Ao Nang, Thailand's best all-round beach destination?
Due to its central location in the Andaman Sea and to its fabulous topography and sporting opportunities, Ao Nang is at the moment arguably Thailand's best all-round beach destination.
The development of Thai beaches, like those the world over, follows a standard cycle. First they get discovered by backpackers, for whom cheap beach-huts are erected. Islands such as Koh Muk and Koh Lao Liang are still at this stage, where the island is as pristine as anyone could wish for, but lacks the facilities which most of us don't want to do without.
The next stage is when the developers move in and build bars, luxury hotels, restaurants and malls. Many beaches get ruined when over-development and over-population results in an unsupportable excess of pollutants. But somewhere along the way there is an optimal state, where there are enough facilities, but a still sustainable tourist population. Ao Nang is now at this stage and represents, for many people, an ideal compromise between a pristine but boring resort and a fun but polluted one. The southern half of the beach is not yet bordered by a road, and the town has a wide enough range of facilities, for example 6 Italian restaurants, to keep most visitors happily occupied for at least a couple of weeks. Ao Nang is busy but hasn't lost that laid back, friendly small-town feel; it is developed but still retains much of its original beauty and charm.
Ao Nang is, along with Chiang Mai, one of Thailand's two most exciting adventure sports destinations. The home of two of the best beaches on the planet, Railay, which is also the best tropical climbing destination in the world, is fifteen minutes away by boat. The town's location on the eastern coast of Phang Nga bay puts it within easy reach of all the fishing, diving and kayaking sites in the bay. A day-trip to Koh Phi Phi is a better way to visit the place than staying there, due to the noise and waste pollution problems PP is suffering from.
Further afield, a Similan Islands liveabord can be boarded only 3 hours away in Phuket or Khao Lak and the pristine islands of Trang province are only 3 hours to the south.
While not as scenic as neighbouring Railay (nowhere on the planet is), Ao Nang has a good range of accommodation, restaurants and all the other tourist facilities you may need.
Click here for vacation Thailand