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Surat Thani - City of Good People

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Surat Thani is a province in the south of Thailand, noted for its beautiful beaches and access to many popular tourist islands. Surat Thani translates to ‘City of Good People.’ The city of Surat Thani was named by the King of Thailand in 1915, ostensibly because of the devout Buddhism practiced by the majority of the population. Prior to the name change the city was called ‘Bandon,’ which means ‘Village on High Ground.’ The city is also has one of the highest populations of Catholics in Thailand. The area is known to have been populated since prehistoric times.

Surat Thani is accessible by air, bus, railroad, and by ferry boat from several of the islands. The main ferry boat sock is at Don Sak and the boats go to Ko Samui and Ko Phangan.

If you enjoy oysters, Surat Thani is famous for them. The finest quality oysters in all of Thailand come from Surat Thani and many restaurants feature them. A highly popular Thai fruit is the rambutan. This is a red, golf ball sized fruit surrounded by a husk loaded with soft spikes. The fruit inside is quite sweet and crunchy. The best rambutan varieties come from Surat Thani.

Surat Thani is also famous for an exotic food, salted duck eggs. The local ducks feed primarily on shellfish, which renders their yolks a red color. The eggs are salted in brine and cured by covering them with soil.

Accommodations come in all price ranges. You can find accommodations ranging from guesthouses to luxury resorts. Along with beautiful beaches you can also find boat rides to many nearby islands, all of which are with national park boundaries and many are pristine. Day trips and overnight trips are readily available. For those who enjoy fishing, fishing trips are also available. SCUBA diving and snorkeling is also readily available.

Many foreigners wishing to escape the chaos of the Songkran holidays in Pattaya and Bangkok visit Surat Thani during that time period. While you can still expect to be the target of water splashers, the holiday there is much more subdued and traditional.

Many beautiful waterfalls can be found in the area, along with some of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand. Caves are also in abundance.

Some of the more popular places to visit include:

• The Rock Fish Museum – This museum was established in 1992 by an old fisherman whose work included lifelike sculptures of more than 1000 fish, all of which can be seen at the museum.

• Monkey schools – Monkeys are trained to harvest coconuts for coconut farmers. These ‘schools’ are usually open to the public and can be great fun to visit.

• Oyster farms – The finest quality oysters in Thailand come from Surat Thani and you can visit the oyster farms. Most of the oyster farms are located at the mouths of the Kradae and Than Thong canals.

• Khao Sok National Park – This park is a large moist evergreen forest park and attracts bird watchers from all over the world. A great many exotic bird species can be found here.

• Tang Nam – This is a twin gorge created by streams over the millennia. It is a spectacular sight and is also an important Buddhist locale.

• Khlong Phanom National Park – This park contains several caverns, with beautiful stalagmite and stalactite formations.

There are many more waterfalls, Buddhist temples, parks, etc. to visit.

You will not find much in the way of night life in Surat Thani and you also will not find much in the way of western food except at resorts that cater to foreigners. Even those do not feature very much western food. But if you are a seafood lover, then Surat Thani is a wonderful experience. Along with the famous oysters you can enjoy and abundance of fresh fish, crab, and other shellfish delights.

Surat Thani is a much more laid back province than other beach cities in Thailand. The number of days to plan depends on what you wish to do and whether you intend to make island or diving trips.

cc 2009

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Samui is a good choice for many travelers.

Many people like the upscale Chaweng on Ko Samui. It has a little something for everybody, beautiful beaches and nightlife.

Lamai on Ko Samui is probably the best choice for the sex tourist.

Ko PhanGan is the destination of choice for backpackers and their full moon parties are legendary.

Khao Suk is for the outdoorsey type. If things like leeches bother you, perhaps best to skip.

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There are so many beautiful places to visit in Surat Thani. But if you are a SCUBA diver or thinking about giving it a shot, I would recommend Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan.

Koh Tao provides diving adventure for divers of all experience levels. Koh Tao burst into fame as a haven for divers and as a major training center.

The island offers more than 20 dive sites, most of them close-by (about 15-20 minutes). You can enjoy crystal clear water almost all-year-round, with visibility often exceeding 30 meters. The weather is sunny most of the time except during the Monsoon month in November.

The reefs around the island slope from about 2 to 20 meters, while off-shore pinnacles can drop to a depth of more than 30 meters. Some of the highlights you can expect underwater are sea anemones, schools of batfish, barracudas, trevallies & giant groupers. With some luck you might spot spanish mackerel, filefish, coral shrimpfish or the poisonous scorpionfish. Count yourself lucky if you see a whale shark swimming by!

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