Pak Song (ปากทรง) is a subdistrict (population 4,743) that encompasses 8 smaller villages in the Central Gulf Coast area of Southern Thailand. Although relatively unknown by travelers it is gradually establishing a name thanks to the tranquil and undisturbed mountain setting.
If you want the ‘real Thailand’ this is where you will find it. Most of the locals speak only Thai but are willing to help wherever possible. Their friendly nature is refreshingly genuine unlike the touts and scam artists most tourists come across in the bigger cities. It's not overloaded with tourists in this quiet and quaint Thai mountain setting that occasionally sees the younger backpacker/ eco-volunteer pass through for short stays at a local eco-organisation.
Pak Song is located in the Chumphon province however the closest town is Ranong (located in the neigbouring province of the same name). Pak Song is a subdistrict municipality which belongs to the Phato District and it is this area (which extends from Lang Suan to the coast) that is famous for its fruit growing. Thus Pak Song is a calm farming area where the majority of the population owns or works on plantations (mainly fruit and palm trees).
According to locals the name “Pak Song” has historical meaning dating back to a past Thai King who made a journey up Phato River en route to Ranong and disembarked at the area which is now Pak Song. The word “Pak” literally translates as pier or entrance and indicates the point where the King alighted from the boat to continue the journey by land; “Song” translate as ‘his’ but is only used to refer to Thai royalty.
Pak Song experiences the extremes of Thailand's weather patterns; from long days of pounding rain during wet season (late May - late November) to long dry stretches from October to early May with heat peaking in April (over 40 degrees Celsius). Anytime is fine to visit, however, for the picky traveler the best time to visit is from December to March when it is regularly sunny and temperatures average 28-30 degrees Celsius. To escape the heat the beginning of wet season is the best alternative.
Local buses pass through Pak Song on the Ranong - Luan Suan route but are notoriously unreliable for arriving and departing on time. The bus time table states that there is a 12pm, 2pm and 4pm service through Pak Song however this depends on how smooth prior connections are. It is best to ask locals when the next bus is then referring to the time table. Be prepared to wait.
Traveling by train is a very comfortable, but it will take a bit more time than by bus.
From Bangkok: You have to travel to Lang Suan. You can choose to arrive in the morning or in the afternoon (you can check the Thai Railway web site for exact times and a schedule). Once you have arrived via train in Lang Suan you cross the railway, towards the market (“talaad” in Thai) of Lang Suan (there will be motorcycle taxi's at the train station who can bring you there). Close to the market you'll find the bus station with the local red buses. Take a bus going to Ranong (there is an 11am and a 5pm bus) and tell the driver you to let you out in Pak Song (approx. 75 minutes in the bus).
Buses are the cheapest and easiest way to reach Pak Song.
From Bangkok: Depart from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal to Ranong (8-10hrs). Once in Ranong take a bus heading for Lang Suan and ask the driver to let you out in Pak Song (approx. 1hr 15mins).
From Phuket: Bus departs from the Central Bus Station near Phuket City Center; buy a ticket to Ranong. Once in Ranong take a bus heading for Lang Suan and ask the driver to let you out in Pak Song (approx. 1hr 15mins).
From Surat Thani: Depart from the bus station at Talaad Kaset 2 behind Thai Thani Hotel. This bus passes Phato and Pak Song. Ask to get out at the Pak Song intersection, after you pass Phato (4hrs). There is also the non-air conditioned bus departing from Bus Station at Talaad Kaset 1 on the opposite side of the main road. This bus passes Phato and Pak Song; get out at the Pak Song intersection after you pass Phato (5hrs).
Everything in Pak Song is within walking distance. The town centre itself is a 200m stretch of road with three little convenience stores, three noodle shops, a few garages and a Friday market. If you wish to visit the nearby waterfalls etc. it is possible to hitchhike along the road to many of the start points of the walking tracks. However to be aware that a ‘thumb up’ is not the universally recognized sign in Thailand for hitching but rather to say “hello and good day,” it is better to just stick your hand out. You will need to also have a fair idea of where you are going as many of the locals only speak Thai and road signs are rare.
Waterfalls - Haew Lome waterfall is located along an asphalt road off the N4006 highway (the road opposite the bus stop in Pak Song centre). You cross a bridge at the beginning of the road before it turns to the left (the internet cafe is on the corner of this turn). If you wish to traverse the road by foot to the start of the waterfall trail it is about 1hr 15mins (the waterfall trail is on the right and signposted - but in Thai), from the beginning of the trail it is another 2 hours of gravel road until you reach the waterfall. Tip: TCDF Eco-Logic Resort and Activity Center is located 10 mins down the asphalt road and can provide directions if needed (they also run treks with local guides - see below).
Friday morning market - a rather small and ordinary market that sells all the usual Thai goods (cheap clothing, cooked and raw food stuffs, toiletries etc.) at local prices. Despite its mundane appearance, this market does provide an insight into the local Thai culture that lurks behind the facade of touristy markets overflowing with fluorescent pink Chang beer t-shirts.
Don’t expect to go shopping in Pak Song unless you are seeking out essential items such as shampoo and detergent.
The only real place to buy souvenirs is at the TCDF Eco Art Shop. Most of the wares are made by local children, students at the special needs school or volunteers. One can purchase such things as earrings, postcards, clothing, bags and trinkets among others. All profits go directly to local projects of the Thai Child Development Foundation (TCDF). Call +66 86 172 1090.
Som Tam (spicy papaya salad) and grilled chicken at the open air local restaurant opposite the Friday morning market.
TCDF Eco-Logic Resort has a wonderful restaurant overlooking the river and surrounding mountains and valleys. The restaurant specialises in Thai cuisine but also does remarkably well improvising Western recipes with local ingredients. The eco-friendly restaurant tries to source as many ingredients as possible from their own organic gardens and animal farm with the aim of one day becoming completely self-sufficient. For breakfast be sure to try the homemade Thai peanut butter!
There is a karaoke bar in Pak Song however it is rarely open so your best bet is to head to the TCDF Eco-Logic Resort Restaurant to drink and mingle. The restaurant is always open and is a regular hang out spot for eco-volunteers staying in the nearby dormitory. Most nights there is a food or activities theme ranging from Western or Thai food buffets to games and music nights.