Thailand - Nakhon Sri Thammarat
It's just like being in Thailand
My thoughts on different locations in Thailand have changed tremendously over the years. One reason is that places change; and in Thailand, change is normally for the worse. The greed for money and the subsequent opening up of Thailand to mass tourism has turned dreamy islands into the kind of places I would never want to go to again.
Buddha images at Wat Phrathat; one of the most important temples in southern Thailand
For a very long time now, going to tourist hotspots in Thailand has made me feel quite depressed. I never go to these places voluntary but only when I have to in order to meet friends or relatives who have turned up in Thailand. These occasions always cause mixed emotions. It's great to see people I know but why do they always have to go to Phuket?
The places I choose to go to in Thailand these days are those that are unlikely to have fat, middle-aged, lobster-coloured farangs walking around the tourist shops in swimwear, young permanently intoxicated farang males, Indian tailor shops every 10 yards and huge bar areas with hundreds of Isaan prostitutes.
The city of Nakhon Sri Thammarat is one such place. My first visit was shortly after coming to live in Thailand and I don't think I was ready for it. I felt out of place and it seemed a bit depressing. My intention was to stay for three or four nights but I stayed for only one.
My second visit was a quick stop on the way back from Khanom Beach in Nakhon Sri Thammarat province but it got me interested enough to think about making another visit which I did in April 2006. On this occasion I intended stopping just one night but extended my trip to stay two nights and I really enjoyed it.
Years ago, I was in Phuket at a dive shop I had previously used chatting to one of the divemasters there. A Thai girl joined us and the other guy asked where she was from. She told him Nakhon Sri Thammarat and when he heard the answer he proceeded to draw a finger across his neck. They both laughed. I was a bit bemused because I didn't get the joke.
Nakhon Sri Thammarat has a huge fresh fruit market
I found out later that Nakhon has a reputation for criminality and bad people. My local Thai friends reinforced this notion and told me to be careful there. On my first visit I was careful, but I didn't encounter any bad people.
I have realised during my time in Thailand that the Thais don't tend to trust anyone outside of their immediate neighbourhood. Thai friends told me not to accept drinks from people in Trang because the drinks would be spiked and told me that if you drive in Phattalung you will have rocks thrown at your car. This is complete nonsense.
Natives of Nakhon Sri Thammarat (and I am now married to one) might appear to be a little fierce and aggressive because they tend to be more honest with their feelings than other Thais. Most Thais will speak to please others and not be honest with their true feelings. Everyone wants to be your friend but only for money.
There is none of this in Nakhon. People are a little more aloof than in other parts of Thailand but they aren't unfriendly when you talk to them. It's just that they don't make a point of speaking with strangers unless there is a real need, which is actually how most people are who are not being insincere.
On the other hand, there is actually more crime in Nakhon Sri Thammarat than most other places in Thailand. According to the book 'Corruption & Democracy in Thailand' by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Sungsidh Piriyarangsan, Nakhon has the second highest level of crime in Thailand after Chonburi.
As is the case with all Thais, it is advisable to try not to upset them. This probably applies a little more in places like Nakhon Sri Thammarat.
Things To Do
If you feel it is necessary to find a list of 'Things To Do' before you visit anywhere in Thailand you are reading the wrong web site. If you require a go-kart track, a Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not museum, artificial Thai boxing and a bungee-jumping crane, go to Pattaya.
Part of the old city wall that used to completely enclose Nakhon Sri Thammarat
The whole point about visiting somewhere like Nakhon is that you can experience what Thailand is really about. I can never make out those people who spend two weeks in a five star resort in Phuket and then go on about how much they liked Thailand. What exactly did they learn about Thailand?
There are 'Things To Do' but that isn't really the point. Just walk around, talk to the local people and observe a way of life that you won't see on the beach at Koh Samui or in your hotel at Nana Plaza.
Find the old city wall - its sheer size will give you an idea of how important Nakhon Sri Thammarat was in the past and what measures had to be taken to protect the city from invaders. Visit the fresh fruit market and it will give you an idea of just how rich the province is in natural resources. When I had visited Khanom beach previously, it seemed that every rai of land had some kind of fruit growing on it.
I have never seen as much fruit as I did at the market and the attention I got also told me that very few foreigners visit. My presence was enough to stop the locals doing whatever they were doing and just stare at me. In those situations it's always nice to be able to speak with them in Thai as they just don't expect it.
Nakhon is home to the most important Buddhist temple in southern Thailand - Wat Phrathat - and this shouldn't be missed. The ladies selling garlands and incense offerings will be happy to show you how to pay your respects properly at the temple and you will observe hundreds of Thais doing the same.
Within the temple is a small museum which isn't exactly well organised but has some interesting artefacts and examples of old money. It's free but contributions are welcome. At the desk where the contributions are made is a small shrine with baby pictures. The babies are those of couples who weren't able to conceive until they prayed at Wat Phrathat and were made fertile.
Nakhon has a great museum which, when I went, had no visitors. It was a strange feeling having lights and fans switched on for me as I went from room to room. Entrance is free - or it was when I went, anyway.
The area was once a part of the Srivijaya empire and there is a big Indian influence. The museum contains many Brahman statues and the Indian influenced culture is clear to see. What I found most fascinating though were all the insights into local culture.
For the Nakhon people, every major life event is surrounded by lots of ritual and ceremony. Birth is the first major life event and there are rituals for burying the placenta as well as the first time the baby is fed at the breast.
Marriage is another big life event and a very important one. The whole passage of marriage is very well documented in the museum with written descriptions, photos, paintings and waxwork scenes. I desperately wanted to take some photos as the displays are so good but unfortunately photography isn't allowed inside the building.
I just found so many pieces of information interesting and most of it was new. Unfortunately, I have already started to forget the details because there was so much information so please forgive my poor memory.
The excellent and highly recommended National Museum located at Nakhon Sri Thammarat
For example, if a boy is interested in a girl, his family will make his intentions known to the girls' family. To avoid embarrassment and rejection, if she isn't interested, the girls' family will turn a certain object in the house upside down which signals that she isn't interested. That way, his feelings are spared.
Matchmakers are an integral part of the culture and the bride and groom are led to their wedding ceremony by the matchmaker. After the ceremony the couple are taken to their bedroom by their parents and given some instruction.
I thought this was some kind of sex manual but according to my girlfriend it is just instruction on how to keep the marriage intact and happy. It's a great museum and definitely worth a visit if you are in town.
If you're a backpacker and have no money you can stay with the monks opposite Wat Phrathat. One of them suggested this to me and I also spoke to a female student who was studying in Nakhon and who needed a cheap place to stay. Obviously they must have a special dorm for females. The only charge is a contribution for electricity so you can stay for Bt10 or Bt20 a night.
Monks at their monastery just across the road from Wat Phrathat
On my visits to Nakhon I have always stayed at the Grand Park hotel. Room rates are Bt600 in the old wing are Bt700 in the new wing. The address is 1204/79 Phaknakorn Road, Tambon Klung, Amphoe Muang, Nakorn Sri Thammarat, 80000. Tel. +66 (0)75 317666-73. Fax. +66 (0)75 317666.
There seems to be plenty of accommodation available and it is cheap compared to tourist areas of Thailand. The Grand Park appears to be about the top hotel in town and its highest rate is only Bt700.
The best hotels in Thailand get booked up quickly and walk-in rates are the most expensive. To make sure you get the best rate and stay where you want to stay, book on-line in advance.
From what I have seen, there isn't very much in Amphoe Muang Nakhon Sri Thammarat, and what there is is centred around Wat Phrathat. Thais from all over southern Thailand and beyond come to pay their respects at the temple.
Wat Phrathat is a popular destination for visiting Malaysians
It is also quite common to see busloads of Malaysians at Wat Phrathat but they usually come up for day trips from Hat Yai and don't stay overnight. The big welcome sign in Malay outside the temple is a bit of a giveaway.
Even the beautiful Khanom area of Nakhon Sri Thammarat doesn't see many tourists but that could all change very suddenly when Phuket and Samui are completely destroyed and the developers start looking elsewhere for another location in Thailand to ruin.
If you can't live without Big Macs, KFC and other ahaan farang delicacies, Nakhon probably isn't the place for you. On my first visit I didn't see any foreign food but I noticed a KFC on my second visit at the new Carrefour.
Kanom jeen on sale at a typical Thai food stall on the street
Khanom jeen - white rice noodles with various curry sauces - is a big favourite in Nakhon and very spicy food is favoured so watch out. Some restaurants have descriptions in English on the menu if you can't read Thai.
It's a great place for authentic Thai food and the low prices make the food almost free.
Development everywhere in Thailand is inevitable. It has happened in a big way already in Bangkok and other tourist places and it will continue elsewhere. Some time in 2005 a large Carrefour superstore opened in Nakhon.
The Thais love these places. I guess it spells progress, and not least they can walk around in an air-conditioned environment to escape the heat outside. However, as soon as I walked in I found it a bit soul-destroying. I have always disliked shopping malls because they are so bland and uninspiring. That is the case anywhere in the world but especially so in Thailand.
Carrefour in Thailand was taken over and is called Big C Extra
Thailand has always been such a special place to me and there is nothing I love more than walking around areas of Thailand that see few tourists so I can soak up the culture and way of life. Nakhon is a great place but as soon as I went into Carrefour I could have been anywhere in the world.
Is this what the world is coming to? The USA is a large and diverse country but it doesn't matter where you go, you will always see the same shopping malls with the same large stores. This now seems to be happening on a global basis and nothing could be sadder. With American imperialism set to continue, the situation will only get worse.
The coastal district of Khanom in Nakhon Sri Thammarat province is a little gem. It is the smallest and most northernmost district in the province, about 100km from Nakhon Sri Thammarat city, with an area of 433,926 square kms. Historically, it was an important place, being a well-known sea port and commercial centre.
Longtail boats, Khanom, Nakhon Sri Thammarat
I visited Khanom and Patong Beach in Phuket within the space of a week early in 2006 and the contrasts were quite stark. There is no doubt that the Andaman coast is more beautiful and the sea a much more beautiful colour.
However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind where I'd rather go. As I have said many times on this site, I dislike Phuket intensely. I don't like the greed, ignorance, stupidity, drunkenness and immorality that exists in Phuket these days. I only go when I have to and I resent every minute I'm there.
At Khanom you have the whole beach to yourself. There are so few tourists that it's not worth cleaning so there is quite a lot of flotsam and jetsam. A lot is natural - coconuts and the like - but there is also a lot of man-made rubbish strewn on the beach. I have never seen so many pairs of old shoes as I did there.
This doesn't spoil the atmosphere though and it's a special feeling walking along a complete deserted beach. If you really want a taste of ugliness you can get a ferry to Samui from Khwang Phao Bay. Samui isn't far away but why bother going to an ugly farang tourist ghetto when you are in such a beautiful, unspoilt location already?
Khanom isn't completely unknown to farangs (nowhere is in Thailand) and a few turn up but generally they are people who understand Thailand better than the hordes of package tourists who couldn't survive if they weren't near a McDonalds and several Irish pubs.
I stayed at the Khanom Golden Beach Hotel, which is large and well located. The surrounding countryside is full of lush fruit plantations and many areas are mountainous. In fact, it's one of the richest areas I have ever seen in terms of vegetation.
Coastline flowers, Khanom, Nakhon Sri Thammarat
Rubber plantations thrive, as they do in other parts of southern Thailand and the Malay Peninsula. Coffee is grown in Khuan Thong district. Fruit produce includes durian, pomelo, banana, rambutan and longong. Coconuts are also grown and at the fruit market in Nakhon Sri Thammarat I saw incredible amounts of mango. There is a big local fishing and shrimping industry, making the sea just as productive as the land.
Kho Thale Tai National Marine Park includes islands, mountains as well as the entire coastline of Khanom. It's an important ecological area containing mangrove ecosystems. There is a wide variety of hard and soft coral which attracts colourful tropical reef fish so the area is of interest to snorkellers and divers. Watch out for dolphins which are also abundant. Kho Mat Sum is the centre of the local pearl farming industry.
Land-based wildlife in the area includes common barking deer, wild boar, jungle fowl, different species of monkey, langur, various birds and butterflies. Like Trang, the province has many caves and waterfalls to explore including Khao Krot cave that glitters in the light.
Nakhon Sri Thammarat is the most important centre of Buddhism in southern Thailand and as would be expected there are lots of temples in Khanom district, among them Wat Kradangnga, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chan Thattaram and Wat Suwannabanphot.
To get to Khanom by car from the city, take Highway 401 to Ban Khlong Leng intersection and then take Highway 4014. Minivans leave from Wat Khit Road. Air-conditioned buses leave from the shrine near Ramet Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Road and ordinary uses leave from Wat Yai Chai Mongkon on the same road.
2013 Visit to Khanom
When travelling with my wife and daughter, we choose to go to places in Thailand where there are few foreign tourists and we normally go in the low season when there are even fewer tourists, as well as good deals on hotels. In June 2013 we decided to have a short break in Khanom.
Maroc Hotel, Khanom,, Nakhon Sri Thammarat
Driving from Hat Yai took around four hours with two brief rest stops and it was a fairly straightforward journey.
I found that Khanom had changed a lot since I was last there seven years ago. There are a lot more hotels and I was told that these have all sprung up in the last four years. With so many tourist areas having been ruined by mass tourism and commercialism, developers are always looking for new locations in Thailand. It won't be long until there isn't anywhere left in Thailand and then the tourists will start going to Burma.
Golden Beach Hotel, Khanom, Nakhon Sri Thammarat
There are quite a few new hotels, but there is still very little tourist infrastructure. If you like places such as Pattaya and Patong, don't go to Khanom because you will become very bored. If you don't have transport the only thing to do is sunbathe while reading a book.
If you have transport there are various caves and waterfalls to visit and you could even try to see the famous pink dolphins.
Aava Hotel, Khanom, Nakhon Sri Thammarat
The hotel we stayed in was disappointing and it is one of the few hotels I've stayed at in Thailand that I can't recommend. The Aava hotel is very well marketed, but it is actually quite ordinary. It wasn't worth the money I paid. I wanted this trip to be special so paid for a more expensive hotel, but cheaper hotels would have been just as good.
The Khanom Maroc hotel is located on the other side of the road to the beach and there isn't a pool, but it looks very pleasant and the room rate is only Bt800 (possibly cheaper if you book on-line).
I called in at the Golden Beach Hotel where I stayed before. It's an older hotel, but the extensive grounds are very well kept and the grassed areas are more suitable for families with young children. This hotel is also cheaper than Aava.
The breakfast at Aava is excellent. However, if you stay elsewhere you can have breakfast there for Bt300. That is what I might do next time.
Khanom Maroc Resort & Spa
Address: 91 Moo 8, Tambon Khanom, Amphoe Khanom, Nakhon Sri Thammarat province, 80210
Telephone: +66 (0)75 300323
Mobile: +66 (0)89 683 3111, +66 (0)86 977 9111
Rate: Bt800 (Breakfast Bt100 not included in room rate)
Book this hotel: Khanom Maroc Resort & Spa
Latitude: N 09° 07' 30.8" (N 09° 07.514')
Longitude: E 99° 52' 33.7" (E 99° 52.561')
Google Maps: Street Map or Satellite View
Khanom Golden Beach Hotel
Address: 59/3 Moo 4, Nadan Beach, Khanom, Nakhon Sri Thammarat province, 80210
Telephone: +66 (0)75 326690
Fax: +66 (0)75 529225
Rate: Around Bt1,500 on-line, Bt1,800 - Bt4,800 walk-in rate
Book this hotel: Khanom Golden Beach Hotel
Latitude: N 09° 10' 58.8" (N 09° 10.981')
Longitude: E 99° 52' 25.2" (E 99° 52.421')
Google Maps: Street Map or Satellite View
Khanom Aava Hotel
Address: 28/3 Moo 6, Nadan Beach Road, Khanom, Nakhon Sri Thammarat province, 80210
Telephone: +66 (0)75 300310-1
Fax: +66 (0)75 300312
Website: Aava Resort & Spa
Rate: Bt3,700 - Bt16,000
Book this hotel: Khanom Aava Hotel
Latitude: N 09° 09' 03.7" (N 09° 09.061')
Longitude: E 99° 52' 21.6" (E 99° 52.360')
Google Maps: Street Map or Satellite View
Click here to see all of the hotels in Khanom that can be booked on-line through Agoda.
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
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