Ang Thong National Park: Thailand’s Eastern Sprawling Island Paradise
Staying on Koh Phangan is arguably one of the best things to do in Thailand. The chilled out vibes, the untouched jungle, the laid-back atmosphere and the general all around ‘natural’ feeling is what makes this island a main stop-off for backpackers and tourists alike. You’ve got to keep in mind, that while there are tonnes to see on Phangan, with it being home to an abundance of temples, beaches and bars, Koh Phangan is also lucky enough to be 40km away from the pristine Ang Thong National Park. Only being a 45-minute speedboat ride away, this national park needs to go on your ‘to-see’ list if beautiful tropical islands are your kind of thing.
Ang Thong National Park is the islands and setting the movie “The Beach” was based around, despite actually being filmed around Phi Phi Leh and Maya Bay.
You have my interest…
Ang Thong, otherwise known as the ‘Golden Bowl’ is home to 42 magnificently charming islands made out of sheer limestone cliffs, foothills, giant sinkholes, labyrinth style caves and captivating inland lagoons. Spread out over an area of 102 km2, 52 km2 of which is water, this national park is perfect for those travelers looking to see some green, some blue, and some sun. Established as a national park in 1980, this area remains untouched, unspoilt and totally unimaginably breathtaking as you hike 500m to the peak of Koh Wua Ta Lap to get that classic ‘Ang Thong selfie’.
…Now you have my attention
Home to only one traditional nomadic tribe who’ve positioned their village next to Koh Wua Ta Lap (one of the 42 islands), the whole park remains uninhabited as building is strictly prohibited under an international treaty to protect the region’s wetlands. You’ll only find life on Koh Wua Ta Lap, where the nomads live and the national park HQ is also built. Sporting basic facilities, food and drink and the possibility to either camp on the designated camping grounds for 250B or sleep in one of the few 500B per night bungalows build near the HQ, Wua Ta Lap is used as the base of most of the parks excursions. Kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, and caving being the go-to excursions for this Eden.
Is caving even a good idea?
While caving hasn’t had the best reputation recently with the national emergency when the 12 young boys and their teacher became trapped in a cave due to unforeseen rainfall, it’s still hugely popular and safe if done under the supervision of a trained guide. A 1 km hike from the HQ will lead you to Bua Bok cave, a cave often described as ‘unique’ as its stalactite and stalagmite formations offer a truly unique spectacle. Other caves include a series of caves connecting Thale Nai lake on Koh Mae Ko to the sea, although, it will be a lot harder to explore these caves as they’re literally underwater. It’s recommended that you just spend your time enjoying the emerald saltwater lake from the surface.
Can’t I just chill on the beach?
If caves and hiking aren’t your thing, don’t worry, Ang Thong still has the cool island of Koh Sam Sao to relax your tired soul. With a great coral reef to take a calming swim by and a comfortable beach camping ground (to use the tents you rented from the HQ) this island is nothing but laidback chillaxing. A little word of advice, bring water. Whether you’re sleeping over or going for the day, you won’t be finding any 7/11s or Family Marts nearby, and the islands don’t exactly have a water system, so stock up and keep hydrated.
Koh Phangan is a great little relaxing gem and ideal for both active and chilled travelers. Just remember, between you’re partying there’s so much to see, and with Ang Thong national park being ridiculously close, not seeing it would be the same as staying 40 minutes from the Grand Canyon and not going to see it.