Nakhon Si Thammarat in Southern Thailand. Before I started looking for things to do in Nakhon Si Thammarat, my requests were more generic in nature.
My initial plan had been to divide this particular point between Narathiwat and Pattani, two Muslim-majority provinces along the Kingdom’s border with Malaysia. However, it sparked reactions of terror and concern among my local friends. I assumed it was Islamophobia, but other research has suggested the opposite: sectarian violence in southern Thailand has intensified in recent years.
Discouraged, I turned to my old friend Google. Most authentic place in southern Thailand, I typed, then hit the “Enter” key.
I expected a long and messy search, but the first sentence of the first page on which I clicked carried the only three words that I should read: “The south of Thailand unaltered.
Nakhon Si Thammarat is, I let out a sigh of relief, then opened a new tab and reserved my ticket right away.
Where to stay in Nakhon Si Thammarat
Nothing says “authentically Thai” like someone who is so late that you wonder if they are coming at all. To be sure, when the man who owns Tree Home Plus in downtown Nakhon Si Thammarat called me to let me know that he had arrived at the airport, the taxi that I had greeted in his absence arrived at the boutique hotel. (TIP: One of the things to do in Nakhon Si Thammarat that you should definitely plan is to be patient!)
Despite this dubious first impression, Tree Home found the perfect balance between casual and luxurious, and managed to be elegant and slightly run down (there were ants in the room, but only a few) at the same time. Most importantly, it formed an excellent base for exploring the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat in all its splendor.
My favorite activities in Nakhon Si Thammarat
Explore the city center
I had a few hours of light before settling in Tree Home, so I quickly left with my camera. It took about 15 minutes on foot to reach Ratchadamnoen Road, the main boulevard of the city and where most of its main attractions are located. I started at Old city wall, which dates back to the end of the 13th century, when Nakhon Si Thammarat became an important outpost of the Srivijaya Empire. I quickly went to Pillar of the city then Salahuddin Mosqueand meant to watch the sunset Wat Phra Mahatat.
Discover the local faces and flavors
Instead, however, I found myself stuck at the intersection of Ratachadamnoen Road with Panead Road, fixed on the suspension bridge surmounted by a minaret which overhung it. It surprised me that someone had thought of adding such ornate accents to otherwise anonymous infrastructure. The human side of things to do in Nakhon If Thammarat also surprised and delighted me, from the watermelon seller who asked me to take his picture, to the group of school children who asked me to help them practice English (then simply said “Hello” a dozen times each), to the waitress I begged to bring me extremely spicy gaeng leuang pla, Even if my blue eyes suggested that I couldn’t bear it.
Travel along the coast
On the other hand, a place in Thailand is not as “purified” as its beaches. I decided that my best bet to discover the beaches of Nakhon Si Thammarat would be Khanom, located about 90 minutes up the hill from the city center by minibus (or motorbike, if you can drive one – I can’t). I took a motorcycle taxi when I arrived in Khanom Townand the driver dropped me off in a dilapidated beach hut where two white girls were drinking frozen cocktails. It turned out that they were not only the only strangers I saw during my day at the beach, but the only human beings that I would meet for almost an hour, with the exception of a man in a fishing boat off the coast.
Swim at… Unique beaches
On one level, it is easy to see why Nakhon Si Thammarat did not become another Phuket or Koh Samui. Although its coastline bordered by palm trees and its white sand covered with shells is magnificent, its water is often cloudy and sometimes muddy brown. Again, solitude and silence define the best beaches in the world, as far as I am concerned, and Khanom has quantities that I have seen almost nowhere else in the world, with the possible exception of beaches. Iceland jellies. The beaches are an interesting example of things to do in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Hunt waterfalls and hunt orchids
Khao Luang National Park, which is home to the highest peak in southern Thailand. (Called Khao Luang, of course.) Of course, I was not about to climb a mountain for a weekend. Instead, I went with the owner of Tree Home Krung Ching waterfall, which I admit I did not expect much. Admittedly, I did not expect the path to be in very poor condition at several points along the route, which took approximately 90 minutes in each direction. However, the waterfall was truly majestic, as were the wild orchids that emerged from the dozens of pools at its base. I was not surprised by their existence – the national park is as famous for the 300+ species of orchids found there as it is for Khao Luang itself – but I was delighted with the way they are manifested.
How long should you spend in Nakhon Si Thammarat?
It could be an interesting alternative career choice, I laughed when I imagined that it would completely upset the global indoor plant industry. Robert Schrader – orchid hunter. Seriously, though, when I got back to town, I was thinking about how much time I spent here in southern Thailand, and how much I was getting for my money. Were 3 days in Nakhon Si Thammarat too much, too little or good?
Superficially, the number of things to do in Nakhon Si Thammarat (at least if you approach this from the perspective of traditional tourism) is not very high. On the other hand, due to the great distance between the city center and the peripheral attractions, not to mention the lack of reliable public transport, it is difficult to imagine a trip to Nakhon Si Thammarat province (at least, one that allows you to travel outside the city center) with a duration of less than 2-3 days.
Nakhon Is Thammarat worth a visit?
This leads to an even bigger question, which is whether you should visit Nakhon Si Thammarat after all. Even personally, I had always been linked to other provinces in southern Thailand, which I neglected to visit for safety reasons – I have yet to determine if this was warranted. Of course, it would be foolish for me to deny that my trip to Nakhon Si Thammarat was of any value, and that my experiences here in this gem of Southeast Asia were unique.
What I can say definitively is that Nakhon Si Thammarat is not a main or even secondary destination of Thailand. At best, this is a province you should consider visiting if you’ve been to Thailand half a dozen times and need a break from the more traditional cities and provinces of lush northern Thailand and southern paradise. Nakhon Si Thammarat is not for the timid, or for those who are not at all familiar with the difficulties of traveling to Thailand.
The Bottom Line
Whether you are looking for charming cities, deserted beaches, original national parks or just want to get away from strangers for a while, Nakhon Si Thammarat is unpretentious, sober, and, yes, flawless. As I imagine Nakhon Si Thammarat will gain in popularity (and things to do in Nakhon Si Thammarat will increase in quantity and quality) as more people are looking for authentic places in Thailand, the lack of English speakers, of infrastructure tourist and press stop attractions should keep most adulterers away.