The best way to see the real culture of a country is to go where the tourists are not. If you are itching to experience real Thai culture, you may want to visit the city of Surat Thani. Located on the central gulf coast of southern Thailand, this city is usually the gateway to other Thai islands meaning visitors run through it without stopping. Stay a while and get to know Surat Thani known to the locals as the "City of Good People."
Surat Thani, Thailand
The Khao Sok National Park is Thailand's oldest virgin forest. Walk around the lush environment surrounded by limestone towers. This eco-tourism hotspot is popular for hiking, elehphant trekking, cave diving and so much wildlife sightseeing. Float down the rivers in some relaxing raft houses, or take a daring ride in a river tube.
One of the many attractions of the Khao Sok National Park is the Chiaw Lan Lake is a beautiful, man-made area consisting of a shale-clay dam called Ratchaprapha. Take in the sights of the limestone jutting over nine hundred meters into the air. Charter boats from the locals will take you to explore the many natural wonders around the lake including coves, canals, caves and cul-de-sacs.
There are also two caves that can be accessed by foot from the southwestern shore of the lake. Be careful where you walk, though, especially during the rainy season. The Tham Nam Thalu displays amazing limestone formations and subterranean streams. The Tham Si Ru is made up of four converging passageways. It was once used as a hideout for communists between 1975 and 1982.
For a more unique place to visit, check out the monkey training college. Here you will see the trainer instructing monkeys on how to collect coconuts. It is all animal-friendly no punishments here.
If you are looking to push yourself closer to enlightenment on your vacation, journey into the lush forest to he Wat Suan Mokkhaphalaram, or the "Garden of Liberation." This retreat offers a ten-day program including food, lodging and instruction. Run by the International Dharma Hermitage, this experience includes guidance in Zen, Taoist and Christian elements, along with the traditional Theravada teachings.
For the perfect start to the best date night, take your loved one to the oyster farm. This famous mood-setting food is grown and cultivated in the waters of the Kadae and Tha Thong rivers. This unique atmosphere creates large and succulent oysters for you to select for your lunch.
To truly get in touch with this city, visit the life force of the people the Tapi River. This is a central point of transportation for many of the locals. After the sun goes down, the area really comes to life. The life is in the light of the fireflies. Make sure you visit to see them light up the mangrove forest.
Food and Dining
Given that this city is a place many travelers pass through, there is a variety of Thai and western food to pick from. For the biggest variety of local flavors, visit the night market. Several restaurants that provide the perfect setting for market people watching surround the market. Sip on freshly squeezed juices, or nibble on some corn on the cob. Try the squid-kebabs, fried chicken, saffron rice, pad Thai and more.
If you're out for an evening, but aren't too interested in the market, make your way to the night pier. This is a great spot for many to get dinner and a drink before hopping on a night boat to destinations like Ko Tao or Ko Pha Ngan. Expect to find several food carts complete with seafood and noodles.
For a more romantic setting, visit Kampan. The garden atmosphere creates the perfect date night. If you have some special dietary preferences, Vegetarian might appeal to your senses. This spot offers traditional dishes like Thai curry, soups and snacks. Pick up one of their unique bottled juices.
The public transportation in Surat Thani is a little difficult to navigate. There are three bus stations in town and all have complicated routes. Unless you speak Thai and have an amazing sense of direction, try to arrange private transportation in Surat Thani.