Phra Nang , in Thailand is primarily notable for its idyllic beach, which is white and stretches for a mile along the front of a bay so sheltered and shallow you can snorkel out for half a kilometre over rich and varied coral and both invertebrate and vetebrate sea life. The beach is bookended by towering dark red and brown cliffs, swarmed over by climbers, and fringed with leafy palms that afford welcome shade.

The water is so clean that even where it deepens to a couple of metres, you can see the bottom whilst swimming along the surface. Clownfish, Parrotfish, electric blue clams, leopardfish, and Giant Brain Coral are amongst the most the dramatic (and safe) inhabitants of these waters, but sea anenomes and barracudas also call these sheltered tropical waters their home. About one hundred metres out from the beach there's a little island that you can of course swim out to, and it is easy to rent a sea canoe or hire a motor boat or Long-tailed boat to get out and around the other side of the island, which is more exposed and interestingly carved by the sea.

You can also walk, swim or motor around either set of cliffs, to two other similairly picturesque beaches, beside the tiny resort of Rai Ley.

Phra Nang has been declared a national park by the government, so it is not disfigured by pollution or vendors, whilst managing to provide a sufficiency of facilities for the tourists who flock in surprisingly low numbers each day.

The nearest aeroport to Phra Nang is the Isle of Phuket, from whence you can take a two hour bus or boat to the town of Krabi, and from there catch the boat to Phra Nang or Rai Ley. The mountainous nature of the area precludes any road access at all, so it's worth considering that everything there comes by boat, including all the food which arrives daily in the Long-tailed boats. It is now the 'cold' season- a mere 30 degrees C each day, and this is the best time of year to go. Around autumn is the monsoon season, and from April to then it is the hot season, by all accounts unbearable. Additionally, as a buddhist country, you get to escape all the Christmas crap hype that swamps us every year. It came as a mild and pleasant surprise to me to get back on Christmas Eve and to realise that it was Christmas the next day- I hadn't really noticed.

I stayed at the Thai Village Resort, Ao Nang, Krabi 81000 (Thailand) which has great boat access to all the local beaches and islands (including the famous Ko Phi Phi). Because the area has plenty of tourist trade, you'll be able to find whatever takes your fancy, be it authentic ethnic food and dancing, or Western-style fast food (for those in search of diarrhea) and bars. The people are universally friendly and welcoming.

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(not to scale)
1. The Thai mainland.
2. The Rai Lay beaches and area, neither of which are quite as pretty as...
3. Phra Nang beach, beauty of beauties.
4. The little island.

Just go there.

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