The name Nakhon Si Thammarat may be unfamiliar to most overseas tourists, but this charming southern Thai province has much to offer. Discover the history of the provincial capital, relax on the quiet beaches of Khanom and experience local life in the Nakhon Si Thammarat countryside. Shown here in no particular order, check out our suggestions for some of the best things to see and do in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
1) Stroll along the quiet beaches of Khanom
The laid-back beaches of Khanom are an excellent choice for anybody searching for an alternative to the better-known tourist destinations. Most tourists travelling to the Gulf Coast head to the famous islands of Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao. But just to the south of Donsak pier (the departure point for ferries to Ko Samui) is Khanom.
This stretch of coastline with its long sandy beaches remains largely undeveloped, but with enough low-key hotels, homestays and restaurants to make it an excellent choice for a relaxing beach holiday.
2) Take a boat drip to see the pink dolphins
The waters near Khanom are home to pink dolphins, a rare albino breed with a colourful pink tinge. Although most hotels in the Khanom area can arrange a boat trip for you to see the dolphins, sightings depend on weather, sea conditions and luck.
If you’re interested in visiting the pink dolphins, local resident Daniel Collins from Margarita Beach has this advice for the best chance of spotting these delightful creatures:
“If you have your own transport head to Kwang Poa pier about 25 minutes north of Khanom where you can book a boat trip directly with the fishermen. The boats from Kwang Poa provide life jackets and a typical tour lasts around 1.5-2 hours and takes you past some amazing rock formations known as ‘pancake rocks’. Often the boats will stop at secluded bays to allow you to enjoy a swim. The best chance of seeing the dolphins is early morning. Aim to leave the pier between 7-8 a.m. After your tour, the Seaview Bar in Kwang Poa is worth a visit. They serve some great fresh seafood and Thai food in a laid back reggae style beach bar. For something a bit fancier, but still very laid back, try Baan Thong Ching Hotel located over the hill a five minute drive from Kwang Poa. It’s an idyllic setting with an amazing almost private beach and a charming restaurant and bar serving both European and Thai food”.
3) Drive the coastal road
A scenic coastal route links the districts of Khanom and Sichon. The road hugs the Nakhon Si Thammarat coastline and twists its way through a picturesque national park. With a number of viewpoints, cafes and restaurants along the way, this is a lovely road to drive.
Daniel from Margarita Beach suggests stopping for refreshments at Blue Terrace or Khanom Lookout at the southern end of Khanom for great views over Khanom beach and the surrounding countryside.
4) Discover the history of Nakhon Si Thammarat city
Historians disagree over the date the city of Nakhon Si Thammarat was originally founded (thought to be around 1,500 years ago), but what is beyond doubt is that this city is steeped in history. The city has been known in the past as Ligor and Tambralinga and has long been one of the most significant cities in the south of Thailand. The port city has been an important hub for merchant ships across the world including those from the British, Dutch, and Portuguese empires in addition to China, India, and Sri Lanka.
Pick up a map from the local Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office and embark on any of the suggested walking routes. See the remnants of the old city walls, visit an array of temples and shop for handicrafts and the local nielloware jewellery.
5) Make merit at Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahavihan
No visit to Nakhon Si Thammarat is complete without a visit to Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahavihan. Not only the most important Buddhist temple in the city, but one of the most sacred religious sites in southern Thailand. It’s thought that the main stupa, the Phra Borommathat Chedi, was built in the early 13th century and contains a relic of Buddha. It’s also believed that the bodhi tree in the temple grounds is a sprout from the original tree at Bodh Gaya in India where the Buddha sat and reached enlightenment.
Standing at almost 80-metres high, the main chedi is topped with solid gold and surrounded by more than a hundred smaller chedis. On Makha Bucha Day and Visakha Bucha Day, Buddhists pay homage at the temple with the Hae Phra Khuen That procession where devotees wrap cloth around the main chedi.
6) See a traditional Thai puppet performance
‘Nang’ shadow puppet shows are a traditional form of entertainment in Thailand. In the south of the country, these folk shows are known as ‘nang talung’ to distinguish them from the nang yai (big puppet shows) seen elsewhere in Thailand. The word talung is thought to have derived from the southern Thai province of Phatthalung. Whatever the origin of the name, these surprisingly bawdy shows are a joy to watch.
There can be few better places in Thailand to learn about this traditional form of entertainment than the Ban Nang Talung shadow puppet museum located in the grounds of the home of the National Artist, Suchart Subsin. Witness a show, learn how the puppets are made and buy souvenirs to take home with you.
7) Experience local life at Baan Khiri Wong
For a taste of local life, head out to the countryside and Baan Khiri Wong. Visitors to this award-winning community-based tourism village can try their hand at making local handicrafts such as making soap or tie-dye. Around the village you’ll find plenty of coffee shops, restaurants and handicraft outlets.
The air here is reported to be especially clean and with its river setting, mountain views and nostalgic lifestyle, Baan Khiri Wong is popular with Thai visitors. The village is located around 30 minutes’ drive west of Nakhon Si Thammarat city. If you don’t have your own transport, it’s possible to take a local bus/songthaew there (ask at your hotel for times) or trips can be booked with tour companies like Take Me Tour.
8) Enjoy the natural beauty of Khao Luang National Park
Khao Luang is the highest mountain in southern Thailand. Located in the eponymous national park, this area is perfect for nature lovers with a plethora of hiking trails and waterfalls to enjoy. If you’re looking for a local guide for waterfall treks around Khanom, Daniel at Margarita Beach recommends Khun Gabe who is also the yoga instructor at Aava Resort.
Khao Luang National Park is home to an abundance of rare flowers and wildlife and the park is especially popular with bird-watchers. Camping is allowed and can be booked in advance via the Department of National Parks website although the website isn’t always the easiest to use.
Thank you to Daniel Collins at Margarita Beach: Bar, Grill, Shacks in Khanom for sharing his insider tips and advice.
Map of Nakhon Si Thammarat
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