Haunting Hues

The City of the Good People: on islands, night markets, riverside promenades and a classy grayish patina giving that special moldy look.


Haunting Hues

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by SeenThat on September 3, 2009


Many travelers choose to spend their vacations in the Gulf of Thailand’s islands despite the existence of countless islands all over the world. The attractiveness of the Thai culture could be a good explanation for that – I commented about it in many journals – but that’s not enough. The same culture exists on all the mainland cities and also on the northern mountain resorts. What’s the gulf’s secret?

Haunting Hues

Some airlines cross the Gulf of Thailand before landing in Bangkok. From the air the gulf does not look special; the pagodas scattered among the paddy fields on the mainland are by far more attractive.

If the traveler continues overland to Surat Thani and then reaches the pier leading to the islands, he – or she – would get the first glimpse of something unusual. Lush cliffs drop straight into the water; the greenery covering them may look like some strange type of algae climbing out of the sea.

Then, while traveling over the waters, two things would probably draw the traveler’s attention. The first is the waters calmness – they are too calm for a water body of this size. The second is the haunting hue of the waters; their turquoise blends perfectly with the green cliffs of the mainland and the blue skies.

After seeing that, most travelers are trapped forever in the charm; the only question is when they would return.

Shallow Saltiness

Entrapped between the coasts of Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the gulf gets waters from the Chao Phraya and other rivers. Combining this with the fact that the gulf is very shallow – its average depth is just fifty meters – results in its being filled with relatively fresh waters rich in sediments. As such, their color is unique.

Sunsets

The region weather favors the formation of clouds also during the dry seasons; awesome sunsets can be enjoyed during the whole year. However, it is important to keep in mind that if wanting to enjoy sunsets over the sea, then the eastern coast should be chosen: Pattaya offers ideal conditions and unique views every day.

Weather

"Turquoise waters" may be a strange definition of the weather, but it is difficult to describe it otherwise. Regardless the season, the gulf waters are gorgeous, though from October to December it gets rainy due to the monsoons. Warm rain on a beach: who cares?

Bay of Bangkok

If arriving at Thailand from the south – let’s say from Singapore – the airplanes cross the northern end of the gulf, which is known as the Bay of Bangkok. In this area, three major rivers empty into the gulf: Chao Phraya (and its tributary Tha Chin), the Mae Klong and the Bang Pa Kong. The sights are unique and better enjoyed from the air (see picture).

Attractions

All the attractions in the area are related to water activities. Good beaches plague the shores: Hua Hin is probably the best beach in Thailand, though Pattaya and the islands also offer awesome choices.

The best deals in Thailand for a vacation by the beach are hidden under a thick cover of bad PR; Pattaya became over the years a synonym for the Thai sex-industry, while reality is different. The scene is restricted to a well-delimited area and it is hard to spot unless searching for it, in Bangkok, Pukhet and Koh Samui the situation is much worse.

During recent years, Pattaya became a popular family tourism spot mainly due to its gorgeous beaches and the quality of its facilities. Being open-minded and visiting the place before deciding where to spend the bulk of your vacation is a proven way to discover a charming location with amazing sunsets over the Gulf of Thailand.

Three islands near Surat Thani are among the country’s most popular beach destinations: Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao. The first is the biggest and offers a plethora of attractions, while the last – and smallest – is a diving center due to its coral reefs. Koh Pha Ngan is famous for its full moon parties. The Ang Thong (Golden Bowl) Marine National Park offers an archipelago of exquisite shape with palm-covered beaches, turquoise waters and coral reefs.

Even before the first sight, Hua Hin is intimidating. Among the Thai beach resorts it is unique because it began as a resort for Thais, specifically for Thai royalty. Even now it caters mainly to rich Thais.

In 1928, the king built there a summer palace, naming it Klai Kangwon (Far from Worries); this is the official royal summer palace, and apparently the preferred residence of the king. The nearby beach was then renamed then Hua Hin, or Head Stone, and became the first beach resort in Thailand, much before Phuket and Samui. It is rated only as the second best beach in the country, but one look at the wonder leaves no doubt that this is the finest beach in Thailand. Probably was rated second out of Buddhist virtues.

On Surat Thani and a Forgotten Kingdom

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by SeenThat on September 3, 2009


In the early 21st century, Surat Thani is a quiet place; most travelers consider it just an essential stop in the way to Koh Samui. Yet, few cities in Thailand have a richer or more varied story. Knowing at least its headlines is essential for enjoying the sights.

In the very far past, the Tapi River Basin – where Surat is located - was home to Semang and Malayan tribes; Indian migrants enriched these communities and spread out Buddhism. Everything was peaceful, until the days of the Shining Victory arrived in the 3rd century.

The Srivijaya Kingdom

In the past, I wrote a journal titled the Invisible Champa Kingdom, which dealt with an almost forgotten kingdom that occupied in the past what now is southern Vietnam and adjacent areas. Yet, the Champa Kingdom was never forgotten: its people and structures can still be seen.

Unlike it, the Srivijaya Kingdom was completely forgotten, until its existence was deduced in 1918 by the French historian George Coedès. Later, it was proven. In the 1990s it was even shown that the centre of Srivijaya was in Palembang, along the Musi River in South Sumatra, Indonesia.

One of the reasons for its elusiveness was its variety of names: in Sanskrit it was called Yavadesh, in Pali appeared as Javade, in Arabic it was known as Zabag and the Khmer knew it as Melayu. It appeared in many old manuscripts, but every time with a different name. It existed between the 3rd and 13th centuries, though the earliest solid proof of its existence dates back only to the 7th century when a Chinese monk visited the kingdom, and named it "Sanfogi," adding yet another name to the collection. Moreover, the Chinese characters have been transliterated in various forms.

The name used by its denizens - Srivijaya - is interesting; in Sanskrit, "sri" means "shining" and "vijaya" means "victory." This case was not a Pygmalion Prophecy, despite the kingdom success for a while.

Srivijaya was quite different from other empires and kingdoms in the area since it was a thalassocracy, meaning a kingdom dominating mainly the coasts and maritime trade routes in a given area.
In the beginning, it controlled the trade routes of commodities grown out in the Musi River Basin. The main products were camphor, aloes, cloves, sandal-wood, nutmegs, and cardamom, though various metals were included in this golden basket. Afterwards it began expanding and gained control over the Sunda Strait from Palembang and the Malacca Straits from Kedah.

This part of the Silk Road controlled much of the trade between China and India. Charging a toll on passing ships, the kingdom accumulated wealth of mythical dimensions.

Due to this central position, the kingdom also played a crucial role in the history of mainland Southeast Asia. During the 7th century, the Champa Kingdom became a though competitor of Srivijaya. In response, the king (actually he was called a maharaja, literally "great king") conquered the Champa city of Indrapura. Later in the same century, the Khmer King Jayavarman II expelled Srivijaya and founded the Khmer Empire.

However, this early defeat of Srivijaya did not stop the kingdom. Other territories were conquered and held under a tighter control due to their strategic importance. By the twelfth century, the kingdom included parts of Sumatra, Ceylon, the whole Malay Peninsula (including Surat Thani and other locations within modern Thailand), Western Java, Sulawesi, the Moluccas, Borneo, the Philippines (the Visaya Islands in the central Philippines were named after the kingdom), and the Sulu Archipelago. Its core was the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Java. At its peak, the kingdom was a stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism, attracting scholars from far away.

"Shining Victory" was the kingdom’s name, but reality was somewhat different. In 1025, Rajendra Chola, the Chola king from Coromandel in South India, conquered Kedah from Srivijaya. During the following twenty years, the Cholas conquered other territories belonging to the kingdom until they were eventually defeated.

The weakened Srivijaya Kingdom never fully recovered. It fell prey to the thalassocracies weakness: they are susceptible to attacks from inland. Javanese inland kingdoms, namely Singhasari and Majapahit, slowly subjugated Srivijaya. Yet, in the early 13th century Srivijaya still ruled parts of Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, and western Java (Sunda).

Sultanate of Malacca

In 1288, Palembang - Srivijaya’s capital - was conquered by the Javanese. By 1293, Majapahit ruled much of Sumatra. Then, sedimentation on the Musi river estuary cut the kingdom's capital off from direct sea access and the kingdom lost its core revenues. During this period, most of this area also converted to Islam.

Following this disasters, Srivijaya became for a short time tributary of Angkor and later of the Thai Sukhothai Kingdom. The last inscription in which a crown prince is mentioned, dates from 1374.

Shortly after, in 1401, the last Srivijayan was expelled from Temasek – his last stronghold - by a Majapahit invasion. He headed north and founded the Sultanate of Malacca in 1402.

Surat Thani and Chaiya

Chaiya in the Surat Thani province was a regional centre of the Srivijaya Kingdom. The temple of Borom That in Chaiya contains a reconstructed pagoda in Srivijaya style. Chaiya’s name is apparently derived from its earlier Malay name "Cahaya" ("glow"). After the fall of the Srivijaya, the area was divided into the cities Chaiya, Thatong (now Kanchanadit) and Khirirat Nikhom.

Kingdom of Nakhon Si Thammarat

Political vacuum is an oddity; here it did not materialize. South of Surat Thani, the city of Nakhon Si Thammarat became a kingdom controlling much of the northern Malay Peninsula after the fall of Srivijaya. Surat Thani and Chaiya became part of this kingdom.

It was known as the Kingdom of Nakhon Si Thammarat (or Negara Sri Dharmaraja – Negara is the Pali equivalent of Nakhon – city in Thai), or Ligor to European traders.

This kingdom wasn’t independent; it paid tribute to the Thai Kingdom of Sukhothai in the 13th century and later to the Kingdom of Ayutthaya in the 15th. Nakhon Si Thammarat was listed as one of 8 Great Holy Cities (phraya maha nakhon) forming the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

Integration into Modern Thailand

After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese in 1767, Nakhon Si Thammarat enjoyed a short period of independence, but was quickly subdued by King Taksin, who expelled the Burmese invader and moved the kingdom’s capital to Thonburi.

The Surat Thani area was under the jurisdiction of Nakhon Si Thammarat until they were merged into a new province named Chaiya in 1899. In 1915, King Rama VI visited the area and renamed it Surat Thani. Following several other changes, the provincial capital was moved to the city of Surat Thani directly at the shore of the Tapi River in World War II.

If this history wasn’t rich enough, the town was conquered by Japanese troops landing from the sea in 1941. The new town hall location is the result of the destruction of its former structure during the war.

Who would suspect all this excitement while enjoying a barbecued crab by the Tapi riverside?

The City of the Good People

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by SeenThat on September 3, 2009


Almost 700 kilometers south of Bangkok, Surat Thani is the largest province in southern Thailand. Moreover, it is the most important one for the travelers attempting to reach the Gulf of Thailand islands. Under such circumstances, most travelers would be relieved to find the city name means "City of the Good People."

"Thani" is one of the words meaning "city" in Thai; Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani are other cities containing this word in their name. Next to downtown Surat – as Surat Thani is commonly shortened – is the river Tapi. In India there is also a city called Surat located next to a river called Tapti. The coincidence is probably not casual; many Thai names originated in the Sanskrit written mythology.

City Pillar Shrine

Thai cities always include a pillar - a symbolic representation of a linga - which is considered to host the city’s guardian spirit or deity. As such, these places are located in the vicinity of – or within - larger temples and are an official center of worship for the city’s welfare, though usually they are the preferred temples for fertility rites as well.

In Surat, this shrine was built in Srivijaya style and has become a unique landmark of the city. In size and shape, it resembles a Thai cheddi, with the difference that it has four stylized entries at the ground level and is roughly square instead of round due to geometrical restrictions imposed by the doors. The complex arches atop the doors feature smaller replicas of themselves on the structure second level. The structure pointed end symbolizes the Buddhist aspiration to achieve Nirvana. The whole structure is shiny white.

Other Temples

It is worth mentioning that the Province of Surat Thani is home to one of the 23 first class temples in Thailand (above them is only one of special class - Wat Phra Kaew within Bangkok’s Grand Palace). Unluckily, Wat Phra Borommathat is 54 kilometers north of downtown, in Chaiya. Visiting it demands a special trip to that area.

Cathedral

Taking into account that southern Thailand is home to less than 7000 Christians, it is surprising to find a full Roman Catholic diocese here, namely the St. Raphael Cathedral. Located in the northern side of the town, this cathedral occupies a rather small – but charming – church. Strangely enough, a golden Christ statue is framed there within a Greek doorframe. He welcomes the visitors with hands extended upwards.

Night Market

For me, visiting the night market is an essential – and delightful – part of any visit to a city in Thailand.

Usually chaotic, a night market border is difficult to define. Being placed partly on ambulant stalls, it has an intrinsically unsteady nature that demands from the traveler to actively look around. As such it is a wonderful experience; it allows sightseeing, meeting denizens and tasting local food, all at the same time.

In Surat Thani, a good section of it is near Wat Sai, a temple just north of the Koh Lamphu Island, though its formal center is Talat Sanjoa, about a block north of Wat Sai along the town’s main road. As often happens nowadays, next to it are Western shops. Here are the Sahathai Department Store, a Pizza Company outlet, a Swensen’s branch, and a supermarket among others. Needless to say, clothes and souvenirs are also for sale on the street.

Typical dishes – to be found elsewhere in Thailand - are available at the market. Pad Thai, curries, roti, fruit shakes and others are all here, but they are elsewhere as well. What’s special here?

As most of the Thai south, Surat specializes in sea food which arrives fresh from the near gulf every day. Thus, it is highly recommended to look for products containing fish, oysters, prawns and similar delicacies. One of them is distinctive of the area: Kanomjean is prepared by combining green curry with rice noodles and some meat. Chicken, beef and pork are available, but the seafood is the recommended option, prawns and oysters are remarkable here for their quality and size.

Even more distinctive are the salted duck eggs which have a reddish yolk due to the duck’s special seafood diet. However, Surat is known all over Thailand for its coconuts and rambutan. This last name means "hairy" in Malay and is known as ngaw in Thai; it is worth mentioning – without giving the full details – that this word is used as a derogatory term to certain minority living in the area. Thus, when using the term, make clear you are referring to the fruit (i.e. use it exclusively at a stall selling the fruit while pointing at the fruits).

Other options for dinner are on the River Tapi Promenade or on one of the restaurants placed on boats. A good idea is to combine such a dinner and visit to the night market with an earlier walk to Koh Lamphu. This island is a bit south of the market and is connected to the mainland with a bridge; its park is ideal for picnics.

Timing the Visit

As in most of Thailand, boat races can be enjoyed during Ok Phansa (the end of the annual 3-month Buddhist Rains Retreat), usually celebrated between mid-October to mid-November. Named Chak Phra Festival, this is the biggest of its class in southern Thailand.

Following it is Loy Krathong, during the full moon of the 12th Thai month (usually mid-November). This event is especially beautiful though to the candles released on the river atop floral ornaments.

The Thai New Year (Songkran) is celebrated in April or May, mainly by wetting people walking down the street with water.

A festival specific of the area is the Boon Sad Dean Sib Festival – in August - when denizens honor their ancestors in the temples and prepare special dishes for the event.

Souvenirs

Probably the best souvenir to take away from Surat is silk. It is light; it doesn’t cause troubles at the customs and makes a wonderful gift. Produced by hand at a nearby village, the local product is known as "Phumriang" and displays tasteful patterns embossed in it with shuttle looms.

On Classy Grayish Patina and That Special Moldy Look

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by SeenThat on September 3, 2009


Wat Phra Borommathat

Wat Phra Borommathat is one of the 23 first class temples in Thailand (above them is only one of special class - Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok’s Grand Palace). The temple is 54 kilometers north of downtown, in Chaiya. This town was a provincial capital of the Srivijaya Kingdom (see details in the "Shining Victory" entry of this journal) and thus earned the construction of a special temple some 1200 years ago. Surat Thani’s provincial seal and flag display this temple.

The temple’s cheddi houses Buddha relics and has been carefully restored, as much of the complex. It allows enjoying Srivijaya style Buddha statues and structures. The complex can be reached with local buses from Surat Thani – see the "Traveling in Surat Thani" entry in this journal for details.

Si Surat Stuppa

Known also as Phra That Khao Tha Phet, this stuppa is less than ten kilometers south of downtown along road 4009 and is part of a wildlife study center. Dating back to 1957, the stuppa is atop a low hill (about 200 meters above the sea level). It was constructed in Srivijavan style and contains a Buddha relic donated by India.

Surrounding it is the Khao Tha Phet Nature and Wildlife Study Centre. A walking trail along it allows seeing a local forest and panoramic views of Surat.

Ratchaprapha Dam

Known also as Chieo Lan Dam, this is an unusual type of attraction. Built in 1982, the dam has created a huge lake with many beautiful islands. Accommodations in the area are offered by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

Located 70 kilometers west from Surat, the lake can be reached by traveling on Road 401 and turning right at the kilometer 53 marker. The lake is 12 kilometers after the turn. Being west of Surat, a visit to the lake is best combined with a trip to Ranong or Phuket.

Ranong

In the traveler's universe, the main reason for visiting Ranong is the fact that from there it is possible to cross the border to Kawthaung in Myanmar, enabling thus the renewal of the Thai visa.

Regardless the season, during my visits to Ranong the weather was constant: grey and rainy, hot and humid. Just the perfect conditions for giving that special moldy look, that touch of classy grayish patina to all exposed surfaces.

Surrounded by lush hills half hidden in eternal mist, the city is rural and lacks a definite downtown area. Instead, several tiny centers have developed around the main market, the port and the routes accessing neighbor towns; the morning market doubles as the transport hub of the town, trucks leave from there to all the main attractions in the surrounding area, including the Saphan Pla Port (literally "Bridge of Fish"), from where Myanmar is accessed.

Despite its humble size, Ranong provides several interesting sights. Next to the fountain, along the main road, is the old governor place, a long teakwood structure resembling an empty monastery. On the way leading to the port is the Stigmatines Catholic Church; the Thai-style church features a happy Christ, several big statues in the yard, and a school at its side. In front of it, over a low hill, is a big Buddhist temple, with a tower bell and the local crematorium. By the market is a small Chinese temple with a nice bird of paradise at the roof's corner and not far away a small mosque. This mix of cultures and religions is typical of Southern Thailand.

Three kilometers east of downtown are the thermal springs at Raksawarin Park, songtao (trucks) taxis reach them from downtown. There are three natural spring pools. The temperature of the water in its three natural pools is above 60°C. Nam Tok Ngao is a waterfall located twelve kilometers south of downtown; the best way of reaching it is taking any southward bus from the highway.

Kho Khot Kra: Kra Isthmus

Just before arriving at Ranong, is the Kra Isthmus. This is the Malay Peninsula's narrowest point, where forty-four kilometers separate the Gulf of Thailand from the Andaman Sea. There are several viewpoints in the area, though the two seas cannot be seen at once.

Phuket

Also on the western side of the peninsula is Phuket; the biggest island in Thailand has much more than beaches to offer. Moreover, it is the less insular among the Thai islands due to its connection with two bridges to the mainland.

Its main town - bearing the same name - is a charming Thai-Portuguese hybrid, and adds a cultural interest to the visit. On the opposite side of the island is Patong, its second biggest settlement. It faces the Andaman Sea, meaning it has higher waves than those offered by the Gulf of Thailand. Water sports are hence more developed here and in Koh Phi Phi than in islands on the other side of the mainland. Patong is expensive: a wise strategy is to find accommodations in Phuket - its beaches face the mainland and thus are calmer and less popular - and to travel the short distance to Patong for the beaches.

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Beaches and islands, forests and waterfalls; Surat has something to offer for everyone.


A Passing-Through Kind of Town

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by SeenThat on September 3, 2009


Enjoying a key location in southern Thailand, Surat Thani is an essential stop for those attempting to reach the islands – Koh Samui among them - within the Gulf of Thailand overland. As a result, an ugly scene taking advantage of the passing tourists have developed here; it is not a reason for avoiding it, but an eye should be kept open and buying any kind of tourism packages in town is definitely not recommended.

That’s not all. Surat Thani provides access to Nakhon Si Thammarat, Krabi, Phang-Nga and Ranong, being thus an important travel hub in the Thai south.

Asian Highway Network

Roads are seldom an attraction by themselves. Yet, through Surat Thani passes part of the AH2 highway, which is part of the (Great) Asian Highway (AH) project. The last is a huge project among the UN, Asian and European countries to improve the highway systems in Asia. The project was initiated in 1959 and has not been finished yet.

Single-digit routes run across the whole continent, and this is the case of AH2. This highway is 13177 kilometers long, connecting Khosravi in Iran with Denpasar in Indonesia, crossing twelve countries along the way.

Within Thailand it includes Highway 4 from Sa Dao to Phatthalung then Route 41 to Chumphon, then Route 4 to Bangkok in its southern part. North of Bangkok it includes Route 338/Route 9 to Bang Pa-in, and then overlaps with AH1 to Tak, and then continues through Route 1 to Mae Sai.

Back to this entry’s topic, AH2 crosses Surat at Phunphin, next to the railway station. Seeing this relatively narrow road, it is hard to imagine that Iran and Indonesia can be reached through it.

Reaching the Basin

A thing to keep in mind is that north and west are high plateaus and forested mountains that slow down the travel, while long the coast are several rivers flowing toward the gulf. Technically, this is the northern end of the Malay Peninsula; once the mountains are crossed the road is quite flat until Malaysia.

Reaching Surat Thani from Bangkok Index by car is easy. Take Highway 4 to Chumphon Province via Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan Provinces and then taking roads 41 and 401 until Surat Thani.

Four lines of trains lead out of Bangkok; they are called according to the direction they travel to: Northern, Northeastern, Eastern and Southern, the last is connected to the Malaysian railways.

Located on Rama IV Road, Rongmuang, Bangkok’s Hualampong Railway Station is easy to find; nowadays there is a Metro station right at its door, Bangkok's Chinatown is across the highway.

The services are divided into regular trains, rapid trains, express trains, and the Sprinter or special express train; they offer 3rd class, 2nd class sleeping, 2nd class and 1st class sleeping cars with or without air-conditioning. The trains are rather old; traveling across Thailand by bus is faster.

Planning a trip is easy, since the trains keep the same daily schedule; detailed timetables are available at the counters; reservations for the 1st class cars are not necessary. Ten trains per day travel southwards, the trip takes roughly twelve hours.

The closest station to Surat Thani is 12 kilometers from town; this is one of the recurrent problems in town, shuttle buses and taxis connecting the different terminals and the town are wildly overpriced.

Several daily flights connect Bangkok with Surat; as with most other domestic locations in Thailand, reserving seats is not necessary.

Boats connect the city with the main islands from a pier located north of the city. Thus, most buses heading for the islands skip downtown Surat; the ferry to the islands is included in the tickets. Yet, it is possible to buy tickets to Surat, and then book independently a place in the ferry through one of the many travel agencies in town (not recommended) or directly at the pier.

Within Surat

Orange buses are definitely the way to travel around Surat, and the most inexpensive way of traveling between the various terminals and downtown. Reading Thai – at least being capable of identifying names – helps. Beyond them, the ubiquitous songthaews ("son thew" would be a better transliteration, but I stick here to the common one) function also here, though they tend to overprize foreigners. Taxis also offer services in town.

My Favorite Option

Bangkok’s End

All that was very interesting, but the best way of moving around in Thailand is by bus. Surat Thani can be comfortably reached with air conditioned buses from Bangkok’s Southern Terminal. Please note that the terminal was moved in recent years further away from Thonburi’s center. It can be reached with bus 4 from the Victory Monument or with a taxi. The bus 4 trip to the terminal costs a staggering thirty baht as compared to the regular seven baht fare; to that, the transport to the Victory Monument should be added. The Skytrain has a station at the Victory Monument.

Surat’s End

There are three bus terminals in the city. The one on Thanon Taladmai and next to Talat Kaset I, serves mainly short distance buses. It is surrounded by tourist offices selling overpriced tickets for a bus to Bangkok while claiming "there is no northern terminal, we offer the only VIP bus." However, the truth is that they sell tickets for a private bus; these cars are of much lower quality and more expensive than the VIP buses leaving from the northern terminal and suffer of bad reputation: stealing of goods from the stored backpacks is a real danger, getting false promises of a guesthouse included in the ticket price at the destination is another one. The terminal in front of that one, next to Talat Kaset II serves the southern lines, mainly to Ranong, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Krabi, and Hat Yai.

If traveling with a night buses from Khaosan Road to Koh Samui, take note that they stop at Surat Thani around 6 AM for an early breakfast until the ferries begin their operation. The stop is in a guesthouse in Rat Bumrung Road, not far away from the bridge over the Tapi River and a 7 Eleven branch; a few snacks and a take-away coffee for the way will brighten the way.

The best way of reaching Bangkok is from the Northern Terminal; the term northern refers to its handling of buses heading to the north; the terminal is actually located south of downtown. Buses span the distance from downtown for 10B. Once there, the well-advertised VIP counter sells tickets to Bangkok for 380B while claiming that there are no regular buses; however, in front of that counter is the regular, air-conditioned-bus counter selling tickets for 295B. The choice belongs to the traveler.



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