Koh Panyee is one of a handful of places in Thailand where people still live a traditional way of life. Built around the edge of a soaring limestone island, most of the village - including the school - sits on stilts over the surrounding shallow sea. Just over 1,000 people live on the island. Walk past the restaurants and souvenir shops to the village behind get a real taste of the "simple life" Panyee-style. There are plenty of organised tours from northern Phuket or from Phang Nga, at the top end of the bay.
For a long time the nine Similan Islands were somewhere only divers would go, on liveaboard boats. But now, with speedboats from Thap Lamu in Phang Nga and even a hydrofoil service from Phuket, it's possible to go there for a day trip. The scenery is stunning and the underwater world is magical. Reckon on spending the whole day on the trip. Check before you go - this is a national park and is not open year-round.
The Surin Islands, a group of five small islands, are north of the Similans. The only community consists of some 200 Moken, or Sea Gypsy people, living mostly from subsistence fishing, so nature is mostly untouched, under the water and above. For the best day out, combine snorkelling among the beautiful reefs with hiking to the top of the islands. Tours usually set out from Kuraburi in Phang Nga province.
Coral Island, or Koh Hey, is about 20 minutes by speedboat from Chalong or Rawai Pier, a bit longer by longtail. Beautiful beaches fringed with reefs make snorkelling a must. There are also banana boat rides, paragliding and other fun activities for all ages. For a full day out, consider combining Koy Hey with Racha Yai island, further south, where the coral is even more spectacular and where you can hike uphill for big views of the ocean.
Maya Bay - for most people, Phi Phi means Phi Phi Don Island, where all the hotels, bars and shops are. But the most stunning beach is in Maya Bay, on the neighbouring Phi Phi Ley island.The bay is surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs and is in a national park, so is relatively unspoiled. If you're a movie buff, this is where Leonardo di Caprio and friends had their adventures in the backpacker movie The Beach. To get there take a ferry from Rassada Pier in Phuket Town to Phi Phi Don, and then a speedboat from there.
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