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Surat Thani

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For other places with the same name, see Surat (disambiguation).

Surat Thani (สุราษฎร์ธานี) is a city on the Central Gulf Coast of Southern Thailand. At approximately 125,000 residents, it is the eighth largest city in Thailand. It is also the capital of Surat Thani Province.

Understand

Surat Thani city pillar shrine

Surat Thani (often shortened to Surat) is the largest province of south Thailand. Surat Thani means "City of Good People", the title given to the city by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). It is a gateway to the islands of Thailand's Gulf Coast: Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao. They are much-visited destinations, as well as Ang Thong National Marine Park.

Get in

By plane

Surat Thani Airport (IATA: URT | ICAO: VTSB) is about 20 km west of the city in the Phun Phin District. Thai Airways, Air Asia, and Nok Air operate daily flights to/from Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok. Also there's a new direct flight from Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia. Phantip Travel has bus service connecting all flights to the airport from Surat Thani. Phantip Travel (Tel. +66 77 272230, +66 77 282331) is located on Taladmai Rd. The price one-way is 100 baht.

By train

The Surat Thani train station, despite its name, is located in Phun Phin, about 12 km west of town centre. Most comfortable are the overnight trains from Bangkok, which arrive in early morning. There are always many touts who try to snag tourists and sell trips to Surat or the islands directly. Usually the most aggressive sellers are the most expensive. However, it's not a big problem to reach the city itself from the railway station. Municipal buses depart the train station for Surat Thani every 30 minutes and cost 20 baht, (15 baht to the new bus station). Walk left out of the station and look for the red (old) bus. This bus will stop at the new bus station just at the edge of town. After this stop it's still 5 km to the city centre. The bus service appears to stop in the late evening. After that, the only option is a taxi, the drivers of which come into the station to try to find passengers. Instead, go outside and turn immediately to the left. There is a stand with taxis charging a fixed price of 140 baht to Surat Thani. The price is clearly indicated on a printed canvas sign attached high up.

By bus

The new Surat Thani bus terminal is located a bit outside the city; however if you plan to go directly into the city, it is usually possible to ask for a stop before. The old bus terminal in the middle of city is now frequented only by some private buses, which are riskier than the government buses.

There are many bus companies offering services from the Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai) Bangkok to Surat Thani.

If you are coming from Phuket, it takes about 6 hours to reach Surat Thani. Connections by bus, tuk-tuk, or songthaew from the bus terminal to the main town are available.

When arriving in Surat Thani via long distance bus, such as one from Bangkok, Hat Yai, or Phuket, it is more likely than not that at some point in the city outskirts the bus will stop, and some people will board the bus. They will ask foreigners where they are going, and if the answer is that they are going to the islands, these people will strongly insist (in English) that the tourists get off the bus here, to get transportation to their destination. Their behaviour will be far from the usual politeness and calmness of Thai people. They may even try to unload your luggage from the bus to make you follow them.

If you take a scammer up on his offer, you will be taken a few kilometres away by songthaew (which will be promised to be "free") to a travel agency in the city centre, where you are likely to be asked a ridiculous price (e.g., 450-500 baht to Ko Samui) to go to you destination. If you refuse, they will try to charge you 2-3 times the regular price (60 baht/person for the trip with 5-10 fellow passengers) for a supposedly free songthaew trip from the bus. If going from Ko Samui or Ko Pha Ngan to Bangkok, the same may happen. If so, they will either try to sell you Khao San Rd bus ticket (widely known for theft on board) or, if you happen to have a train ticket, to offer you a triple-priced taxi. As they induce you to leave the bus in the middle of nowhere, your choices and bargaining power will be limited. This is the most annoying part of travelling to/from Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan via Surat Thani, and the best you can do is to ignore their requests, not leave the bus in remote places, use the official bus only, and generally follow Thai people who are travelling on the same bus from the start (especially if some will go to the same destination as you).

As noted above, the bus terminal in the centre of town has mainly local buses there. Buses from Khao Lak go to this point and not to any other bus terminal. It seems that buses to/from other places, e.g., Krabi, do go here as well.

Beware a nasty scam though! A tuk-tuk driver in a red/orange vehicle (most are blue) slurred "two hundred" into "twenty" remarkably well indeed! Admittedly the hotel was well out of town some 4 km, but this is still a ridiculous price. In the morning, since the hotel was in the middle of nowhere, he only charged 150 baht into town, but, to get us to the Krabi bus, he dropped us at a travel agent, Tanaporn Travel, directly opposite where the Krabi bus was leaving. Address is 442/313 Talatmai Rd, close to the old bus station. They charged more than twice the correct bus price and it appears that the taxi driver, and also the bus conductor (who gave a knowing smile and did not even inspect the ticket) are also in on the scam. Buy tickets on the buses only! Correct price is 140 baht (we paid 285 baht!). This was the 10:00 bus to Krabi (takes about three hours to get there).

If you are arriving at the train station, and your plans call for transit to Phuket, buses depart every few hours, until about 15:30. The ticket price is very reasonable by Western standards. Travel time is three to four hours. The bus departure area is about 100 m away from the train station. For specific directions, just ask the representative at the rail information desk.

By boat

You can take the ferry from any of the islands nearby, taking about two and a half hours. There is food for purchase on board and movies on some boats as well.

From islands such as Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao, a ferry ride takes between 7 and 9 hours depending on whether you take the fast or slow boat. The slow boat from Ko Tao is overnight and features mattresses for sleeping. The skipper is especially friendly.

The ride will generally cost between 500 and 600 baht depending on the season. Be wary of black market tickets as people will try to sell you tickets for over 2,000 baht promising food and DVDs included in the price.

Always go to a TAT approved travel agency.

Get around

When you get off the ferry on the mainland, there are two ferry companies with bus departures every 30 minutes (Seatran Ferry and Raja Ferry). A bus ride is included with the ferry (note the strange system of paper tickets combined with circular stickers that you stick on your shirt). It is a 45 minute bus ride down back roads from the ferry terminal to Surat Thani. More than one ferry terminal serves Surat Thani.

Tuk-tuks are small local vehicles (cost around 10-20 baht) that cruise the town on short hops. Hail one on any major road with a wave or yell, settle on the destination and price, and sit down on the bench in the back.

See

  • Monkey Training College, 24 Moo 4, Tambon Thungkong, Amphoe Kanchanadit, 84290 Surat-Thani (8 km from town, in the direction to Don Sak.), +66 77 227351, or +66 84 7455662, [1]. An interesting place to visit. The owner trains monkeys to become coconut collectors. The training is done in an animal-friendly fashion. No punishments are given, only rewards. Also offers home stay ("home stay" is a word frequently used to indicate basic accommodations, and joining the host for meals) in two basic bungalows.

Do

Buy

Eat

  • Kampan (กำปั่น), Amphur Rd. A romantic garden setting makes Kampan a great spot for a dinner date. It's classy and not too expensive. Massaman curry with chicken, 80 baht.
  • Night Market (Talat Sanjao - ตลาดศาลเจ้า), Tri Anusonn Rd at Namuang Rd.. Walk the block and pick up whatever treats catch your eye, or grab a table at one of the restaurants and watch the market scene as you dine. Freshly juiced fruits, corn on the cob, squid-kebabs, fried chicken, saffron rice, pad Thai, sushi plus much, much more.
  • Night Pier (ท่าเรือกลางคืน). A popular spot for tourists to eat and drink beer before boarding the night boat to Ko Tao or Ko Pha Ngan. Lots of food carts selling seafood and noodles and standard Thai fare at only slightly elevated prices. If you walk further down the road toward the bridge, you'll find fruit vendors galore.

Drink

  • Chao Doi Coffee, 199 Rungruang Rd. 10:00-21:00. A great place to hangout while waiting for your bus/boat/train connection. 5 min walk from where the Ko Samui ferry bus drops you off in Surat Thani. Coffee prices are between 30-40 baht and there is free Wi-Fi. Homey atmosphere and friendly owner. Look for circular brown/green sign from the road. 30 baht.
  • Coolin' Out Club Suratthani, 233/133 Karunrat Rd. Jazzy little hole-in-the wall bar with chilled-out ambiance and some of the best music for hanging out in all of Surat. The owners, Art and Joy, are friendly and good conversationalists, and Art makes high-quality cocktails. Prices for beer are high (90 baht for a small bottle), and mixed drinks range between 120-200 baht each..
  • Lamoon, Amphur Rd. A pub run by Kai, who recently returned to Surat after spending many years in Switzerland. He is fluent in both English and German and has created a beautiful beer garden which also has some indoor seating. The food isn't the best, but the surroundings, the atmosphere and the clientèle more than make up for that. Friday night parties with lucky numbers and drinking games are a regular occurrence as are (fortunately very short) acoustic performances by a local American teacher.

Sleep

Budget

  • Ban Don Hotel, (close to Ban Don Rd and Na Mueang Rd.). A place for really simple and clean rooms, and tuk-tuk drivers will try to take you there, but don't expect anything fancy. Most rooms don't have air-con or hot water and the entrance is through a shady looking restaurant. But, if you're looking for a place just to stay a night while passing through, it will do. Fan rooms 350 baht, A/C, 550 baht..
  • Chayo Bar, (Talad Mai Rd near the entrance Talad Kaset 2 Bus Station). Free accommodation in a limited number of rooms, but do not expect anything special: mattress-on-floor rooms, fans and shared bathrooms. Run by Chayo and Toto who will look after you well but do not suffer fools gladly. Also serves food.
  • Myplace@surat Hotel, 247/5 Namuang Rd (not far from the Tapee Hotel, a couple of minutes walk from river and night market.), +66 77 272288, [2]. Clean, good-sized rooms. Free Wi-Fi. Favoured by the locals for its cheap-and-chirpy nature. But it is quite a noisy place, especially the top floor with shared baths. 320-500 baht.
  • Phangan Guesthouse & Hotel, 402/7 Taladmai Rd, +66 77 205799. Clean and convenient, near the minibus station and between the two bus stations. Basic and friendly. The owner is really nice. Each room is named after a Surat Thani provincial city. Fan for 300 baht, A/C room for 400 baht..
  • Tapee Hotel, [3]. As a woman travelling alone I liked the bright entrance, staffed desk, and short distance to the market and bus stations. The rooms were older, very clean and the A/C worked quietly. There are two English-language channels on the TV (Al Jazeera and Star Movies), one Spanish, and one Cantonese, in addition to local channels. and it had a hot water shower. Located on Chonkasem Rd, it's about a 10 minute walk from the two bus stations and five from the waterfront and night market, which you should not miss. Turn left from the lobby, right at the next main road and follow your nose. The walk home later in the evening is interesting, as many of the short-time hotels have their ladies out, but the area is safe. 450-550 baht.
  • Thaireungruang Hotel, (a block or two from the old bus station in the middle of town). Business hotel. Relatively nice, quiet, clean and good-sized rooms. Some have TV and hot water (probably just the AC rooms). Wi-Fi available via username and password for 100 baht for 24 hours. The hotel staff are very helpful and polite and speak enough English to answer your questions. This hotel also has a free shuttle service to the bar, Chilling Out. A lot of prostitues are hanging around the streets close to this hotel. Fan single from 280 baht, air-con double 450 baht.

Mid-range

  • 100 Islands Resort and Spa, [4]. Clean, spacious rooms. Wide range of facilities and amenities including air conditioning, mini-fridge in the room, a pool, spa and restaurant on site. It's located slightly outside the city centre. If your taxi driver doesn't know where it is, they should know where Tesco-Lotus is, the hotel is near there. To reach the city centre, there are 20 baht tuk-tuks driving past the hotel every few minutes. 770-1,200 baht.
  • Grand Thara Hotel, 1/144 Donnok Rd, +66 77 273 740-3 (fax: +66 77 287 185). 450-550 baht, including breakfast.
  • Princess Park Hotel, 19/19 Leangmuang Rd, +66 77 405 989-92, [5]. This is a muslim hotel. Good food, good staff, no alcohol served. 650-900 baht.

Splurge

  • Diamond Plaza Hotel, (It's on the outer edge of town as you enter from Phun Phin station. You can take any of the orange train station buses to get there.). This is the best hotel in town.

Get out

Most travellers in Surat Thani are on their way to or from the islands:


Routes through Surat Thani
BangkokLang Suan  N noframe S  PhatthalungButterworth
BangkokLang Suan  N noframe S  Nakhon Si Thammarat
BangkokLang Suan  N noframe S  Trang




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