Remember when you first saw these tall and majestic looking limestone cliffs jutting right out of the sea? For me it was in The Man with the Golden Gun – the plane winding through them and making its way to the beach. Breathtaking. And guess what? They’re real! In fact, today you can hop on a boat and take a tour to “James Bond Island” in Phang-Nga Bay. But today I want to talk about Hat Farang Beach.
The scenery as you approach anywhere along this coast is quite breathtaking – small beach coves fringed with palm trees and backed by sheer limestone cliffs. I really enjoy this place, but at the same time I see what the almighty dollar has done. There are way too many bungalows and beach huts that kind of turn what was once an unspoiled view into overdone tourism.
Hat Farang sits on the western side of the island of Ko Muk and you’ll need a boat to get here. There are plenty of operators. I know I mentioned commercialism and I suppose it’s a part of what is called “progress” in this part of the world, but I also found Ko Muk and the whole region very laid back.
What you don’t want to miss here is the great snorkeling. It can get a little silty because of the large beaches close by, but try along the rocky outcroppings and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular colors of fish and other sea life. Some say you can see the little reef shark around here, but just ask the locals – and find one who has actually been in the water snorkeling. Many don’t.
Around the 1930’s here, Siam as it was called back then became the perfect place to cultivate rubber trees. I’m not talking about that little plant that might be growing in your office. This is the tree responsible for latex and rubber and just about everything that comes with it.
Grown naturally in South America, rubber seeds were stolen/taken/smuggled out of Brazil in 1875. So when you come to visit Hat Farang Beach, you’ll see the rubber plantations close by. They are still very much in use even today.
Another thing you can do if you have the time is to venture inland and take a hike through the beautiful Thailand forest. There is a really cool limestone tunnel at the northern end on Ko Muk which is called Tham Morakot – that means Emerald Cave in the local language. This is something I’d probably visit if I had a few days here because the tunnel goes some 80 meters in and opens to a hidden lagoon of sorts.
What is interesting is that boats can really only make it in there during low tide, so it’s kind of restricted as to when you can actually go. And another tip is that the “tour” on the boats is mentioned on every itinerary for tourists so it can get crowded fast – make sure if you want to see Tham Morakot that you plan it and get your reservation in advance.
There are a couple of places to stay on the island. Remember that electricity is only turned on at night, but if you’re like me, you’ll be out exploring during the day anyway. To the north of the main village on the island you’ll find the Ko Muk Resort priced around 500B a day for bungalows with bath. It’s a simple place with basic bungalows that overlook a loamy-clay beach. If you venture just south of Ko Muk Resort there’s a real cool beach complete with snorkeling (expect to pay 200B to snorkel.)
Another bungalow resort of interest here is the Ko Mook Garden Resort. It’s a little cheaper, and a little closer to the pier. And then on the west coast near the Hat Farang Beach you’ll find Sawasdee Resort at 400B a night. It’s a good value for your money but Sawasdee is close to other facilities, like Charlies and it can be loud. Bungalows are on stilts and under the trees so it’s kind of cool.
Ko Mook Charlie Beach Resort has these wooden bungalows with a shared bath for 400B a night and then the more expensive concrete bungalows at 900B with private baths. This is the main resort for Hat Farang Beach and is where I was talking about when I said they are putting far too many bungalows on the beach here. Right now there are around 60 or so. Still, check out the tour desk here for just about anything.
To get to Hat Farang Beach, get a boat at Kuantungku Pier which is just south (few Kms) of the national park headquarters. There’s a ferry that leaves around noon and returns at 8 AM and takes 30 minutes. (Cost is 50B.)