Photo: Thai feasting.

The Khao Chaison loop

Our rating:


Get a quote for travel insurance today.

Monkeys, hot springs, temples, curry paste and shadow puppets are some of the draws of Baan Khao Chaison and Bang Kaeo, a pair of small towns located south of Phattalung along the railroad tracks. None of the individual attractions will knock your socks off, but they combine for some unusual experiences along with glimpses of rural Southern Thai life.

Travel better, travel smarter

Save money, receive our latest updates and get the most out of your travels.


What on earth is a foreigner doing here?

Mr Tui and crew at Kan Yao Curry Paste.

Heading east out of Phattalung town on Highway 4047, we cut south on 4050 and got sidetracked by a faded blue sign in Thai for Prik Gaeng Kan Yao (it also includes the phone numbers: 01 479 9107, 074 840 414). Following the sign west for a couple of kilometres, we arrived at a small “factory” that churns out this well-known brand of Southern Thai curry pastes, which are sold in markets all over Thailand.

After a career as a Muay Thai fighter, owner Mr Tui started the business to meet the insatiable demand for fiery Southern Thai curries. He specialises in three pastes — gaeng som, gaeng krathi and gaeng ped — that can be used as bases for dozens of different curry dishes. He showed us two large rooms filled with medicine-ball-size mounds of paste, claiming to sell all of it in just three days — we didn’t believe it until he took us around the corner to see his lavish mansion with a shiny Mercedes parked out front. While no English is spoken, anyone is welcome to stop by and purchase small sealed packets of the curry paste.

The other room had twice as much.

The other room had twice as much.

Continuing south, Route 4050 turns into 1011 before reaching the village of Baan Ton Don, where we turned left (east) for the ride to Baan Khao Chaison. A few of the town’s old wooden shophouses double as khao gaeng shops dishing out some of the curries that can be made with Mr Tui’s prik gaeng. The highlight here is the Khao Chaison Hot Springs, located a kilometre southwest of town along Route 1017 (take a right to go west on the main drag when you reach Baan Khao Chaison from the north, then it’s a left marked by an English sign).

“Find your own bridge, human.”

At the foot of a steep and shaggy limestone cliff (Khao Chaison itself), several shallow springs attract locals who mostly dip their legs in the warm mineral water. Naturally heated showers can also be used, while steam rises from other pools that reach up to 60 degrees Celsius.

You won't want to bathe in this one.

You won’t want to bathe in this one.

The hot springs blend into a park where troupes of monkeys seem to enjoy harassing the roosters. A human-made waterfall flows down a rock face that can be reached by a footbridge — if the simians let you pass. To the south, the hot springs blend into a dilapidated temple with moss-covered pavilions standing over spirit shrines and Buddha images.

This one set up just for the monkeys?

This one set up just for the monkeys?

Entering the hot springs costs only 10 baht per motorbike and 20 baht per car. Vendors sell food and drinks along with souvenirs in the car park; shadow puppets can be purchased here, but you should hold off if heading down to Bang Kaeo.

We kept south along Route 1017, hanging a left (southwest) towards Bang Kaeo after a few km. Along the way we passed Kaeng Nam Hu Rae, a stream that locals cool off in when the current calms during the dry months. Bang Kaeo is just three kilometres east of Hu Rae; we took a left (east) on Route 4138 just after passing the train station and then crossed the tracks before taking the next right, following a blue sign for Bang Kaeo Handicraft Arts Centre.

Hu Rae Stream: not so swimmable in early December.

Hu Rae Stream: not so swimmable in early December.

Three kilometres south of Bang Kaeo and marked by an English sign along with a pair of “joker” statues, the handicrafts centre looks like a rundown garage where you might expect to find greasy guys working on old motorbikes. But inside, a few artists plugged away at the art of shadow puppetry, or nang thalung, which is said to have been invented in Phattalung.

Keeping an art alive.

Keeping an art alive.

During our visit, we watched as one artist painstakingly pounded carefully dictated holes in cow hide to create a detailed Buddha image. Another painted gold-and-green paint onto a depiction of the hermit Ruessi. Finished pieces on display portrayed finely detailed scenes from the Ramayana with multiple characters; Southern Thai-style jokers with bulging eyes and bellies; and a range of Hindu deities and Buddha images.

The slightly disheveled studio.

The slightly disheveled studio.

While the quality of work appeared to be excellent in Bang Kaeo, and watching the artists was intriguing, Suchart Subin’s House of Shadow Puppetry in Nakhon Si Thammarat provides a better experience for those interested in this visual and performing art. Still, the Bang Kaeo studio is worth a visit, especially if you’re after a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Prices range from less than 50 baht up to several thousands of baht for large framed puppets.

Unpainted puppets of Ruessi the magic hermit.

Unpainted puppets of Ruessi the magic hermit.

After doubling back to the centre of Bang Kaeo, we struck east (right) on Route 4138 and turned left (north) on 4004, which runs alongside Thale Sap in Chong Thanon district. Here we stopped to pick up a few bags of sun-dried fish, though we passed on the angry-looking fish heads and bottles of rank fermented fish bladder. We then cruised up through Laem Chong, a peninsula with lake views on one side and a colourful village on the other.

Doesn't that just make you want to eat a whole bag of fish heads?

Doesn’t that just make you want to eat a whole bag of fish heads?

From here we followed 4004 as it cut west before turning south (left) on 4081 and then an almost immediate right (north) on 4003, following a sign for Wat Khien Bang Kaeo, an Ayutthaya-era temple.

Buddha image in the

Buddha image in the “just put on lipstick” posture.

Set amid leafy grounds beside the Bang Kaeo River, the temple features a slender Sri Lankan-style chedi that rises aboe a centuries-old wihaan with a wood-and-ceramic roof perched over a happy looking seated Buddha image. Other eye-grabbing attributes include fine gingerbread-style carvings on a wooden house that appears to hail form the late 19th century, and an immense tamarind tree draped in beard-like mosses and abundant orchids.

One grandfatherly tree.

One grandfatherly tree.

As the late-day sun glowed copper and children pedalled home, we drove back north, passing Phattha Thong Beach along Route 4003, which meets up with 4018 and continues north. Turning back west on 4047 to Phattalung town, we passed within a km of the ancient palaces and temples in Baan Lam Pam, which could be squeezeed in as part of the loop if you get a real early start.

Book a flight, train, bus, taxi or ferry in Thailand with 12Go Asia

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Phattalung.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Phattalung.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Phattalung.
 Read up on how to get to Phattalung, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Phattalung? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

Experience the Andaman Sea
Experience the Andaman Sea
Ad Spend 3 days / 2 nights on The Junk
From US$400.

Read more

See below for more sights and activities in Phattalung that are listed on

Top of page

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Phattalung? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

Top of page