In order to stimulate more diverse travel in Thailand, the ever-active Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) extended its ongoing campaign of 12 Hidden Gems to 12 Hidden Gems Plus. As twelve special provincial towns were already introduced to explore, discover and keep in memories, apart from the popular Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai circuit, there are now 12 more not to be missed destinations twinned with the first batch of amazing places to make the tours really perfect. The highly recommended combinations to travel further are as followed:
- Lampang Plus Lamphun: As both cities belong to the ancient Hariphunchai Kingdom (7th-13th centuries), Lamphun is the older one ruled by Queen Chamadevi, whose funeral temple is in Lamphun. Also Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai should be visited housing a Buddha’s hair relic. There are the Hariphunchai National Museum nearby and the Kad Kua Mung Market, where to buy local cotton and silk items. If travelers stay at the Lampang River Lodge in Lampang, it is easy to visit both cities at the same time.
- Phetchabun Plus Phitsanulok: Having visited Sri Thep Historical Park and the mountainous attractions of Petchabun, coming to Phitsanulok it is a must to visit Wang Chan Palace, where Thai King Naresuan was born. Nearby are the famous Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat with its golden Phra Buddha Chinnarat image and the Sergeant Major ThaweeFolk Museum. The luxurious Pattara Resort & Spa is located in the heart of the city.
- Nan Plus Phrae: Both cities were part of the ancient Lan Na Kingdom (13th-20th centuries). Wat Phrathat Cho Hae is the most important temple of Phrae. Also famous is the wooden Wong Buri House as former residence of the Governor of Phrae and the Mo Hom Thung Hong Village, where the ancient blue-dyed Mo Hom fabric is made. The Huen Na Na Boutique Hotel is just 15 minutes away from the airport.
- Buriram Plus Surin: Both cities feature a myriad of Khmer stone castles. In Surin travelers find a prominent Lak Muang Hall. Elephants can be seen at the famous Ta Klang Elephant Village and even to ride. There is also the SilverKhwaosinarin Village, where to buy beautifully crafted silverware items. The largest hotel in Surin is the luxurious Thong Tarin Hotel located right in the heart of the city.
- Loei Plus Chaiyaphum: Having enjoyed the cool air of Loei, Chaiyaphum offers the airy space of the Princess Chulabhorn Dam, the curious rock formations of Pa Hin Ngam National Park, the Siamese tulips of Sai Thong National Park and the spectacular Tatton Waterfall. For bird-watching go no further than the extensive Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, where staying in tents is possible. In the city of Chaiyaphum the conveniently located Lertnimitra Hotel is highly recommended, which is at Chaiyaphum’s attractive main street.
- Samut Songkhram Plus Nakhon Pathom: Having enjoyed the Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkhram, stop at Nakhon Pathom to marvel at Thailand’s tallest pagoda called Phra Pathom Chedi. There are more floating markets to be seen, but another highlight is to visit the royal retreat of the stately Sanam Chandra Palace and walk around in the garden. The exclusive Sam Phan Riverside Resort has 160 rooms and 6 Thai-style houses by the lake. It is a great place for families.
- Ratchaburi Plus Suphan Buri: Both cities are in the western part of Central Thailand. Suphan Buri is an important center of Chinese-Thai people. The long history of the region is displayed in the U-Thong National Museum, while the lifestyles of the rice farmers are shown in the Thai Rice Farmers National Museum. Furthermore, the artistic heritage of the people can be seen at the amazing Ban Silapin Art House. Close to some more important tourist attractions, the modern Vasidtee City Hotel is situated just in the heart of the city.
- Trat Plus Rayong: Going or returning from Trat in the eastern part of Thailand, stop at the scenic Khao Laem Ya National Park or take some holidays at Koh Samed Island. Inside the city Wat Ban Don features a museum with more than 100 nang yai or shadow puppets in different sizes and characters. There is also the Princess Maha Chakri SirindhornHerb Garden to learn more about botany and herbal remedies. At the beaches of Laem Mae Phim, seafood lovers can taste delicious crab, shrimp and shellfish, while not far from the seafood restaurants travelers stay at the great Lom Talay Chalet Resort.
- Chanthaburi Plus Sa Kaeo: Having enjoyed the fruit orchards at Chanthaburi, head to Sa Kaeo to watch butterflies at the Paang Sida National Park. Worth a visit are also the Khmer castle of Prasat Sadok Kok Thom from the 10th century and the Thai buffalo training school of Kasornkasiwit. For caving, explore the watery Tham Khao Siwa (Tham Nam). The main attraction is the huge Rong Klue Market located near the Cambodian border in Aranyaprathet District, where it is possible to stay at the chic La Villa Hotel not far from the market.
- Trang Plus Satun: Having explored the islands of Trang, it is worthwhile to travel to Satun, the most southern province at the Andaman Sea. Tham Le Stegadon Cave is with its 4km length Thailand’s longest and good to learn about the past, while to experience Dragon’s Backbone at low tide it is walking 4km on a sandbar flanked on either side by the waves of the sea. Being a former prison, the remote island of Koh Tarutao is in the center of Tarutao National Park, where the so-called sea-gypsies live. The Lake Terrace Satun is a budget hotel near Petra National Park around Pak Bara Pier with tasty seafood.
- Chumphon Plus Ranong: While Chumphon attracts with its beaches at the Gulf of Thailand, Ranong offers clusters of islands at the Andaman Sea at Laem Son National Park. The port city features the original Ranong Governor’s House and the Gong Valley in the Kraburi District with its coffee-growing community enterprise. Don’t miss sulfur-free Ranong Hot Spring for an outdoor bath or foot spa. The Tinidee Hotel has views of the city of Ranong and nearby hills.
- Nakhon Si Thammarat Plus Phatthalung: Having discovered Wat Phra Mahathat as the symbol of the province ofNakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung offers Wat Phra Mahathat Chedi Bang Kaew with Buddha’s relics from Sri Lankabrought over during the Srivichai Kingdom (10th century). A reclining Buddha can be discovered at Tham Kuha SawanCave, while Phatthalung’s Ruler Residence is full of history and a national treasure. The green Thale Noi Park is a bird-watchers paradise. Located in downtown Phatthalung, City Park Hotel is the place to stay to explore the fresh market at the railway station and the busy walking street.
Written by : Reinhard Hohler