Ranong – Wellness and Island Paradise in the South of Thailand
In May, I was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways to visit a region of Thailand I had never visited before: Chumphon and Ranong. The latter borders Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the west and on the Andaman Sea. Maybe you’ve heard of Koh Phayam or Koh Chang (not the Koh Chang I wrote about two years ago!)? Both islands belong to the region Ranong. The provincial capital of the same name has its own small airport and bus station.
Ranong – A Province in the South of Thailand
Ranong is one of Thailand’s provinces, located in the very south of the country on the west coast along the Andaman Sea. Ranong’s neighboring provinces are Chumphon, Surat Thani, and Phang Nga. To the west, it borders Myanmar. The country on the right behind the island is Myanmar.
Ranong lies on the so-called Isthmus of Kra, a strip of land only 44 kilometers wide that connects Thailand with the Malay Peninsula in the west of the Phuket Mountains. The province, together with the province of Trat, is known for being one of Thailand’s wettest places, with a rainy season lasting about eight months.
The most sparsely populated province in Thailand consists of around eighty percent forest area and 67 percent mountains. In earlier years the main source of income besides fishing was tin mining, but since about 20 years most of the mines are nearly exhausted. On our trip, we could get an idea of how hard the everyday life of those who dug tin was. For this, you have to separate sand and stones from tin with a bowl and rotating movements.
Nowadays, the mining of white clay for the production of porcelain and the processing of cashew nuts is the main focus. We were also able to get to know these two crafts better. The nuts are roasted and then cracked. The shell contains toxic oils and must, therefore, be removed. All this is done here by hand, and tourism is also becoming increasingly important.
Former fishing boats are rebuilt and used for tours and hot springs are gradually designed for western tourists. In addition, more hotels are to be built in order to accommodate the hoped-for vacationers.
Ranong – How to Get There
Normally, the journey to Ranong takes you to Bangkok first. Bangkok is a major hub in South East Asia. From Bangkok there are three ways to travel to Ranong:
- By plane: Ranong has its own airport. Thai AirAsia and Nok Air fly to the provincial capital’s airport UNN and connect Bangkok Don Mueang (DMK) with the city of spas.
- By bus: Ranong has a bus station from where you can reach Bangkok in ten hours. Tickets are available from 400 Baht (about 12 Euro).
By car: If you have a rental car, you can, of course, enjoy the picturesque scenery of Bangkok down to the south. Alternatively, you can fly with Thai Smile to Chumphon and drive from there. This is especially worthwhile if you want to combine the two regions during your visit. From there you can also take a minivan for 200 Baht.
Ranong – Sightseeing
Namtok Ngao National Park: This national park is ideal for hikers. The Ngao waterfall with its 300 meters is a real attraction and a total of 13 hot springs provide the appropriate recreational factor.
Koh Chang (Ranong): This is a jewel of the Andaman Sea! Peace and relaxation await you here. Scooters are not rented to westerners and there are only a few cars, so traffic is limited.
Koh Phayam: This is probably the most touristic place in Ranong province. But it’s also justified! Koh Phayam has dream beaches and a jungle that invites you to hike.
Der Nationalpark Laem Son: covers a total area of 31.5 hectares. It also includes islands in the Andaman Sea, namely Ko Khangkhao and Mu Ko Kam. The following beaches are particularly worth seeing: Hat Bang Ben, Hat Laem Son, Hat Praphat, Hat Hin Thung. In addition, these smaller and uninhabited islands are to be recommended: Koh Khang Khao, Koh Kham Tok, Koh Yipun, Koh Kam Yai, Koh Kam Nui.
Ranong – Disconnect With Wellness at the Spa
On our journey, we visited three hot springs. They are all for very different target groups and have their own charm. The first of the hot springs we visited opened just a few months ago. Now you may be a bit confused. I too actually thought that hot springs are always of natural origin. But they are! Just in the case of the hot springs of Ranong, the people had to dig about 150 meters into the ground to get to the hot water. The Hot Springs culture in Ranong goes back about 100 years.
Taryn Hot Springs: The Taryn Hot Springs offer several pools that are reminiscent of typical round whirlpools. You can also book a massage to complete your relaxation. The whole resort is geared towards tourists and I can call the standards Western without hesitation. There are decent, clean toilets, changing rooms that are in no way inferior to those in German swimming pools, and lockers so you don’t have to worry about your belongings while relaxing. As if that wasn’t enough, at Taryn Hot Springs sustainability is an important factor! Plastic straws? Nope… Here you drink from metal straws. Thumbs up from me for that!
Pornrung Hot Springs: These are the hot springs mentioned above, located in the Namtok Ngao National Park. These are the only hot springs I had time to swim in myself. And I can say: Rong, rong! (Thai for hot, hot!) The coolest pool had over 40 degrees Celsius and even for me as an avowed heat lover, I could only endure it with great concentration. If you like to switch between hot and cold, you can simply jump from the pools into the nearby river and cool down. In a small shop, you can buy forgotten swimwear or get snacks and soft drinks at the bar next door. The toilets and changing rooms are more in sync with Southeast Asian standards. But if you want to combine a visit to the hot springs with a trip to the national park, this is the ideal choice.
Raksa Warin Park: Raksa Warin is quite a magnet for locals. The reason is simple – there is no entrance fee. At least not at the main area. Small stone pools with up to 65 degrees hot water are waiting here. There is a suspension bridge leading over the river right next to the hot springs, on which Thais make happy smiling selfies. And between the suspension bridge and the freely accessible pools, there are more pools. Although they are also made of stone, they look more like the whirlpools at the Taryn Hot Springs. The entrance fee here is 40 Baht (about one Euro) and I learned that this part is privately managed and called Tinidee. Towels are included in the entrance fee. On the other side of the street, you can get an oil or Thai massage in the spa.
Ranong – Island Paradise
Apart from the already mentioned pearls of the Andaman Sea Koh Chang and Koh Phayam, there are numerous small islands waiting in Ranong. Our trip took us to Koh Khang Khao, Koh Kam Tok, and Koh Yipun, where we stopped for lunch.
There is a breathtaking viewpoint. But beware! The ascent is quite a challenge. There are ropes and the way seems to be well maintained though. But you still have to climb. I would recommend sturdy shoes, which you don’t necessarily have with you on a snorkel or boat trip. I had my sneakers with me, because I had blisters from my flip flops and was more than grateful. But it’s worth it, because at the end this fantastic view is waiting:
The other islands we have visited are also quite beautiful. But they are smaller which is why they seemed packed with eight tourist boats mooring. On Koh Kham Tok on the other side, you don’t really notice the presence of all those people and you can enjoy the view, sunbathe at the beach or have lunch.
Ranong – Accommodation
We stayed at a place called Numsai Khaosuay Resort Ranong.
Ranong is in the process of making more hotels available, as a lot is currently being invested in tourism.
Ranong – Your Onward Journey
If you’ve come from Bangkok, you’ll come from Ranong to the south of the country. Possible destinations would be:
- Chumphon: Chumphon is an adjacent province that is great for snorkeling, admiring nature in the mangrove forest, or taking pictures at great photo spots. From there you can easily get to Koh Tao for example.
- Koh Samui: Koh Samui is not quite around the corner, but is quite easy to reach from Ranong. If you’ve never been there before, it might be a good idea to combine these destinations.
- Phuket: Also to Phuket it is still a good six-hour ride by car or bus from Ranong. Nevertheless, it is worth driving further south. The region around Phuket with Krabi and the islands Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi is a popular region with digital nomads.
Ranong – Final Thoughts
I had never heard of Ranong before getting invited on this trip. Looking back, I am very glad that I was able to experience this still traditional part of Thailand and to get a little insight into the local culture. Whether it was the mining of tin or the production of porcelain, visiting the islands or getting to know the culture of the hot springs: I experienced a completely different Thailand than I know it from the north. For this I am grateful and I am very happy that I got this opportunity.
For digital nomads I would recommend Ranong for a stay of several days without hesitation. But be prepared that the internet is not nearly as fast as in Chiang Mai. If you are looking for a few days with wellness and nature though, during which you leave the computer turned off, Ranong is a little heaven on earth.
PS: I was invited by TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) and Thai Airways to travel to Chumphon and Ranong. I did not receive any financial compensation. My opinion was not influenced by this collaboration.
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