How to get to Suratthani from Bangkok
Very few tourists who pass through Suratthani on their way to the islands of the Gulf stay in the city even for one night. From the first glance, this busy transport hub does not have much to offer even to the most curious of the travellers. But what Suratthani can give you is the taste of real Thailand – from its spicy cuisine with obvious Muslin influence to narrow streets of the old market quarter. Suratthani is a good base for day trips all around the province which in fact hides a rarely visited mountainous part better explored by car or motorcycle. Suratthani is not by any means the destination to put high in your must-visit list, but if you happen in the area make your best not to miss this pleasant and not touristy place.
Getting to Suratthani
To get to Suratthani from Bangkok, you have an option of a bus or train journey. Travelling by train requires more time (up to 12 hours), while a bus can bring you to your destination in 8 or 9 hours. Travelling by night bus or train is a great way to save your daytime and some extra baht as you do not need to pay for your hotel room. With a variety of choices in price and level of comfort the both means of transportation offer, the long journey from Bangkok to Suratthani is not as tiring as it sounds.
From Bangkok to Suratthani by bus
Buses from Bangkok to Suratthani leave from the Southern bus Terminal in Bangkok, called Sai Tai Mai. The route is served with a number of operators, including Sri Suthep Tour, Bus Express and Bangkok Busline. All of them offer both express and VIP coaches and very similar service, which also includes a meal (served on board or during a pit-stop on the route). The cheapest option is a Sri Suthep Tour express at THB 517, but for some extra baht you can buy a VIP ticket with Bangkok Busline, which is a step further in the sense of comfort. There are only two morning buses at 7.20am, but in the evening the choice is much wider with a number of buses departing hourly from 5pm till 8pm.
Which bus station?
In Suratthani buses from Bangkok arrive to the ‘new’ bus station which lies approximately 7km south of town on Route 41 (Asian Highway 2). To get to the city from there, catch any of the fan cooled orange buses between Surat and the train station at Phun Phin with departures every 10 minutes.
Suratthani has great bus connections with the main cities of the south with buses leaving from the two city bus stations: Talat Kaset 1 and Talat Kaset 2. The former serves local buses around Suratthani Province, while the latter receives traffic from many southern cities of Thailand.
From Bangkok to Suratthani by train
Trains from Bangkok to Suratthani leave from Hua Lamphong Station. There is a morning 2nd class AC seats only which is also the fastest one covering the distance between Bangkok and Suratthani in 9 hours (and for THB 808). The rest of the batch are slower (up to 12 hours) and depart in the afternoon and in the evening at 1pm, 2.45pm, 3.10pm, 3.35pm, 5.05pm, 5.35pm. 6.30pm, 7.30pm and 10.50pm. Even if slower than buses, trains offer the most comfortable ride, depending on which ticket you book. The top choice is an AC 1st class sleeper (the most convenient of which is #85 at 7.30pm; there are also #35 at 2.45pm and #83 at 5.05pm) which lets you travel like a king for your THB 1539. Second class sleepers are also air-conditioned and provide beds that fold out of your seating upon request or in the evening. These tickets cost from THB 968 to THB 1008, and while they may not be as private as 1st class, they are still very comfortable. There are ladies’ only carriages introduced recently, and for solo female travellers it is a really good option at THB 1008. The fan sleeper carriage works pretty much the same as a normal sleeper but excludes air conditioning and gives you an arguable opportunity to take in countryside smells along the trip. Fan sleepers cost 708 THB per person.
Suratthani train station is located in the town of Phun Phin, some 15 km south of the provincial capital. Local buses travel between the city and the train station every 10 minutes throughout the day.
From Suratthani to the islands of the Gulf
For many travellers Suratthani is just a starting point for their journey to the islands of the Gulf. A number of operators offer a joint ticket (bus+ferry) from Suratthani Town, the train station or the airport. You can as well buy just a ferry ticket with Lomprayah or Seatran: both of them bring you to Samui in 2–2½ hrs, Koh Phangan in about 3 hours and to Koh Tao in 5–6 hours. To be on the safe side, book your tickets to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao from Suratthani in advance.
**Tip: If your are prone to seasickness, get the necessary medicine at hand.
Why make a stop-over in Suratthani?
Suratthani makes a good base for exploring the nearby areas which are rarely visited by tourist and can give you a taste of real Thailand. Visit Ban Phum Riang fishing village where Muslim women weave wonderful red, yellow and black silk cloths or make a romantic evening cruise along Tapi River, partly overgrown with mangrove forests. There is a monkey training centre 13km from Suratthani in Kanchanadit district; and if you have enough time and arrange your own transport you can go exploring the interior of the vast province. Suratthani is a true gem as far as the street food is concerned; its cuisine showcasing a great variety of Southern dishes and traditional Muslim curries.
Want to see an Amazon rain forest in Thailand? Welcome to Khao Sok!
Khao Sok National Park is definitely one of the wonders of Suratthani province. Khao Sok is arguably the wettest region of the country with annual rainfall reaching 3500 mm. Thanks to its unique geographic location and relative remoteness the park boasts incredible biodiversity, which easily surpasses the one of the famous Amazon rain forests. Khao Sok shelters over 5% of the world’s wildlife species and an abundance of plants, i.e. a beautiful Rafflesia.
There is plenty of activities on offer in Khao Sok including jungle trekking, elephant encounters, canoeing, cruising Cheow Larn Lake or bird watching. Well, even sitting on your guesthouse terrace and taking in amazing views is already greatly rewarding! The park offers package multiday tours, but you can as well come all by yourself and tailor-make your vacation in Khao Sok right on the spot.
It takes about two hours to get to Khao Sok National park from Suratthani or Suratthani Airport with chartered vans of Phantip Charter. They offer a 9-seat Toyota Commuter at THB3,150 any time of the day on your request. The price includes pickup from your hotel (or location specified). Recommended.