great base from which to go island-hopping in Phang Nga bay. The "Four-island Tour" visits Tup Island, Chicken Island, Poda Island and Phra Nang beach (which isn't actually an island, as it's part of the Railay peninsula). If you have time then island-hop via Koh Hong to Koh Yao Noi, then spend a couple of nights there. Ask the tour operator to include a beach barbeque.
Hon Nah nature trail is an arduous trek to the top of the tallest karst (limestone hill/mountain) in the Ao Nang area. From the top there are panoramic views over Ao Nang, Krabi, Koh Hong Archipelago, Phang Nga bay and Railay. It is a steep two and a half hour trek to the top. Most trekkers will detour to the karst's sole waterfall, which offers no greater water-flow than a budget hotel shower in the high season, but will eventually cool the trekker down. The jungle here is untouched, primeval rain-forest, with huge trees, flowers and exotic animals. This trek, which is not yet on the tourist map, is recommended for fit trekkers or for fairly unfit trekkers with a determined nature, but not for the very unfit. For a much easier trek, take the boat to Railay.
Phuket offers Thailand's only truly big game fishing which, whilst a memorable experience, is also an expensive one. For those who have only fairly deep pockets or who are travelling with their families, Ao Nang has become, since the arrival of monster fish at Gillhams Fish Park, Thailand's best fishing destination.
Only 4km from the town is Ao Nang Fishing Park and Seafood Restaurant. The park is located in one of the region's most pristine areas, nestling between towering karsts in an oasis of silence. Whilst lacking Gillham's monster fish, there are lots of tasty snapper and grouper, which the chef will prepare it in any style you like. Bring along your non-angling partner for a blissful afternoon's peace in your own lakeside hut in an extremely relaxing setting.
Maybe the most pleasant sea-fishing trip in Thailand is a boat charter from Ao Nang into Phang Nga bay. Whilst you probably won't catch anything really huge, this is an excellent way to tour the stunning marine scenery of the bay. Also a great day out for non-angling family members, who can snorkel away from the crowds. Ask for a sunset beach barbeque on a deserted island to be included in the price. Click here for more information.
6 Rock Climbing
Climbing on nearby Railay's world-famous crags can be arranged through Ao Nang agencies, who will arrange transfers and as much climbing as your limbs can handle.
7 Scuba diving
Ao Nang's ideal location puts it within easy range of the largest number of sites of any destination in Thailand. Sites visited daily include the local islands in Ao Nang bay, Phi Phi Marine National Park, King Cruiser Wreck and Shark Point Marine sanctuary. It's now also possible to take a one day speedboat safari to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, for the chance to see whale sharks and manta rays, or to do some spectacular cavern diving at the 5 islands of Ko Haa Yai. Speed boats are, however, not the most comfortable way to travel unless the sea is very calm, and there can be problems finding shade. Some of the more popular dive sites can become very crowded in the high season.
Hire a kayak in Ao Nang and paddle, in the cool of the late afternoon, around the towering cliffs that cut Railay off from Ao Nang. After a dip on the fabulous Phra Nang beach and with the sunset turning the sky into a blaze of colour, paddle to a table on West Railay beach. After dinner, if the sea isn't mill-pond smooth or if you have enjoyed a little bit too much food and don't fancy any more exercise, take a longtail boat back to Ao Nang. It's worth waiting a while longer for your food to go down, though, as the paddle back to Ao Nang is often memorable: on moonlit nights the green fire of bioluminescence blazes in the water at every paddle stroke.
The fabulous Northern Krabi coast kayak sites are all accessible from Ao Nang. Get there by paddle power or by your tour operator loading the kayaks onto a long-tail boat. Until quite recently, the coastline near Ao Nang was one of the best kept secrets in the kingdom. While Koh Hong and the western reaches of Phang Nga bay have for years been well-known, the eastern and almost as spectacular portion of the bay rarely saw a single soul.
9 Night Life
There are two girly bars alleys in Ao Nang, but they are fairly well-hidden and thus inoffensive. Younger visitors will enjoy shaking their stuff at the Luna Beach Bar, which gets going around 1 am.
10 Shell Fossil Beach
Seven kilometres west of Ao Nang, this mildly trap-like tourist attraction consists of slates of compressed 40 million year old shellfish. These bear a passing resemblance to concrete, and to some are about as inspiring. The small museum is a bit grubby, but the line of gift shops are well worth checking out for the very affordable pearl products. Entry is 200 Baht for foreigners, but only 20 Baht for Thais. If paying ten times as much seems a bit step, maybe remember that you probably earn about ten times what the average Thai does.
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