Things to Do in Gulf of Thailand
In many ways, Koh Nang Yuan is the paradisiacal location most people imagine when they think of Thailand. Consisting of three tree-topped islands adjoined by a tan-colored sandbar beach, Koh Nang Yuan is one of the most sought after destinations in all of Thailand. The best part? Unlike nearby Koh Samui or Koh Tao, accommodation options are extremely limited on the island, meaning the crowds remain relatively sparse as well.
Most people come to Koh Nang Yuan on day trips from other nearby islands and snorkeling excursions as well as scuba dives are extremely popular. And although the quick day visits are available, you'd be doing yourself a great favor by coming to the island and spending a night or two. In the evenings and early mornings, you can almost have the entire beach to yourself. During the heart of the day, activities such as snorkeling, zip-lining, and hiking are available.
In stark contrast to its famed northerly neighbor, tiny and sleepy Koh Tan tempts visitors with empty beaches and vehicle-less roads just three miles and a 15-minute boat ride south of Koh Samui’s southern tip. Koh Tan (also spelled Koh Taen) is sometimes also called Coral Island for its diversity of colorful hard and soft corals, and it often serves as a popular day-long escape for snorkel or kayak excursions through its clear inshore waters. Though the island doesn’t have quite the aquatic diversity of other more remote locations, it still affords excellent snorkeling, relatively empty beaches and navigable mangrove swamps all very close to a major tourist hub. Longboats make the crossing daily and usually stop at several unique coral spots around the island.
On land, Koh Tan spans only three square miles, and its population barely tops 30 people; their rustic lifestyle with limited electricity affords a glimpse of what much of Thai Island-living was like decades ago.
No trip to Koh Samui is complete without spending a day at sea visiting the islands of Ang Thong Marine National Park. Scattered across the sea lies an archipelago of 42 small islands with sheer limestone cliffs, white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons and dense vegetation.
A lovely sight from sea or land, the islands offer snorkeling and diving, beach picnics and hiking to lagoons and caves.
Coral Island, or Koh Larn, is a picture-postcard island off the coast of Pattaya. The popular day-trip destination is set up for underwater diving in the surrounding coral, glass-bottom boat tours and beachfront relaxing at one of several beaches on the island.
Activities like sea-kayaking and parasailing are also catered for, and buffet lunches are served on the sand.
Occupying 10 acres (40,000 square meters) fifteen minutes outside of Hua Hin, Black Mountain Water Park opened in 2011 and has already become one of the most popular regional attractions. Large, clean and staffed with professionally trained lifeguards, the waterpark features all the crowdpleasers, including Thailand’s biggest wave pool, lazy river, zero entry pool, children’s pool and a 56-foot (17-meter) tall tower with 9 water slides. Changing rooms and lockers are offered free of charge. An on-site restaurant serves a variety of Thai and international dishes, and park-goers will also find snack and ice cream kiosks located throughout the waterpark.
Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks - or Hin Yai/Hin Ta - are rocky outcrops on Lamai Beach. Often photographed and commented on, the rocks bear an uncanny resemblance to male and female genitalia.
The rocks are set on a lovely stretch of beach, and create tranquil rock pools when the tide is in.
More Things to Do in Gulf of Thailand
The cool sound of water tumbling down a rocky cliff face and into a pool greets you at Na Muang Falls.
Nestled amongst the island's central mountains, the falls have two tiers: a lower stretch easily reached by foot and a higher tier that’s best reached by hiking or riding on elephant back. The lower tier of falls is suitable for swimming.
The road to the lower falls is lined with food stalls and souvenir vendors, and elephant handlers offer their animals for rides to the top tier.
Apart from the beaches, Koh Samui’s distinctive icon is the golden Big Buddha Temple - or Wat Phra Yai - visible above the red-tiled rooftops on the island’s north coast.
The 12 meter (40 foot) Buddha statue is visible from several kilometers away, and even from an airplane if you’re arriving or departing by air.
The temple, shops and restaurants cluster at the base of the statue, and ceremonial stairs lead up to the top for terrific island views.
Traditional market buildings perched on stilts over the water offer a refreshingly different place to shop at the Pattaya Floating Market. The thatched huts are filled with stalls selling Thai handicrafts, delicious street food, and souvenirs.
The Mud House Village and Old Market have joined the attractions here, along with a woodcarving museum, flower fair, and agricultural demonstrations. Dance troupes dressed in traditional finery regularly perform at the floating market, along with shell dancers and sea boxers.
Traditional boats ferry visitors around the market’s canals, past boat vendors selling Thai food from around the country. It’s an especially picturesque sight at dusk.
Travelers looking for seclusion and solitude on Koh Tao, one of Thailand’s most popular islands don’t have it easy. But on the southeastern side of the island, between the Sai Daeng Beach to the north and the Tanote Beach to the south lies the 200 meter long Aow Leuk beach. This stretch of sand is difficult to reach, and because of that, the tourist crowds stay away. Aow Leuk offers crystal clear waters and the peace and serenity necessary to forget everyday life and recover from stress. The bay is shallow, surrounded by the islands typical, fine white sand and big boulders and due to the low depths, is a protected site and a great place for snorkeling and training dives to see luminous butterflyfish, blue angelfish and parrotfish among the corals.
The beach prides itself on being very clean and it is accordingly not allowed to bring your own picnic. But there are a few small, family-run bungalows and a restaurant, so you won’t have to worry about basic necessities.
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- Things to do in Pattaya
- Things to do in Koh Tao
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- Things to do in Hua Hin
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