While Phang Nga province is blessed with amazing sceneries and some of the finest beaches in Thailand, you may be surprised that there is no strip of sand anywhere near Phang Nga town itself where you could pop down for a little dip. The town is one of the drop-off points for Ao Phang Nga National Park, but is actually very quiet and peaceful even for a little provincial town.
However, it is not difficult to while away a few hours or even days if you happen to end up in this long and narrow town squeezed between vertical cliffs.
Having no beach in sight does not mean there is nowhere to go to cool down.
Manora Forest Park is only some 6 kilometres away from the northern end of the town, it only takes a few minutes to get there on a rented motorcycle.
Manora is a myhtical half-bird, half-human creature whose graceful and delicate movements are recreated in a traditional Thai dance. This little forest park is indeed different from other parks I have been to. The huge trees with supporting roots and the abundance of water create a mythical and serene atmosphere where the appearance of such a spectacular bird would not take me completely by surprise.
It was an exceptionally hot day when we visited – that could have been the reason why there was hardly a soul around. It was an excellent opportunity to observe some of the local wildlife peacefully. No half-birds, half-humans though.
There is a well-marked nature trail and a picnic area, just as in any Thai park or national park. The trail crisscrosses a fairytale setting with giant trees, cool little streams, small waterfalls, passes through a young bamboo forest and skirts moist cliffs with little caves hidden inside. It is a shady and level one-way path that should be easy for most people. It may be difficult though with little kids because of the several rickety bamboo pole bridges that need to be crossed over the streams and the roots across the path all along. Flipflops will do if you are used to walking rough trails in them.
Of course, the most refreshing feature of the park is that you can plunge into the cool waters gushing out of the cliffs just a few hundred metres upstream. The fish around here really enjoy chewing off the dead skin from your feet – some of them are quite big and it is a little scary at first when they “attack” you.
Manora park is hardly a major destination, but it is a perfect spot to wind down a little if you have a few hours to spare before taking your long-haul bus or a boat out to Phang Nga Bay. There was no entry fee when we visited. It is almost 4 kms from the Phang Nga – Takua Pa road, so public transport would mean lots of walking on the access road. You could possibly hire a songthaew. Also, there were no shops at the entrance – make sure you have enough water with you when you leave town.