In a nutshell
No matter the reason why you travel the south of Thailand, but if you do it make sure to save some days for Nakhon Si Thammarat; the second biggest southern province has in fact a lot to offer to tourists.
Why go to Nakhon Si Thammarat
One of the best natural parks in the country will be the highlight of the trip for natural lovers, while the more adventurous trekker will be challenged with a three days trip to the summit of the highest peak in the south of Thailand.
People searching for quiet and marvelous beaches still unspoiled and untouched by western tourists will find their paradise in the north of the province. Temples and history enthusiasts will be fascinated by Nakhon Si Thammarat town, the capital of the province, which has been in the past a strategic point of one of the most important trading route connecting eastern and western world.
Temples, museum, historic walls and many more attractions can be found in the old part of town. People interested in visual arts will love the old tradition of shadow puppets, still alive in this town more than anywhere else.
When to go to Nakhon Si Thammarat
The rainy season in Nakhon Si Thammarat province starts in September and runs till January, but it usually implies a daily storm that last no more than a couple of hours in the late afternoon. If you want to minimize any risk of rain February and March are the only ‘’safe’’ months, since Nakhon SI Thammarat is also partially affected by the south-west monsoon in the remaining months of the year. This is also the best period if you’re planning to trek to the summit of Khao Luang.
The most important festival in Nakhon is Hae Pha Khuen That, which is held twice a year, in February and May (the date depends on the lunar calendar); a procession through town will end in Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, where the devotes will cover the holy pagoda with a religious rope to pay respect to Lord Buddha’s relics and receive good luck and success for the next year.
Where to stay in Nakhon Si Thammarat
Nakhon Si Thammarat is not a backpacker’s market, and cheap guesthouses or hostel’s dormitories are impossible to find. Nevertheless people on a tight budget will still be able to sleep with less than THB250 in one of the old hotels conveniently located close to the train station. The rooms are really simple, but they always come with an attached bathroom. A lot more options are available instead in a mid-budget range, with a growing number of boutique hotels, fancy guesthouses and homestay solutions spread everywhere around the city center. A high-end hotel close to the historic part of town will offer a lot of comfort and facility at affordable rates.
Where and what to eat in Nakhon Si Thammarat
Night markets and street food stalls are available in every part of town, with one of the best option being close to the train station. Many simple Thai restaurants will give you the chance to try the tasty (even more delicious if you can handle spicy food) Southern cuisine. There’s not a lot of choices of high-end restaurants in the city center, while several cafes and bakeries can be found everywhere in town for a delicious coffees and a sweet treat. A good selection of western food is available in many pubs and restaurants.
How to get around Nakhon Si Thammarat
The city is stretched along Ratchadamnoen road which runs from North to South for roughly 7 km. All the major attractions can be found in proximity of this road, and the easier way to reach them is to get one the frequent blue songthaews for THB10. Alternatively motorbike taxies are available everywhere and a quick ride will cost you around THB40. Motorbikes can be rented for THB250 a day in many shops and guesthouses.
How to get to and from Nakhon Si Thammarat
A small airport is located 15 km north of the city center. Bangkok Don Muang is the only destination available with multiple flights everyday operated by Nok Air, Air Asia and Lion Air. A private taxi will take you to town at the fixed price of THB300.
The bus station is 2 km away from the city center, going west from the train station. A motorbike taxi will charge you THB50 to your destination, while many songhtaew will cover the route for THB10.
Several companies run buses from Bangkok Southern Terminal and Mo Chit Station with multiple departures during the day; the cheapest option is a second class bus for THB460, while the most expensive overnight VIP will cost you THB850, but will be a lot more comfortable. The trip takes roughly 12 hours.
Almost all the other destinations are handled with minivans, which all depart from a dedicated terminal attached to the bus station; there’s at least a departure every hour to Krabi (THB200, 3 hours), Phuket (THB350, 5 hours), Koh Lanta (THB300, 5 hours), Trang (THB130, 2 hours), Surat Thani (THB120, 2 hours) and Hat Yai (THB140, 3 hours). If you’re heading to the northern beaches near Khanom the ticket will be THB80 for the 1,5 hours trip.
The train station is located in the city center near Ratchadamnoen road, making the train a really convenient option. There are two daily departures from Bangkok at 5:35pm and 7:30pm; the trip takes 15 hours and rates start at THB250 for a third class seat, while a second class air-conditioned sleeper will come for THB750. Train is also a good alternative if your next destination is Surat Thani (ferry to Koh Samui / Koh Phangan), Chumphon (ferry to Koh Tao) or Hua Hin.
Safe travel in Nakhon Si Thammarat
Nakhon Si Thammarat is a safe place to travel, with almost no accidents (excluding motorbike accidents) involving western tourists in the last few years.
English is widely spoken (at a very basic level) as a consequence of the growing number of international tourists and the large community of expats (mainly teachers) living here.
A big hospital with good standards can be found in the south part of town.
Nakhon Si Thammarat station guide
Nakhon Si Thammarat - Bus
Also known as Muang Nakhon and Nakhon Si, Nakhon Si Thammarat is a main cultural hub of southern Thailand that houses the more than 1,000-year-old Phra Mahathat temple, which is a very significant Buddhist monument. The city’s surrounding area boasts several pretty beaches, stunning waterfalls, as well as pristine tropical rainforests.
The bus station of Nakhon Si Thammarat is situated west of town on Phaniad Road and can be easily reached by motorcycle taxi or songthaew from the downtown area. From the Southern bus terminal in Bangkok, daily air-conditioned buses depart to Nakhon Si Thammarat. The journey takes around 12 hours. From Nakhon Si Thammarat, many mini buses operate routes to popular travel destinations, such as Krabi, Hat Yai and Phuket.
The train station has basic amenities and is ideally situated on Yommarat Road in downtown Nakhon Si Thammarat. Daily Rapid and Express services run from and to Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong station. Two airlines, Nok Air and Air Asia, operate daily scheduled flights between Bangkok and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Flights take about 50 minutes.
Nakhon Si Thammarat is one of Thailand’s most ancient places, boasting numerous ruins and constructions of historical significance. The National Museum probably has the finest collection of religious artefacts from southern Thailand. The majority of good hotels are located within walking distance of the railway station on Yommarat Road. Along this road visitors will also find plenty of dining opportunities.
Thung Song - Bus
Thung Song is a district in the southwest of Thailand’s southern Nakhon Si Thammarat province. This pretty little area of the south has remained relatively untouched as tourists flock to the more renowned islands to the east and west, yet it is surrounded by rolling mountains and boasts some stunning waterfalls, including the five-level Namtok Ai Khiao which features some incredible views.
The town itself is located on Route 41, so some buses running from southern hubs such as Hat Yai and Phatthalung en route to Chumphon and further north, Bangkok, will stop here, although it’s advisable to check first.
Thung Yai - Bus
The most significant water resource in the southern Thai district of Thung Yai is the Tapi River. Nakhon Si Thammarat province's westernmost district can be reached by bus from Bangkok's Southern terminal, a journey of just over 730kms. Thung Yai itself is lacking in major tourist attractions.
Thung Yai may be located 102kms from Nakhon Si Thammarat, the provincial capital, but its closest city is Phatthalung. Phatthalung, a city surrounded by Songkhla Lake and the Khao Ok Thalu mountain, contains the nearest hotel to Thung Yai, City Park Hotel. The city of Trang, about 45kms from Thung Yai, includes the Rua Rasada Hotel and Convention Center as well as the Nature Farm Resort.
Nakhon Si Thammarat - train
Nakhon Si Thammarat train station is conveniently located in the center of Yommarat Road. Day and night there are trains that run north to Bangkok.
From Bangkok to Nakhon Si Thammarat, there are 2 departures in Hua Lamphong Station: Rapid 173 at 5:35pm and Express 85 at 7:15pm.
There are also two trains available to/from Hat Yai and one each to Yala and Sungai Kolok.
Hua Sai - Bus
The district and township of Hua Sai is located in southern Thailand. It lies within the province of Nakhon Sri Thammarat (about one hour’s drive from the city itself along Route 408 or 90 minutes via the coastal Route 4013) on the western coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Buses to Hua Sai from Bangkok depart from the Southern Bus Terminal, a trip of between 10 and 11 hours costing from 750 to 1100 baht, depending on the bus used.
Hua Sai is an area little visited by travellers, but offers traditional temples, easy access to some great national parks and lots of superb, palm-fringed beaches to explore. Cheap beachside accommodation can still be found. Further attractions of this area include the genuine warmth of its inhabitants and lots of excellent seafood.
Sichon - Bus
Located in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Sichon is a coastal district that lies between Nakhon Si Thammarat around 60kms to the south and Surat Thani roughly 50kms to the west. Local buses between the cities on Route 401 pass through the district regularly throughout the day.
The fishing village of Sichon features a couple of beaches, although they are not as picturesque as others in the area. The Sikiet Waterfall National Park is located to the west of the district and offers some pleasant scenery. If passing through the village, it’s well worth trying the seafood that is brought in on a daily basis.
Pak Phanang - Bus
Pak Phanang lies on the Gulf of Thailand coast and is about 800kms south of Bangkok. The district and town are noted for long stretches of golden sands that are a delight for beach lovers and water sports fans. The district abuts the southern outskirts of the town of Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Nakhon Si Thammarat has both bus and rail services to and from Bangkok. From Nakhon Si Thammarat bus station it is only a short trip with a local bus or taxi to Pak Phanang. The bus trip from Bangkok’s Southern terminal to Nakhon Si Thammarat takes 12 hours and departures are mostly early in the morning or the evening. Two trains a day run in each direction and take 14 hours.
Chauat - Bus
The small town of Chauat sits in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, around 800kms south of Bangkok and has both a bus station and a railway station. Overnight buses leave from Bangkok’s Southern terminal for Chauat twice nightly, while three trains per day leave Hua Lumphong, arriving at Chauat 14 to 15 hours later.
Chauat’s bus station and railway station are in the town centre, within walking distance of one another and close to the Cha-uat Patrol Police Office. Places of interest in the city include Wat Muen Ra Ngap Rangsan and Wat Simaprasit. There are also a few places to stay, including Tong Rak Hotel and Maprang Resort.
Chian Yai - Bus
Chian Yai is a small town that sits along the Cha-Uat River in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, some 830kms south of Bangkok. The town has its own bus station and buses make the 11-hour journey from Bangkok’s Southern terminal twice daily. The bus station sits right along the river opposite the Chian Yai Police Station.
There are a few places of interest in Chian Yai, including Wat Pho Mai and Wat Chian Yai, as well as the nearby Museum Honouring the King for the Development of Pak Phanang Basin. Places to stay in the area include the Green Park and Karaket resorts.
Tha Sala - Bus
Located on the Gulf of Thailand, Tha Sala is a small district in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, around 10kms north of the city of Nakhon Si Thammarat. Tha Sala is not on any of the main roads in the south, but provincial buses serve it throughout the day. In addition, local buses running between Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani, around 120kms northwest, pass through the town.
There is one main that runs through Tha Sala and plenty of places to buy food, such as roadside restaurants, food vendors and, of course, the 7-Elevens that are seen all over the country.
Chulabhorn - Bus
Situated in southern Thailand within a short drive of Namtok Yong National Park, Chulabhorn is home to a number of noteworthy tourist attractions. Numerous cities and towns can be accessed by bus from Chulabhorn. The bus station in Chulabhorn is located on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road. From Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal there are frequent bus services following a route to Chulabhorn.
Popular visitor attractions include: Wat Somkhuan, Wat Wang Khong, and Wat Sam Nak Khan. The city of Chulabhorn is a destination which requires a three-day visit. Tourists can enjoy comfortable stays in the city as there is a wide range of accommodation facilities available.