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Surat Thani Province

General Information

Surat Thani (often in short Surat, Surat Thani

Thai: สุราษฎร์ธานี ) is the largest of the
southern provinces (changwat) of
Thailand, on the eastern shore of the Statistics
Gulf of Thailand. Surat Thani means Capital: Surat Thani
City of Good People, the title given to
the city by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). Area: 12,891.5 km²
Ranked 6th
Inhabitants: 961,800 (2007)
Geography Ranked 22st
Neighboring provinces are (from north Pop. density: 74.60 inh./km²
clockwise) Chumphon, Nakhon Si Ranked 65th
Thammarat, Krabi, Phang Nga and ISO 3166-2: TH-84
Governor: Niwat Sawatkaeo
(since November 2006)
Geographically the center of the
province is the coastal plain of the Tapi Map
river, mostly grassland and some
mangrove. In the west are limestone
mountains of the Phuket range mostly
covered with forests. The Khao Sok
National Park is located in these
mountains. To the east the hills of the
Nakhon Si Thammarat (or Bantat)
mountain range start to rise, protected
in the Tai Rom Yen National Park. Many
islands in the Gulf of Thailand belong to
the district, including the tourist islands
Ko Samui, Ko Pha-ngan, Ko Tao, as well
as the Ko Ang Thong marine national
park. The main rivers of the Surat Thani
province are Tapi River and Phum
Duang River, which both drain into the
Bandon Bay.

Further protected areas are the Khlong Phanom and Kaeng Krung national
park, Than Sadet-Ko Pha-Ngan marine national park, the non-hunting areas
Khao Tha Phet and Nong Thung Thong and the wildlife sanctuaries Khlong
Phraya, Khlong Saeng and Khlong Yan. The Hat Khanom - Mu Ko Thale Tai,
which will contain a few small island south of Ko Samui, is currently in process
of creation.

In 2005 census, the province was had a GPP about 94,020 million Baht (2,541
million US$) and GPP per capita was 97,936 (2,647 US$). The main agricultural
products of the province are coconut and rambutan. The coconuts are often
picked from the tree by specially trained monkey, mostly Pig-tailed Macaques
(Macaca nemestrina). The monkey school of late Somporn Saekow is the most
famous training center for these monkeys. The rambutan trees were first
planted in Surat Thani in 1926 by the Chinese Malay Mr. K. Vong in Ban Na San.
An annual rambutan fair is held in beginning of August, including a parade of
highly decorated floats on the Tapi river.

The province is crossed by the southern railway, with the main railway station
located at Phunphin. Parallel to the railway in north-south direction runs the
Asian Highway 2 (Thailand Route 41). The major road in east-west direction is
Route 401, as Route 44 in southwestern direction. Two regional airports are
located in the province - Surat Thani International Airport in Phunphin and
Samui Airport on Ko Samui. The islands Ko Samui und Ko Phan Ngan are
connected with the mainland by ferries, which mostly start at Don Sak.


Ruins of the Wat Kaew in Chaiya, dating from Srivijavan times

The area of Surat Thani was already inhabited in prehistoric times by Semang
and Malayan tribes. Founded in the 3rd century, until the 13th century the
Srivijaya kingdom dominated the Malay Peninsula and much of the island of
Java from there. The city Chaiya contains several ruins from Srivijaya times,
and was probably a regional capital of the kingdom. Some Thai historians even
claim that it was the capital of the kingdom itself for some time, but this is
generally disputed. Wiang Sa was another main settlement of that time.

After the fall of the Srivijaya it was divided into the cities (Mueang) Chaiya,
Thatong (now Kanchanadit) and Khirirat Nikhom. While Chaiya was
administrated directly from the capital, Thatong and Khirirat were controlled by
the Nakhon Si Thammarat kingdom. In 1899 they were merged into one
province named Chaiya. In 1915 also the court of the Monthon Chumphon was
moved to Bandon, which received its new name Surat Thani on July 29 1915
during a visit of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). In 1933 the monthon was dissolved,
so the province became the first level administrative subdivision.

Provincial hall of Surat Thani

The provincial administration was at first located in a building in Tha Kham

(Amphoe Phunphin). It was moved to the city of Surat Thani in World War II, but
when the Japanese invaded Thailand on December 8, 1941 was building caught
fire and burned down. It was reopened in 1954. On March 19, 1982 it was
destroyed again by a bomb planted by communist rebels, killing 5 people. A
new building was built at a different location in the city, the former site of the
provincial hall is now the city pillar shrine (Lak Mueang

The seal of the province shows the pagoda of Phra Boromathat
Chaiya, which is believed to have been built 1200 years ago. The
flag of the province also shows the pagoda in middle, placed on a
vertically split flag with red color in top and yellow in bottom.

The provincial symbolic flower is the Bua Phut (Rafflesia kerrii), a

parasitic plant with one of the biggest flowers of all plants. The
provincial tree is the Ton Kiam (Cotylelobium melanoxylon).

The provincial slogan is เมืองร้อยเกาะ เงาะอร่อย หอยใหญ่ ไข่แดง แหล่ง

ธรรมะ, which translates to City of 100 islands, delicious rambutan,
big shells and red eggs, center of Buddhism. Red eggs are a local
culinary speciality of pickled duck eggs, while the big shells refer to
the plenty of seafood available. Center of Buddhism refers to the
pagoda of Chaiya.
Administrative divisions

The province is subdivided into 18 districts (Amphoe) and one sub-district (King
Amphoe). The districts are further subdivided into 131 communes (tambon)
and 1028 villages (muban).

1. Mueang Surat 10. Phanom 19. Vibhava
Thani 11. Tha Chang di
2. Kanchanadit 12. Ban Na San
3. Don Sak 13. Ban Na
4. Ko Samui Doem
5. Ko Pha-ngan 14. Khian Sa
6. Chaiya 15. Wiang Sa
7. Tha Chana 16. Phrasaeng
8. Khiri Rat Nikhom 17. Phunphin

9. Ban Ta Khun 18. Chai Buri

The province has 3 towns (thesaban mueang) and 19 townships (thesaban

tambon). The most important ones are the following 6 (complete list). There
are also 119 tambon administrative authorities.

Nr Populatio
City Thai Notes
. n
Surat เทศบาลเมือง 124,400 Capital of the
Thani สุราษฎร์ธานี Inh. province
2. Ko Samui เทศบาลตำาบลเกาะสมุย 48,410 inh. Touristical island
3. Tha Kham เทศบาลเมืองท่าข้าม 20,363 inh. Main railway station
4. Na San เทศบาลเมืองนาสาร 19,851 inh.
Talat เทศบาลตำาบลตลาด
5. 12,955 inh. Historic town
Chaiya ไชยา
6. Don Sak เทศบาลตำาบลดอนสัก 11,357 inh. Main port

Surat Thani town

City pillar shrine

City pillar shrine

St. Raphael cathedral

River Tapi

Ko Lamphu

Si Surat Stupa

Wat Sai and nightmarket

Wat Dai Dhammaram

Surat Thani is a gateway to the islands of Thailand's eastern coast: Ko Samui,
Ko Tao (great for scuba diving), and Ko Pha Ngan. Though large it has a low
density of 7-Elevens and so on. There are many Chinese temples.

Get in
By plane

Surat Thani airport is located about 20 km west of the city in Phunphin district.
Thai airways has daily flights from and to Bangkok.
By train

The Surat Thani train station, despite its name, is located in Phunphin, about
12km away from Surat Thani. Most comfortable are the overnight trains from
Bangkok, which arrive in early morning. There are always many who try to
catch the tourists and sell them trips to Surat or the islands directly - usually
the most aggressive sellers are the most expensive...

By bus

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

By boat

You can take the ferry from any of the islands nearby, taking about an hour.
There is food on board and movies as well.

Get around
When you get off the ferry there is a bus ride included with the trip (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 backroads from the ferry
terminal to Surat Thani. More than one ferry terminal services Surat Thani.

Being here is different than for most cities, as the residents here are used to
seeing foreigners but don't bother with trying to sell things to foreigners for a
living. Most tourists here are just passing through to the islands, as there are
no real attractions within the city.

Ko Lamphu

A popular place for picnic as well as for sports is Ko Lamphu, a small car-free
island in the river Tapi, connected by bridge to the city at the city pillar shrine.
A nice view is the riverfront, built as a promenade. In the evening hours there
are also some food stalls there, however the night market concentrates at a
sidestreet next to Wat Sai.
Wat Sai and nightmarket

There are several Buddhist as well as Chinese temples within the city, however
none really notable. To the north is the Roman Catholic St.Raphael Cathedral,
actually a small wooden church.

St. Raphael cathedral

Outside the city, there is a monkey training centre near by in Kanchanadit. The
hill Khao Taphet south of the city offers a great view over the city, as well as a
the Si Surat chedi as some billboards with the animals living in that non-
hunting area. Further south is the Khun Thale swamp, a nice small lake but
without any further attractions.

60 km north of Surat Thani is a small town called Chaiya, which gives a good
representation of what small town life used to be like in Southern Thailand. It is
one of the oldest towns in Thailand - dating to the 8th and 10th centuries. This
was during the Srivijaya empire (~200 - 1400).

The night market has some great food vendors. Particularly the rotis at the
western end.

Next to the Sahathai department store there is a Pizza Company outlet and a
Swensens for expensive ice-cream.

There's a restaurant called *Lucky*. It was the only time in a 6 months stay
that we were disrespected by the locals. The food was also horrible and the
owners were very rude.
Get out
Most travellers in Surat Thani are on their way to or from the islands:

• Ko Samui - backpacker paradise gone upmarket

• Ko Tao - popular diving spot and a good place to get certified
• Ko Pha Ngan - home of the infamous Full Moon Parties

Surat Thani city pillar shrine

Pak Nam Tapi The Tapi River Mouth is some 5 kms. from Ban Don municipality. The area
is particular rich in quality seafood restaurants.

Khao Tha Phet Wildlife and Nature Education Centre This is some 6 kms. from town
along the Surat Thani- Na San route (Route No. 4009). It covers an area of 1,162 acres.
and houses a number of caged wild animals near the Centre. On Khao Tha Phet, Tha
Phet, at 210 metres above sea level, stands a stupa named Phra That Si Surat which
houses Buddha relics donated by the Indian Government some 40 years ago. The hilltop
offers a panoramic view of Surat Thani Town and the Tapi River.
Phra Borommathat Chaiya This ancient pagoda housing Lord Buddha relics is located in
Amphoe Chaiya, 54 kms. north of the provincial capital, and dates back to the Srivijaya
period over 1,200 years ago. In the compound, there is the Chaiya National Museum
consisting of two buildings. One exhibits stone and bronze sculptures discovered in the
ancient city of Chaiya and the other exhibits artifacts of prehistoric down to historic periods
from Dvaravati, Sri Vijaya, Lopburi, Sukhothai to Ayutthaya. Art objects and several other
crafts are also displayed here. The museum is open daily between 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. except
for Mondays and Tuesdays.

Wat Suan Mokkhaphalaram Better known as Suan Mok, the temple is on Highway No.
41 some 50 kms. north of the provincial capital. Suan Mok's founder, Bhikkhu
Buddhadhasa, is highly respected in Thailand, and internationally, and his 'back-to-basics'
approach attracts Buddhist monks and lay meditators from many countries. A favourite
sight for casual visitors is the 'Spiritual Theatre' which Buddhadhasa describes as a
pictorial interpretation of Dharma. The building features an eclectic mixture of Thai,
Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Tibetan and European-style murals and sculptures.
Ban Phumriang This small handicraft village, some 6 kms. east of Chaiya, is renowned
for its gold and silver brocade silk cloth and jute head wear.

Ratchaprapha or Chieo Lan Dam This is located 70 kms. west from Surat Thani on
Highway No. 401 and another 12 kms. along an access road. An extensive lake beyond
the Ratchaprapha Dam offers very beautiful scenery. Accommodation near the dam is
Khao Sok National Park This is largely jungle with undulating mountain ranges and
rugged high cliffs. The park office is 1.3 kms. off the Surat-Takua Pa Road at Km. 109.
Attractions in the park include Namtok Mae Yai which can be reached by car; Namtok Sip
Et Chan (eleven-tiered waterfall), 4 kms. from the park office and other beautiful waterfalls
and caves, mostly accessible by foot. Rare flora and fauna are found along nature trails.
Dormitories, bungalows and raft-houses are available.

Monkey Schools There are two monkey schools in Surat Thani: one is located in Amphoe
Kanchanadit, some 13 kms. from Surat Thani along Highway No. 401 and the other is at
Ban Khlong Sai, Amphoe Tha Chang, some 35 kms. along Highway No. 41. Visitors are
advised to contact travel agents for full details.

Oyster Farms Oysters bred in Surat Thani are substantially larger than those found
elsewhere. Many farms are found around the estuarine areas of the Kradae Canal and the
Thong River in Amphoe Kanchanadit. These farms can be reached by boat from the Tha
Thong Quayside within 30 minutes.
Ko Samui This beautiful 247-square-kilometre island, one of the most famous attractions
of Thailand, is some 84 kilometres east of Surat Thami's provincial capital. It can be
reached by boat from Surat Thani town or by ferry either from Don Sak (some 7 kms from
Surat Thani town) or Khanom (in Nakhon Si Thammart). A 51-Kilometre ring road encircles
the island, which has numerous lovely beaches and bays, and is almost literally an island
of coconuts and forested hills. Samui's best beaches line the northern and eastern coasts.
The most popular are Hat Chaweng and Hat Lamai where, generally, attractive
accommodation can be found. Besides marvelous beaches, other interesting attractions
include the Samui Butterfly Park; the monkey Centre; the Hin Lat and Na Muang
waterfalls; the phallic rock formations at the southern end of Lamai Bay, and a massive
seated Buddha image on Ko Fan. The island's major sea front settlement is at Na Thon
where shops, restaurants and tour agents are located.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park This marine park comprises some 40 islands northwest
of Ko Samui and covers an area of 250 square kilometres of which 50 square kilometres is
land mass. Most islands comprise limestone masses reaching heights of up to 400 metres
and fringed by beaches and tropical rainforest. The park office is located on Ko Wua Ta
Lap. Popular attractions include a high viewpoint, secluded beaches, Tham Bua Bok - a
beautiful cave with spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations, and an emerald
saltwater lake known as Tale Nai on Ko Mae Ko, which entails a strenuous climb. Another
popular venue is Ko Sam Sao where an extensive span of coral reef and huge rock arch
offers scenic views. A one-day tour package to Mu Ko Ang Thong is organised by some
travel agents on Ko Samui.
Ko Phangan Another large island covering an area of 191 square kilometres, is 60
minutes directly north of Ko Samui. The island offers few comforts and can be explored by
motorcycles. Hat Thong Sala, the major community of the island, is where the ferry landing
and shops are located. In addition to white sandy beaches, there are also two beautiful
waterfalls: Namtok Phang and Namtok Than Sadet, 4 kms. and 30 kms. from Hat Thong
Sala, respectively. There is a mountain top temple called Wat Khao Tham where
meditators may go for practice.

Ko Tae Nai This small island can be reached within 5 minutes from Ko Phangan. High
jungle-covered hills, a long stretch of golden sandy beach and thriving coral reefs are
some of its major attractions. Accommodation in the form of bungalows is available.
Koh Tao Coastline, Ko Tao, Thailand

Ko Tao This is a small island to the north of Ko Phangan, which can be reached either
from Surat Thani or Chumphon. There are several beautiful beaches and diving areas
around the island. Simple bungalows are available. Like Ko Tarutao, Ko Tao was once a
place where political prisoners were detained. Nearby Ko Nang Yuan is a coral island with
a high viewpoint and long white sandy beaches.
Tai Rom Yen National Park The park covers forest areas in Amphoe Ban Na San and
Amphoe Wiang Sa. A mountain in the park known as Khao Chong Chang once used to be
the base of the Communist Party of Thailand. There are two beautiful waterfalls: Namtok
Dat Fa, 33 kms. from Surat Thani and 13 kms. along an access road, and Namtok Muang
Thuat, 20 kms. from Amphoe Ban Na San.Visitors wishing to stay overnight are requested
to bring their own camping accessories.

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