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.