On 26 December 2004 a 9.5 magnitude earthquake on the Indian Ocean’s floor unleashed a mammoth tsunami that first swallowed, and then spat out, the usually tranquil green Andaman Sea as a 15m-high raging wave. It flattened entire communities, claimed more than 6000 lives and shattered the region’s tourism industry.
But even the world’s second most powerful earthquake couldn’t shake the Andaman Coast’s super-sized natural beauty. With a face of soaring jagged limestone peaks, jade water for eyes and long sun-kissed golden beaches for legs, this bit of Thailand is positively dreamy.
The Andaman Coast encourages you to design your own adventure, with choices as endless as the sparkling sea. Surf Thailand’s best breaks in Kata, Phuket, which dazzles with fine resorts, fine cuisine and fine beaches. Check out the otherworldly, underwater marine life on a live-aboard dive trip around the Similan Islands. Or really get off the beaten path and go to Ko Tarutao National Marine Park, where you can camp on wild, pristine beaches. For lazy beach days there’s dramatic Ko Phi Phi or laid-back backpacker sweetheart Ko Lanta. And if you want to test your limits on some of the best rocks in the world, head to our favourite beach in Thailand, beautiful Railay. (Think water sparkling like an emerald brooch, specked with bits of sapphire and swirls of turquoise.)
Reminders of the tsunami linger. On Patong’s streets one passes as many evacuation route signs as vendors toting fake Chanel. But while the clatter of construction is a constant, sadly, tourists are not. Which is a shame, because there is no reason not to visit. Residents are thinking forward, not back, and so should you.
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