Ranong, the northernmost province on the Andaman coast, has so many things to love, despite unpredictable weather
It was pouring like crazy. I was lucky to find refuge in a noodle shop before getting soaked. It had rained twice since the morning. So far, including the days when I was on Koh Phayam, I never got a chance to shoot — or even see — a clear blue sky.
“This is the real Ranong,” said a guy at the next table, a local I guess. “You’re not in Ranong if you don’t see rain.”
I told him a friend of mine who picked me up from the airport the other day said exactly the same thing. And we both burst out laughing. For a moment, I couldn’t hear the sound of the falling rain.
Despite Ranong’s reputation as a province with fon paed daed si (eight rainy months and four sunny months), I decided to book my flight to the province in mid-October, which was near the end of Ranong’s wet period, hoping that there wouldn’t be so much rain. I’ve been to the province many times because Koh Kam of Laem Son National Park 54km south of Ranong downtown used to be one of my favourite hideaways before the 2004 tsunami struck. I thought I knew the weather here.
Also, I needed to take a risk and made my visit a little early because I had planned to have this piece published in November when the weather is supposed to be more welcoming to tourists. Unfortunately, this year a tropical storm hit Thailand on the same days I was in Ranong.
Personally, unless I was travelling off-road in the middle of nowhere I don’t mind heavy rain. It’s refreshing and I love it. But what troubled me was the fact that of all the pictures I had taken the past few days, there was none interesting enough to use as the lead picture on the front page. I was thinking about taking a songthaew to the city’s famous hot springs but was told they were closed. The photo would look cliché anyway.
By the time I finished my noodle soup, my light dinner, the rain was dying down. The sky began to darken and lights on the vintage shophouses on the opposite side of the road were turned on one after another. I had an idea.
I quickly paid for my noodles and walked to a nearby three-way road junction. After 20 minutes of waiting and shooting in low light, I finally got the lead picture I was looking for, one that, at least in my opinion, effectively depicts the real Ranong.
The quickest way to reach Ranong from Bangkok is by air. The flight takes about an hour. From the airport to the downtown area, which is 23km north, you can take a taxi, a passenger van or a songthaew bus or rent a car.Another public transportation option, for now, are buses from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. You simply hop on a bus in the evening and sleep. The next morning, you’ll find yourself in the southern province. Hopefully, the project to extend the southern railway from Chumphon to Ranong will materialise soon.
Reaching Koh Phayam from the mainland takes 35 minutes by speed boat (350 baht per person one way) and an hour and 45 minutes by a normal boat (200 baht). The service is available from 7.30am to 4.30pm. Return boats from Koh Phayam cost the same but are available until 5pm.
In downtown Ranong, there are songthaew plying a number of routes. Just politely ask any of the friendly locals which one you should take.
In case you need assistance while in Ranong, the following contacts may come in handy:Sin, a local guide, 081-271-2531Phong, taxi driver, 090-153-3016Khai, a songthaew driver, 081-086-2907Toen, boat and motorcycle rental service operator on Koh Phayam, 096-858-6097
Keep in mind that it’s best to communicate with them in Thai. So if you do not speak the language, ask a friend who does to help.
During my latest trip to Ranong, I slept at three places. The first night was spent at A Day Inn Ranong, a cosy hostel in the downtown area converted from an old shophouse. The second night I stayed at Bamboo Bungalows on Koh Phayam’s Ao Yai beach, and the last two nights at Dahla House not so far from the hostel because I needed more privacy and space to dry my wet clothes. All these accommodations are good value for money. They can easily be found on the internet.