Surat Thani, which translates to “City of Good People”, is one of the oldest cities of Thailand which dates back to the 5th-century. It is also the 8th largest city in the country. It is found in the southern coast of Thailand and is a famous tourist destination for its coastal shores. Surat is the entryway to the popular islands of Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui and Ko Tao. These islands draw in tourists for their natural beauty, ancient temples and the diversity of the attractions each island offers.
If you want to reconnect with nature and be in tune with your spirit, Surat Thani offers the temporary escape you need from the stress of modern living. Here is a list of the things you must do and sights you must see once you visit Surat Thani.
1. Go to the Market
The Thai Sunday and Night Market are very attractive to tourists because of their many exotic offerings. Thailand is synonymous to Rambutan (their famous indigenous fruit) and delicious salted duck eggs. This beautiful tropical country is also famous for their oysters, one of the largest in the world. You will find a lot of these delicacies in their markets along with the products from their local handicrafts like the elegant Phum Riang silk. This intricately designed silk is one of the best in the world and is produced only in a Muslim village called Phum Riang. Have a taste of their exotic food and buy at least one of their famous silk products so you can truly have a memento of your Thai experience.
Surat Thani Night Market
Address: Tonpo Alley, Tambon Talat, Amphoe Mueang Surat Thani, Chang Wat Surat Thani 84000, Thailand
Opening Hours: Saturday to Friday 3pm to 11pm
2. Khao Sok National Park
The Khao Sok National Park is one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Nature lovers will truly enjoy the experience of exploring this natural reserve by hiking the trails or riding an elephant through the forest. You can also ride a canoe, kayak or raft paddling through the Sok River or the man-made Cheow Lan Lake. There you will find the tallest evergreen trees, breathtaking views of giant limestone mountains, awesome lakes and caves, and exotic plants and animals.
In 1980, it was established by Thailand as its 22nd National Park and one of the biggest in the world. The park is found in Southern Thailand and overlaps the forests of Khlong Pra Sang and Khlong Yee. It is popular for its untouched topography since the ice ages and the largest limestone mountains called karst. The park offers exciting jungle tours and floating huts for accommodations.
Khao Sok National Park
Address: Khlong Sok, Phanom District, Surat Thani 84250, Thailand
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm. Closed on public holidays
Duration: around 3 hours required
Contact: +66 77395139
Website: Khao Sok National Park
3. Sonchana Farm and Elephant Sanctuary
The Thais have a high regard for elephants, that’s why there are several sanctuaries where these gentle giants are well taken care off. The Sonchana Farm is quite exceptional because it has been operating for 120 years and it features an elephant sanctuary program that sustains the local Khao Sok community. It is a family owned farm and they also support the eco-tourism by giving tourists a lifetime experience of interacting and riding an elephant in a real jungle environment. Here you will meet the famous elephant named Somboon, who was once a trekking elephant, living the rest of his retirement in this eco farm.
Other fun filled activities include feeding and bathing the elephants, planting the crops for elephant feed and a short tutorial on how to take care of the forest. You can also sign up for their exclusive cooking class in the Khlong Panom National Park, conducted by Pi Jun where you will learn culinary techniques using the traditional methods of cooking using organic vegetables and herbs that grow in the farm-without the use of electricity, gas or plastic! Now that’s an interesting lesson for jungle survival!
Sonchana Farm and Elephant Sanctuary
Address: Khlong Sok, Phanom District, Surat Thani 84250, Thailand
Opening Hours: Daily hours (includes pick up/drop-off): 9:00-11:00am / 2:00-4:00pm
Contact: +66 952428600
Website: Sonchana Farm and Elephant Sanctuary
Riding a boat is one of the popular ways to go about Surat Thani and its numerous waterways. The long tail boat (called Ruea Hang Yao) is the most significant because of its distinct features. It is a long wooden canoe, with an extended piece of wood in front. The improvised versions include a motorized engine to efficiently transport tourists to various scenic locations. Recently, the government banned the use of their precious timber in the construction of these boats so it’s becoming a rare item in Thailand. It would be an exciting experience to ride one of these boats, hoping from one island to another before it totally becomes extinct.
4 Island Tour by Longtail Boat with Emerald Cave
Price: from 31.70 USD
5. Visit an oyster farm
Surat Thani prides itself for being one of the producers of the largest oysters in the world. It is a succulent delicacy enjoyed in most restaurants and dining places. Here at the oyster farm, you will have a first-hand experience of how the oysters are grown, harvested and processed from farm to table. There are some farms where you can actually dine in and taste the newly harvested fresh oysters with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime. A word of caution though in eating raw oysters, you must have a strong stomach for it! You will have to hire a boat that will take you to the farms.
Suppadij Oyster Farm
Address:: Surat-Poonpin Rd., Muang Surat Thani, 84000, Surat Thani, Thailand
Phone: +66 07727316
6. Wat Phra Borommathat Chaiya
This lovely white and gold pagoda is one of the most awesome attractions in Surat Thani. In ancient times, it was believed that Chaiya was Thailand’s capital, making it one of their oldest cities. This was the center of the Srivijaya Empire, meaning the city existed in the 5th-century. The temple was constructed by the Mahayana Buddhists and is the best preserved artifact designed in Si Wichai style, that is as old as the 7th-century.
This is Chaiya’s Chedi (main temple) and it contains the ancient Buddha relics. It also contains several chambers and statues. Several Thais journey to this temple to pay homage and though it is a religious site, you can still take pictures inside. Right across the street is the Chaiya National Museum. Visit the temple at night for a more interesting view when it looks more spectacular illuminated in brightly colored lights.
Wat Phra Borommathat Chaiya
Address: Wiang, Chaiya District, Surat Thani 84110, Thailand
7. Island hopping
One of the jewels of Surat Thani is its clusters of beautiful islands. In the east are the popular islands of Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao. These islands are surrounded by the clearest of crystal waters and abundant exotic sea life that make it perfect for underwater exploration and swimming. Koh Samui is the largest island found in the south of Surat Thani. The beach is lined with golden sand and palm trees where you will find lots of top-line spas and resorts. At sundown, its Chaweng town is busy with its bustling night life. On this island you will also find Ang National Marine Park, the epic Wat Phra Yai Buddhist temple, and the tallest waterfall, the Nam Tok Na Muang.
Koh Pha Ngan is notorious for its Full Moon Parties, which are held in the southern shores of Haad Rin. On its east are hidden bays and resorts. There are also Chinese and Buddhist temples that offer a more quiet retreat and the highest peak of the island, Khao Ra, offers spectacular views. Koh Tao is world renowned for its dense waters that offer an under-the-sea expedition. As the perfect venue for scuba diving beginners, it is also gaining popularity for its beach yoga classes. Aside from its tree lined beaches, the island has a hilly terrain perfect for hiking and scenic views.
Getting to the islands is a bit of a challenge. You will have to travel either by car, bus or taxi to the seaports where you have to hire a boat to get to the islands. We suggest you take the long tail boats because they can take you directly to the shores of the island. You can also join a tour group that will take you around the islands but only for a limited time.
Flexible Thai Island Hopper
Price: from 375 USD
Duration: minumum 2 days per island
Website: Flexible Thai Island Hopper
8. Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong meaning “golden bowl” is a protected marine park that consists of more than 40 islands. The islands are famous for lush, natural landscape and most of them are uninhabited except for 2. Ko Wua Talap and Ko Paluay Island are occupied by sea gypsies that fish for a living. What you will see are islands made of limestone that rise dramatically from the sea and odd shaped rock formations. There are several caves, beaches and lagoons waiting to be explored! The park is ideal for snorkeling because of its shallow coral gardens. Its diverse and exotic flora and fauna make it a fascinating location for a day trip. You will have to hire a boat to get to the park or join a tour group for a day tour.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Address: Thongsala, Koh Phangan, Thailand
Phone:+66 77961916 / +66 831387047
Website: Ang Thong National Marine Park
9. Surat Thani Pillar Shrine
Every province in Thailand has a public shrine that houses the deity or spirit that guards the region. In Surat Thani, this Pillar Shrine is one of the best designed structures that attracts both locals and tourists. A visit to the shrine will give you an eye witness experience of how Buddhists practice their faith. You can say a prayer or make a wish and tie a piece of colored cloth around any of the four pillars surrounding the shrine. You will also have to light incense and press gold paper on the foundation of the shrine as a sign of respect. Outside, the shrine is guarded by several elephant statues that the locals give flower offerings to in the form of leis hung around their necks. At the base of the Pillar Shrine are bronze statues of birds that hold the lamps in their beaks that light up the shrine at night.
Surat Thani Pillar Shrine
Address: Tambon Talat, Amphoe Mueang Surat Thani, Chang Wat Surat Thani 84000, Thailand
10. The Full Moon Party
The Full Moon Party is a popular destination of party goers and is one of the attractions that put Surat Thani on the international radar. It is a grand festival held on the island of Koh Phangan EVERY full moon. Imagine how many full moons we have in a year! This grand festival happens on the shores of the island so you will have to book on the exclusive website to become part of the festivities. What makes it more exciting is that you have to ride a boat to get to the island where the party is held!
According to legend, in the 1980s a group of backpackers held a humungous birthday party at the beach. From then on, every full moon the tradition of having grand party lives on and it attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world. What do you expect to see? A lot of drinks, dancing, music, fire dancers, colorful costumes and people from different cultures all in party mode, set in the beautiful scenery of the Koh Phangan shores.
Book My Full Moon
Address: Kho Pangan, Surat Thani, Thailand
Website: Book My Full Moon
Enjoy! YOLO in Surat Thani!
As the millennials will say, “YOLO!” so why not enjoy life to the fullest? When you visit Surat Thani you will experience a lot of firsts. It might be the first time you will ride an elephant through the forest, or taste an exotic fruit like the Rambutan. How about island hopping in Thailand while riding the awesome long tail boats? Or diving into their crystal blue waters? In Surat there may be several temples, but it is amazing how each one is magnificent with their unique designs. Through the centuries, the Thais have been very much in tune with their spirituality and nature and their good vibes are felt by those who visit their islands. Good vibes so strong that a good trip must end with partying under a full moon. Besides, how often do we get a full moon shining on our shores? So enjoy your stay in Surat Thani! You only live once so come visit as often as you can!
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