Khuraburi, 100 kms south of Ranong on the Andaman coastline, is best known as the drop-off point for the Surin Islands – it is unlikely to become a major tourist destination in it own right. It is a little town in the middle of nowhere, on a very scenic and scarcely populated coastline that has no beaches to speak of for over 60 kilometres, from Takua Pa to Ao Khoei. It is all mountains, mangroves, jungles and fishing villages left behind from some previous century. Whenever you take a side road towards the sea, you end up in little villages balancing over the mangroves: there is no clear boundary between sea and land.
I spent a day around this area riding around on my rented motorcycle. I have always been known for being lazy, but in the March heat, it is the best way to take in the amazing landscapes of Southern Thailand.
I found Ao Khoei beach by following a family on a motorcycle carrying floats and with the kids dressed for a swim. In this area, there are a lot more mosques than wats, and as farangs are not an everyday sight, it is recommended to be modest and polite about your beach behaviour and attire. Or, just walk off a few hundred metres and you will have the beach all for yourself.
On a little hill overlooking the beach, Ao Khoei Bunglows offers the most delicious fried chicken and papaya salad I have had in a long time.
The boats to the Surin Islands actually depart from Ngan Yong, a very busy and messy fishing village some 9 kms outside town. The number of simple fishing boats is sobering, however, I presume subsistence fishing is less of a danger these days than huge industrialised trawlers. It is interesting to hang around for an hour watching the catch being unloaded, rough-skinned fishermen stocking up before leaving for the seas again, dive boats coming and going, but after a while, the strong smell of fish and who knows what else becomes overwhelming.
The Mu Ko Surin National Park office is also on the pier, alongside tour operators trying to sign people up for diving daytrips to the world-famous Richelieu rock.
There are sparkling green mountains and hills all along the Andaman coastline north of Khao Lak. As the moist air rolls in from the sea, it is forced to rise when hitting the slopes – all year round. There is a rough and windy monsoon season here, when the islands are off limits, but rains continue to feed the jungle even during the dry season. It is always amazing to escape the bone-dry, brown and yellow landscapes of northern Thailand in the school holidays, and find dazzling green colours in the south.
Sri Phang Nga National Park is halfway between Takua Pa and Khuraburi, about 25 kms from either, very clearly signposted on the coastal highway. It is actually adjacent to Khao Sok National Park, a little further inland, famous for its deep jungles. As usual, there are quite a few well-marked nature trails leading to waterfalls and through scenic spots. Tam Nang waterfall, in the photo above, is the highest at almost 60 metres. You can take a dip in the pool, and there is a picnic table set up. Otherwise, the area is moist and overgrown, apart from the trail itself. It is an easy 20-minute walk from the headquarters.
Walking along the 3-kilometre loop called “moist evergreen forest nature trail“, you will find that you are almost making the path for yourself. First, you need to criss-cross a stream several times to arrive at a tiny waterfall. Resist the urge to plunge in: it is definitely a warning sign if the park guard’s 50-word English vocabulary contains the word “leech”. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been listening carefully enough. Then it is a steep climb among giant buttress trees, palms and bamboo to a viewpoint. It would have been smart to have hiking boots on, if only I ever owned a pair of trainers in Thailand. It is manageable in sandals, though – apart from the leeches. There are informative signs on termites, bamboo, different kinds of palms and fish, a good excuse to stop, catch your breath and listen to the eery silence. You can almost see the jungle grow and burying you forever.
Undoubtedly, Phang Nga province has more exciting destinations to head to, but if you happen to be around Khuraburi, it is worth looking around in this little-visited district. Buses to Khuraburi leave from the Southern Bus terminal in Bangkok every evening, arriving before sunrise (about 9 to 10 hours). Buses from Phuket or Phang Nga to Ranong also cross Khuraburi.