Hotels in Surat Thani, Thailand
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Surat Thani: Gateway to the Gulf of Thailand
It may lack the glitz of Bangkok or the chilled-out vibe of Chiang Mai, but Surat Thani boasts its own charm. A port on the Tapi River, the city is located on the Kra Isthmus, the spit of land in southern Thailand bordered by the Andaman Sea to the west and the Gulf of Thailand to the east. A transfer point for Ko Samui-bound travellers, visitors don’t always stop to appreciate the area’s understated charms. But this, however, is a region where river, jungle and sea collide to offer a kaleidoscope of attractions, all of which are well-worth exploring.
Exploring the City of Good People
Surat Thani, which translates into English as “city of good people”, was reportedly given its moniker by King Rama VI at the beginning of the 20th Century due to its citizens’ deep devotion to Buddhism. Today, as a busy passenger and cargo port, the city’s heart is centred along the banks of the Tapi and many of its main sites can be found on or just off of Talad Mai Road, which runs more or less parallel to this waterway. Surat Thani’s City Pillar Shrine, perhaps the district’s most famous landmark, is located off this main thoroughfare as are many local hotels and restaurants. Bright white and serene by day, it’s worth visiting this Thai wat after dark when it’s lit in a riot of neon beams. Indeed, night owls will find themselves at home here; the city’s night market, located close to this shrine, comes to life after dark, offering an array of cheap eats and affordable wares.
Surat Thani and Surrounds
As the capital of the eponymous province, Surat Thani is set among a landscape of river and jungle. Home to a unique range of flora and fauna, it's worth making an effort to explore the wider region. While there are a number of river cruise operators within the city of Surat Thani itself, those after something a bit different might like to consider a trip west of town to Khao Sok National Park. Famous for its karst topography, this area features dramatic limestone peaks, verdant forests and a considerable array of wildlife; in addition to elephants and tigers, if you're lucky, you might even spot – or more likely smell – the Rafflesia Kerrii Meijer , one of the world's largest and most malodorous blossoms. In addition to guided forest treks and tours, intrepid visitors can also canoe the reserve's Cheow Lan Lake and explore the park's wider network of caves and waterfalls.
Thailand is a food lover's paradise, with each region of the country boasting its own unique range of culinary influences. Here in the south of the nation, Indian and Malay accents abound and it's no surprise to find that the coconuts traded up and down the Tapi have found their way into numerous local dishes. For curry lovers, the milder massaman – usually made with beef and ample amounts of coconut milk – is the regional favourite, but for something different, hungry visitors should keep an eye out for the sour vegetable curries for which the area is also well-known. Those looking to sample the local cuisine will find no better place to dine than at Surat Thani's night market. Here, travellers will find an array of regional specialities plus tried-and-tested Thai favourites like pad thai, som tom and green and red curries. Numerous hawkers also offer a range of Western eats such as pizza and fried chicken.
Sleeping in Surat Thani
When it comes to accommodation, Surat Thani's popularity as a transit point for visitors making a beeline to the islands of Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan is actually a good thing. Indeed, whether you're intent on staying in the area for a while or just passing through on your way to the Gulf of Thailand, you won't have any trouble finding a bed here. In the city of Surat Thani itself, visitors will find that the bulk of the area's hotels, guest houses, hostels and lodges are located on Talad Mai Road near the banks of the River Tapi. Those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle should look to the outskirts of town to find larger resorts and villa-style digs. Still, travellers after an alternative experience can opt to head out of the city to the nearby Khao Sok National Park where they can sleep in peace in floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake.