White Sands and Blue Waters Along the Andaman Coast

Though many begin their Thailand adventures in the infamous capital of Bangkok, I choose to save the most notorious for a later date and head straight for what is arguably the most beautiful: The Andaman Coast.  This stretch of island-dotted coastline, which lies along the very Southwest edge of the Thailand Peninsula, consistently accounts for a significant chunk of every travel guides’ “World’s Best Beaches” list — and rightly so.  The powdery white sand, neon blue waters, and jagged limestone cliffs all work in unison to embody the essence of “the perfect beach” — the ideal setting to lie back in the sun, soak up some rays, and sip on a fruity cocktail.  If your idea of a vacation includes more activity than occasionally dragging yourself out of your beach chair to take a dip in the ocean, however, then you’ll be in luck here, too, as the snorkeling and diving are also world-class.

Before heading straight to the limestone karsts and white sands — aside from the obligatory Long-Tail-Boat picture that I gave as a preview above — we’ve got to set up camp.  In an effort to avoid the pushy touts, rotisserie-cooked tourists, and neon-clad stretches of “girlie bars” that much of the area suffers from (when things are both beautiful and well-advertised, there are, after all, going be both crowds and business catering to the crowds), I decided to hunker down in Phuket Town — the main city on the island of Phuket — which is pronounced “poo-get,” by the way.  What I lose in proximity to the beaches, however, I gain in culture, heritage, and a sense of peace and quite.  Here are a few of my more colorful images from Phuket Town:

The streets of the city

Side-profile of a local temple

Small Shrines like this dot the entire city

In my continuing struggle with the desire to hike up any hill I can see, I found myself atop the Khao Rang Hill, with a great view back over Phuket Island

Sunset over Kata Beach (in the Southwest corner of the island)

After enjoying the sights on Phuket, I decided to pay a visit to Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh — two much-heralded islands on the backpacker circuit that are beautiful enough to make the necessary head-first dive into the tourist fray worth the effort.  The islands are both quite small, but the juxtaposition of the clear, shallow waters, scenic coves and harbors, and gorgeous beaches create some of the most jaw-dropping sights you’ll find anywhere on the planet.  Basically, when people imagine their ideal tropical island, this is what they are thinking about:

Taking a tour of the islands by boat is the best way to take in the majesty of the surrounding islands

Mountains seem to jut right out of the sea

The harbor on Koh Phi Phi Don

And no visit would be complete without a stop at Maya Bay — the famed beach where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” was filmed:

Maya Bay on approach

Looking out over the famed beach itself, in all its glory (with snorkelers ‘aplenty)

With Phuket and Koh Phi Phi checked off my list, I next made my way towards Koh Phang Nga — or “James Bond Island” as it is more commonly known, due to its appearance in Roger Moore’s The Man With the Golden Gun.  Whereas the island itself is quite breath-taking, many of the boat tours that will take you there will also ferry you around a whole host of neighboring islands, all of which hold their own charm.

The many islands along the Andaman Coast

The famous vista on James Bond Island

I know, I know…another shot of the long-tail boats. They’re just so pretty!

My favorite aspect of this trip wasn’t Koh Phang Nga itself, however.  Around Hong and Panak Islands (on the way from Phuket), they drop you off into sea kayaks and allow you to not only cruise around the perimeter and harbours of these small dots of land, but to actually delve through small caves in the rocks that lead to hidden bays on the interior of the hollowed-out islands.  It was a pretty surreal experience to be kayaking in near-complete darkness, ducking to avoid the low-hanging rocks, only to emerge to a beautiful beach inside the cliffs.

Kayaking in progress

After heading into the darkness…

…you’ll emerge to a few tiny beaches and harbors concealed by the cliffs themselves

A small bay inside Panak Island

Looking up from the inside

In addition to the sights sampled above, a few other great options nearby are the undeveloped Similan and Surin Islands, the small Ko Chang (there is another on the gulf side), the beach-heavy Ko Lanta, Khao Lak National Park, and Krabi — as well as dozens and dozens of other islands.

Additionally, before heading out of town, I did manage to squeeze in (and survive) a nice white water rafting trip back on the mainland (though unfortunately, this wasn’t a camera-friendly expedition, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say the scenery alone was worth the price of admission).  And after my time here comes to an end, I’m heading Northeast to check out the sights on the gulf side of the peninsula to see how they compare.  Until then, Choc-tee from the Andaman Coast!

About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

11 Responses to “White Sands and Blue Waters Along the Andaman Coast”

  1. Beautiful pics:) Thanks for sharing!

  2. Those rock formations look stunning!

  3. Lovely pictures! My friends and I are planning a trip to Thailand later this year, will suggest this to them. Thanks! 🙂

  4. Don’t know if you’ll be chose enough, but just had an interesting e-mail about the “Bridge Over The River Kwai”. There is a cemetery, museum, etc. located at the Bridge.

    • I’m actually planning on swinging over to see the museum and location of the bridge (it is only a few hours west of Bangkok), so I’ll finally be able to act upon a suggestion! Thanks for reading and for the tip!

  5. Incredible photos, Andrew. I hope you had a red bull bucket or two during your island hop as well.

    • Travis! Great to hear from you, and glad you like the site. If we meet back up in the future, I’m sure we’ll both have some great stories to swap about our respective travels around the world. And I did partake in a red bull bucket, which was great fun at the time, but not so much the next day. Ouch.

  6. Wow, what a stunningly beautiful place (which you capture so well)! I was in Bangkok years ago and only had time to explore the city and a bit of the surrounding area. Little did I know what I was missing.

  7. Beautiful pictures. I love the sunset @ Kata Beach but the other pics while kayaking are amazing and surrealistic.

  8. Andrew! It was great meeting you in Bangkok. Enjoy the rest of your travels.

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