Category Archives: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Idyllic Ranong

Situated just north of Phuket, looking over the Indian Ocean, is the unspoilt province of Ranong. It is unspoilt in the sense that developers have been completely indifferent to the province’s natural beauty, preferring instead to pour their wealth into the nearby provinces of Krabi, Phuket and Phang-nga.

Ranong receives an incredibly minimal amount of tourists in comparison with its three big sister provinces. Most foreign backpackers are too busy sipping their banana shakes and scoffing banana pancakes in Krabi, it would seem, to even bother contemplating getting off the beaten track and venturing up to Ranong.

It really is a tranquilly remote province, boasting some of the best natural surroundings in the south of Thailand. (If you don’t mind the rain that is – Ranong gets the most rainfall in the whole of Thailand). Ranong’s largest island Ko Chang (not to get mixed up with the well-known Ko Chang in Trat province) is one of the least developed islands in Thailand. The island is so underdeveloped it has minimal electricity and hardly a phone in sight. It’s reminiscent of the beaches of Krabi 20 years back.

The island boasts a few white sandy beaches and lovely waters, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. And unlike some of the other provinces, the Chao Le (sea gypsy) villages haven’t turned into a “human zoo” for tourists to gawk at. If it’s a fancy resort with the latest spa fads you are after, then don’t bother going – accommodation on the island is traditionally Spartan.

Other idyllic islands in the vicinity include the Ko Khang Khao with its abundance of colourful coral, pristine forest and one superb beach. One more island not to be missed on a day-trip in Ranong is Ko Kam Yai. As there is no human settlement on this island, the place is a refuge for a variety of migrating birds seeking a peaceful resting place during the cooler months.

So, if you’re a beach bum who is fed up with the rowdy crowds in the South’s more touristy areas, you know where to go the next time you’re yearning for a bit of sun.

From Bangkok you can get a bus from the Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) and the trip takes about 9 hours (overnight buses leave about 8-9pm) From Phuket it’s about 5.

More information over at our website.

Phanom Rung: A Khmer Classic

When most expats in Bangkok read the place name of Buriram, the first things that spring to mind are images of the capital’s ever hard-working taxi drivers, waitresses, construction workers and even their very own housekeepers.

Buriram province, located approximately 400km from Bangkok and nestled along the Cambodian border between the provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) and Surin, is in fact home to arguably the most magnificent Khmer monument in Thailand (2nd only to Khao Phra Viharn, but now that place is officially in Cambodia!)

Over 1,000 years old, Prasat Hin Phanom Rung is situated on top of one of Buriram’s numerous extinct volcanoes. This Hindu sandstone monastery, built 400 metres above sea level facing Angkor Wat in the east, is dedicated to Shiva and his heavenly abode, the holy mountain of Kailash.

Before entering the main sanctuary of Phanom Rung, you will have to go across the main Naga Bridge, which mythically links earthly hell and Hindu heaven. Then, at the top of the hill, you will not only be impressed by the Khmer architecture but also by the breathtaking views of the countryside below.

Prasat Hin Phanom Rung once made international news, when it was found that its priceless Narai Lintel, stolen in 1960, had somehow turned up at an art institute in Chicago. Apparently, a Thai expert had personally pinched and sold it to the Chicago Art Institute who didn’t even bother researching the origins. Even Carabao, in one of their best known folk songs “Thap Lang”, protested at the theft and sang to the Americans: “Take back your Michael Jackson and give us back our Phra Narai.” That wish, after endless controversy and paperwork, was fulfilled in 1988.

Phanom Rung lies around 65km south of Buriram Town, just 12km off the main Highway 24. If you are coming by local transport, there are plenty of buses passing the Phanom Rung intersection at Ban Tako.
To get up the hill from there, you can either take a motorbike taxi or simply stick out your thumb and get a lift on the back of a pickup – that’s what I’ve done personally on two occasions.

Phitsanulok: Great History, Scenery

“This province is home to a revered Buddha image and four of the nation’s most beautiful national parks”

Known to the locals as simply Phi-lok, Phitsanulok is an ideal base for those wishing to explore the North and the western part of Isaan. And that’s what most folk do – just pass through and completely forget to even think of having a look around this amazing province.
Situated on the banks of the Nan River, the provincial town is home to arguably the country’s second most revered Buddha image, Phra Buddha Chinnarat (second only to the Emerald Buddha).
The temple housing this Buddha image is located in the middle of town and welcomes literally thousands of devotees a day from all over Thailand.

It was here that King Naresuan the Great was born and Pumpuang Duangjan, the beloved Queen of Thai Country Music, collapsed and died at the tender age of 31 in 1992.
Getting out of town, Phitsanulok has four national parks with unique natural endowments such as pristine virgin forest, waterfalls and a diversity of animals and plants, including endangered animals.

Considered one of the most fabulous sites in Thailand, Phu Hin Rong National Park, 125 kilometres from the provincial town and 1,000 metres above sea level, is famed for not only one of the most spectacular views in Thailand but also its extremely odd-looking stone formations.
The province is also home to a few unspoilt waterfalls, which most Thai folk have no idea about.

The location of Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, because of its high terrain, remote mountain location and close proximity to Laos, was chosen as the headquarters of the now-defunct CPT (Communist Party of Thailand) from 1967-1982. For those interested in a bit of Commie history, you can still see remains of living conditions, air-raid shelters and buildings. There is also a CPT museum.

So, the next time you are heading to the North, don’t forget the delights of Phitsanulok. You certainly will not be disappointed!

More tourist information about Phitsanulok at

Kick Back in Style on a Thai Train

“Forget that ear-splitting karaoke on overnight buses and take in the countryside at a leisurely pace on a Thai train.”

Westerners certainly have more of a love for trains than most of the locals in Thailand, the latter of whom consider such mode of transport as almost prehistoric – then again, I guess some of the trains operating actually are!
While tripping around Thailand though, it’s almost a must, at least once, to experience the one-and-only Thai train. Take the Bangkok-Chiang Mai train, for example: even though the train does the journey much slower than the overnight bus, you won’t have to tolerate blaring karaoke or sub-zero air-conditioning.

Instead, you could be having a lot of fun in the train’s funky restaurant meeting locals and fellow travellers while enjoying a friendly game of cards and a chilled beer.
And instead of waking up in the morning to the sight of a six-lane motorway and countless petrol stations, you’ll be relishing a beautiful sunrise from the heart of the Thai countryside.
If the North isn’t your cup of tea, then head to Isaan, which definitely has one of the best routes in Thailand: Nakhon Ratchasima to Ubon Ratchathani.

The train is incredibly slow but you can break your journey up and spend a night in the groovy provincial towns of Surin, Buri Ram and Si Sa Ket. It’s a great ride, on which you can enjoy the company of super-friendly locals, who will, for sure, be inviting you to tuck into a delicious on-board picnic of grilled chicken, papaya salad and sticky rice.
You’ll get the chance to pick up some Isaan dialect or even Khmer.
Then, for those who fancy Thailand’s longest route, book yourselves onto the Bangkok-Penang International Express. It’s a 21-hour journey to remember.

So, wherever you plan to go this year, make sure that at least once you take the one-and-only Thai train!

Off the Beaten Track in Trang

How come, with the age of the Internet with all that info available on places to go in Thailand, that us folk, when choosing a holiday destination, always select the same old places? And especially, when it’s a tropical beach we are after.

So, if you’re bored of well-trodden tourist haunts and their endless array of banana boats and bar beers, then why not get off the beaten track and head to the south of Thailand and Trang province. While the likes of Phuket, Krabi and Phang-nga get tourists and travelers by the bus and plane loads, Trang’s coastal beaches and 47 islands remain virtually forgotten.

Among all those islands is beyond a doubt one of the most breathtaking islands in Thailand ‘Emerald Cave’. The island is one of only two in the world that actually has a huge sun-lit open-roofed beach inside a cave. Be warned though, get there and out only during the low tide (by long-tailed boat) otherwise you’ll be stuck inside perched upon some rock til the following morning. Trang’s other island’s are synonymous for their unspoilt beauty and are idyllic for simply sun-bathing, diving or bird-spotting (and I mean the species that has two wings and a beak).

When you’ve had enough of the sun, you’ll be going home via Trang provincial town, a place not only home to a former prime minister (Mr Chuan) but also a unique breakfast cuisine found nowhere else in Thailand. One of those cuisines is Hokkien-style ‘dimsum’ which is dished up at local morning coffee shops (ko pii). Fortunately, you don’t even have to waste time trying to speak Thai to order, you simply eat what’s there laid on the table and pay for what you’ve eaten.

So, if you’re thinking of getting off the beaten track this summer, then think of sticking Trang on your itinerary. If you want to see some more beautiful natural wonders of Thailand then visit our sister site Seven Wonders of Thailand at