Bastion of curry, kopi and cake, Trang is one of Thailand's most pleasant provincial capitals. In addition to the phenomenal food scene, a handful of natural and historic attractions in the surrounding province provide something to do between sips of the local Robusta brew. Most come for the islands, but food and culture enthusiasts would be wise to hang around town.
With around 50,000 residents, a very small expat community and a trickle of travellers, Trang is lively without being crowded; convenient without being touristy; intriguing but not at all contrived. The scammers and "mafia" of Krabi and Phuket have happily left Trang to operate on a much lower key, a step removed from mass tourism.
Like many Southern Thai cities, Trang was established on the back of the tin-mining trade that attracted thousands of Chinese migrants in the 18th and 19th centuries. The main industry switched to rubber when, in 1899, prominent governor Phraya Ratsadanupradit imported Thailand's first rubber tree from Malaysia. It still stands today in the old port town of Kantang.
Trang's Chinese roots are evident in everything from the attractive Sino-European houses to the steamed rice flour buns often baked in them. A streak of frangipani trees graces the main drag, where century-old cafes serve jasmine tea alongside the coffee (known here as kopi) grown in the Ban That and Khao Luang mountains that rise from the province's remote west.
The area is also home to many Thai Muslims who add their roti, biryani rice and fiery curries to Trang's food scene, which we truly feel is among the best of any Thai city -- and that's saying a lot! Some of the food has Malay roots, and the area is thought to have been part of the Kedah Tua kingdom many moons ago. The name Trang itself probably derives from the Malay word, terang, or "light".
Travellers know Trang mainly for its islands, and indeed the allure of these has kept the mainland attractions from becoming too popular (even the Trang islands are still relatively obscure). The historic Kantang old town, a thrilling jungle canopy walkway in the botanical garden, an array of quiet mainland beaches and no less than 10 waterfalls are all worthy of day trips.
And if you're here for the islands, you've come to the right place. From
Dotted with karst cliffs and mangrove forests, Trang's slice of the Andaman Sea is also home to the endangered dugong, or “sea cow,” a close cousin of the manatee known for its peaceful disposition and endearing expression. Only a few hundred are left in the wild here, mainly around Ko Libong, but you'll see plenty of them in pictures and statuary throughout the province.
In case you need another reason to stick around, Trang town's accommodation scene includes half a dozen very good guesthouses with private rooms starting as low as 150 baht a night. Competition is increasingly stiff, with fairly comfy digs (air-con, TV, hot water) readily available in the 300 to 700 baht range. Good luck finding that in the islands!
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Text and/or map last updated on 23rd January, 2015.
Check Trang tickets online
|Trang - Bangkok, Southern Terminal ฿548 – ฿1,050 11h 15m – 12h 45m|