KO SAMUI, KO PHANGAN, FULL MOON PARTIES AND SOUTHERN THAILAND

KO SAMUI

SOUTHERN THAILAND is a long narrow isthmus that extends to the border of Malaysia, which itself is continuation of the isthmus. It is known to tourists mainly for its beautiful islands and beaches, which are located both on the east side of the country on the Gulf of Thailand and on the west side on the Andaman Sea, with some places sure to fit you idea of an idyllic paradise. There are also impressive limestone rock formations and ruined cities which were influenced by cultures in ancient Cambodia, Java and Sumatra. The interior is dominated by mountains and dense rain forests. Some places get a lot rain, up to eight months out of the years, as they get walloped by both the Indian ocean monsoon to the west and the South China Sea monsoon to the east.

The South is distinctive in climate, terrain, and resources. Its economy is based on rice cultivation for subsistence and rubber production for industry. Other sources of income include coconut plantations, tin mining, and tourism, which is particularly lucrative on Phuket Island. Rolling and mountainous terrain and the absence of large rivers are conspicuous features of the South. North-south mountain barriers and impenetrable tropical forest caused the early isolation and separate political development of this region. International access through the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand made the South a crossroads for both Theravada Buddhism, centered at Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Islam, especially in the former sultanate of Pattani on the border with Malaysia.

Southern Thailand occupies the top part of a long and narrow peninsula occupied by Malaysia to the south. Situated between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, with high mountains down the middle, region commands an area of 70,715 sq km, comprising 14 provinces: Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang-nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, and Yala. Season periods (Summer is the tourism season): 1) East coast: A) Summer – May to September; B) Rainy – October to June; 2) Andaman coast: A) Summer – November to April; B) Rainy – May to October.

Southern Thailand is influenced by the sea on both sides, which means that it is heavily rained on for most of the year. Most areas are flat, with rolling and mountainous terrain made up of major mountains such as the Tanaosi mountains to the west, lying from Kanchanaburi in the central region down to Ranong, as well as the Nakhon Si Thammarat mountains in the middle, and the Phuket mountains along the west coast to Phuket Island, with the Tanaosi and the Sankala Khiri forming the boundary with Malaysia. All southern provinces except Yala have a seacoast. The region is rich in minerals, such as tin, found in Phang-nga, Phuket, and Ranong, and gypsum, abundant in Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Fishing and tourism are the mainstays of the South’s economy.

With the sea so nearby to almost every place in the south it is no surprise that people here have traditional made a living from the sea either as fishermen or traders. The biggest agricultural products are rubber, coconuts and tin. There are quite a few Muslims living in the south and people say the economy is largely controlled by the Chinese. The “Deep South” is a predominately Muslim area near the Malaysian border in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces. There has been a lot of violence here over the past decade (See the “Deep South”) but it has not affected the tourist areas further north.

Among Muslims, Muslim holidays are practiced. A major tradition of the South is the Buddha Procession Festival, in which people in communities come together to make merit; they carry a prominent Buddha image from a local temple in a procession, on land and water, through the community. It is believed to bring plentiful seasonal rains and is a way to for people to make great merit. The festival strengthens unity and amity between community members and the neighborhood, as they all come out to help the procession advance toward its destination.

SURAT THANI

SURAT THANI (685 kilometers south of Bangkok, jumping off area for Ko Samui) is the largest province of the South. Located on the Gulf of Thailand about equidistant between Bangkok and the Malaysian border, it covers an area of approximately 13,000 square kilometers of high plateaus and forested mountains in the west of the province that diminish to low basins towards the eastern coast. This mountainous topography has created 14 river basins all of which flow east of the province to the Gulf of Thailand.

Surat Thani is also known as “the province of a thousand islands” — many of which lay off the coast in the Gulf of Thailand, including the archipelago that contains Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and the Mu Koh Ang Thong Marine National Park. Once the refuge of backpackers, the islands of Surat Thani are now some of the most visited places in Thailand; however, there are a number of historical, cultural, and natural attractions on the Thai mainland to make a stop in Surat Thani province worthwhile on the way to or from the islands.

Surat Thani city was once a provincial capital of the 10th century Indonesian Srivijaya Empire. The name of Surat Thani may mean "City of the Good People" Chaiya, just north of Surat Thani city, is the home of Wat Phra Boromathat, Thailand's most important monument from the Srivijaya period. Surrounded by walls and moats, this temple features a cloister with a large number of Buddhist images. At the center of the courtyard is an ancient Srivjaya-style stupa restored during the reign of King Rama V. The small Chaiya National Museum contains mostly copies of fine Srivijya Art discovered during excavations at Chaiya.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Surat Thani Office, 5 Thalad Mai Road ,Baan Don,Amphoe Mueang, Surat Thani 84000, Tel. +66 7728 8818-9, Fax. +66 7728 2828, E-mail Address: tatsurat@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/suratthani . Accommodation: Both Surat Thani city and some areas along the coast have a variety of accommodation options for visitors, including luxury hotels, guesthouses, beach resorts, and bungalows.

Getting to Surat Thani: As it is the largest province in southern Thailand and the primary launching point for boats to Koh Samui, Surat Thani is well serviced by air, bus, and rail. There are numerous ways of getting to Surat Thani and a well organized system of transfers to get you from one mode of transportation to the next in order to get you to your ultimate destination. By Car: Surat Thani can be most conveniently reached by car from Bangkok by taking Highway No. 4 through Petchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan Provinces to Chumphon Province and then taking Highway No. 41 and Highway No. 401 directly to Surat Thani City.

By Train: Trains leave Bangkok's Hua Lumphong Railway Station 10 times daily from 12pm until 10.50pm The trip takes approximately 12-13 hours. Ask for the train from Bangkok to Phun Phin, the closest station to Surat Thani City, located 13 kilometers away. A bus service between the station and the town is available as are tuk tuks and songtaews that service the ferry piers. For further details, please call 1690, 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020 or visit www.railway.co.th

By Bus: Air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal to Surat Thani Province everyday. For more information call the southern Bus Terminal tel: 0 2434 5557-8 or visit www.transport.co.th From Surat Thani there are three bus stations from which buses depart: Talaat Kaset 1 has bus service for travel within Surat Thani province; Talaat Kaset 2: has buses and minivans for destinations farther away, including Krabi, Phuket, and Hat Yai; and the New Station is for air-conditioned buses to Bangkok.

By Air: Thai Airways and Thai AirAsia have daily flights connecting Bangkok and Surat Thani. The flight time is approximately 70 minutes. Many consider the budget flight on AirAsia to Surat Thani a money saving alternative to more expensive flights directly to Koh Samui, though visitors should be aware that with transfers from Surat Thani airport to the pier and the boat ride to Koh Samui, the entire journey can take upwards of a full day.

Monkey School (10 kilometers from Surat Thani) is run by Somporn Saekow, who believes that monkeys can be trained to fully utilize their capacities to the fullest. He established this training college for monkeys. Students are mostly local pig-tailed monkeys from the forests. Monkey owners must pay a tuition fee, which is inclusive of food and accommodation. Classes of 3-6 months are classified into three levels, beginners, intermediate and advance. Graduate monkeys are trained to pick only ripened coconuts from the trees. To get there, take Surat Thani Nakhon Si Thammarat (Highway No. 401) and drive for approximately 7 kilometers. Upon approaching a junction, turn right to the dirt road and proceed for approximately 2 kilometers. The college is located on the right side. Interested visitors are advised to check with local travel agents for full details. Alternatively, call the College at 0 7722 7351, 08 4745 5662 for more details. Open everyday from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

NATIONAL PARKS NEAR SURAT THANI

Khao Sok National Park (near Surat Thani, Km. 109 on Highway 401) is the largest national park in southern Thailand (646 square kilometers) and a home to many species of wildlife, including gibbons, helmeted hornbills, grey-headed fish eagles, great salt woodpecker, elephants, Asiatic black bears and Asiatic wild pigs. Kayak trips that begin with a long-tailed boat trip across a reservoir in the park are available. The shores of reservoir have bamboo forests and old growth forests and limestone formations.

The landscape at Khao Sok National Park includes several towering limestone mountains covered by lush plants that look as much sculptures as geological formations. The area is also surrounded by emerald green streams that bend along the woodland path and a number of interesting trails. Due to the location, Khao Sok National Park faces monsoons from both sides and there are rains sprinkling down throughout the year. Thus, it maintains the full features of a rain forest. The national park is considered a kingdom full of exotic plants. For example, Rafflesia kerri– the world’s biggest flower whose diameter is 70-80 centimeters— is found here along with Thismia javanica, and Thismia clavigera – a regional plant with fancy shapes and colors. Rafflesia kerri blooms once a year and gives a rotting smels. It is a different species from the Rafflesia found in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Khao Sok National Park is located at Moo 6, Klong Sok sub district, Panom district, Surat Thani, 84250 or contact 077-739-5154. By car from Bangkok: follow the route which heads south via Chumporn. Take the highway No. 41 through Chai-ya district, and turn right when you reach Punpin district. Then drive along the highway No. 401 (Surat Thani – Takaopa) pass Ban Takhun district. Once you find the 109th milestone, turn right and continue for approximately 1.5 kilometers to the national park office.

Elephant Trek at Khao Sok National Park: On her experience doing an elephant trek at Khao Sok, Cindy Loose wrote in the Washington Post: “I pull into the parking lot of Elephant Hills Nature Lodge in southern Thailand, a beautiful place, surrounded by lush vegetation, in view of massive limestone mountains that jut straight up from the earth before ending in sharp, pointed peaks. The tent is luxurious and bug-free, with reading lamps and, behind a tent flap, a full, modern, private bath with hot and cold running water. The food is exceptional, the elephant trek, canoe trip and jungle walk delightful. The 20 tents on the property can accommodate 40 adult guests. [Source: Cindy Loose, Washington Post, October 21, 2007]

I awake to the sound of the call of gibbons and birds in the rain forest. Later that day, during a walk in the jungle, I get to see a few rare hornbills but never catch even a glimpse of the monkeys, gibbons, deer, porcupines, wild elephants, tigers or bears known to inhabit Khao Sok National Park, which adjoins two wildlife sanctuaries and another national park that together cover 1,500 square miles. Then again, there are hundreds of species of ferns, trees and flowers. Plus, in the middle of the hike, the guides give a cooking class over a fire pit at an open-sided hut, and you can eat what you've learned.

The elephants are kept about a 10-minute drive from the tents, where they live among the huts on stilts that are the homes of the Karen trainers and their families. The Karen tribesmen have been in the elephant-trekking business for generations. The animals are being used less and less for such traditional jobs as moving logs in the north, and some elephants brought to the south are mistreated by neophyte trainers who don't know what they're doing, according to Suzy Carter, one of the camp's managers.

I'm horrified to see the short iron hooks held by the mahouts, who balance atop the elephants just behind their massive heads. But during our two-hour ride, the mahouts never even touch the elephants with the emergency tool. Instead, they guide their charges with quiet grunts and gentle prods with their bare feet. I'm also happy to find that while we sit in seats atop the elephants' backs, the animals are not so much taking us for a ride as they are going on a snack run. The mahouts make no objection when the elephants repeatedly stop to enjoy various green plants, or even when they wander into thick underbrush to pluck out pineapples invisible from the trails but apparently fragrant enough for an elephant to smell. At the end of the trip, we buy our elephants big baskets of watermelon, papaya and pineapple.

Back at Elephant Hills, lunch is as good and plentiful as dinner the night before, and we're soon off on a canoe trip through the clear waters of a river fed by mountain streams. We pull the canoes ashore in the middle of the ride and leap into a cool swimming hole while the guides make a fire to brew tea served in bamboo cups...At a cave temple... dozens of monkeys, some of them with babies clinging to their necks, are hanging around hoping for tourists.They keep a respectable distance of about two feet even when food is offered, I'm glad to say. But when I return to my car, I find nearly a dozen monkeys sitting on it. Closer inspection shows that, since I stupidly left my windows down, a few have set up house inside. They apparently have decided it's a much better place to live than in the trees and have become territorial about it. The monkeys that had been so friendly snarl and scream at me when I approach my vehicle. I run shrieking in shock. Luckily, a local comes and shoos them away.

The all-inclusive price includes a 7:30am pick up in Phuket. On a family that did that Loose wrote: their vehicle turned down a long dirt road through a deep woods to a tiny pier next to someone's hut, where they boarded a speedboat that took them to another, Burmese-style boat. Later they transferred to kayaks, and during that trip watched puffer fish and schools of other varieties and visited a waterfall, then a private beach where they caught and released giant hermit crabs. After a gourmet lunch on the Burmese boat, the speedboat took them along a river and past 100-year-old mangrove trees, where they saw a monitor lizard and snakes coiled in the branches. Before ending up at Elephant Hills, they stopped at a local market and bought bananas to feed monkeys that hung around a Buddhist temple built inside a cave.

Tai Rom Yen National Park covers a total area of 265,625 rai of land and was declared a national park in December 1991. It contains lush virgin forests where rare plants can be found. Mountains, covered by mist all year round, are the origin of the Tapi River. Wild animals such as elephants, mountain goats, tapirs, chevrotains, wild boars can also be seen here. Interesting attractions include Tat Fa Waterfall, Muang Thuat Waterfall, Khamin Cave naturally decorated with stalactites and stalagmites, and Camp 180 as well as Camp 357, which once were the base of the Communist Party of Thailand. Open everyday from 6.00am - 6.00pm. Contact: Tai Rom Yen National Park Tai Rom Yen National Park or Tambon Lam Phun, Amphoe Ban Na San, Surat Thani, Tel. 0 2562 0760, 0 7791 8611 Admission Fee: Adult 200 Baht Child 100 Baht

KO SAMUI

KO SAMUI (700 kilometers south of Bangkok and 80 kilometers from Thailand’s southern coast) has traditionally been one of the biggest budget traveler hang outs in Southeast Asia. Located on the eastern side of Thailand, it features calm waters, pleasant white-sand beaches and lots of accommodation options. In the past was known mainly for its cheap hotels and backpacker bungalows and party scene which included refreshment stands run by old ladies that sold ganja on the side, and restaurants with waiters that offer heroin and ecstasy to some of their customers.

Until the late 20th century, Samui was home to a small community engaged primarily in fishing and harvesting coconuts. There were not even any roads on the island until the early 1970’s. However, once foreign visitors discovered this island gem, lush with tropical forest, fringed with palm tree lined stretches of golden sand, and surrounded by pellucid, aquamarine water, development quickly followed.

In recent years Ko Samui has tried to re-invent itself as a New Age center by offering luxurious spa baths, morning yoga classes and mouth-watering yet healthy vegetarian and seafood delicacies, massages, aromotherapy, herbal saunas, fating, coffee enemas, manual lymphatic drainage, reflexology, tumeric exfoliation, yogurt rub downs, herbal baths with stewed rose and frangipanu petals, facial massages, seaweed body masques, wild mint foot massage, detoxifying algae wraps. vortex astrology and colic irrigation. The trend was the Spa Resort in the late 1990s. Other hotels soon joined in, An efforts has been made to transport the drug scene over to Ko Pha Ngan, a nearby island famous for its full-moon parties.

Situated in the Gulf of Thailand in an archipelago of more than 80 islands, Koh Samui is the third largest island in Thailand and Thailand’s second most popular island destination after Phuket. Covering 247 square kilometers, it is about 21 kilometers at its widest point and measures 25 kilometers from north to south. The interior is dominated by a thick ridge of bush-covered mountains and coconut palm plantations. In addition to the beaches, there are some worthwhile walking trips to waterfalls, jungles, coconut forests and limestone hills in the interior. The beaches on the island’s east coast are long and have white sand and are backed by hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. Quieter spots are found on the south, west and north shores of the island.

KO SAMUI TOURISM, HOTELS AND TRANSPORT

Tourist Office and Website: 5 Thalad Mai Road ,Baan Don,Amphoe Mueang, Surat Thani 84000, 0 7728 8818-9, 0 7728 2828. Tips and Warnings on Ko Samui: 1) While affordable and convenient, motorbikes are the cause of numerous accidents and fatalities; always wear a helmet, never drive drunk, and drive defensively at all times. 2) Negotiate all taxi and tuk-tuk fares prior to departing for your destination. 3) Be careful walking on the beach or swimming at night, particularly if alone. Make sure your scuba diving instructor is fully certified. 4) Respect Thai values regarding dress: women should not go topless on the beach and men should not walk around shirtless other than at the beach.

Accommodation: With nearly 500 hotels and almost 60,000 rooms, including beach bungalows, condominiums, and private villas, finding a place to stay on Koh Samui is hardly a challenge. The trick is finding the right area of the island to suit your needs. Chaweng Beach offers the most variety of accommodation options as well as the most activities, while Mae Nam Beach is more suitable for those looking for quiet, sedentary relaxation. While Samui was once a haven for backpackers who were content with thatch roof, budget bungalows, these have generally all been replaced by mid-range, air conditioned, concrete bungalows and luxurious spa resorts. Regardless, there are still a few budget options to be found, and with so many choices it would be impossible not to find some accommodation that fits your budget.

Getting to Ko Samui: As the second most popular Thai island, Koh Samui is easy to get to via land, boat, or air. There are numerous boats from Surat Thani province on the Thai mainland as well as from neighboring islands Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. The Koh Samui international airport is served primarily by Bangkok airways, which flies to and from Koh Samui and seven domestic and international destinations.

By Train: The train station in Surat Thani is serviced by trains from cities to the north and south, including Bangkok and Hat Yai. From Surat Thani minibus or songtaew transfer to the boat pier is required to get a ferry to Koh Samui. By Car: As many of the ferries connecting mainland Surat Thani with Koh Samui are car ferries it is possible to rent a car and drive to Koh Samui. From Bangkok to Surat Thani the trip takes from 8 to 10 hours; from Phuket or Hat Yai the journey is 5 and 6 hours respectively. Once in Surat Thani, the ferry piers are another hour from the town.

By Bus: Numerous buses from throughout Thailand, including Bangkok and Phuket, service Surat Thani town, the capital of the mainland province that includes Koh Samui. From Bangkok it is an 11 hour bus ride. From Surat Thani minibus or songtaew transfer to the boat pier is required to get a ferry to Koh Samui, although some tour operators will provide transfers in a bus-boat package. Buses arriving late at night may miss the last ferry to Koh Samui so it is often preferable to take an overnight bus to Surat Thani and then catch a morning ferry to Koh Samui.

By Air: Bangkok Airways offers direct, non-stop air services between Koh Samui (USM) and Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Pattaya (U-Tapao), Phuket, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Flying time between Koh Samui and Bangkok is under an hour; flights between Samui and Phuket or Pattaya are under 45 minutes. Thai Airways offers limited domestic service to and from Koh Samui; Berjaya Air connects Koh Samui and Kuala Lumpur; and Firefly provides service from Penang and Kuala Lumpur to Koh Samui. For individuals from qualifying nations there is Visa-on-Arrival service available at Samui Airport.

From Samui Airport to the various beaches there are numerous ground transportation options. Minibuses offer seats for around 100 baht/person. A private taxi will cost between 150 and 300 baht depending on distance and negotiation, as most taxis on the island are unmetered (despite external appearances advertising Taxi-Meter). It is also possible to fly to Surat Thani, which is serviced by budget air carrier Thai AirAsia. While fares are considerably more inexpensive, the flight, transfer to the pier, boat ride to Koh Samui, and final transfer to your hotel can take upwards of a full day.

Getting Around in Koh Samui: By Motorbike: Motor scooters can be rented cheaply, and roads are filled with young travelers riding them. For anywhere from 100 to 1000 baht, depending on the size of the bike, motorbikes can be rented in any beach town on Koh Samui. While the roads on Koh Samui are considerably better than those on other Thai islands (particularly neighboring Koh Phangan) renting a motorbike is a risky venture. In addition to the risk of injury, a common occurrence for foreigners on the island, there are occasionally scams involving rental motorbikes. As you must typically leave your passport as a deposit for a motorbike it is best to look for a reputable motorbike dealer even if the price is slightly higher. Finally, be aware that helmets are required by law and wearing closed toes shoes is common sense.

Bicycles: For Getting around in the beach where your resort is located a bicycle is an excellent option. Many resorts offer complimentary bicycles, although they can otherwise be hired for no more than a hundred baht a day. Make sure to wear a helmet and ride cautiously, there are many potholes and cars don’t give bicycles the right of way.

By Taxi: There are now quite a few taxis on Koh Samui that are identical in appearance to Bangkok’s meter taxis. However, Koh Samui’s taxi drivers are loathe to use them (if they have meters at all.) Don’t expect to pay less than 50 Baht for the shortest ride and make sure to negotiate the fare prior to heading out to your destination.

By Songtaew: Red pickup trucks with benches in the back serve as ‘buses’ around the island, traveling fixed routes and allowing passengers to get on and off at will. It’s easy to flag one down; in fact, they actively solicit passengers. Ask the fare prior to climbing aboard if you want to ensure you won’t get ripped off. It’s even possible to hire one for the day if you don’t mind riding in the back.

Rental Car: There are both cars and jeeps for rent on Koh Samui. As the winding, single lane roads don’t allow for much speeding and traffic is rare, self driving an open air Suzuki Samurai’s is an enjoyable way to sightsee Koh Samui, often for the same price as hiring a car and driver or a taxi for the day. As the island is relatively small, it’s also nearly impossible to get lost!

KO SAMUI RESORTS

On her stay at Tongsai Bay, an eco-friendly resort,Lynn Sherr wrote in the New York Times, “The colony of cottages and low buildings barely displacing the lush greenery on the hills of the island's northeast corner, this 25-acre haven has tamed the best of nature. In the open-air lobby, shaped like a giant tent, I felt the brush of a warm breeze and inhaled the fragrance of sweet flowers. A chirping chorus of yellow-breasted birds flitted about. The welcome drink was a tangy surprise: a rosy concoction of dried chrysanthemum, roselle (a kind of hibiscus) and pandanus leaves, with lime juice and other exotic ingredients. I felt soothed and energized all at once. And instantly headed for the water. [Source: Lynn Sherr, New York Times, November 7, 2004]

The main pool, the social heart of the resort, is filled with seawater, half a football field long and shaped like a figure eight with a teak bridge bisecting its center and crushed blue rocks lining its floor. The sides of the pool slope down gradually, so entering the water was a slow glide into serenity. Buoyed by the salt and lured by the unusual distance, I churned through the water, immersed in azure. A few hundred yards away, hidden behind a hill and dug into a cliff, is the second pool, a freshwater rectangle with a vanishing edge that makes it seem suspended above the sea. The illusion is enhanced by the way the rim slices objects in the distance: I saw sails but not boats in the gulf; tops but not trunks of palms; heads but not bodies of people walking by.

This pool is smaller (25 meters) and the mood decidedly more serious. Signs request "quietness" and no diving, please. The surface looked like glass and the water felt like liquid silk. And then there was the ocean: a 650-foot crescent beyond a gently curving beach, billed as the only such private hotel coastline on all of Samui. The water was choppy on my first day but perfectly swimmable the rest, especially once I realized that the coarse sand floor drops off quickly and plunges you directly into the brine.

KO SAMUI SIGHTS

Popular Destinations in Ko Samui include the Hin Lad and Namunag waterfalls, the phallic rock formations at the southern end of Lamai Bay and the seated Buddha on Fan Isle in Phai Laem Bay. There is also a Butterfly Garden and a mummified monk at Wat Khunaram. Activities around Ko Samui include cooking courses, Muay Thai training, scuba diving, and golf. Elephant treks are offered through the coconut forests.

Boat trips can be taken through spectacular limestone formations, lagoons, beaches and caves of Ang Thong Marine National Park northwest of Ko Samui. Among the most attractive of the 40 islands in the park are Koh Wua Talep (Sleeping Cow Island), Koh Mae Koh (Mother Island and Koh Nai Put (Nr. Put;s island). Kayaking is done in the mangrove forests below limestone cliffs in the Ang Thong Islands. Kayakers often see monkeys, colorful birds, fish and reptiles. The Muslim fishermen who live in the islands sometimes offer rides in their unique boats which have high bows decorated with colorful ribbon designed to keep evil spirits away.

Natham, Koh Samui’s main seafornt settlement, is the home to shops, travel agencies and restaurants. Chaweng and Lamai are the most developed beach areas. They feature hotels, guesthouses, resorts, restaurant and bars set around palm-fringed beaches. Bophure and Maenam are other popular beaches. The primary diving and snorkeling spots are at the coral reefs at Laem Sed and Tong Takien. Lynn Sherr wrote in the New York Times, “Samui now draws nearly a million tourists a year, mostly Europeans, to scores of hotels, resorts and restaurants. If nonstop seashore and hot, sunny days are not enough, you can disco till dawn, go snorkeling or kayaking, ride an elephant to a waterfall, get a custom-fit silk dress or climb the steps to a four-story-high statue of Buddha.

Today the beaches of Chaweng and Lamai are bustling beach towns with fabulous beach resorts, internationally acclaimed restaurants, and world-class nightclubs. There are a few quieter beaches that are ideal for relaxation, particularly those that feature some of the finest 5-star resorts in the world, and some that exude old world charm, such as Bo Phut, which features converted, old Chinese shop houses.

Mu Koh Ang Thong National Park (30 kilometers northwest of Ko Samui) embraces almost 50 islands with a combined area of 18 square kilometers plus 84 square kilometers of marine environments. Among the highlights are lagoons hidden behind towering limestone rock formations, white sand beaches and dense jungles and mangroves. Each island has its own features. The most spectacular viewpoint is at the top of Koh Wua Ta Lap, which is reached by a steep 450 meter trail. Koh Mae Ko is another highlight. It also offers good views. Thale Nai (Inner Sea) is a huge emerald lagoon, situated in the middle of the limestone mountains that emerge from the sea. Mu Koh Ang Thong is an easy day trip from Koh Samui. Kayaking is popular around Koh Wua Ta Lap. The park is open everyday. Restaurants, camping areas, tents and five houses for rent are available on Koh Wua Ta Lap. Please reserve in advance. Visit www.dnp.go.th for more details. Entrance fee: 400 baht for adults and 200 baht for children Best time to travel to Mu Koh Ang Thong is January to April. The park closed from November 1 to December 23 annually. For more information, please contact Mu Koh Ang Thong National Park Tel. +66 7728 6025, +66 7728 0222 E-mail: angthong_np@hotmail.com or contact Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Surat Thani Office or Contact: TAT Surat Thani Office, 5 Thalad Mai Road, Baan Don, Amphoe Mueang, Surat Thani, Tel. +66 7728 8818-9, Tel. +66 7728 2828..

KO PHANGAN

KO PHANGAN (half hour boat ride and 15 kilometers north of Koh Samui) was once a quiet place but now it hard to come up with a place—during certain times anyway—that is any noisier. Dominated by backpackers, hippies and ravers from all over the globe, its famous for its ear-piercing and mind-numbing Full Moon parties—all-night-all ecstacy-driven dance events. Among the drugs available here are marijuana, heroin, magic mushrooms, ecstacy, opium, LSD, amphetamines and a variety of designer drugs. Many restaurants specialize in magic mushroom omelettes. If this doesn’t sound very appealing the island is big enough (190 square kilometers) there are plenty of quiet places. Many people come for both—some hard core partying followed or preceded by some relaxation time.

Located in the Gulf of Thailand a short boat ride from Koh Samui, Koh Phangan (pronounced pun-ngun) is a large, mountainous island covered with coconut trees and surrounded by white sand beaches and aquamarine waters. While each month thousands of young people flock to the world famous Full Moon Party in Haad Rin, where local and international DJs play music on the beach, there are dozens of other beaches in varying stages of development that are alternatively occupied by five-star beach resorts, budget beach bungalows, and a number of yoga, meditation, and health retreats.

Thong Sala is the main town. The center of the drug scene is Sunset Beach. The drug-infused Full Moon parties are nearby near the village of Hat Rin. "Ko Phangan's appeal lies in its combination of sun and near-total permissiveness," wrote Jeff Wise in the New York Times magazine. "Probably nowhere on earth have so many drugs been consumed so openly by so many for so long. Large in backpacker lore, Sunrise beach is no more than 300 yards long. The southern half fronts a rocky shore...Riddled with cigarette butts, soiled by dogs and rimmed with tideborn debris it maintains a ravaged dignity.

“A crowd of topless sunbathers clusters along the northern half, where the sand is soft and bleached white and slopes gently into the turquoise waters...A scruffy trio of Israelis follow the narrow dirt lane past rows of open-air shops down the water's edge, where a crowds is gathering. A German woman with brightly painted breasts pushes through to greet a group of white Rastas who are clambering down from a motor launch and wading ashore. A faint musk of marijuana graces the air...In a place like Ko Phangan, where the old Woodstock virtues of openness, generosity, and lack of purpose still hold sway, chronic vagrancy is badge of honor...Every year the scene there looks less and less like a "happening" and more and more like a psychedelic frat party."

KOH PHANGAN FULL MOON PARTIES

All-night ecstacy-driven “full-moon” parties are held on Haad Rin beach on Koh Phangan near Koh Samui held each month on the night before or after every full moon. The events attract partiers from all over the world. Some draw tens of thousands of people to the island.

The first Full Moon Party was improvised at a wooden disco not far from the beach in 1985, and was attended by 20 to 30 travelers. The parties gained fame through word of mouth and became a must-attend event among backpackers traveling around South East Asia. The event now attracts a crowd of between 20,000 and 30,000 every full moon and continues past dawn the following day. Bars and DJs on the sunrise beach play psychedelic trance, drums and bass, house, dance and reggae music. Among the attractions are fire skipping ropes, alcohol 'buckets', and a drug culture. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Full Moon Party is more a bunch of small parties than one-large concert-like event. Oliver Benjamin and Phoowadon Duangmee wrote in The Nation: “The sheer variety of moon-theme parties on Phangan is amazing, each one touted on loud psychedelic flyers and posters all over the island — the Half Moon, the Black Moon, the Shiva Moon — and each one a bacchanal of all-night techno music, half-naked foreigners and unabashed drug and alcohol indulgence. Generated by huge loudspeakers, the dance music can shake the ground for a kilometre in all directions, and for years it seemed to have deafened everyone in authority to whom complaints were directed. [Source: Oliver Benjamin and Phoowadon Duangmee, The Nation, March 22, 2008]

Although the Full Moon Party generates a lot of money for locals not everyone on Koh Phangan likes the event. While it may be wild, once-in-a-lifetime happening for party-goers, for farmers and residents involved in everyday commerce—people who like to get to bed early—it can mean yet another sleepless night.

The Full Moon Party was featured in the films The Beach, Last Stop for Paul and the Thai film Hormones . It was also the subject of the first episode of the Comedy Central TV show Gerhard Reinke's Wanderlust . In 2011, the island's parties featured on Tourism and the Truth: Stacey Dooley Investigates , a documentary investigating the negative impacts of tourism on local people and the economy.

Efforts to Shut Down the Koh Phangan Full-Moon Parties Early: Oliver Benjamin and Phoowadon Duangmee wrote in The Nation, “The fat-moon parties used to be lawless enough that huge signs advertising "special mushroom omelettes" and "amphetamine tea" were tolerated, but the local cops began cracking down on drugs and other craziness in the mid-1990s.” But the efforts didn’t produce lasting results. Later there were other attempts to limit collateral damage. “The administrators of Baan Tai School complained about the Black Moon party, and the event was moved into the dense woods of Baan Khai jungle - but attendance dropped, so it was promptly shifted back to its original location. There was considerable publicity when an irritated nun at Wat Khao Tham managed to shut down the Shiva Moon party, but then she mysteriously withdrew her objections and the techno-thunder resumed as usual. [Source: Oliver Benjamin and Phoowadon Duangmee, The Nation, March 22, 2008]

In 2008, “suddenly Koh Phangan's rave parties were shut down early. Residents of the village of Baan Tai wrote to the governor of Surat Thani complaining that the parties were depriving more than 100 households of sleep. "What's worse is the drug dealers who hang around the guesthouses pushing marijuana to the tourists on party nights," they said, adding that theft was becoming common and more sober-minded tourists were shunning the island.

“The police showed up at the Half Moon Party in Baan Tai and ordered the organisers to shut it down because it was "after hours". The next night they did the same at the Baan Sabai Day party. The exact cause for the policy change wasn't immediately known but, given the massive amounts of money involved, local residents are skeptical that the mandate will hold. "The governor of Surat Thani is concerned about the complaints," says Colonel Wuthichai Hanhaboon, head of the Koh Phangan Police Station, "so the police stopped several parties and ensured that the revellers would cause no trouble."

"We try to bring some order to the parties, but the organisers don't listen - they're making a fortune," says Threerayuth Plaisuwan, head of the civic administration in Baan Tai, home of the original full-moon parties. "They get Bt300 per ticket, and the corrupt authorities get a Bt100 cut to turn a blind eye to the problem." Thus, a handful of people on Phangan bank a bundle of cash from "techno-tourism" while the vast majority suffer the headaches and sleepless nights with nothing to show for it. "The communities earn hardly anything from the parties since we can't tax the organisers," Threerayuth says. "And then we have to pay for the beach clean-up afterwards too!"

A "party zone" has been suggested. Instead of staging the events in or near the central villages of Baan Tai, Baan Nok and Baan Nuea, organisers could get together and carve out a specific area in the dense jungle environs some distance away. Choosing a spot behind natural hillside would muffle the sound. Critics of the monthly noise assaults find it ironic that the raves are festooned with messages of multiculturalism, tolerance and "getting along". It's a message the locals wish the revellers would take to heart - so they can get a decent night's sleep.

Full-Moon Party Safety Issues

Although drugs are consumed by many partygoers, drug laws are strict and police enforcement is stepped up during the parties. There are undercover police on patrol and even the drug dealers themselves may report drug users to police. [Source: Wikipedia]

In January 2005, seven people were killed, including four foreign tourists (including an American and an Israeli) and 23 were injured, and 17 were missing after an overloaded speedboat capsized off Koh Samui. The boat was returning to Samui from an all-night party on Koh Phangan. Forty people were on the boat when it capsized a few kilometers from Koh Samui. The boat was not allowed to carry more than 30 people.

In July 2010, forty-two people were injured after two boats carrying Thai and foreign tourists collided near Pha-ngam island. The boats were ferrying tourist too and from the island’s “full moon” parties. The boats collided around midnight in rough seas during a rain storm.

A number of crimes in which foreigners have been the victims have occurred at the all-night Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan. In recent years, there has been an increasing number of assaults, robberies, muggings and sexual attacks on tourists in the in bars and the area surrounding Haad Rin on the island. Break-ins at hotel bungalows while partygoers are away from their rooms sometimes occur as well. Many Thais from Bangkok do not visit the Samui archipelago because of its reputation.

The British Embassy in Thailand has warned that western tourists have been victims of vicious unprovoked attacks by gangs in Koh Phangan. "These attacks are particularly common around the time of the Full Moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars in Haad Rin. Exercise caution when walking in this area at any time, especially after dark."

This wasn’t the only murder on Koh Phanga. In 2004, three Thais were gunned down in a fight on Haad Rin beach. In April 2007 Israeli tourist David Kakitelashvic, 31, died after being stabbed eight times with a knife at the beach’s Drop Inn Bar. A gang of teenagers, including the son of a local politician, were the chief suspects. In March 2008 an Indian tourist was stabbed to death trying to break up a fight during the full-moon party.

The British Embassy in Thailand has warned that western tourists have been victims of vicious unprovoked attacks by gangs in Koh Phangan. "These attacks are particularly common around the time of the Full Moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars in Haad Rin. Exercise caution when walking in this area at any time, especially after dark."

Koh Phangan Full-Moon Party Murder: On New Years Eve 2012, 22-year-old British tourist Stephen Ashton was killed by a stray bullet. Victoria Ward wrote in the Telegraph, “Ashton was killed as he danced with friends at a beach bar on the popular island of Koh Phangan. He is believed to have been caught in the crossfire when an argument between two groups of youths suddenly escalated. [Source: Victoria Ward, the Telegraph, January 2, 2013]

Mr Ashton, a junior City trader, had quit his job in November and had planned to travel from Thailand to Australia. Local police spokesman Lt Col Somsak Noorod said: "He was shot in the side while he was dancing on the beach." He was rushed to Bandon International Hospital on the neighbouring island of Koh Samui, but was later pronounced dead.

The suspect, named locally as Ekkapan Kaewkla, 26, was subsequently arrested and was found in possession of a homemade gun. On his arrest, Ekkapan admitted he had fought with another group of men at Zoom Bar but denied firing the fatal shot, according to local reports. A few days after the murder Ekkapan Kaewkla appeared in court. Police Colonel Kittakarn Kramothong, said: “Stephen was not involved in the fight.”

Around 300 revellers attended the Countdown party at the Zoom Bar on Haad Rin beach on Monday night. Witnesses said that two groups of Thai youths got into an argument which escalated into a fist-fight at around 4am. As one of the groups ran from the bar, one man turned and fired a shot back inside. Ashton was shot in the torso.Sophie Harwin, a graphics editor from Surrey, had spent the evening nearby but left the area before the shooting occurred. “I just met someone who said loads of people were trying to save him,” she said. “Very sad."

Mr Ashton had been staying with a group of friends at Pink's Bungalows, a series of basic wooden beachside properties in the fishing village of Ban Tai, not far from Haad Rin. He had posted a photograph of himself and two friends drinking beers in a Thai bar on Facebook on December 13.

KO PHANGAN TOURISM AND TRANSPORT

Tourist Office and Website: 5 Thalad Mai Road ,Baan Don,Amphoe Mueang, Surat Thani 84000, 0 7728 8818-9, 0 7728 2828. Accommodation: There are more than 250 resorts on Koh Phangan ranging from five-star luxury resorts to budget beach bungalows and nearly everything in between. Immediately upon arrival, visitors are typically greeted by dozens of touts offering rooms, though if you book ahead you can simply find the one promoting your resort and get a free ride from the pier to your hotel. While Haad Rin is the most popular beach on the island, there are dozens of beaches to choose from, each with their own distinctive characteristic. Generally speaking, the farther you go from Haad Rin, the quieter the beach. Around the time of the full moon party, the hotels and guest houses around Haad Rin are filled with young partiers awaiting the big event. If you are planning to visit Koh Phangan around the full moon, you should book ahead, and if you are looking for peace and quiet, avoid Haad Rin altogether.

Getting to Ko Phangan: Because of its popularity and proximity to Koh Samui, there are multiple options for getting to Koh Phangan. Visitors can fly to Koh Samui or Surat Thani and take a ferry-boat, speedboat, or high-speed catamaran to Koh Phangan. Visitors can also arrive in Surat Thani by bus or train and then arrange boat travel to Koh Phangan. It is also possible to take a boat from Chumphon to Koh Phangan via Koh Tao. Once on the island, there are many ways to get around Koh Phangan: renting a motorbike or 4x4 vehicle, hiring a boat or car with driver for the day, and taking a share taxi/pickup truck or long-tail taxi boat.

By Bus: From Bangkok there are government buses that go directly to the Nadan ferry pier in Surat Thani province. There are also buses to Surat Thani town that require transfers to the pier. Buses and minibuses from Khao San Road are convenient ways to ensure that you don’t get lost finding your way from Bangkok to Koh Phangan but have a notorious reputation for having valuables “get lost” from luggage stowed beneath the bus. While convenient, these buses should be only for those who do not leave valuables in their checked luggage.

By Air: While there is no airport on Koh Phangan there are two options for saving a great deal of time by flying to the area. The closest airport to Koh Phangan is Koh Samui (USM), which is serviced by both Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways from Bangkok, Phuket, and various other locations, including Singapore, Chiang Mai, and Kuala Lumpur. From Koh Samui there are many options for getting boat service to Koh Phangan. Another option is to fly to Surat Thani on the Thai mainland. Thai AirAsia offers low fare service from Bangkok to Surat Thani. From Surat Thani the transfer to the boat pier and then the journey aboard a ferry takes considerably longer than from Koh Samui, though boats are scheduled to coincide with flight arrivals and connections from the airport to the pier are easy to arrange.

Getting Around in Koh Phangan: By Rental Motorbike: While the roads are dangerous, rental shops have been known to scam visitors, and motorbike accidents are frequent, motorbikes are still one of the most popular ways to get around Koh Phangan. For around 200 baht/day, 100-125cc motorbikes can be hired, while larger bikes cost upwards of 1000 baht/day. Foreigners are typically required to leave their passports as a deposit and these may be held ransom if any scratches or dents are found that were not noted prior to rental. As driving on Koh Phangan’s hilly, bumpy, and slippery roads is the cause of numerous injuries and deaths, it is strongly advised that full protective gear, including helmets, long pants, and closed toed shoes are worn at all times.

By Rental Car: It is possible to rent small Suzuki Samurai jeeps, which are considerably safer to drive than motorbikes, though not without difficulty as some of the roads on the island are still a challenge to navigate. By Songtaew: Songtaews are covered pick-up trucks with benches in the back that serve as taxis around the island for around 100 baht a ride (150 baht for farther flung destinations). Prices are considerably higher if there is no one to share the songtaew with. If you are alone expect to wait for the driver to find other passengers before moving on to the next location, particularly if that destination is far away.

By Boat: Long-tail boats operate as taxis between beaches, charging passengers more if there are no other passengers headed to where they wish to go. If you don’t want to pay so much, you will need to wait for other passengers. Alternatively, you may privately hire a long-tail boat for a half-day or full day to take you beach hopping around the island.

KOH TAO

KOH TAO (45 kilometers north of Koh Phangan) is a top destination for scuba divers though even non divers are easily drawn in by the island’s beauty and its inhabitants charm. Koh Tao ("Turtle Island") is one of the top scuba diving destinations in Thailand, if not the world. In fact, only Cairns, Australia issues more PADI certifications than Koh Tao. While some globetrotting SCUBA snobs may express disappointment, the shallow, crystal clear waters of Koh Tao feature abundant marine life and considerable coral that are certain to please both beginners and experienced divers, particularly as the island itself is so spectacular and the atmosphere on Koh Tao is so relaxing. What’s more, the island, which is the site of important breeding grounds for Hawksbill and Green turtles, is now a center for environmentally friendly diving practices, including the reintroduction of hundreds of juvenile turtles to the island's ecosystem and efforts to preserve and grow coral reefs.Non-divers can appreciate the beauty of Koh Tao, which seems relatively devoid of inhabitants while the majority of visitors are spending their days underwater, by taking a boat trip around the island to visit Koh Tao’s many gorgeous beaches and bays, hiking to the summit of the island, studying yoga, or simply relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the view of nearby Koh Nang Yuan, a spectacular attraction in its own right.

Over the past decade Koh Tao has transformed from a sleepy, yet popular place to get a scuba certification to the second most popular place in the world to do so. Once a destination almost exclusively for scuba divers and those looking to get away from it all, Koh Tao is now also a destination for wild 20-somethings to warm up before or unwind after neighboring Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party. Fortunately, despite its quite small size, most of the beaches around Koh Tao have retained a charming, laid back atmosphere and bungalows ranging from ultra-basic thatch roof to chic and boutique are available for those on any budget to enjoy the beauty of one of Thailand’s most spectacular islands.

Koh Tao Tips and Warning: 1) While there are numerous clinics on Koh Tao at Sairee Beach and Mae Haad, the closest hospitals are on Koh Samui and mainland Chumphon. 2) Electricity, supplied by generators, is very expensive: switch off the lights, fans, and air conditioning when leaving your room. 3) Don't throw paper or other things into the toilets: the pipes are easily clogged and very difficult to clear. 4) Exercise extreme caution when driving motorbikes on Koh Tao. 5) Avoid drinking the night before scuba diving. 6) Wear mosquito repellant with DEET, particularly around dawn and dusk. 7) Water is scarce: don't leave it running, especially during showers. 8) While diving or snorkeling, look, don't touch; this includes turtles, coral, and any other marine life!

MUSLIM DEEP SOUTH OF THAILAND

MUSLIM DEEP SOUTH OF THAILAND is a predominately Muslim area of Thailand, embracing Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Satun provinces. About 80 percent of the residents of these provinces are Muslim of Malay descent. Most speak Yawi, a Malay dialect. The provinces plus part of Songkhla province were former sultanates that were once part of the Maly kingdom of Pattani They became part of Thailand in 1902.

About 1.8 million people live in Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani Provinces. Although most are Muslims, there are many Buddhists too. Rubber and rice are important crop. The landscape is dominated b rubber plantations and rice paddies. Many people make their living as rubber tappers. The Deep South is unsafe. Among the groups on the loose are Muslim separatists, rogue police and soldiers, bandits. Articles on the Violence in the Deep South factsanddetails.com

HAT YAI

HAT YAI (950 kilometers south of Bangkok and 30 kilometers from the Malaysian border) is the largest city in southern Thailand. Located relatively near the border of Malaysia and frequently spelled Had Yai, it is home to nearly 800,000 people. Hat Yai is located in Songkhla Province and, while not the provincial capital, is home to The Prince of Songkhla University, making it Southern Thailand’s educational center as well as the south’s hub for transportation, commerce, and tourism.

Among other things, Hat Yai is renowned for its outstanding seafood, which is served in various styles thanks to Hat Yai’s diverse population of Chinese, Malays, and Thais. Hat Yai also features a multitude of markets, both local and international in style, and has a festive nightlife, including pubs and discos that are particularly popular with tourists from neighboring Malaysia. While there have been occasional violent attacks from regional terror groups, Hat Yai is a relatively safe city to visit, particularly if one avoids the most crowded tourist venues and enjoys the local flavor of the city and the culture of its diverse inhabitants.

Regional attractions include Songkhla Lake (the largest in Thailand), an enormous reclining Buddha that visitors can walk inside, the Bhasawang Big Splash (a 15 meter long water slide), and the region’s most popular spectator sport, bullfighting. Monthly bull fights are held at Nurn Khun Thong Arena on Highway No.4 near the airport. One the week end Hat Yai is visited by hundreds of Indonesians, Singaporeans and Malaysians on shopping trips.

Tourist Office and Website: /1 Soi 2 Niphatuthit 3 Road , Amphoe Hat Yai, Songkhla 90110, 0 7423 1055 , 0 7423 8518, 0 7424 3747, 0 7424 5986. Hotels are frequently booked over Malaysian holiday weekends, when it is recommended to inquire in advance to make sure that rooms are available prior to arrival. Warnings: Banks, shopping centers, restaurants, entertainment venues, and the Hat Yai airport have, on occasion, been targeted by regional terror groups. Visitors should be aware of potential risks as well as increased security measurements, such as bag searches and metal detectors, at areas where large numbers of people gather.

Accommodation: There are more than 100 hotels in Hat Yai that fit the budget of any traveler from backpacker to businessman, though most cater to Malaysian and Singaporean visitors who make up most of Hat Yai’s tourists. Most of these are mid-range hotels that are fairly inexpensive and feature the necessary amenities, though they are far from luxurious. For slightly better accommodation there are several finer establishments around the more upscale Lee Gardens area. For budget accommodation, the guest houses near the railway station cater to foreign backpackers. It should be noted that because Malaysians are the primary visitors to Hat Yai, hotels are frequently booked on Malaysian holiday weekends. If you are planning a visit to Hat Yai over one of these weekends, it is best to inquire in advance to make sure that rooms are available prior to arrival.

Getting to Hay Yai: Hat Yai is the primary transport hub of southern Thailand and therefore features a variety of transportation options for getting around in the region and for traveling north into greater Thailand or south into Malaysia. Getting Around in town or to sights throughout Songkhla Province is equally easy to arrange. By Train: The Hat Yai train station serves as a major stopping point along the route from Bangkok to Butterworth, Malaysia. From Hat Yai it is possible to travel by train through Malaysia and into Singapore or up to Bangkok and onwards to Nong Khai or Chiang Mai. By Bus: Hat Yai is a major hub for both public and private buses, servicing buses from Malaysia and Singapore to the south and most destinations within Thailand to the north. By Air: Hat Yai international airport is one of the busiest in Thailand and is serviced by both Thai Airways and a number of budget air carriers, including Thai AirAsia. There are numerous daily flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to Hat Yai International Airport. Airport Transfer To get to and from the airport, there is an Airport Taxi Service (0 7423 8452) that departs from the Thai Airways office on Niphat Uthit 1 Road. From the airport, the Airport Taxi Service offers hotel drop-off. Otherwise, private taxis charge around 200 baht in either direction.

PLACES IN THE DEEP SOUTH OF THAILAND

Nakhon Si Thammarat is the home of Wat Phra Maha That, a temple with a vast cloister covered with colored tiles, chapels with Sukhothai-style Buddha images, and 260-foot-high chedi sheathed with gold leaf and decorated with precious stones. The Museum of Nakhon Si Thammarat houses antiquities collected in the region, including images of Indian Hindu divinities and Buddhas. Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Nakhon Si Thammarat Office, Sanamnamueang, Ratchadamnoen Road , Amphoe Mueang, Nakhon Si Thammarat 80000, Tel. +66 7534 6515-6, Fax. +66 7534 6517, E-mail Address: tatnksri@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/nakhonsithammarat

Sungai Kolok is a tourist town bets known for a strip of bars and brothels that attract tourists from Malaysia. It is now in a dangerous part of southern Thailand . Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Hat Yai Office, Areas of Responsibility: Songkhla,Phatthalung 1/1 Soi 2 Niphatuthit 3 Road , Amphoe Hat Yai, Songkhla 90110, Tel. +66 7423 1055 , +66 7423 8518, +66 7424 3747, Fax. +66 7424 5986 E-mail Address: tatsgkhl@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/hatyai

Yala has see a large amount of violence. It has a monastery called Tham Kuha Phiumuk located about five miles outside of town. The large cave nearby contains a reclining Buddha images that is believed to date from 757 A.D. Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Narathiwat Office, Areas of Responsibility: Narathiwat,Yala,Pattani, 102/3 Mu 2, Narathiwat-Takbai Road , Tambon Kaluwonuea, Amphoe Mueang, Narathiwat 96000, Tel. +66 7352 2411, Fax. +66 7352 2412, E-mail Address: tatnara@tat.or.th, Website: http://www.tourismthailand.org/narathiwat

Songkla has a museum housed in the former Thai-Chinese-style residence of a local luminary, with a collection of ceramics ranging from prehistoric to modern times.

Budo-Sungai Padi National Park (in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani Provinces) has an area of 294 square kilometres (114 sq mi) The Budo mountain range is part of the Indo-Malayan equatorial tropical rainforest that has high humidity because of the year-round rainfall that it gets. The park has several waterfalls, such as Phu Wae, Pacho and Pako. The best known and accessible is “Pacho” that has a high cliff. The word “Pacho” is a Malay word meaning “waterfall.”

The park is rich in rain forest wild life. Rare animals in the area are rhinoceros, agile gibbons, tapirs, white-crowned pied hornbills, helmeted hornbills and Sumatran serows. The most important animal is the spectacled langur that inhabits Southeast Asia in the south of Myanmar and Thailand all the way to Malaysia and some islands. It lives on high mountains and in deep jungles in groups of around 30-40. The strongest male is the leader. The langur is usually shy, afraid of humans and not aggressive like monkeys. Apart from the spectacled langur, there are 3 other types in Thailand; banded langurs, gray langurs and northern spectacled langurs. All 4 species of langurs are currently endangered mammals.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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