Surat Thani Tourist Information
The name literally means "city of the good people" and is the former seat of the Sivichaya Empire. It is the largest and most important province of the South, located 644 kms. from Bangkok. It occupies an area of 12,891.5 square kilometers bordering on Chumphon and the Gulf of Thailand to the north, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Krabi to the south, Phangnga and Ranong to the west and the Gulf of Thailand and Nakhon Si Thammarat to the east.
Surat Thani once formed part, and may have been the centre of the Mahayana Buddhist, Srivijaya Empire which, steeped in legend and mystery, dominated the Malay peninsula and much of Java some 1,500 years ago. Srivijaya was best described by the itinerant Chinese monk I Ching after a pilgrimage he made to India during the late 600s. Archaeological discoveries at Chaiya indicate the former empire's splendour.
Geographic characteristics of Surat Thani are high plateau and mountains covered with valuable woodforest to the west and low basins in the central and eastern seashore area. There are a tremendous number of islands along the coast and two major rivers: the Tapi River and Phum Duang River. It is administratively divided into 18 Amphoes and 1 King Amphoe i.e., Amphoe Muang, Ban Na San, Ban Ta Khun, Chaiya, Don Sak, Kanchanadit, Khian Sa, Khiri Ratthanikhom, Koh Phangna, Koh Samui, Phanom, Phrasaeng, Phunphin, Tha Chana, Tha Chang, Wiang Sa, Ban Na Doem, Chai Buri and King Amphoe Wiphawadi.
Things to see & do sights & experiences
Phra Boromathat Chaiya
An ancient pagoda, located in Wat Phra Boromathat Chaiya, Amphoe Chaiya, housing Lord Buddha relics. The structure is believed to be constructed during the Sivichaya period over 1,200 years ago.
Chaiya National Museum
Located at Wat Phra Boromathat Chaiya, Tambon Wiang, Amphoe Chaiya. It is a historical and archaeological museum. The first building puts on exhibition stone and bronze sculptures discovered in the ancient city of Chaiya, for example, sculptures of the God Vishnu and Bohdisattva Avalokitesvara. The second building exhibits artifacts of protohistoric down to historic periods from Dvaravati, Srivijaya, Lop Buri, Sukhothai to Ayutthaya. Art objects and several other crafts are also displayed here. Chaiya National Museum is open daily between 09.00-16.00 hrs. except for Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is 10 Baht each.
Suan Mokkha Phalaram
This is otherwise known as Wat Than Nam Lai (Monastery of Flowing Water), a monastic community located in a beautiful and peaceful natural park where Buddhists go for meditation practice. There are several teaching pavilions which many paintings and poems illustrating moral teachings known in Thai as "Entertainment Houses for the Soul".
Khao Thaphet Wildlife and Nature Education Station
Located some 6 kms. from town along the Surat - Nasan Road, highway no. 4009 and covers 1,162 acres. The station houses many caged wild animals. The hilltop, some 210 meters above sea level, offers panoramic views of Ban Don municipality, the Tapi River and Ban Don Bay. On Khao Thaphet is also located the stupa named Phra That Si Surat or locally known as Phra That Khao Thaphet which houses Buddha relics donated by the Indian government some 30 years ago.
Are found around the estuarine areas of the Kradae and Tha Thong Rivers, in Amphoe Kanchanadit. Oyster Bred there are substantially larger than those found elsewhere. To visit the farms is by hiring boats from Tha Thong quayside for some 30 minutes.
Moo Ban Phumriang
Some 6 kilometers east of Chaiya, is an arts and crafts centre well known for its gold and silver brocade silk cloth and jute headwear.
The schools where monkeys are trained to pick coconuts, there are 2 places: one is located in Amphoe Kanchanadit, some 13 kms. from Surat Thani along Highway No. 401 and another one is at Ban Khlong Sai, Amphoe Tha Chang, some 35 kms. along Highway No. 41. Visitors are advised to check with local travel agents for full details.
Khao Sok National Park
It is located on km.109 from Surat township area on Highway No. 401. A verdant forest-covered hill national park, with an area of some 161,000 acres. Many kinds of rare wildlife are still to be found. With an atmosphere of peacefulness and restfulness, one can trek along the trails made to the adventure. Accommodations in the park can be available through the reservation section, Forestry Department, Tel. (662) 579-0529, 579-4842. Besides, near the area of the park there are private-run bungalows available for the tourist.
Tai Rom Yen National Park
Covers the area of 133,125 rai of Khlong Nam Thao Forest Reserve in Amphoe Ban Na San and Amphoe Wiang Sa. A mountain within the park known as Khao Chong Chang once used to be the base of the Communist Party of Thailand. There are several scenic tourist spots such as Nam Tok Dat Fa, Nam Tok Muang Thuat in Amphoe Ban Na San and Nam Tok Than Thip in Amphoe Wiang Sa. Visitors wishing to stay overnight here are requested to bring along their camping accessories. For more details please contact National Parks Division, Royal Forestry Department, Tel. (662) 579-4842, 579-0529.
Nam Tok Wiphawadi or Nam Tok Ban Nai
Though of the same name as the one within Khlong Yan Wildlife Sanctuary, this one is located in Amphoe Don Sak on the roadside of the Highway 401 between KM. 60-61, about 38 kilometers from town. Though a small waterfall, it is always crowded on holidays.
Ratchprapha or Chieo Lan Dam
It is located on Km. 52-53 Highway No. 401 and turn right for another 12 kms. The scenery around the dam area is very beautiful. Accommodations are available from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Tel. (662) 436-3179 or (6677) 311-364, 311-522.
Khlong Yan Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated in King Amphoe Wiphawadi, 45 kilometers along the Highway 41 with a 26-kilometers left turn to King Amphoe Wiphawadi. Further on for about 10 kilometers, then turn right for another 8 kilometers, one will get to the sanctuary. Major attraction here is the beautiful waterfall "Nam Tok Wiphawadi". Accommodation is available. Reservation should be made to Chief of Khlong Ya Wildlife Sanctuary at Moo 8, Tambon Takut Tai, King Amphoe Wiphawadi, Surat Thani 84180.
It is Surat Thani's major tourist attraction. The island has numerous lovely beaches and bays. It is almost literally an island of coconuts and forested hills, and is fast be coming a resort of international stature. Samui's best beaches line the northern and eastern coasts, the most popular being Chaweng and Lamai where, generally, the most attractive accommodation is found.
Besides beaches, other island attractions include the Hin Lat and Na Muang waterfalls the phallic rock formations at the southern end of Lamai Bay; a massive seated Buddha image of Fan isle and Na Thon, the island's major seafront settlement where shops, restaurants, tour agencies and hotels are located.
Koh Tae Nai
It is a small island not too far to be reached from Koh Phangan, is increasingly popular to the tourists from its natural beauties. High jungle-covered hill, long stretch golden sand beach, thriving coral reefs surrounded by fish of all sizes and colors etc. are some of its major attractions. Accommodations in the form of bungalows are also provided on the island. Transportation is available by mean of passenger boat or cargo boat which leave from Surat Thani via Samui.
The large island 60 minutes directly north of Koh Samui, has the lovely waterfall; Nam Tok Than Sadet, Nam Tok Phaeng Forest Park and an extensive coral reef. Accommodation is available here as well.
Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan
These 2 small rocky islands are administratively under Amphoe Koh Phangan and located at the direction northwest of Koh Phangan. Unspoiled and undisturbed lately by tourists, the islands earn its reputations for underwater resources, unique beautiful bays and coves and coral garden under the crystal sea which give the good promising outlook for sea sport activities. Accommodations in the form of huts and bungalows are provided on these two islands. To reach Koh Tao economically is by boat that leaves from Surat Thani and Koh Phangan. Boats are also available for Koh Tao from Tha Yang Pier, Chumphon. And to reach Koh Nang Yuan, boats are available from Koh Tao.
Festivals & events what's happening on the local scene
This annual fair is held in August. The first rambutan tree was planted in Surat Thani in 1926, and this fair celebrates the delicious fruit, which now grows widely in the area. Highlights include exhibitions of local products and ornamental plants, floats adorned with rambutan and other fruits, and demonstrations of trained monkeys who harvest coconuts.
Chak Phra Festival
This festival is held in October every year. Surat Thani celebrates the official end of the annual 3-month Buddhist Rains retreat (Phansa) with the Chak Phra Festival (literally ‘the procession of hauling the Buddha image'). The tradition stems from the belief that the Buddha ascended to Heaven during Phansa to preach to his mother. The festival marks the Buddha's return to Earth, and is an occasion for religious merit-making and general celebrations. Local people organise dazzling land and waterborne processions of revered Buddha images (to symbolise the Buddha's return to Earth) and boat races on the Tapi River where long boats, each manned by up to 50 oarsmen, are ebulliently raced. Religious devotion, spectacle and merriment combine to make Surat Thani's Chak Phra Festival a memorable annual event.
Local flavor from food to handicrafts
Located on the southern coast of Thailand, Surat Thani's soil and climate is ideal for agriculture. Farming and fishing are two major occupations of the province where fruit trees, rubber plants, coconuts, rice as well as several other field crops are grown. These occupations attract enormous amounts of income to Surat Thaini. Rambutan or Ngo in Thai, especially the so-called Ngo Rong Rian, is the most important and an economic crop of Surat Thani. Thanks to its prominent characteristics; namely, the large size, the beautiful shape and color, and the sweets, crunchy and easily-stoned flesh, the Ngo Rong Rian can sell at a higher price than other kinds of rambutan. Grown within a total area of approximately 60,000 rai, Ngo Rong Rian is a major earner of the provincial income worth not less than Bt 1,000 million each year. In order to reiterate the importance of the rambutan, the Surat Thani Provincial Administration has, therefore, organised the "Surat Thani Rambutan Fair" annually crop contests which begin in 1979. The fair has continued to be held as an annual event of the province. Previously, the event has been held the province's annual crop contests which first took place in 1969 having realised that Ngo Rong Rian has attracted enormous income as well as a reputation for Surat Thani, the organising committee of the contests, in 1979, changed the event into the "Surat Thani Rambutan Fair" in order to make Ngo Rong Rian more widely known to the public.
The origin of "Ngo Rong Rian"
Rong Rian, a Thai word for school , is the name of the most renowned rambutan of Surat Thani Province. Back in 1926, Mr. K. Wong, a Malaysian-Chinese, moved from Penang in Malaysia to operate a tin mine at Ban Muang Kae, Tambon Na San, Amphoe Ban Na San. He brought with him some rambutan seeds, which were first grown in Tambon Na San not too far to the north of his house