Many travellers treat Trang just as a convenient starting point for their onward journey to the neighbouring islands, but the city itself possesses infinite charm, too. Trang has a thriving Chinese community, one of the largest in the country, so it is the place to witness the most important Chinese festivals in Thailand like the Chinese New Year in February or the Vegetarian festival in September or October. Trang is a great place to taste the mixture of Thai, Malay and Chinese cooking traditions, spend your morning or afternoon in one of the numerous coffee shops which dot the city, or explore the environs rich in beautiful waterfalls, cave temples, trekking routes and beaches. Not too touristy or overcrowded, Trang feels delightfully friendly and cosy. Throw in a great choice of moderately priced accommodation – and you will not want to leave it!
How to get to Trang from Bangkok
From Bangkok you can reach Trang by train or by bus. Trains are slower but arrive to the centre of the city and let you sleep comfortably all night through – provided you book a berth, not a seat. Buses are faster and offer a wider choice of departures.
From Bangkok to Trang by train
The main branch of the Southern Line of the Thai Railway, which begins in Bangkok and terminates in Sungai Kolok on the Thailand-Malaysian border, passes through Trang. To cover this 830 km stretch from Bangkok to Trang trains take from 15 to 16 hours, so be prepared for rather a longish journey.
Two daily trains from Bangkok to Trang are #83 which leaves Hua Lamphong at 5.05pm and arrives to Trang at 8.05am and #167, a bit slower but no less convenient, at 6.30pm (10.35am). Your prime choice for a 15+ night journey is undoubtedly a sleeper. There are second-class AC sleepers in both #83 and #167 at THB1050.
Do not disregard a more budget alternative to a second class AC sleeper – a second class fan sleeper. Air-conditioning in trains tends to be excessive sometimes, but a fan keeps you cool enough without freezing you to death. There are fan sleepers in train #167; tickets cost THB800.
Train #83 offers a first class AC sleeper at THB1730 which normally gets great reviews from travellers. Though compartments are rather spacious and clean, do not expect a brand-new carriage. Nonetheless a first class sleeper always remains a worthy investment for long journeys.
Both #83 and #167 have second-class fan seats only carriages at about THB650-680, depending on the departure. The price difference between second-class fan sleepers and fan seats is insignificant, so it is highly advisable to opt for a sleeper.
Trang railway station is in the centre of the city with majority of accommodation located in the nearby area within a walking distance.
From Bangkok to Trang by bus
Buses to Trang leave from the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok, Sai Tai Mai, located in Thonburi, on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River. The route is served by a number of companies, including Sappaisal and Sri Suthep Tour. Buses are considerably faster than trains – normally a trip from Bangkok to Trang should not take much longer than 11 hours. Both companies offer Express buses at THB660 with one morning departure at 7am and two afternoon departures at 4.30pm and 4.40pm. The afternoon buses are somewhat inconvenient as they arrive to Trang in the small hours – at 4.40am and 3.40am. The bus station is located about four km to the north of the centre and the guesthouse area, and to get to your accommodation at this hour may prove a challenge. If you do not want to spend the rest of the night literarily under the stars, it pays to call your guesthouse in advance to let them know about your arrival, so they arrange accordingly.
Two night buses – a VIP24 of Sappaisal (THB1020) and a VIP of Sri Suthep Tour (THB770) – leave Bangkok at 7pm and reach Trang by 6am. A VIP24 is always a great choice as there are only three seats in a row instead of four, meaning a more comfortable and spacious ride. That said, a ‘normal’ VIP is also a good option, so if you are price sensitive, take a VIP and you will not be disappointed. The service is very much the same – expect a bottle of water (juice) and some snack. Dinner is served either on board or at a food court at a large gas station somewhere in the middle of the route.
Tip: Have some warm clothes at hand: night buses are famous for freezing temperatures, and a blanket provided in the bus is often not enough.
Tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis are readily available and do not overcharge. A short trip should cost around THB30. You can also agree on an hourly or daily rate to go further afield to explore the sights outside the city.
It is a good idea, though, to have your own wheels as the majority of sights and attractions are located in a 30-km radius from the city. Motorbikes and cars can be rented through several street agencies. Expect to pay about THB200 and THB1500 per day for a motorbike/a car respectively.
Though the chances that your next stop after Trang is the islands of the Andaman where you are going to have plenty of sea-sand-sun cocktail are high, there are decent beaches on the mainland near Trang, too. These are located 40km to the west of the city and include Hat Pak Meng and Hat Chang Lang among others.
11 km from Trang there is the Southern Thailand Botanical Garden which is a nice place for strolling and hiking with a number of interesting plant species on the background.
If you want more nature trails, Khao Banthad Wildlife Conservation Area is the place to go. Local villages offer guided tours of various levels of difficulty to picturesque waterfalls including Ton Tok waterfall.
Island hopping from Trang
Trang is a convenient base for further connections to the islands of Koh Libong Archipelago aka the Trang islands (Koh Libong, Koh Muk, Koh Kradang) and Tarutao National Marine Park (Koh Tarutao, Koh Lipe and Koh Ngai) in the neighbouring Satun province.
Tigerline Travel’s high speed ferries ply the sea between Phuket and Langkawi in Malaysia, calling en route to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Ngai, Koh Kradan, Koh Muk, Trang and Koh Lipe. The second, longer, route goes from Krabi and besides the above mentioned stops comprises Koh Libong. The company offers combination tickets which include pickup at different location in Trang Town, eg. Trang bus station, the railway station, the airport, a hotel, and high speed ferry to the chosen island.
Note: In case of Koh Lipe, Koh Kradan, Koh Muk and Koh Ngai the Tigerline Travel high speed ferries cannot moor at the islands as there are no suitable piers, and the short transfer between the ferry and each of the islands is provided by local longtail boats which charge additional fee (THB50) for the ride. It is not included into Tigerline Travel ticket price; you will have to pay directly to the operator.
A combination van+high speed ferry ticket from Trang bus station or Trang railway station to Koh Libong costs THB600 (3½ hours), to Koh Muk, Koh Ngai and Koh Lipe – THB950 (3hrs 40min; 4hrs 40min; five hours respectively), and THB1150 (four hours) – to Koh Kradan.
From Trang to other islands of the Andaman
If the Trang islands are not enough, you can continue your island hopping in the Andaman Sea further north – Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta are all at your complete disposal. Though it is possible to reach all the three islands by boat, the easiest way is to get to Phuket by bus first and then proceed further afield.
Sri Trang bus company operates frequent buses from Trang to Phuket from Trang bus terminal. The first bus departs at 10.15am and the last one – at 12.30am. There is a gap in the schedule from 3.15pm till 8.15pm, the rest of the day buses leave at least once an hour. All of these are air-con express buses (THB280), except for a VIP24 departing at 9.45pm (THB420). Buses take about five hours to reach the recently constructed Bus Station 2 Bo-Ko-So Terminal in Phuket which is located four km to the north of the centre in Phuket Town. The terminal also serves buses from/to many of the Thai southern cities.
It takes about two hours to get from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi and one more hour to reach Koh Lanta in Krabi, though it is easier to get to the latter by van from Krabi.