On the eastern bank of Mae Nam Pak Chan’s turbid, tea-brown estuary, Ranong lies just a 45-minute boat ride from Myanmar. This border town par excellence (shabby, frenetic, slightly seedy) has a thriving population from Myanmar (keep an eye out for men wearing longyi – the traditional sarongs), bubbling hot springs, crumbling historical buildings and some sensational street food.
Once a backwater, Ranong is increasingly busy with cross-border business and visitors heading to nearby Ko Phayam and Ko Chang, and has clearly benefitted from Myanmar's more stable political situation. Now, there are quirky boutique hotels and a style-conscious local scene (relatively speaking). Dive operators specialising in live-aboard trips to the Surin Islands and Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago are establishing themselves here, adding a sprinkling of expat flavour.