Driving Across Three Provinces in One Day

Published on 31 August 2023 at 00:28

Leaving Phuket, we drove across the province of Phang Nga, enjoying temples, beaches, and some historical landmarks along the way.  A very memorable travel day indeed. 

We packed up Harris the Yaris and said our goodbyes to Patong, and to Phuket for the last time (on this trip) and drove to the northern tip of the island.  There stands a border control with armed guards that you must pass through, which made my buttocks clench even though we had nothing to declare or hide.  From there you cross the Sarasin Bridge that connects the island with the mainland, which brings you into the southern end of Phang Nga province. 

Phang Nga is most famous for Phang Nga Bay, which makes up the north head of the Andaman Sea, includes lookout points over the many islands in the area, and is the gateway to visit another island made famous by a movie - Khao Phing Kan or James Bond Island.  The lookout that I climbed up to on Hong Island has much the same views across the islands but from the opposite direction, so we decided not to stop again and to look for something different to experience.  When we drove to Phuket from Krabi earlier in the week we passed two large temples with unique statues, so we left Phuket a little earlier to make time to see them.

The first stop was at Wat Kaew Manee Si Mahathat Temple, which includes a giant black statue of Reverend Phor Tan Kla sat atop a building. The Reverend was a monk who lived for nearly 100 years and was a healer, miracle worker, and said to predict the future. We all need at least one friend like this.  The statue is clearly visible from the main highway, so trucks and cars beep their horns as they pass, to get some good luck for the day.

Another 13kms further east along the highway brought us to Wat Suwan Kuha.  After parking the car, we were surprised that there were vendors offering bags of chopped fruit and corn for you to hand feed the tribe of wild monkeys that make the temple home – at your own risk.  We opted to keep walking and to keep all our belongings.  After a short walk you come to a decorative entrance that is the mouth of a cave. 

 The entrance is large, but nothing compared to the size of the cave itself.  About 40 meters long, and 20 meters wide.  Taking pride of place along one wall is a gold reclining Buddha statue, that is 15 meters long and quite the sight.  He is surrounded by other statues and artifacts, so there was plenty to take in.  

There are other caves in the complex, but after the splendor of the main cave they all seemed a bit “meh”, so we hit the road again this time heading back to the northwest and the coast.

I love movies.  When we travel, I research films that are either set in the region we are travelling to or re-enact a historical moment that occurred there and bring them along for us to enjoy.  Sometimes we watch them before (as research) or just after (when we play a familiar game we call “Been There, Done That!).  For this trip I procured a copy of the excellent 2012 film “The Impossible” starring Obi Wan Kenobi and that crazy lady from Mulholland Drive.  The Impossible is a gritty re-enactment of the true story of a family of five who were holidaying in a beachfront resort in Khao Lak in 2004 when the Boxing Day Tsunami occurred.  (You can currently watch the full film on YouTube). I watched this to better appreciate our visit to Khao Lak.

Khao Lak took the full force of the 10-meter-high waves that hit Thailand that morning and suffered over 4000 deaths, the majority of which were tourists recovering from Christmas Day.  On the week of the Tsunami, one of the royal princes was holidaying in Khao Lak, and as he was often enjoying the water the local police deployed cruisers to patrol the area to keep him safe.  One of the police vessels was taken with the largest wave as it surged a full two kilometers inland where it was eventually beached amongst the wreckage.  Today, the boat remains where it was stranded as a memorial. 

There is an official museum nearby.  However, the fee to enter it is quite high.  We found that nearby locals have created their own unofficial museum where you can pay a donation, so we headed there.  They have magazines and newspapers from the weeks after the event and, if you’re not too squeamish, they share photo albums full of images taken of the beach in the late morning with many wide-eyed tourists standing on the beach wondering where all the water went to, then a brief 20 minutes later as the waves hit land, and then the days afterwards where they lined up hundreds of bloated bodies on the sand so they could be identified.  Very sobering stuff indeed. 

Still, as tragic as that day was, it’s pleasing to see the town and its resorts are rebuilt, the forests have regrown, and the tourists are back.  Sandra found us a restaurant that was off the beaten track, and we had a fantastic lunch at a table on a white sandy beach that was all ours for the afternoon. 

From there we directed Harris back inland and crossed the border into Surat Thani province.  Here, the narrow roads wind their way through kilometre after kilometer of lush green forests, palm forests, and coconut plantations.  There are very few houses along the way, and you really feel that you are in rural Thailand.  However, even in the middle of nowhere you still come across temples like this (final) one.  Just astounding how something so beautiful occupies a secret place in the world.

The self-drive from Phuket, through Phang Nga, and into Surat Thani was the perfect way to spend a travel day.  We were able to travel at our own pace and take the scenic route, stopping when something caught our eye.  Slow travel 101, yeah baby! 

Surat Thani is home to the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world, and our next destination - Khao Sok National Park.  To be continued in our next edition. 

Thanks for reading.  Drop us a comment below. 

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9 months ago

You guys are getting alot of Thai experience and knowledge. Glad you having a good time thanks for the updates

gordon douglas
8 months ago

funny ,I have just watched the movie a week or so ago. More good reading guys, thanks

8 months ago

It would have been heart-wrenching to stand in the same location as the movie. I still get upset when I think about the reality of what happened there. Trust Sandra to pick the best lunch spot!