Monday, June 7, 2010


The first piece in the Andaman’s puzzle of curvy coastal provinces is Thailand’s least populated region and also its most rainy, logging in with up to eight months of showers per year. As a result, Ranong’s forests are lush and green (although it’s swampy near the coastline and mainland beaches are almost nonexistent).

Most people only visit Ranong during their visa run to Victoria Point; those who stick around seek out the relaxing vibe on Ko Chang and Ko Phayam.


On the eastern bank of the Sompaen River’s turbid, tea-brown estuary, the frontier town of Ranong is no more than a short boat ride or a filthy swim – from Myanmar. This border town par excellence (shabby, frenetic, ever so slightly seedy) has a thriving Burmese population (keep an eye out for men wearing traditional longyi; Burmese sarong), a clutch of mildly interesting (and stinky) hot springs, and a handful of tumbledown historic buildings.

An increasing number of travellers are showing up specifically to dive the spectacular
Burma Banks (in the Mergui Archipelago), 60km north of the Surin Islands. A number of dive operators have established themselves in Ranong (which does lend the city a pinch of an expat feel), using it as a jumping-off point for live-aboard trips.

Sights & Activities

Ranong is rural Thailand’s version of a spa town – stinky and charmless. You can sample the waters at Wat Tapotaram, where Ranong Mineral Hot Springs offers pools hot enough to boil an egg (65°C). Like the three bears of Goldilocks fame, the names of the three springs translate as Father Spring, Mother Spring and Baby Spring, and each has its own distinct smell (all horrid). The spring water is thought to be sacred, as well as having miraculous healing powers.


Live-aboard diving trips run from Ranong to world-class bubble-blowing destinations including the Burma Banks (Mergui Archipelago) and the Surin and Similan islands.
Prices start at around 16,000B for a four-day package. Several operators in Khao Lak ( p641 ) are starting up live-aboard services to the stunning Burma Banks.

Eating & Drinking

On Th Kamlangsap, not far from Hwy 4, is a night market with several food stalls selling great Thai dishes at low prices; across the street is a modest noodle stand. The day market, on Th Ruangrat towards the southern end of town, offers inexpensive Thai and Burmese meals, as well as fresh produce, fish and meats. A cluster of decent eateries can also be found at the northern end of Th Ruangrat.

Getting There & Away


Ranong airport is 20km south of town, off Hwy 4. Air Asia ( has three or four flights to Bangkok (one way around 1900B) per week.


The bus terminal is on Th Phetkasem towards the southern end of town, though some buses stop in town before proceeding to the terminal. Sŏrng·tăa·ou (also spelt săwngthăew; pick-up truck) 2 (blue) passes the terminal. Bus services include Bangkok (220B to 700B, 10 hours), Chumphon (120B to 150B, three hours), Hat Yai (410B to 430B, five hours), Krabi (190B to 220B, six hours), Phuket (180B to 250B, 5½ hours) and Surat Thani (100B to 200B, 4½ hours).

Getting Around

Motorcycle taxis will take you almost anywhere in town for 20B, to the hotels along Th Phetkasem for 25B and to the pier for boats to Ko Chang, Ko Phayam and Myanmar for 50B. Pon’s Place can assist with motorcycle and car rentals.

KO CHANG เกาะช้าง

If you’re looking for the big Ko Chang, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if your suitcase is overflowing with novels and you’re seeking a silent stretch of sand on which to read them, then welcome! Unlike most of the Andaman’s islands, Ko Chang enjoys its back-to basics kinda lifestyle – there are no ATMs, no internet and no rush to acquire them.

When you’re done with your book, spend your time exploring the island’s tiny village ‘capital’ (and we use that word lightly), or wind your way around on one of the dirt trails. Sea eagles, Andaman kites and hornbills all nest here, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch sight of them floating above the mangroves.

Bungalow operators can arrange boat trips to Ko Phayam and other nearby islands for around 200B per person (including lunch) in a group of six or more. Dive trips are also possible. Aladdin Dive Cruise, on Ko Chang, runs PADI courses and offers a range of live-aboard dive safaris.