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Phang Nga Isn’t the Same As Khao Sok

As you start researching your trip to southern Thailand, it can be tempting to think that it all looks the same. And it kind of does, on account of how ubiquitous towering limestone karsts are in this part of the country.

Once you get past this superficiality, however, I encourage you to dig deeper. Doing so will not only allow you to appreciate each destination for its uniqueness, but may save you from skipping over ones that you might’ve missed, if you continued having this sort of belief.

In particular, I want to call attention to comparisons between Khao Sok vs Phang Nga, which may the seem the same in pictures but really couldn’t be more different in terms of the experience of traveling in each.

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Why So Many People Confuse Khao Sok National Park and Phang Nga Bay

As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, there are a lot of visual similarities between Khao Sok and Phang Nga. Namely, all the limestone. In fact, unless you know what to look for, it’s easy to confuse a picture taken in Khao Sok with one taken, say, at Railay Beach in Krabi, let alone at somewhere in Phang Nga Bay (such as James Bond Island).

There’s also the fact that if you look at a zoomed-out map of Thailand, it may appears that Khao Sok National Park is, in fact, on Thailand’s Andaman Coast. You have to look at a pretty detailed projection to realize that it’s a couple of hours inland from the nearest beach, and is several hours away from the Phang Nga scenery it seems to resemble so closely.

Khao Sok National Park


How Khao Sok and Phang Nga Differ

Phang Nga is a bay

This might sound obvious, given that the clue is in the name, but Phang Nga Bay is…well, a bay. It’s a series of limestone islands that rise out of the sea, and while it’s not very far from the mainland, it is the nonetheless a salt water destination with corresponding marine life and vegetation.

Khao Sok is a lake

If salt water (or lack thereof) is a dealbreaker for you, that might help you make the decision as to whether to choose Khao Sok or Phang Nga. Some travelers like that Khao Sok National Park sits over a series of lakes, because they prefer to swim and play in freshwater.

Khao Sok is much harder to reach

Even if you have your own private car, you can only use it to get part of the way to Khao Sok. Namely, one you get to Ratchaprabha Dam, you will need to travel by boat the rest of the way into the park. Unless you’re staying at one of the resorts inside the park, like opulent 500 Rai, this will need to be part of a private or group tour.

(But also less crowded)

When choosing between Phang Nga or Khao Sok, some travelers will want to consider the number of other people who will be in each place. The reality is that since Phang Nga Bay is within day trip distance of both Phuket and Krabi, tons of day trippers come here. This simply isn’t the case for Khao Sok.

Phang Nga is much bigger (and more unruly)

Technically speaking, Phang Nga Bay occupies a much larger area than Khao Sok. Phang Nga Bay can encompass not only the karstic islands near its mouth (including James Bond Island) but others like Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi, where you can actually stay the night if you so choose. It can take literally a week to explore!

Phang Nga Bay


How to Fit Phang Nga and Khao Sok Into Your Trip

If you simply wish to explore Phang Nga (either the bay or the province more broadly), the good news is that it’s easy to access. Phang Nga is the province directly north of Phuket; you can easily get there by bus or private car. Khao Sok is a bit more cumbersome to reach. Generally speaking, you’ll need to get a bus from where you’re starting to Surat Thani, and then a second one to the park (or, alternatively, a private transfer).

As you’re debating Phang Nga vs Khao Sok and whether you can fit one or both in your trip (TIP: If you have the time for both, I highly advise this), there is another option. Namely, you can hire me to plan a custom Thailand itinerary! Doing so will make sure that all the moving pieces of your trip work together. You can focus less on finding your way from place to place, and more on being present once you get there!

Other FAQ About Phang Nga and Khao Sok

Is Phang Nga Bay worth it?

Phang Nga Bay is definitely worth a trip, although there are many options for enjoying it. While some travelers will be content to visit the Samet Nangshe Viewpoint and watching sunrise over the islands, others will want to take a day trip to James Bond Island. You need to decide how deeply you wish to explore in order to determine whether it’s worth visiting or not.

Is it worth going to Khao Sok?

If you can manage to integrate Khao Sok National Park into your Thailand itinerary, it’s definitely worth going. Whether boating out on the lake for the day, or staying overnight in one of the overwater bungalows, it’s simply one of the most fascinating and beautiful places you can visit in Thailand.

Are Khao Sok and Phang Nga Bay similar?

Khao Sok and Phang Nga Bay share some similarities, namely towers of dramatic limestone sometimes known as “karsts.” However, there are some key differences between them, with the main one being that Khao Sok National Park sits inland and is entirely fed by fresh water, as opposed to Phang Nga Bay, which sits in the Andaman Sea.

The Bottom Line

As you dig deeper into the Khao Sok vs Phang Nga debate, you’ll realize that these two destinations aren’t all that similar. While both are home to imposing towers of limestone, the similarities end there. Khao Sok National Park, for its part, is a national park situated over freshwater lakes, with plenty of gorgeous, watery scenery, but no beaches to speak of. Phang Nga Bay, on the other hand, is your gateway to the Andaman Sea, and to some of Thailand’s best islands. Want personalized help putting together your trip to southern Thailand? Consider commissioning a custom Thailand itinerary!


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