5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
First published 31st October, 2010
One of the very common questions we see on Travelfish.org is "What is the fastest way to get down south?" Down south referring generally to one of the three Gulf islands of Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan or Ko Tao, or to the west coast Andaman islands out from Krabi, Phuket and Trang. You can fly, get an overnight bus or a train, but before that, take a breath, slow down and think about what you might be missing. With a sly week or so up your sleeve, here are five spots we'd venture are worth a look in and hey, you may like them so much you'll never make it to the islands!
While it isn't on the beach itself, the little-touristed provincial capital of Phetburi (often also referred to as Phetchaburi) marks the beginning of the "real" southern Thailand. It's a temple town, set astride a decidedly average looking river (keep an eye out for monitor lizards). There is a Royal Palace overrun with monkeys and a couple or pretty interesting caves worth a look in. There are peddle-powered samlors to get around in and a wealth of great Thai food — be sure to sample the sickly sweet desert khanom mo kaeng.
Further afield there are beaches — Haad Puk Tian and Haad Chao Samran are the most accessible, and while neither will win "Beach of the year" awards, they're most than appropriate for a meal and drinks under the shade. Puk Tian also has some pretty, ahhh, noteworthy sculptures by the water.
Phetburi is also a launching point for trips to Kaeng Krachan National Park (Thailand's largest). Trekking is available along with bird-watching, boat trips and over overnight ventures. We saw a lot of hornbills on one visit. The park is best visited on at least a semi-organised basis, and Tom at Rabieng Guesthouse is the man to talk to.
Allow at least two days to visit Phetburi's temples, palace and caves, two days if you're fitting in some beach time. Another couple of days will be needed if you're planning an overnight stay in the National Park. Phetburi is on both the train and main north-south bus line.
Khao Sam Roi Yot
While Phetburi is the leaping off point for Thailand's largest national park, Khao Sam Roi Yot is one of the smallest. It is a fractured park, beset by competing land claims and shrimp farms, but what has been protected is well worth a look. There are a couple of viewpoints you can climb to, boat trips and an especially photogenic royal pavilion inside a cave. There are a handful of beaches you can visit, and, best of all, there is reasonably priced accommodation at Phu Noi Beach, which sits just outside the park boundary.
There's little else in the way of "tourist services" but, for a couple of slow days in a relatively natural setting this can be a good choice. It's worth noting though that weekends are best avoided due to larger groups taking the bulk of the Park accommodation and Bangkok-exiles grabbing the best digs on Phu Noi.
Prachuap Khiri Khan
All that nature-loving in Kaeng Krachan and Khao Sam Roi Yot will have helped you work up and appetite, and nowhere can an appetite be better satisfied than in Prachuap Khiri Khan! The seaside provincial capital is famous for its seafood and while Hua Hin is perhaps better known, we'd say hands down is the food not only better here, it is also a good deal cheaper. make sure you set aside at least one evening for seafood munchies down by the water.
Eating aside, Prachuap has it's own rather pretty beach, but there are even nicer beaches just to the north and accommodation is available at both. There's also a hilltop temple (including the mandatory marauding simians) with splendid views of the bay.Allow two full days to take in the beaches and to cram in sufficient seafood.
There are actually two Bang Saphans. Bang Saphan Noi and Bang Saphan Yai, and let's put it this way, if they were islands, we'd be writing "this is what Ko Samui was like 20 years ago". These are old style beach digs. There are plenty of places to stay and lots of cheap, local-focussed eateries.
The beaches are not manicured, touristed affairs — there will be debris and flotsam on the beach — but there won't be any Full Moon Parties, never-ending tailor shops and pesky beach vendors flogging you pineapple and massages. Pack a book or three, a lot of sunscreen and perhaps hire a motorbike to explore the surrounds — there are a lot of surrounds worth exploring around here.
Allow two days to two weeks.
So this is where you were going to rush to to get the ferry to Ko Tao right? Well don't jump on it just yet. First and foremost, at least one night in Chumphon is mandatory so you can avail yourself of the absolutely cracking night market. It is a culinary coup. Prices are rock bottom and the food fabulous — and it is open late — really late.
If sitting around eating for three days straight isn't your idea of fun, there's scope for boat trips to offshore islands and Chumphon also has a budding spelunking scene. You'll most likely need to arrange trips for either of these via the near endless supply of travel agents in town. If that is too much trouble, then hit the beach. Haad Sairee would be our first choice, but Thung Wua laen is also reasonable.
Allow two days for Chumphon itself and another day or so to explore the nearby beaches.
So there you go, you're allowed to go get the ferry to Ko Tao now :)
Related readingWhat is the best beach on Ko Tao?
Diving Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
Which island in Trang?
Catching a train in Thailand
Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (4)
- Burma (3)
- Cambodia (19)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (14)
- All stories
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (6)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (59)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (29)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (18)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (14)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (15)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.