Rainforest Retreat | Bangkok Post: travel

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Rainforest Retreat

The southern province of Phangnga has much to recommend it _ get up close to unspoiled nature or explore its traditions and long history

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Hugging the shores of the Andaman Sea, Phangnga is best known for the stunning dive sites around the Surin and Similan islands and the immaculate strands of Khao Lak. But it has much more to offer. Inland are beautiful mountains carpeted with lush vegetation, tranquil streams and waterfalls bound to impress amateur explorers, a diversity of cultures and a rich history of human settlement dating back more than a thousand years. 

Sang Neh is a short but very scenic creek, lined on both sides by mature banyan and mangrove trees, which flows into the Takua Pa River. Both pedal-powered boats and regular two-seater boats equipped with engines can be hired for the roughly 2km trip down this little waterway (it only takes about 45 minutes). You’ll float past groves of nipa palm and a host of gigantic, century-old banyan trees whose aerial prop roots hang down like so many woody curtains. There are also lots of pong-pong (Cerbera odollam ) trees scattered around the area; their perfectly round fruit looks appetising, but, beware, it’s highly poisonous. The atmosphere here reminds me of documentaries I’ve seen of South America’s Amazon region. Certainly the area is abundant in vegetation and home to a horde of insects, squirrels and fish which feast on the ripe figs which fall from the trees. If you come here early in the morning, you may be lucky enough to spot a few hornbills, one of the prime indicators of a healthy ecosystem. Another sight sure to excite are the snakes you may spot sleeping in the branches of trees waiting for nightfall when they hunt for their food; the most commonly seen here are the golden tree snake and the gold-ringed cat snake. Boats can be hired daily, from 9am to 5pm, but you need to make a reservation at least one day in advance. The pedal-powered ones accommodate two passengers and cost 500 baht per trip; it’s 800 baht to rent one of the twoseaters fitted with an outboard motor. The dock is in tambon Bang Nai Si, about 800m from Takua Pa police station. For more information, call 086-953-1789 or 076-424-176.

Kayaking in Phangnga Bay and scuba-diving in the azure waters of the Andaman are perennially popular activities in these parts, but so, too, is trekking and rafting in Khao Lak-Lam Ru, a national park located 33km from Takua Pa district.

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