Surat Thani, 19-22 February 2020
With Surat Thani we reach our final destination in Thailand and indeed our final destination of our big Asia roundtrip – and the heavens are weeping for us.
Surat Thani, the City of Good People, on the Gulf of Thailand is mainly known as the jumping-off point to Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao. Tourists don’t usually stay here for more than a day, which is a shame because the city is perfectly placed to visit quiet beaches, waterfalls and ancient ruins, not to mention it has some fantastic southern thai food for low, low prices. With limited time left before flying back home we decide to save Ko Tao for future travels and get a taste of this authentic southern thai city instead. Or so we thought..
When we arrive in the city after a long day of travelling from Tonsai beach it’s still warm and sunny, like it has been for the entire time we’ve been in Thailand. Our hotel is located in the city center, near the pier and the food stalls of the night market, and surrounded by dozens of temples. From our window we can see the only local landmark mentioned by Lonely Planet: the statue of Guan Yin, which is the bodhisattva associated with compassion.
The river Tapi runs through the heart of the city into the Gulf of Thailand, and several canals have been dug out of old, connecting the various parts of the city.
Characteristic old stilt houses can be found all along the river. Ko Lamphu, an island in the middle of the river, has been turned into a pleasant public park.
While checking out a few temples, by chance we stumble upon a 100-year old wooden pavillion which was used during WW2 for opening negotiations between the Thai government and the Japanese army. A laminated piece of paper on the table reads that this is the original furniture that was used in 1941. And they say Surat Thani has no real sightseeing..
Our self guided walking tour ends at the City Pillar Shrine, a religious landmark we learn is made of wood from the Golden Shower tree. Indeed, at this point we realize our sightseeing options in the city have likely been exhausted, but luckily we are able make up some big plans for visiting the area around Surat Thani.
Khanom beach is located roughly 65km east of the city and may be considered to be one of Thailand’s best beaches, not in the least because it has little to no tourism.
To the west, the small fisherman’s village of Chaiya houses remains of an ancient kingdom. Srivijaya was a seafaring empire from Sumatra, which influenced much of Southeast Asia from the 8th until the 12th century AD. Landmark temples such as Wat Kaew and Wat Phra Borommathat are beautiful examples of Srivijaya architecture.
And finally there’s the Monkey Training College just outside the city limits where you can ride a bicycle with a friendly monkey on your back.
It all sounds pretty great, but then the rain starts and never stops for the entire time we have left in Surat Thani. I suppose it’s a pretty good sign the universe is telling us it’s time to head home for a little while.
Even though the weather was against us, we’ve enjoyed great hospitality in the City of Good People. Tomorrow we’ll be flying to Bangkok, where it’s time to deliver the verdict on our time in Thailand from the hotel pool!