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Phang Nga Bay
The holiday spot of Phang Nga Bay is characterised by sheer limestone cliffs that jut vertically out of the emerald green water. The bay contains a fascinating collection of 3,500 islands, most of them uninhabited, which are unique in that they have central hollows or 'rooms', actually collapsed cave systems, containing hidden realms of unspoilt fauna and flora. Many of these can only be reached by inflatable kayak, which makes exploring the bay on the water an exciting way to enjoy the spectacular scenery. The largest and most popular Phang Nga Bay islands are James Bond Island and Koh Pannyi, the first named for having been where the movie was filmed. Another interesting site is Sea Gypsy Island, where a village has been built on stilts in the water with a giant monolithic rock guarding its rear. Regular boat trips carry holiday tourists from Phuket to Phang Nga Bay, and it can be overcrowded during high season.
Thalang National Museum
The best place to learn more about Phuket's past and present is the Thalang National Museum, which chronicle's the island's daily life as well as its long history. There are exhibits on tin mining, military history, the Sea Gypsy culture and artefacts of the ancient Sukothai kingdom, dating back to the 9th century. One of the most interesting exhibits is the Monument of the Two Heroines, sisters Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthorn, who helped to repel the Burmese invasion in the 18th century.
Wat Chalong Buddhist Temple
Wat Chalong is the most famous of the 29 Buddhist temples in Phuket, welcoming thousands of visitors each year. The site is dedicated to two monks who used their knowledge of herbal medicine to assist in the tin miners' rebellion of 1876. The many buildings of the temple complex contain gilt statues, paintings, and relics, including a splinter of bone said to belong to the Buddha. A unique aspect of Wat Chalong is the regular sound of firecrackers, which are set off to show gratitude for answered prayers. Visitors to Buddhist temples should take care not to wear revealing clothing (with knees and shoulders covered), and be prepared to leave their shoes at the door.
Similan Islands National Park
The Similan Islands have a reputation, even among the many Thai islands, as one of the world's top scuba diving sites. The intense blue waters are frames by white coral sand beaches, and are home to intricate coral reefs and rock formations. The most famous dive site in the Similan Islands is Richelieu Rock, where whale sharks are commonly spotted. The Similan archipelago consists of nine islands: Ko Bon, Ko Bayu, Ko Similan, Ko Payu, Ko Miang, Ko Payan, Ko Payang, and Ko Huyong. Not all are open to visitors, and all are virtually uninhabited. Many charters offer day trips to the Similan Islands from Phuket and Phang Nga, but there are limited accommodation opportunities as well. Note that the park is closed from May 1st to November 1st each year, and it is illegal to visit during this period; guests who do so put their lives at risk as there are is emergency support.
Koh Yao Islands
The Koh Yao Islands are located in Phang Nga Bay, halfway between Phuket and the Krabi mainland. The pair are known as quiet retreats from the bustle of Phuket, and are popular excursions for tourists in the Thi islands. In 2002, Koh Yao Noi received the World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship from Conservation International and National Geographic Traveler Magazine for its innovative home stay programmes offered by locals. Maintaining their traditional way of life is important to the residents, as is preserving their environment; the top activities on the islands include hiking, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling. Though the islands are both small and have few facilities, Koh Yao Noi has recently added amenities like restaurants, shops, and internet service. The islands are a quiet and secluded refuge from the hordes of tourists in nearby resorts. Visitors need to bring cash with them, as there are no ATMs on the islands.