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Koh Samui is the second-largest island in Thailand, which evolved from a quiet fishing community into a tourism-targeted destination while still retaining its natural charm. It’s definitely not as quiet and peaceful as some other Thai islands but it offers a good balance for those looking for a combination of vibrant nightlife, serene temple visits, and jungle adventures.

How to get there?

Koh Samui can be reached on a ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani. Raja Ferry is slow, cheap, uncomfortable, and takes about 1,5 hours while Lomprayah is exactly the opposite but about twice the price and takes 45 minutes. Time is money, they say. The choice is yours ­čÖé

Another option would be to fly to Koh Samui. There are regular flights from Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, as well as some foreign destinations. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia.

How long to stay?

I spend 3 nights on the island and I would recommend it as a minimum. It will give you enough time to explore nature and chill on the beach. That time could be easily extended to one week or even longer. There are beautiful beaches, waterfalls, a nice standard of accommodation for online work, good food, and an option for a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. Sounds like a perfect place for holidays? It could be, but keep in mind that there are also two other islands: Koh Phangan and Koh Tao which are well worth checking as well.

When to go?

The best period to visit Koh Samui is between December and August.

The dry season lasts from December to April and it’s the peak tourist season. Pleasant weather with lower humidity and cooler temperatures. Accommodation and flights can be more expensive, and popular tourist spots can be crowded.

From May to August, there is a hot season with higher temperatures and humidity. Occasional rain showers are possible but they are usually brief. May and June can be particularly hot.

Rainy season months, so September to November, are better to be avoided. The prices are more budget-friendly but you may expect frequent rainfall and boat tours will most likely be closed.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Waterfall on Koh Samui

Where to stay?

I stayed for three nights at the Pamoni Hotel in Chaweng for about 19 EUR per night. It was basically a small apartment, with a living room and a kitchen, a bedroom, a private bathroom and there was a swimming pool for guests too. A very good price-to-quality ratio and the location was excellent too.

How to get around the island?

Without a doubt, the best option is to rent a motorbike. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes. You will also find some rental agencies near Chaweng Beach. I rented mine at Idan Rent Motorbikes & Cars. At first, I wasn’t too happy with the bike’s quality but they quickly reacted and changed it for a better model.

The network of roads is really good with most of them sealed. There are still some dirt roads, often quite steep so pay special attention there or simply park your bike on the side of the road and walk.

What to do on Koh Samui?

Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks (Hin Ta Hin Yai)

Beautiful view of the ocean with nice rock formations. Especially famous are the ones shaped like…. male and female genitalia. The legend says that an elderly couple living in Nakhon Sri Thammarat were discussing the marriage of their son. It wasn’t too easy to find a wife for him but they knew someone in the province of Prachuap Kiri Khan who had a beautiful daughter. They decided to use their small wooden boat to make the trip.

It wasn’t a good idea though. Their vessel was tossed around like a small toy, and both of them got terribly seasick. In the distance, they saw an island and decided to try to get there. Unfortunately, the waves were big and the winds were strong. Just as they were about to give up, a huge wave washed them both out of the boat and into the sea. Their bodies were washed ashore and instantly turned into rocks on the beach.

There are plenty of vendors selling food, snacks, drinks, and souvenirs just in case you need to cheer yourself up after discovering that sad story.

The rocks are just next to Lamai Beach, which is the island’s second largest.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Grandfather Rock
Koh Samui, Thailand
The aerial view of the rocky coast of Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
The aerial view of the rocky coast of Koh Samui

Lamai Viewpoint & Valentine Stone

There is the Valentine Stone at the bottom and some fish ponds but the main attraction is the viewpoint. You can either walk up or pay extra to get a ride up. As it’s only 10 10-minute walk, the choice was easy. The path goes through the forest so don’t forget to use mosquito spray before you start. They also have an option to do ziplining, which is about 800 THB, including the entrance fee.

Lanlandaw Viewpoint

Beautiful place with an amazing view of the sea and the island. You can just get a beer or fresh coconut and soak the atmosphere. The owners are very friendly and chatty people. The dirt road leading there is quite steep so be careful when riding a motorbike.

Koh Samui in Thailand
Lanlandaw Viewpoint

Overlap Stone

There are two similar places, called Overlap Stone 1 and Overlap Stone 2. I recommend you to choose the second option. Carry on following the road past the big signs for Overlap Stone 1 and the lady waving enthusiastically asking for a ridiculous 200 THB. The road gets steeper until you see a welcome sign and a little spot saying motorbike parking. Walk up among the trees and the view will open up on both sides. The entrance costs 20 THB and you can buy some drinks too. The views over the island are simply stunning! Take a rickety bamboo walkway to get closer to the stone.

Koh Samui in Thailand
Overlap Stone
Koh Samui in Thailand
Overlap Stone

Wat Ratchathammaram

A beautifully laid-out temple decorated with red terracotta. It overlooks the sea, which makes it a particularly calm and scenic place, perfect for meditation and reflection. Moreover, it houses the relics of Buddha brought in from Sri Lanka.

Ban Hua Thanon

Home to the Muslim community, with a local fish market and Koh Samui Central Mosque that can be seen from afar because of its vibrant gold, green, and white colors.

Tarnim Magic Garden

Peaceful place to rest and appreciate the surrounding nature and different statues whilst hearing very calming trickling water. It’s quite small though and you can get around in about 30 minutes. The entry ticket costs 80 THB so I really wished it had more to offer. Insect repellent is essential!

Koh Samui, Thailand
Tarnim Magic Garden
Koh Samui, Thailand
Tarnim Magic Garden

Paradise ParkÔÇő Farm

A well-maintained place with a lot of animals and an enormous garden. The most popular activity is feeding and observing the pigeons that come in shades of pink, blue, yellow, and orange. There are also some deer, goats, rabbits, parrots, and ducks. They also offer a viewpoint where you can enjoy a swing and capture nice pictures. Tickets are on the expensive side: 400 THB per person, but if you travel with kids, it may be a good idea to visit.

Na Muang Waterfalls

The tallest waterfall in Samui (30 meters) with a great pool for swimming at the base. It is set in lush jungle surroundings, easily accessible just off the main ring road. There are several stalls selling snacks, drinks, and souvenirs. Keep in mind that during the dry season, the water level could be extremely small so you may be disappointed. Unfortunately, near the entrance to the waterfall, I saw an elephant which was clearly used for riding. I strongly discourage you from participating in such an “attraction”. If you want to get closer to these magnificent animals, visit Samui Elephant Kingdom Sanctuary or Samui Elephant Home described below.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Na Muang Waterfall

Samui Elephant Kingdom Sanctuary & Samui Elephant Home

If you have the need to get closer to elephants, these two places have a good reputation. The staff look after the rescued elephants and have a great relationship with them. The tours normally include a briefing about the history of each elephant and where they’ve been rescued from, feeding, a walk around the large open grounds with them, bathing, and of course plenty of photo opportunities.

Cobra Show

I haven’t visited the place as I am not a fan of entertainment including animals, but they have positive reviews on Google Maps. Apparently, the owner and staff are very friendly and the animals look comfortable in their enclosures and are well-kept. Let me know in the comments if you were there and what were your impressions!

Khao Yai Waterfall

A short hike through some bush leads you to an unimpressive waterfall. Not really worth the time and effort.

Wang Sao Thong Waterfall

After a 10-minute walk through the jungle, youÔÇśll be able to cool down in a small lagoon at the base of the waterfall. Don’t expect anything big though and you may totally skip the place in the dry season.

Wat Khunaram

The home to Koh SamuiÔÇÖs mummified monk, Luong Pordaeng, who died in 1973. It was his will to be put on display as a visual reminder of the BuddhaÔÇÖs teachings. The body is presented in a seated meditative position in a glass case and the only noticeable change to the body has been the disintegration of the eyes, which have now been respectfully covered by sunglasses. I really like that place because it also shows you that Thais approach death as the natural order of things and they view it as an opportunity to be reborn into a better place, one step closer to nirvana. So much different from the European point of view.

Wat Plai Laem

This unique temple was completed in 2004 and most of the complex was built in Thai-Chinese style. The two giant, colorful statues dominate the landscape. The first is the huge image of Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy and Compassion who has 18 arms. Guanyin is very highly revered by Chinese people and is known as the protector of women and children, the sick, and the poor. She is said to have so many arms, so she can help many people at one time.

Another statue is that of the fat, laughing Chinese Buddha. In Chinese culture, a fat Buddha represents wealth and prosperity. This very impressive statue is 30 meters high and was painted in expressive colors like red, white, and gold.

Wat Phra Yai

The temple complex is built on a small island named Koh Farn, connected to mainland Koh Samui with a causeway. The highlight is a 12-meter-long Buddha image that was built in 1972. The Buddha is in the subduing Mara posture, which symbolizes the Buddha not giving in to the demon Mara, temping the Buddha with beautiful women. There are also some great views of the surrounding beaches and the island of Koh Phangan to the north.

Thongson Beach

Fine beach but you will most likely need to order something in the restaurant or otherwise they will charge you for parking. You may notice pigs cooling off there on a hot day, not joking. The naturist beach is located further on the right, just follow the path and then go over the rocks. If you are in that part of the island, it’s worth stopping by but it’s not worth a special trip.

Choengmon Beach

ItÔÇÖs one of the most beautiful beaches in Koh Samui with clean water and nice sand. You can get a sun bed for about 200 THB. Plenty of spots offer massage, drinks, and food. It’s also a perfect place for a beach walk during low tide to have a closer look at nearby Ko Fan Yai and Ko Fan Noi.

Chaweng Beach

Probably the most crowded and popular beach on the island. Hotels and resorts are all along the beachfront, bars and restaurants play loud music till late night hours, and jet ski as well as other water attractions are available for adrenaline seekers. It’s typical beach madness but sometimes this is exactly what you are looking for. Sunrises are beautiful there and probably that is the only quiet time for peace lovers.

Khao Hua Jook Pagoda

Worth visiting around the sunset for great views over the island and the airport. Entrance fee: 20 THB.

Lad Koh View Point

Lovely viewpoint just off the road. You can take a nice walkway down to the rocks below.

Wat Phra Chedi Laem So

Beautiful, serene, and quiet temple by the sea. It’s not worth a special trip, but if in the southwestern area of Samui, check it out.

Koh Samui, Thailand
The aerial view of the area around Wat Phra Chedi Laem So
Koh Samui, Thailand
The aerial view of the area around Wat Phra Chedi Laem So

Koh Taen and Ko Mat Sum

Both islands are located only a few minutes away by longtail boat from Thong Krut Pier. Koh Taen isn’t too impressive and the beach is rocky so don’t waste too much time. On the other hand, snorkeling around the island is decent. Koh Madsum is way better for relaxing on the beach with fine sand and fantastic clear water. It can get crowded as it’s popular for… pigs on the beach. The price for a boat, depending on your plan should vary between 1000 – 1400 THB.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Taen
Koh Samui, Thailand
Ko Mat Sum

Lipa Noi Beach

A very long and narrow sandy beach. The big plus is that there are hardly any people. Both the water and the beach are clean and it’s a good spot to enjoy the sunset in peace.

Hin Lat Waterfall

Another nice waterfall on Koh Samui and a great 30-40-minute hike through the jungle to reach it. Insect repellent and proper shoes are recommended. If the water level allows, you may swim in the cooling pools at the base of the waterfall.

Hin Lat Waterfall
There are a few waterfalls worth seeing on Koh Samui

Khun Si Waterfall & Viewpoint

The waterfall wasn’t too impressive at the time of my visit but the road to get there was leading through the wilder part of Samui, even though it was a bit tricky. At some point, I started doubting if I was heading in the right direction but then a small wooden sign told me that I arrived. Khun Si View Point is just on the other side of the parking, don’t miss it! 

Nathon Sunset Viewpoint

A popular location for sunset. There are benches along the road or you can get closer to the water for a different perspective. During low tide, there is also a nice sandbar to walk on. Bang Makham Beach and Laem Yai Beach further north are other good alternatives for watching the sunset.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Beach on the west coast of Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
At low tide, you can walk around the shipwreck
Koh Samui, Thailand
Shipwreck
Koh Samui, Thailand
Beach on the west coast of Koh Samui

North Coast Beaches and Fisherman’s Village

There are a lot of good beaches on the north coast with restaurants, bars, kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis, and other attractions. The best is to just follow the main road on a motorbike and stop wherever you want. The nicest places are Bang Por Beach, Baan Tai Beach, Maenam Beach, W Beach, and Bo Phut Beach. The center of all entertainment is Fisherman’s Village and there is a big night market too.

Koh Samui, Thailand
The beach on the north coast of Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
Scenic coast of Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
The beach on the north coast of Koh Samui

 

Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is a captivating tropical paradise, known for its pristine beaches, vibrant culture, and unique blend of tranquillity and excitement. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of the world-famous Full Moon Party, a serene escape to crystal-clear waters, or a taste of authentic Thai culture, this island has something for every kind of traveller. For me, it’s also one of the top places for online work in the whole of Thailand.

How to get there?

Koh Phangan can be reached on a ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani. Raja Ferry is slow, cheap, uncomfortable, and takes about 2,5 hours while Lomprayah is exactly the opposite but about twice the price and takes 1,5 hours. Time is money, they say. The choice is yours ­čÖé

Another option would be to fly to Koh Samui and hop on a boat from there. There are regular flights from Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, as well as some foreign destinations. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia

How long to stay?

The island is a very pleasant place to stay, regardless if you are a party type or not. I would count a minimum 3 days which could be easily extended to one week or even longer. Beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and forest, nice standard of accommodation for online work, good food, and an option for a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. What else would you need for a perfect tropical holiday?

When to go?

The best period to visit Koh Phangan is between December and August.

The dry season lasts from December to April and it’s the peak tourist season. Pleasant weather with lower humidity and cooler temperatures. Accommodation and flights can be more expensive, and popular tourist spots can be crowded.

From May to August, there is a hot season with higher temperatures and humidity. Occasional rain showers are possible but they are usually brief. May and June can be particularly hot.

Rainy season months, so September to November, are better to be avoided. The prices are more budget-friendly but you may expect frequent rainfall and boat tours will most likely be closed.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Ko Tae Nai
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Ko Tae Nai

Where to stay?

The night in Mae Haad Garden Inn cost me about 12 EUR per night and I chose that location only because other options were not available because of the Full Moon Festival. I ended up very satisfied with it and the area was super calm. With a scooter, it was easy to reach any part of the island anyway. Chaloklum Beach was only a 10-minute ride away.

Later, I moved to the Shanti Boutique Hotel which was a bit more expensive but absolutely brilliant. The rooms are simple but very cozy and clean, and it’s nice that they come with a balcony. The location is great as well, near Srithanu Beach and Zen Beach. There are also many caf├ęs and restaurants that offer super tasty food with a lot of variety.

How to get around the island?

Without a doubt, the best option is to rent a motorbike. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes. You will also find some rental agencies near Thongsala Pier.

The network of roads is really good with most of them sealed. There are still some dirt roads, often steep so pay special attention there or simply park your bike on the side of the road and walk.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
The road across Koh Phangan

What to do in Koh Phangan?

Wat Phu Khao Noi

The oldest temple on the island is a very tranquil place to walk around and enjoy the peace. It has a very nice vibe and the buildings are beautiful to look at. As it is located on a small hill, there are some good views too.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Wat Phu Khao Noi

Phaeng Noi Waterfall

Wonderful waterfalls with lots of places to stop for a quick dip. The circular trail is challenging and adventurous but absolutely worth it. The full version takes about 2 hours but you may also choose a shorter variation. Hiking shoes are recommended as the trail is sometimes difficult and can be slippery. The entrance fee for foreigners is 100 THB.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Phaeng Noi Waterfall

Than Sadet Waterfall

The scenic road from the south of the island to Haad Sadet Beach crosses Namtok Than Sadet National Park. Don’t expect an impressive waterfall as it’s more like a stream with a lot of small waterfalls where you can walk up or downstream. The level of water depends on the season. The entrance fee for foreigners is 100 THB.

En route, you will notice two other access points to the same stream: Pho Darng Waterfall and Deang Waterfall.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Than Sadet Waterfall
Koh Phangan, Thailand
A very scenic road in Koh Phangan

Haad Sadet Beach

An okayish place but nothing too special. The highlight for me was taking a walk through We took a walk through the rickety bridge to the abandoned resort on the nearby beach: Haad Thong Reng. The entrance to Haad Sadet Beach costs 100 THB.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Sadet and Haad Thong Reng
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Sadet and Haad Thong Reng
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Sadet

Haad Yao (East) and Haad Yang

Two remote and quiet beaches that can be reached by boat from Haad Rin, 4WD, or on foot. Haad Yao (East) is popular for its weekly parties at Lost Paradise.

Haad Wai Nam

Another nice and cozy beach, with a very chilled vibe and free atmosphere. Beautiful rocks and good water for snorkeling! The restaurants serve delicious food and there is a beach party every Saturday. The easiest way to get here is by boat from Haad Rin.

Haad Yuan Beach

I really enjoyed the jungle hike from Haad Rin to get to this place, with a wonderful viewpoint on the way. It takes about 1,5 hours. If you don’t feel like hiking all the way back, you can just take a boat taxi for approximately 200 THB per person. There are parties on Saturday night at Eden Bar.

Haad Rin

This is the epicenter of the island’s nightlife, most famous for its Full Moon Party, a massive monthly beach party that draws thousands of visitors from all over the world. The event typically takes place on the night of the full moon, hence the name. It’s known for its vibrant atmosphere, music, dancing, and colorful decorations.

Haad Rin is divided into two main beaches: Haad Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach) and Haad Rin Nai (Sunset Beach). Sunrise Beach is where most of the Full Moon Party action happens, while Sunset Beach is generally quieter and more relaxed. Both beaches offer stunning views and plenty of water sports activities.

For good panoramic views, hike to Haad Rin Rock Viewpoint. It’s a good spot for sunset, although take the flashlight with you as the route is bushy. Follow the road to the antenna and about 20 meters before the road ends, there is a small, overgrown path toward the rock from which you can see the best view.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Rin
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Rin
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Rin
Haad Rin

Yang Na Yai Tree and Wat Pho

Dipterocarpus┬áalatus┬áalso known colloquially as the resin tree, is a tropical forest tree. The tallest one on the island is truly colossal and impressive. It’s located near Wat Pho, which is a quiet temple with an herbal sauna on the opposite side of the street.

Wat Khao Tham

It’s a very quiet and calm place on the hills of Koh Phangan, with a wonderful viewpoint over Koh Phangan. Koh Samui can be seen as well. They have a Vipassana meditation retreat so ask for more details if you are interested.

Koh Ma and Koh Ma Beach

Koh Ma is a small island in the northwest connected to Koh Phangan by a tiny but very picturesque sandbar. It’s a very popular snorkeling spot with some rock reefs on the east side of the island. The beach is very nice too, with hotel rooms located right on it but go a bit further and you will find a much quieter part.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Ma
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Ma

Wang Sai

Very disappointing place. The entrance fee was 50 THB per person but the place is neglected and it isn’t worth the time and money. The bar was closed and the waterfall was very tiny. Not recommended!

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Wang Sai

Guanyuin Temple

Beautiful temple located on the hill by the main road from Thongsal to Chaloklum. It is dedicated to the bodhisattva Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The price for entering is 40 THB per person.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Guanyuin Temple

West Coast Beaches

There are several pleasant beaches on that section of the island. Especially worth mentioning are: Salad Beach, Haad Yao Beach, Secret Beach, Zen Beach, Srithanu Beach, and Hin Kong Beach.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Zen Beach
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Hin Kong Sandbank
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Hin Kong Sandbank
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Yao Beach
Haad Yao Beach
Haad Yao Beach

Phangan Royal Navy Ship

HTMS Phangan was donated to the Thai government by the United States back in 1957 as a symbol of good relations. It was in service during the Vietnam War and was officially retired on June 5, 2008. During my visit in April 2022, the interior was not available for sightseeing.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
HTMS Phangan
Koh Phangan, Thailand
HTMS Phangan
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Panorama of Koh Phangan

Chalok Lam Beach and Malibu Beach

A nice beach stretching mainly by Chaloklum, a small fishing village. There are a lot of food options around. To the west of the village is the very picturesque Malibu Beach.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Chalok Lam Beach
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Malibu Beach

Khao Ko Viewpoint

A hidden little viewpoint over Chaloklum Bay! You can spend the entire afternoon there enjoying the view from the hammocks. The road is short but very steep so if you are an inexperienced motorbike rider, just park it on the side and continue on foot. Refreshments like beer, coke, and water are available.

Bottle Beach

Nice, wide, and relatively clean beach with a bar and some bungalows for rent. The road to get there is recommended for 4WD only, so unless you are a skilled rider, it’s better to park your motorbike and continue on foot. It’s a pleasant downhill walk and on the way back I was lucky enough to get a ride in a pickup truck. From here, you can also access the track through the jungle leading to the most amazing viewpoint on the island.

If you don’t drive a car or ride a motorbike, you can find boat taxis waiting for clients on the beach or ask about them in a bar.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Bottle Beach

Bottle Beach Viewpoint

Probably my favorite point in Koh Phangan. The journey through the jungle path was nothing short of amazing, and some moderate climbing near the end added to the sense of adventure and connection with nature. It’s not for someone who is scared of heights though.

The viewpoint can be reached either from Bottle Beach (about 25 minutes) or from the road on the other side. Just look for “Bottle Beach Scooter Parking” on Google Maps. From there the walk is even shorter. Flip-flops are not recommended.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Bottle Beach Viewpoint

Haad Khom Beach

A quiet and beautiful beach. Sometimes you can see monkeys around this area. You can take a boat taxi to Bottle Beach from here or simply take a trail which is well-signed with blue marks. It should take about 1 – 1.5 hours one way.

Thong Nai Pan Beach

Beautiful beach and area with clean soft sand and water. The village has a quiet vibe and feels small and calm. Wat Thong Nai Pan with an unusual stupa has a nice viewpoint and is located nearby.

You may also check Than Prawet Waterfall or Thong Nai Pan Waterfall if you are tired of beaches.

Day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park

Ang Thong National Marine Park is a stunning archipelago located in the Gulf of Thailand, not far from Koh Phangan. The park was established on 12th November 1980. and consists of 42 small, limestone islands, characterized by lush greenery, towering cliffs, and hidden coves. All of the islands are uninhabited and undeveloped except for one: Koh Wua Talap, where the visitor center, campsite, and bungalows are located.

There are numerous companies running daily trips from Koh Phangan and Koh Samui and first, you will need to decide if you prefer to take a speedboat or a slow boat. It takes about an hour to reach the islands by speedboat and about 2-3 hours by slow boat. You can save a lot of time choosing the first option but the ride can be bumpy and less enjoyable. The slow boat usually has a nice deck where you can sunbathe and take a lot of nice pictures.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park

I decided to choose a tour operated by the Orion Cruise, starting from Koh Phangan. It was a bigger and slower boat. As of April 2022, the cost was about 2.000 THB. Included in the price is pick-up from the hotel, lunch, snacks, soft drinks, and snorkeling equipment. You may pay an extra 200 THB if you go for an option with a kayak. The price included the Ang Thong National Marine Park entrance fee.

A full description of the tour can be found in a separate post HERE. You may also ask at your accommodation for alternative options.

Ang Thong National Marine Park is a stunning archipelago located in the Gulf of Thailand, not far from the popular tourist destinations of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The park was established on 12th November 1980. and consists of 42 small, limestone islands, characterized by lush greenery, towering cliffs, and hidden coves. All of the islands are uninhabited and undeveloped except for one: Koh Wua Talap, where the visitor centre, campsite, and bungalows are located.

How to get there?

To get to Ang Thong National Marine Park, you need to travel to the nearby islands of Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, as it serves as a starting point for visiting the park. In both places, you will easily find tour agents offering day trips to the park. There are no boat tours from Surathani or Koh Tao. 

Koh Samui and Koh Phangan can be reached on a ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani. Raja Ferry is slow, cheap, uncomfortable, and takes about 1,5 hours to Koh Samui and 2,5 hours to Koh Phangan while Lomprayah is exactly the opposite but about twice the price and takes 45 minutes to Koh Samui and 1,5 hours to Koh Phangan. Time is money, they say. The choice is yours ­čÖé

Another option would be to fly to Koh Samui. There are regular flights from Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, as well as some foreign destinations. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia.

How long to stay?

Typically people sign up for a one-day tour. However, camping is possible so if you wish to do so, you will need to make arrangements individually with the tour agent and the boat will pick you up on the next day. The rent of a tent for 2 people is 250 THB per person per night including a torch, clean sleeping bag, and mosquito net.

When to go?

The best period to visit Ang Thong National Marine Park is between December and August.

The dry season lasts from December to February and it’s the peak tourist season. Pleasant weather with lower humidity and cooler temperatures. Accommodation and flights can be more expensive, and popular tourist spots can be crowded.

From March to August, there is a hot season with higher temperatures and humidity. Occasional rain showers are possible but they are usually brief. May and June can be particularly hot.

Rainy season months, from September to November, are better to avoid. The prices are more budget-friendly but you may expect frequent rainfall and boat tours will most likely be closed.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park

Entrance fee to the park

When signing up for a tour, clarify if the entrance fee is included in the tour price. Normally it isn’t and extra cash is collected by tour companies before the trip starts or while you are on board.

The fees as of August 2023 are as follows: 300 THB for foreign adults and 150 THB for foreign kids. Thai citizens will pay 50 THB for adults and 25 THB for kids.

*all prices are from April 2022.

Where to stay?

Koh Phangan

The night in Mae Haad Garden Inn cost me about 12 EUR per night and I chose that location only because other options were not available because of the Full Moon Festival. I ended up very satisfied with it and the area was super calm. With a scooter, it was easy to reach any part of the island anyway. Chaloklum Beach was only a 10-minute ride away.

Later, I moved to the Shanti Boutique Hotel which was a bit more expensive but absolutely brilliant. The rooms are simple but very cozy and clean, and it’s nice that they come with a balcony. The location is great as well, near Srithanu Beach and Zen Beach. There are also many caf├ęs and restaurants that offer super tasty food with a lot of variety.

Koh Samui

I stayed for three nights at the Pamoni Hotel in Chaweng for about 19 EUR per night. It was basically a small apartment, with a living room and a kitchen, a bedroom, and a private bathroom and there was a swimming pool for guests too. A very good price-to-quality ratio and the location was very good too.

Ko Wua Talap

If you decide to extend your tour for the overnight stay, there are camping and bungalows to rent at the park headquarters on Ko Wua Talap Island. Facilities are basic: cold water shower and electricity from a generator that shuts down at 11 PM, but isn’t it a beauty of this place? You may also rent a kayak to explore the area from the water perspective independently.

The tour

There are numerous companies running daily trips from Koh Phangan and Koh Samui and first, you will need to decide if you prefer to take a speedboat or a slow boat. It takes about an hour to reach the islands by speedboat and about 2-3 hours by slow boat. You can save a lot of time choosing the first option but the ride can be bumpy and less enjoyable. The slow boat usually has a nice deck where you can sunbathe and take a lot of nice pictures.

I decided to choose a tour operated by the Orion Cruise, starting from Koh Phangan. It was a bigger and slower boat. As of April 2022, the cost was about 2.000 THB. Included in the price is pick-up from the hotel, lunch, snacks, soft drinks, and snorkelling equipment. You may pay an extra 200 THB if you go for an option with a kayak. The price included the Ang Thong National Marine Park entrance fee.

The day started with a slightly delayed pick up in the accommodation by a minivan and delivery to the pier. Coffee or tea and snacks were already waiting. The boat departed a few minutes after 9 AM and was going slowly so there was plenty of time to relax on the deck. The first stop was around Koh Wao, where we got our snorkeling equipment and jumped into the water to see some colourful fish and coral. It wasn’t bad but the water wasn’t perfectly clear and during my travels in South East Asia, I have visited much better snorkeling locations.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Snorkelling spot near Koh Wao
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Snorkeling spot near Koh Wao
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Snorkeling spot near Koh Wao

From there, the boat went deeper into the national park and at this point, it is better to be on the upper deck to have an unobstructed panoramic view of the small rocky islands all around. The boat stopped near Ao Ka Beach, which was a drop-off point for those who decided to choose the option of a kayak. To get to the beach itself, we had to switch to a long-tail boat first, as the slow boat was too big to get so close. The whole kayaking experience wasn’t too long and took about 30-40 minutes.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
A scenic beach in Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Picturesque rock formations

If you haven’t decided to have a kayak trip, you will stay on board and meet up with other participants later at Koh Mae Koh. It’s a wonderful island with a Blue Lagoon surrounded by steep limestone cliffs in the middle. Follow some steep stairs to get to the viewing platform and you wonÔÇÖt be disappointed. The color of the water is bizarre yet very beautiful.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
The Blue Lagoon
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
The waters are full of fish

The last stop was at the biggest island in the archipelago: Koh Wua Talap. Here are the national park headquarters and this is the place where you can stay overnight if you wish to. What you certainly have to do is hike up to Pha Chan Charat Viewpoint. It provides a sensational view of the islands with blue waters and green forests all around. The hike up is very steep and sweaty, especially under the hot sun but it’s totally doable for most people. Take your time and stop at other viewpoints along the way. The return trip should take about 1 hour.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Absolutely amazing views from Pha Chan Charat Viewpoint
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Absolutely amazing views from Pha Chan Charat Viewpoint

Once I got down, I still had some time to enjoy the wonderful beach and chill in the hammock. At the agreed time, the captain called me to return to the boat and we started our return journey to Koh Phangan with the sun slowly setting. We arrived shortly after 6 PM and were dropped off at our hotels.

Overall, it was a great day and the whole trip was organized nicely. The food was good, the crew was incredibly friendly and the views in the national park impressed me a lot. The only negative side was the speed of the boat, which was really slow and we spent plenty of time travelling to and from Ang Thong National Marine Park. If the boat had been faster, we would have had more time to spend in the park.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park

Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam and is located in the Gulf of Thailand, off the southwestern coast of Cambodia and the southern coast of Vietnam. In recent years, the island has become a popular destination for domestic and foreign tourists with resorts popping up one after another. As usual in such cases, a lot of natural beauty was lost or significantly damaged. If so, is it still worth visiting?

The history of Phu Quoc is rather gloomy. Due to its remoteness, the island served the French colonial administration as a prison. The role didn’t change much when the Americans arrived and about 40,000 Viet Cong prisoners were held on the island.

Let’s make it clear, after traveling for 5 months in Vietnam, I strongly believe that it isn’t a good country for beach holidays. When talking with local people, I always heard raves about the island and its beauty. I felt I couldn’t skip it and planned my 4-day trip there to check if it really was better than other typical beach destinations that I have seen so far in Vietnam.

How to get to Phu Quoc Island?

The Island can be comfortably reached by ferry from Ha Tien or Rach Gia. You can also transport your motorbike on board for an extra fee. Two popular operators are Superdong Ferries and Phu Quoc Expresses. Check the schedule on their website as it varies depending on the season.

Moreover, you can take a flight from various cities in Vietnam or neighboring countries to Phu Quoc International Airport. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Streetfood in Duong Dong

When to go?

You will get more sun and a more pleasant experience from November to April, during the dry season. This period offers ideal conditions for enjoying beaches and engaging in water sports without being affected by the intense heat of the Vietnamese summer. On the other hand, expect more tourists and higher prices.

Where to stay?

I stayed for a few nights at Phu Quoc Areca Garden Bungalow. It cost about 15 EUR per night and the bungalows were wonderfully set next to the garden. It’s not a resort along the beach but this was not something that I was looking for. The beach or other attractions can be easily reached on a scooter. The room was spacious and bright.

How to get around the island?

Without a doubt, the best option is to rent a motorbike. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes. You will also find plenty of rental agencies in Duong Dong, the main town of Phu Quoc.

The network of roads is really good with most of them sealed. There are still dirt roads, mainly on approach to the beaches on the north and northeast coast.

Taking your own motorbike on the ferry is easy and quite cheap. Ask about it directly in the sales office of Superdong Ferries or Phu Quoc Expresses.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The hills in the central part of the island
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The hills in the central part of the island

What to do on Phu Quoc Island?

Duong Dong

The main town on the island is full of streetside stalls, restaurants, bars, and shops. There is a night market too. Here you don’t have that huge resort vibe and it’s the most authentic place on the island to observe local life. Fishing vessels are parked all around the busy channel. Fresh seafood guaranteed!

Near the promenade and among the rocks stands Dinh Cau Temple which honors Thien Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, who provides protection for sailors and fishermen. A very popular place for domestic tourists.

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Entrance to the temple
Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
The channel filled with boats

Ba Keo Beach

A popular beach in the southern part of the island. It is spacious and most parts are relatively clean. The water is calm and there are a lot of bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, it’s kind of divided between resorts and it’s nearly impossible to find a place to sit in the shade without paying for a sunbed. Rubbish is also very often reported to be a problem here, but the situation is similar at all other beaches in Vietnam.

Suoi Tranh Waterfall

A bit kitschy park for lots of weird statues. Nevertheless, the short walk to the waterfall was pleasant and once I was there, it wasn’t crowded at all. You can take a dip or enjoy your picnic there.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Suoi Tranh Waterfall

Coi Nguon Museum

I liked walking around the museum and reading the stories of Phu Quoc and the life back then. The display includes Vietnamese medicines, Stone Age tools, ceramics, and furniture. The museum is quite old-fashioned, dusty, and pretty hot inside. The view of the city from the upper floor is worth checking out. An entrance ticket costs 50,000 VND.

Phu Quoc Prison (Nha Thu Phu Quoc)

The place was built by the French in the 1940s and today it houses exhibits presenting the history of the jail and how Vietnamese POWs were mistreated. The entrance is free and it takes approximately 20-30 minutes to see everything.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Old Phu Quoc Prison
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Old Phu Quoc Prison

Sunset Town

A strange and deserted place that is partially still under construction. It’s a copy of a Meditterean coastal-style city. As of November 20222, most of the shops were closed and it looked like a ghost town. There was classical music playing on speakers throughout the town, which actually helped to somewhat alleviate the feeling of emptiness and despair.

Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town

Cable Car and Aquatopia Water Park

The cable car to Hon Thom Island is the world’s longest sea-crossing construction of this kind (almost 8 km). It provides magnificent panoramic views of the surrounding seascape. On the island, the main attraction is Aquatopia Water Park with a few interesting rides, a beach area, restaurants, and cafes. Unfortunately, as of November 2022, some of the rides were closed. The entrance fee is 530.000 VND and it includes the cable car. I left with mixed feelings. The cable car was excellent, however, the water park was somewhat disappointing.

An Thoi Islands Tour

The group of islands off the southern coast of Phu Quoc is known for its natural beauty and clear waters, which makes it a popular destination for snorkeling or diving tours. Some of the notable islands include Hon Thom, Hon Roi, Hon Dua, and Hon May Rut. The tours include transport from the hotel to the port and back, snorkeling equipment, and lunch. I booked mine through John’s Tours and can totally recommend it.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
An Thoi Islands Tour
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
An Thoi Islands Tour
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
An Thoi Islands Tour
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
An Thoi Islands Tour

Khem Beach and Sao Beach

Probably the best beaches in the southern part of the island, and also quite clean by Vietnamese standards. There are many water sports activities such as banana boats, parasailing, and jetski so it’s very noisy and the sea water isn’t that clear. There were a few restaurant and cafe options.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The aerial view of Sao Beach
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The aerial view of Khem Beach

Quoc Mau Hall

Located 10 km north of Sao Beach, the largest pagoda on Phu Quoc Island was built in 2012 and provides beautiful sea views.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Quoc Mau Hall
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Quoc Mau Hall

Vung Bau Beach

Following the dirt road to get to the beach on a scooter was fun. The beach is quite long and in principle completely empty. Don’t expect sunbeds, huts, bars, or restaurants. It’s just the beach and that’s the beauty of it.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Fishermen coming back home

Cau Can Beach

Another almost empty beach. The area next to the river mouth is particularly nice and you will see fishermen going in and out.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Cau Can Beach
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Cau Can Beach

Ganh Dau Beach

Small beach but a pleasant stop for a cold drink with a view of the Cambodian island Koh Seh.

Grand World

Another attraction copying European architecture. After a few months in Vietnam, I realized how popular those places are! There is a canal with gondola rides like in Venice and you may also join one of the shows at night. Moreover, plenty of restaurants and snack stands do their best to satisfy all tourists’ tastes. Have I mentioned that there is even….a Teddy Bear Museum?

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Grand World
Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Grand World
Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Grand World

Thom Beach

The ride from Grand World to Thom Beach is through a scenic and forested interior of the island. There is a bar with hammocks on the beach and the place was perfectly calm without many tourists.

Final thoughts

Maybe I got spoilt after spending a few months in Thailand visiting probably over 30 different islands there, but a visit to Phu Quoc hasn’t changed my opinion that Vietnam simply isn’t a good place for beach holidays. I have no idea what the island looked like a few years ago but as of 2023, the coast is lined up with resorts or construction sites to create even more of them in the near future. If this is what you are looking for, then it’s fine. However, I prefer a good mix of relaxing on the beach and active exploration, and that part was kind of missing. Some more remote beaches are even difficult to access if you aren’t a guest of the hotel.

Sure, there are nice places to visit but nothing extraordinary, considering the size of the island. The four days that I spent there were more than enough and I don’t feel like I would like to come back anytime soon. Especially if there is an option of coming back to Thailand or the Philippines.

Phu Quy Island is a small, picturesque island located in the South China Sea, off the coast of Binh Thuan Province in Vietnam. The island has rather average beaches and rugged rocky landscapes. However, it offers a laid-back and peaceful environment, making it a perfect destination for those seeking relaxation and tranquillity away from the crowds on the mainland. The population is small, and its inhabitants are mainly involved in fishing and farming.

How to get to Phu Quy Island?

The Island can be comfortably reached with Superdong Ferries or Phu Quoc Expresses from Phan Thiet. Check the schedule on their website as it varies depending on the season.

When to go?

You will get more sun and a more pleasant experience from December to May, during the dry season. This period offers ideal conditions for enjoying beaches and engaging in water sports without being affected by the intense heat of the Vietnamese summer.

Where to stay?

I stayed for one night at Th├ánh Trinh Hotel ─Ĺß║úo Ph├║ Qu├Ż and for the price I paid (9 EUR), it was of amazing quality. The owner picked me up from the port and once we got to the accommodation, he also rented me his scooter so I was able to explore the island independently. The room was spacious and bright.

How to get around the island?

Without a doubt, the best option is to rent a motorbike. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes.

Taking your own motorbike on the ferry doesn’t make sense as it’s too expensive for a short-term trip. If you have one, it’s better to park it at your hotel and then rent one on Phu Quy.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
The beaches on Phu Quy are very average
Phu Quy, Vietnam
A small quiet temple

What to do on Phu Quy Island?

Fishing village

The narrow streets with houses around Phu Quy Port are mainly built in the traditional style, creating a beautiful space for photography. You may follow the concrete embankment which is especially pleasant at sunset.

Hon Tranh Island

That small island can be reached by boat from the beach on the eastern part of Phu Quy Port. There should be two trips per day, at about 8 AM and 2 PM but double check with your hotel. On the island, there are two sandy beaches and that’s about it.

Trieu Duong Bay

Further east is a big beach where local people like to gather. You can buy some grilled seafood or Vietnamese pizza made with rice paper and relax in the shade. Good idea to take mosquito repellent.

Flagpole Viewpoint

Continue following the main road around the island to reach that viewpoint with the Vietnamese flag. It can get quite windy but the panorama of the sea and beach below is decent. Here I met a super nice Vietnamese who visited Poland once before, when they used to live in the Czech Republic. The world is small!

Phu Quy, Vietnam
One of the beaches on Phu Quy Island

Ganh Hang (The Happy Slot)

You will need to go down the cliff to reach a natural pool among the rocks. Swimming shoes are recommended as the rocks may be sharp.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
Scenic rocky coast but trash is a problem

Ben Cano Hon Tranh

A small fishing area with a market operating from dawn. Nearby, there are floating rafts that serve affordable seafood. You can also participate in SUP or snorkelling to see the coral during the high tide. A few kilometers further north, you may make another stop at the beach called: Bai Tam Lach Xanh.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
The coast of Phu Quy Island

Mo Thay

One of the nicest places to visit in Phu Quy Island. The temple with Master Nai’s Tomb is more than 300 years old. It provides spiritual support for the fishermen before each trip to the sea and is a place symbolizing the cultural interference between the Vietnamese and the Chinese. On the side of the cliff, you will find photogenic ponds with seafood.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
Ponds near Mo Thay

Linh Son Pagoda and Cao Cat Mountain

Cao Cat Mountain is the second highest point on the island. Therefore, it provides a panoramic view of Phu Quy and the sea surrounding the island. The mountain is considered sacred to the people living on the island and Linh Son Pagoda, which was built more than 100 years ago, sits near its top.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
The view from Cao Cat Mountain

Linh Buu Pagoda and the Lighthouse

The temple is located at the foot of Cam Mountain, which is the highest point of Phu Quy Island. You may follow the path with over 120 stone steps to reach the lighthouse at its top. The views are worth the effort!

Linh Quang Pagoda

Popular temple among locals, where major festivals take place every year such as Buddha’s Birthday, Vu Lan Festival, and Thanh Minh Festival.

Phan Thiet and Mui Ne are popular tourist destinations located in Binh Thuan Province. Phan Thiet is a coastal city known for its fishing industry and production of fish sauce. Mui Ne, a small fishing village has gained popularity for its stunning sandy beaches, unique red and white sand dunes, and water sports opportunities like kite surfing and windsurfing.

When to go?

You will get more sun and a more pleasant experience from November to April, during the dry season. This period offers ideal conditions for enjoying beaches, engaging in water sports, and exploring sand dunes without being affected by the intense heat of the Vietnamese summer.

Where to stay?

I was more than happy to stay at Hotel Minh Hang in Phan Thiet and from there I made a trip to Mui Ne and to Phu Quy Island. Mui Ne offers plenty of accommodation too so if you prefer to stay there, check booking.com or agoda.com.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
The riverside of Phan Thiet

What to see in Phan Thiet?

The main sights can be comfortably seen in half a day. Start with Ho Chi Minh Museum and Duc Thanh School. Most probably both places will be packed with local tourists due to their historical importance. You will see preserved classrooms and boarding houses where former President Ho Chi Minh, or Uncle Ho as he is often called by Vietnamese people, lived and worked in 1910. The museum built next to the waterfront glorifies that individual and presents some school relics. There are no descriptions in English but it’s worth having a short look, also to understand the propaganda mechanisms and the cult of Ho Chi Minh in that country.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
The monument of Ho Chi Minh
Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Panoramic view over Phan Thiet

Guang Di Temple is located nearby and is the oldest and largest scale Chinese place of worship in town.

Continue further to Van Thuy Tu Temple, which is a unique place containing the skeleton of a 19-meter-long whale. Fishing communities in southern Vietnam revere whales as sacred beings who offer protection against storms.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Van Thuy Tu Temple and whale’s skeleton

Phan Thiet Water Tower and Victory Monument are on the other side of the Ca Ty River. Both places are nicely illuminated at night.

Doi Doung Beach has a nice park with lots of trees. You can sit or walk along the beach, though it’s not a particularly clean place to relax.

Po Sah Inu Cham Towers is the most interesting place to visit in Phan Thiet, of course in my opinion ­čÖé It’s about 10 minutes drive from the city center so you will need a scooter or a taxi. Dating from the 9th century, this complex consists of the ruins of three towers, associated with the Cham people, an ethnic group with a rich history and cultural heritage. They are typically built using brick and sandstone and often consist of several towers arranged in a specific layout, with each tower serving as a place of worship dedicated to Hindu deities. The towers are adorned with intricate carvings, sculptures, and bas-reliefs that depict scenes from Hindu mythology and Cham culture.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Sah Inu Cham Towers
Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Sah Inu Cham Towers
Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Sah Inu Cham Towers

Around Phan Thiet

Phu Quy Island

It’s located about 120 kilometers from the mainland. In November, there were hardly any tourists and I could feel a peaceful and relaxed ambiance. There are some rocky cliffs as well as sandy beaches but those are unfortunately polluted with trash. Superdong Ferries and Phu Quoc Expresses depart from Phan Thiet Port.

You can find more information in the separate post HERE.

The beach on Phu Quy Island

Ta Cu Mountain

The highlight is definitely a giant reclining Buddha statue, which is about 49 meters long. The pagoda is a place of worship and a serene spot for meditation, accessible by cable car or on foot.

More information can be found in a separate post HERE.

Ta Cu Mountain, Vietnam
Ta Cu Mountain

Ke Ga Cape

Ke Ga Cape is famous for being the place where the tallest and oldest lighthouse in Vietnam still stands. The structure is about 60 meters high and was designed by a French architect to ensure safe navigation for vessels in that area. The construction was finished in 1899.

More information can be found in a separate post HERE.

Ke Ga Cape, Vietnam
Ke Ga Cape

Mui Ne

Fairy Stream

It has the reputation of being a little hidden gem in that area, but is it really? It’s a pleasant walk up the shallow creek to the small waterfall at its end, with interesting rock formations along the way. Nevertheless, there are usually quite many tourists and you have to pay attention to avoid being scammed (most probably they will try to overcharge you for the parking or offer an unnecessary guide).

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Fairy Stream
Mui Ne, Vietnam
Small waterfall at the end of the hike

Mui Ne Fishing Village

Amazing view of hundreds of fishing boats. It’s a good place to get cheap seafood, but you have to bargain. The beach area is quite dirty due to all that business going around.

Mui Ne, Vietnam
Mui Ne Fishing Village

Mui Ne Beach

Disappointing beach that proves that Vietnam isnÔÇÖt the right place for beach holidays. If that’s what you are looking for, just do yourself a favor and go to Thailand ­čÖé The beach is full of garbage and some shady guys ask 50.000 VND to access it. Save your time and money and skip it.

Red Sand Dunes

Mui Ne is famous for its huge red and white sand dunes and that is what brings most of the tourists to that area. The red ones are smaller but they are closer to the village and look particularly nice at sunset. You can get a ride in 4WD but it’s completely not necessary. Just walk.

Mui Ne, Vietnam
Red Sand Dunes
Mui Ne, Vietnam
Red Sand Dunes

White Sand Dunes

Bigger and more impressive than Red Sand Dunes. To get there, follow the main road to the north for about 25 kilometers. You will be offered quad bikes or buggy rides and it may be tempting as the area is big and it can get hot. If you are fine with walking on your own, it’s perfectly doable as well. Just climb one of the highest dunes to get a panoramic view of the landscape.

Mui Ne, Vietnam
White Sand Dunes
Mui Ne, Vietnam
White Sand Dunes

Less Touristy White Sand Dunes

A few kilometers further north you will get another opportunity to check out the dunes. Just park your motorbike at the roadside and start climbing. No loud ATVs or buggies here which is a huge advantage.

While riding a motorbike between Mui Ne Village and sand dunes, watch out for the police. They are frequently patrolling the area and stopping foreigners. As I had an international driving license, they let me go without questions asked but if you don’t have one, get ready for negotiations and have some cash with you as most likely they will ask for ‘tea money’.

Mui Ne, Vietnam
White Sand Dunes
Mui Ne, Vietnam
White Sand Dunes

Vung Tau and Ho Tram are popular coastal destinations in Vietnam. Vung Tau is located on a peninsula and is known for its beaches, seafood markets, and restaurants. It’s often visited as a weekend getaway from Ho Chi Minh City due to its proximity.

Ho Tram is a beach area situated further east along the coastline from Vung Tau. It’s known for luxury resorts and many entertainment options, including casinos.

How to get there?

It’s about 100 km and 2 – 3 hours from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau by car. The trip by bus will take slightly longer but is easy to organize. You may check your connections at┬á12Go.Asia

For those traveling on motorbike from Ho Chi Minh City, the best would be to head towards Monkey Island and then to Ben Pha Can Gio – Vung Tau Ferry. By doing so, you will avoid the very busy road QL51.

To Ho Tram, it’s another 50 km, so about 1 hour’s drive along the coast.

When to go?

Both Vung Tau and Ho Tram are popular beach destinations for people living in Ho Chi Minh City. You will get more sun and a more pleasant experience from November to April, during the dry season. Even if you come in the rainy season, the rain doesn’t usually last longer than an hour or two so it shouldn’t be a big deal for general sightseeing but it may be too cloudy for sunbathing.

Where to stay?

Phuc Lam Hotel & Apartment was of fantastic quality and cost only 10 EUR. Located within walking distance from the beach. For those traveling on a motorbike, there is a secure underground parking.

Vung Tau, Vietnam
Panorama of Vung Tau

What to see in Vung Tau?

Bai Truoc Beach

Situated on the west side of the city. The beach is very popular among locals but rubbish is a big problem. I would mainly recommend it for taking a walk rather than swimming.

Bai Sau Beach

Nice sandy beach with a pleasant promenade for a walk and is close to many hotels. It can get crowded especially during weekends or holiday periods.

Mieu Hon Ba

A small island with a temple that can be accessed only during low tide.

Vung Tau, Vietnam
Mieu Hon Ba
Vung Tau, Vietnam
Top down view of Mieu Hon Ba

Jesus Christ Statue

Located on top of a hill, this 32-meter-long statue is even bigger than its Brazilian version. About 800 stairs take you to its base but the interior of the statue was closed in November 2023. If you try to get here on a motorbike, Google Maps will lead you to the dirt back road which is quite tricky so I recommend parking the bike on the side and continuing on foot.

Vung Tau, Vietnam
The Statue of Jesus Christ

Cap Saint-Jacques (Mui Nghinh Phong)

Good place for a walk with beautiful scenery including grassy hills and sea views.

The Robert Taylor Museum of Worldwide Arms

I’m not into arms at all but I must admit that it’s a unique place opened by a man full of passion. You can find arms and uniforms from around the world as well as the ones coming from the Vietnam War or French Colonial rule. The entrance costs 70.000 VND.

Lighthouse

It was built by the French in 1910 and today the area around acts as the best viewpoint in town.

Panoramic views from the lighthouse

Chon Khong Monastery

Definitely the best monastery in Vung Tau. Very peaceful and quiet, with friendly monks and a big statue of Buddha from where you can appreciate panoramic views over the town.

Vung Tau, Vietnam
Buddha statue in Chon Khong Monastery

Ba Ria – Vung Tau Provincial Museum

A very educational place with English descriptions. It has 4 floors to check out, with information about the history, nature, and the development of Vung Tau area after the war.

White Palace Historical Cultural Relic

The residence used to be the weekend chillout place for the French governor Paul Doumer. There is not much to see inside so the visit is rather quick but still worthwhile. It’s just next to the Ba Ria-Vung Tau Provincial Museum.

Ho May Amusement Park

Quite a dated place with cable car, small water park, alpine coasters, mini-zoo, etc. Only if you have some time to kill but even then I doubt it’s worth the money (400.000 VND).

Ho Tram

The development of a road linking to Ho Chi Ming City together with the construction of big hotels and casinos, transformed this small fishing village into a kind of holiday complex. Unfortunately, like in many places in Vietnam, it looks a bit kitschy, and rubbish on the beach is still a big problem. If you want to enjoy some time on the sand, try Hamptons Pier or Tram Lake Beach.

Ho Tram, Vietnam
Typical basket boats
Ho Tram, Vietnam
Panorama of Ho Tram
Ho Tram, Vietnam
Top-down view of Ho Tram Beach

Ta Cu Mountain, as well as Ke Ga Cape, are located in B├Čnh Thuan Province and are interesting places to visit, especially if you are traveling around Mui Ne or Phan Thiet. In one long day, you can have a fantastic experience of both, the mountain and the sea.

How to get there?

The easiest way would be to rent a motorbike in Phan Thiet or Mui Ne and do the loop checking out both places. If you don’t want to ride yourself, you may hire a taxi or buy an organized tour.

From Phan Thiet: 31 km to Ta Cu Mountain and 32 km to Ke Ga Cape

From Mui Ne: 57 km to Ta Cu Mountain and 58 km to Ke Ga Cape

From Saigon: 157 km to Ta Cu Mountain and 183 km to Ke Ga Cape

You may check your connections at 12Go.Asia

When to go?

Both Ta Cu Mountain and Ke Ga Cape can be visited at any time of the year but you will get more sun and a more pleasant experience from November to April, during the dry season. Even if you come in the rainy season, the rain doesn’t usually last longer than an hour or two so it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Where to stay?

As I was doing the motorbike trip along the Vietnamese coast from the south to the north, I visited Ta Cu Mountain first and then spent the night at Lala Chill Homestay which is perfectly located within walking distance to Ke Ga Cape and only a 40 minutes ride away from Ta Cu Mountain. There are a few places around serving noodle soup and I had the pleasure to share the table with a group of young kids, who were very excited to see a foreigner ­čÖé

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Ignore the middle finger ­čÖé

If you travel by bus, you may base yourself in Phan Thiet or Mui Ne. I was more than happy to stay at Hotel Minh Hang in Phan Thiet the following night but there is a variety of accommodation for everyone.

Ta Cu Mountain

It was a hard decision if I should ride the motorbike to Ta Cu Mountain as the day was very rainy and I was afraid that at 457 meters above sea level, the summit will be covered by clouds. I took a risk and luckily, it was worth it.

There are two ways to get to the top. You can either take a cable car or hike up. I arrived in the afternoon and didn’t have enough time to hike and then arrive at the accommodation before it got dark. Therefore, the choice was simple. Cable car up and cable car down! The ticket costs 250.000 VND per adult. The ride takes about 10 minutes and even though the cars aren’t the most modern, I felt perfectly safe. The mountain scenery and the forest underneath looked breathtaking and a bit spooky after the rain.

Ta Cu Mountain, Vietnam
The cable car to Ta Cu Mountain
Ta Cu Mountain, Vietnam
Panoramic views from the cable car

If I had had more time, I would have certainly taken a cable car up and then hike down to have a more complete experience. Well, next time!

The weather in that region can be super hot so if hiking, don’t forget water, suncream, a hat, and some snack. A rainjacket can be useful too, just because it’s Vietnam and in this country, you never know when you can get soaked! The hike should take about 1,5 – 2 hours.

A Buddhist monk named Tran Huu Duc initiated the construction of the Linh Son Truong Tho Pagoda. After his death in 1887, a group of his followers built the lower Long Doan Pagoda. The construction of the reclining Buddha began much later, in 1958.

Ta Cu Mountain, Vietnam
The impressive complex of pagodas

Due to the bad weather, there was only one family hanging around at the top. From the cable car station, the trail ascends further and leads past many statues of various sizes to the largest reclining Buddha in Vietnam. It’s 49 meters long and 7 meters high. According to online sources, it was made of concrete and painted white. It depicts the reclining Buddha in a state of tranquility and enlightenment, symbolizing peace and serenity.

Ta Cu Mountain, Vietnam
The biggest reclining Buddha in Vietnam
Ta Cu Mountain, Vietnam
Reclining Buddha

When I wanted to check out Long Doan Pagoda, a group of aggressive dogs tried to scare me away. I experienced similar situations many times in temples in Laos and Thailand as dogs are usually fed by monks and they regularly hang around temple grounds. Luckily, I was noticed by the monks and they managed to calm the dogs down. Anyway, it wasn’t a pleasant situation.

Ta Cu Mountain, Vietnam
Long Doan Pagoda

Ke Ga Cape

Ke Ga is in fact a small rocky island, also known as Hon Ba, very close to the mainland. During the low tide, a strip of sand nearly connects the two parts. However, don’t attempt swimming there by yourself if the water level is too high as it may be dangerous due to currents. Motorboats or basketboats can be easily found on the beach and local guys will be very happy to take you there. The return ticket should cost about 50,000 – 100,000 VND per person, so you have to negotiate in case you are asked to pay more. Most probably you will be charged an additional 10.000 VND on arrival to enter the island, which I strongly doubt is an official fee as no physical ticket is given.

Ke Ga Cape, Vietnam
The aerial view of Ke Ga Cape
Ke Ga Cape, Vietnam
Unfortunately, the lighthouse isn’t open for tourists

Ke Ga Cape is famous for being the place where the tallest and oldest lighthouse in Vietnam still stands. The structure is about 60 meters high and was designed by a French architect to ensure safe navigation for vessels in that area. The construction was finished in 1899.

According to the locals, the name “Ke Ga” originated from a rocky area on the island that resembles roosters gazing out to the sea. Well, I’m not going to question that. Panoramic views of endless blue waters, unique rock formations, and sandy beaches can be seen all the place but the top of the lighthouse was not accessible to the public as of November 2023.

Ke Ga Cape, Vietnam
Ke Ga Cape
Ke Ga Cape, Vietnam
The beach during the early morning hours

The best moment to be around for photography is sunrise and sunset. In general, the beach around Ke Ga is in relatively good condition. Unfortunately, the rubbish was still there but a bit less than in other parts of the country.

Nakhon Phanom is a city located in ThailandÔÇÖs Northeastern region, nestled on the picturesque banks of the Mekong River. It is the capital of Nakhon Phanom Province and a key commercial centre in the region, but it also offers plenty of attractions that make it a great destination for tourists. The city is known for its colourful temple Wat Phra That Phanom and it is also the home of the Royal Thai Air Force.

Nakhon Phanom’s nickname is the ÔÇśCity of MountainsÔÇÖ even though the area there is quite flat and the only limestone mountains lie actually across the river in Laos. 

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
The aerial view of Nakhon Phanom

During the Vietnam War, the city served as a major staging point for the U.S. military, which supplied equipment to the Royal Lao Army and the South Vietnamese forces.

There are not many must-see places to visit, however, it was a perfect overnight stop on my nearly two weeks road trip around Isaan. I simply love the Mekong River and Nakhon Phanom has a long promenade and cycle lane to explore its banks.

How to get there?

You can travel to Nakhon Phanom in Thailand by either road or air. If you are travelling by road, the nearest cities to Nakhon Phanom are Udon Thani (128 km) and Korat (241 km). The drive from Udon Thani takes about 2 hours and the drive from Korat takes about 3 and a half hours. You can travel by your private vehicle or you can take a bus from the bus station in either city. If you are travelling by air, the nearest airport to Nakhon Phanom is Nakhon Phanom Airport (KOP) which is just 3 km from the city centre. You can fly to this airport from various cities in Thailand including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Udon Thani.

You may check your connections at 123Go.Asia

When to go?

The city can be visited at any time of the year. The dry season runs from November to March. During this time, the weather is generally mild, sunny, relatively dry, and with less humidity.

I visited this region in May and unfortunately, it wasn’t the best experience as it was scorching hot and most of the waterfalls dried up.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Panorama of the Mekong River

Where to stay?

I stayed at SP Residence and the room was big enough with plenty of parking space in front of the hotel. The air conditioning didn’t work perfectly well but was still good value for money.

What to see?

Naga Monument

A huge brass Naga serpent monument along the Mekong River was built in 2016 and today it’s a favourite place for locals to drop by for prayer and to make merits, or simply to hang around on the nice promenade there.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Naga Monument

Wat Mahathat

A beautiful temple which is characterized by an elaborately decorated spire. Just follow the promenade along the Mekong River southwards from the Naga Monument for about 10 minutes and the temple will be on the right side.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Wat Mahathat

Nakhon Phanom Walking Street

A great and lively place for strolling along the Mekong River, especially at sunset or in the evening. There are some food stalls in case you get hungry.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Nakhon Phanom Walking Street

The Vietnamese Memorial Clock Tower

The tower was built by Vietnamese artisans and given to Nakhon Phanom residents on the event of their return to their homeland in 1960, as a sign of gratitude to Thai people who provided them with shelter during the Indochina War.

Wat Okat

It is considered the most important temple in Nakhon Phanom, with the twin Buddha images of Phra Tio and Phra Thiam which, according to the legend, were floated across the river from Laos.

Saint Anna Nong Saeng Church

A beautiful, peaceful Catholic Church was built in 1926 along the banks of the Mekong River. The catholic faith was first brought to the area by Vietnamese immigrants.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Saint Anna Nong Saeng Church

Former Governor’s Residence Museum

Nakhon Phanom Governor’s Residence Complex was built between 1912 – 1914 in Western colonial architecture style. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX) and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit spent nights at this complex during the royal visit to northeastern Thailand. Currently, after renovation, it is used as a museum.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Former Governor’s Residence Museum
Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Former Governor’s Residence Museum
Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Former Governor’s Residence Museum

Nakhorn Phanom Courthouse

Pleasant building, beautifully restored. The construction started in 1917 and the opening ceremony followed on April 1st, 1918. In 1950, Thailand had a dispute with Indochina and France, therefore the courthouse was hit by cartridges and bombs causing more than 40 wall crackers. After that, it was repaired and used as the office of Nakhon Phanom Provincial Court until March 3rd 1963, with its basement converted into a jail.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Nakhorn Phanom Courthouse

Maekong Underwater World

A small but exciting place to learn about fish species inhabiting the Mekong River. Some of the catfish are really huge and impressive! The aquarium is about 15 minutes drive from the city centre and the entrance ticket costs 30 THB.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Maekong Underwater World

Ho Chi Minh Museum and House

Ho Chi Minh was a revolutionary leader of Vietnam who is considered to be one of the main forces behind the countryÔÇÖs independence. He was a key figure in the Vietnamese revolutionary movement, leading independence groups in their fight against French, Japanese and American oppressors. Ho Chi Minh lived in Baan Na Chok Village during the late 1920s. The one-storey wooden house has some photographs as well as tools and utensils used by Ho Chi Min in his daily life. It’s a nice and quiet place unless the bus with Vietnamese tourists arrives, for who the area is like a pilgrimage site.

About 300 meters away is a museum or rather a replica of the residence, with some additional exhibitions.

Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Ho Chi Minh Museum and House

Out of town

Wat Phrathat Phanom Woramahawihan

One of the holiest temples in this region of Thailand. It is believed Buddha’s breast bones are contained inside. Therefore, thousands of people make pilgrimages here, especially during the annual festival. The grounds are busy with photographers and hawkers, so the atmosphere wasn’t my favourite.

Rueang Aram Ratsada Korn Gate

The arch symbolically connects Wat Phra That Phanom with the Mekong River. The architecture around is in a typical French Indochina style.

Wat That Renu

About 50 km south of the city centre of Nakhon Phanom is this beautiful 36-meter-high chedi named Phra That Renu. It was built in 1918 and represents the Laotian style. The design resembles the much older Wat Phra That Pha described in the previous paragraph. Nearby the temple, you will find a textile market with locally made fabrics and clothes.

Ubon Ratchathani is the largest city in ThailandÔÇÖs Isan region. The city is located in the Sankamphaeng Range on the Mekong River, which forms the natural border between Thailand and Laos. Ubon Ratchathani is famed for its historic Buddhist temples and the vibrant Thai culture that dominates the cityÔÇÖs lifestyle.

The city dates back to at least the 13th century when it was an important trading port in the Siam Empire. It was founded by King U-Thong who reigned from 1238 to 1270. Ubon Ratchathani was an important center for trade between the East and West, and the city was known for its abundant wealth and culture. As the centuries passed, Ubon Ratchathani grew and prospered. A palace was built in 1791 within the city walls. In the early 20th century, Ubon Ratchathani was declared a province in Thailand, and it developed into an important center of culture and education.

Today, Ubon Ratchathani is best known for its annual candle and lantern festival, which is held in July. During this festival, the people of Ubon light hundreds of floating paper lanterns on the Mekong River. This is a centuries-old tradition and one of the most spectacularly beautiful cultural events in Thailand.

In addition, the city is a great base for those wanting to explore surrounding nature, e.g. Kaeng Tana National Park and Pha Taem National Park.

How to get there?

Ubon Ratchathani can be reached by air, train, or bus from Bangkok. There are daily flights from Bangkok to Ubon which take less than an hour. Train and buses are significantly cheaper but the travel time takes between 9 – 11 hours. My preference is the sleeping train which has the best comfort-to-price ratio but the arrival is very early in the morning, so you will need to hang around the city a few hours before checking in to the hotel.

You may also check your connections at 123Go.Asia

When to go?

The city can be visited at any time of the year. The dry season runs from November to March. During this time, the weather is generally mild, sunny, relatively dry, and with less humidity.

I visited this region in May and unfortunately, it wasn’t the best experience as it was scorching hot and most of the waterfalls dried up.

Where to stay?

I stayed at Phadaeng Hotel and can’t say anything bad about it. It’s nicely located within walking distance of most of the sights, there is a big parking lot and the rooms are clean and spacious.

If you prefer to stay out of town, closer to the Mekong River and national park, I recommend Khong Chiam 2 Hotel in the small town with the same name: Khong Chiam.

What to see?

Wat Phra That Nong Bua

It is one of the most famous and important temples of Ubon Ratchathani Province. The highlight is the gold and white Sri Maha Pho Chedi which was built in 1956 to honor 2500 years of Buddhism and resembles the Mahabodhi stupa in Bodhgaya, India.

Ubon Ratchathani National Museum

In my opinion, the most interesting museum in the region, with ten exhibition rooms organized around two courtyards. It was built in 1918 in Western Colonial architecture to be used as the City Hall. The museum was opened in 1989. The exhibition presents different historic periods as well as textiles, folk music, handicraft, household utensils, and objects related to Buddhism Everything is well explained in English. The entrance ticket costs 100 THB for foreigners.

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

Wat Maha Wanaram

The temple was established in 1807 by the second ruler of the city and changed its name to Wat Maha Wanaram in 1941. ItÔÇÖs considered to be the principal temple in Ubon Ratchathani, containing one of the provinceÔÇÖs most sacred Buddha images – Phrachao Yai In Paeng. It’s a popular place for locals to come over and make merits.

Wat Thung Si Mueang

The temple was constructed during the reign of King Rama III (1824-1851) to house a replica of Buddha’s footprint. The most photogenic part is Ho Trai, a small wooden hall used to preserve Buddhist scriptures. It was built in the middle of a pond to keep termites and other insects away.

Thung Sri Mueang

Very nice public park with lots of people jogging in the evening. The highlight of the park is a giant candle sculpture. It is 22 meters high and was completed in 2000.

Thung Sri Muang Night Market

Many different kinds of Thai food with multiple tables to sit and eat. There are also quite a few stalls with Vietnamese dishes.

Wat Si Ubon Rattanaram

Quite a big temple just off the main road. It was built in 1855 during the reign of King Rama IV.

Other sights in the region

Wat Nong Pah Pong

One of the areaÔÇÖs best-known forest monasteries was established by the late Ajahn Chah. Before he died in 1992, he established nearly 100 branch monasteries with thousands of followers, including Western monks who set up branches in Europe and elsewhere. On the monastery grounds, apart from the temple and the golden chedi with Ajahn Chah relics, there is also a museum with exhibits including a life-like statue of Ajahn Chah, his robes and other memorabilia, archaeological finds, Buddhist art, and crafts.

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Wat Nong Pah Pong
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Wat Nong Pah Pong

Wat Pah Nanachat

It was established in 1975 by Ajahn Chah as a branch monastery of Wat Nong Pah Pong. An American disciple, Ajahn Sumedho, was invited to lead the community as the first abbot. The monastery aims at providing English-speaking people with the opportunity to train and practice the simple and peaceful lifestyle that the Buddha taught his monks in the forests over 2500 years ago.

Khong Chiam

The main attractions of the town are the two rivers that run through it: the Mun with its blue water and the Mekong which is kind of brownish. You will get the best views from Two-colored River View Point. At the time of my visit in May, I didn’t see much of a difference in color between the two rivers.

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Two-colored River View Point
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
There are many little islands on the Mekong River
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Aerial view of two Mekong River and Mun River

Other than that, you may want to visit Wat Tham Khuha Sawan. There are great views over the Mekong River and Laos. Additionally, you can admire a huge gong. It’s free to visit.

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

Wat Sirindhorn Wararam

The temple is famous for some elements that glow in the dark, especially the floor outside and the symbol of a tree on one of its walls. The best time to see the lights is shortly before sunset. I arrived when it was already completely dark and the temple didn’t impress me that much.

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Wat Sirindhorn Wararam
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Wat Sirindhorn Wararam

Saen Tor Beach

Huge lake with nice and calm beaches, perfect to relax after a day full of sightseeing. You may spot some water buffaloes around.

Kaeng Tana National Park

I had some trouble finding the entrance, so don’t rely fully on Google Maps. If you are driving on Road 2222, take a turn off towards Pak Mun Dam and then continue into the park.

First I walked over the Kaeng Tana Bridge to Don Tana Island. It’s the longest suspension bridge in the Northeast Region of Thailand. The views were nice but there were armies of insane mosquitos in the forest on the other side of the bridge.

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Kaeng Tana Bridge to Don Tana Island
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
The Mun River

Then, I parked the car next to the Visitor Center and did a short hike to the viewpoint. On the way, there were some signs indicating the cave but it was just a hole in the rock rather than the cave. Luckily, while coming back to the main track, I saw a small snake.

The walk to the viewpoint was on the open savannah-style terrain so it was unbelievably hot. The track was supposed to be a loop but due to lack of hat and poor signage, I decided to come back the same way.

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Pha Phueng Viewpoint
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Panoramic view over the Mun River

From the parking area, you may also check out a nice viewpoint from which you can see rapids on the Mun River. Be extremely careful when hopping around the huge rocks.

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
Rapids on the Mun River

Tat Ton Waterfall is located on the opposite side of Kaen Tana National Park but at the time of my visit (May 2023) it was closed for renovation.

The entrance ticket to the national park for foreigners costs 100 THB.

Pha Taem National Park

One of my favorite national parks in Thailand is located just next to the impressive Mekong River. Pha Taem is named after a large cliff where besides the panoramic views, you can also admire ancient rock paintings. Entry to the park for one day costs 400 THB for foreigners.

The first turn-off when driving from Khong Chiam takes you to Sao Chaliang. It is a natural monolith formed by water and wind erosion that looks like mushrooms. There are visible remains of shells, gravel, and sand in the rock, therefore, it is assumed that about a million years ago, this area used to be the sea. The Meak Mai Sai Than Hin Taek Nature Trail is comprised of 3 pathways. The first trail is 350 meters long, the second one has 1 kilometer and the third one is 2.7 kilometers. I highly recommend doing the longest loop as the views are really beautiful.

Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
Sao Chaliang in Pha Taem National Park

Further down the road is Pha Taem Cliff with incredible views over the Mekong River, a natural border between Thailand and Laos. Due to its geographical location to the east, the area is also known as the best place to experience the first rays of the sun in the country.

Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
Pha Taem Cliff

The hiking trail takes you first down the cliff to see ancient prehistoric paintings that were first discovered in 1981. They were made in various styles and techniques and present people, animals (elephant, turtle, catfish, and freshwater stingray), utensils, symbols, and human palms. The paintings are dated to be approximately 3,000 – 2,500 years old. Then you will climb up and return to the parking lot following the path at the top of the cliff. The total distance is nearly 5 kilometres but it is worth it!

Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
Ancient prehistoric paintings with symbols of human palms

Another turn-off from Road 2112 takes you to Soi Sawan Waterfall. From the parking, there is a short walk down to the falls. It was a beautiful sight even though there was very little water in May. From the parking area, you also have the option for a longer hike to Pha Chek Cliff and Pha Moei Cliff. The panorama of the Mekong River from there is simply breathtaking. The distance is about 4.5 km one way which should take 1.5 – 2h to complete.

Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
Soi Sawan Waterfall

Come back to the main road and continue further north. Saeng Chan Waterfall is another interesting place to stop by and quite unusual because the water runs through the hole in the sandstone rock. Take your time to absorb the atmosphere of this place!

Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
The view of the Mekong River from the cliffs

Nearby, there is Thung Na Mueang Waterfall and if you continue following the road along the Mekong River, you will reach its end and the easternmost point of Thailand.

The next two attractions are a bit more difficult to reach. The road up to Pha Chana Dai Cliff is narrow and there are specific times when at which you can go up and down. The schedule as of April 2023 looked as follows:

Time of going up: 04:30 – 06:30, 10:30 – 13:00, 16:00 – 18:00

Time of going down: 07:30 – 09:30, 14:00 -15:00, 19:00 – 19:30

The road seems to be closed during the month of May. Check their website for the most recent information.

The cliff is an easy 10 minutes walk from the car park. Great views over the Mekong and into the mountains of Laos. Consider camping overnight to see the magnificent sunrise! Huai Phok Waterfall is nearby.

On the way to Pha Chana Dai, don’t forget to stop at Twin Pillars which is another sandstone formation shaped like a mushroom. Very photogenic.

Sao Chaliang Yai

Further north, following road 2112, you will notice the turn-off to Sao Chaliang Yai. It is okayish to have a quick look if you have time but there is nothing much except the giant rock pillar, similar to the ones seen in other locations.

Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
Sao Chaliang Yai
Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
Sao Chaliang Yai

Pha Chan

The cliff on the Mekong River that goes vertically down on both sides of the river is a very impressive and wonderful place. Park your car at the end of the road and walk down to the riverside. Villagers who come to fish in this area have made a wooden ladder to climb down, in case you want to add some adventure vibe to your visit.

Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
Aerial view of Pha Chan
Pha Taem National Park in Thailand
Pha Chan

Sam Phan Bok

An excellent landscape with sandstones that have been eroded by the stream of the Mekong River. People also call it the “Grand Canyon of Thailand”. It’s a seasonal attraction so plan your visit in the dry season. Jumping on the back of the pickup truck costs 200 THB per person and I highly recommend it, as walking all the way down on the rocks in that scorching weather can be deadly. You can also hire a guide that will show you some unique rock formations and take pictures of you. More expensive option for exploration includes not only the pickup truck to the Mekong riverbank but also a boat ride.

Sam Phan Bok, Thailand
Aerial view of Sam Phan Bok
Sam Phan Bok, Thailand
You can get a ride down the riverbank
Sam Phan Bok, Thailand
“Mickey Mouse” rock formation
Sam Phan Bok, Thailand
Unique rocks can be best seen in the dry season