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Trang – Thailand away from the crowds

May 14, 2014 Destination Thailand No Comments Email Email

Trang, the seaside province in southern Thailand, boasts hidden charms and is the perfect destination for anyone who likes to feel they are off the beaten track and getting away from the mainstream tourists.

Tourists queuing up waiting to get into the famous Emerald Cave at Ko Muk.

The province stretches out into the blue of the Andaman Sea in an archipelago of 46 islands; there are limestone caves and peak to explore; vibrant local cultures and traditions as well as gorgeous beaches and other natural wonders.

Tourists who make it to Trang tend to stick to the province’s islands, which have much to recommend them. The most popular are Ko Muk- known for its spectacular Emerald Cave, Ko Kradan – regarded as the most beautiful island in Trang and for being the venue for the famous annual Underwater Wedding Ceremony, and Ko Chuek – which boasts an underwater paradise of shallow and deep water corals. All of these lovely isles are within the boundaries of Had Chao Mai Marine National Park.

If you go island hopping, do keep an eye out for the playful dugongs (sea cows), often said to be the basis for legends of mermaids, but uglier mermaids you’ll never see.

Wax figure of Phraya Rasadanupradit, the greatest man in Trang’s history.

Tours of Trang’s islands can be booked from local tour operators and generally cost around 700-800 baht per person. There are some good travel agents near the train station and near Pakbeng pier who specialise in day trips. If you want to get there under your own steam, then the main islands are easily reached by getting local ferries and boats, most of which leave from the Pakmeng pier.

It takes about an hour to reach the Morakot Emerald cave on Ko Muk, and there’s often a little crowd there fighting the current to get inside and see the wonders of the cave. It is worth waiting your turn, for this is one of the most mysterious chambers in the world. After swimming into what seems to be a deep and menacing cave, you are suddenly in a natural room into which the sun streams – albeit a room containing a warm emerald sea and soft sands in which you can relax and play.

Visitors can pay homage to the Buddha image inside the Ubosot.

After seeing the islands, head to dry land and discover Trang town itself. This is a centuries-old seaport and has a multicultural blend of Thai, Malay and Hokkien Chinese residents. The colourful mix of people and traditions means that there’s a great deal to see around the town.

Phraya Rasadanupradit was the first person in Thailand to plant commercial rubber trees, which of course can now be found all over southern Thailand – indeed the kingdom is one of the leading international exporters of this natural product.The Phraya Rasadanupradit Mahisorn Phakdi Musuem in Kantang district offers a fascinating glimpse through the mists of time to tell the story of the province’s history. Chinese by origin, Phraya Rasadanupradi was, and still is, highly respected by local Trang people and regarded as a great man who brought wealth and prosperity to Trang thanks to his astute organisation of transportation, agriculture, education and local administration.

Once the residence of Phraya Rasadanupradit, now a museum.

Wat Phu Khao Thong, around 20 kilometres from the city is another place worth seeing. The tranquil monastery sits in lovely surroundings and there is a stunning limestone cave within the compound. It houses the unique Manorah – Reclining Buddha image of Srivijaya which is said be around 800-1,000 years old.

The most distinctive feature of the Buddha image is its decorated headdress called a Thoret, This holy and royal ornament is associated with the dance of Manorah – which originates in Southern Thailand and tells the legend of Nora, one of the kinneree, mythical half-bird half woman creatures from the Himmaphan forest.

Being the only Buddha image with such adornment, the Manorah Reclining Buddha, was last year listed as one of the seven Amazing Ancient Wonders of Thailand by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. For it is not only a beautiful piece of Buddhist art, but also unlike any other statue in the kingdom.

Legend has it that the famous reclining Buddha image was here long before the temple was officially established as a Buddhist monastery. These days there are only two monks residing here but there are classes for Buddhists to come and meditate and study. During the Songkran festival, the temple stages a very special performance of the Manorah dance, as a way of paying homage to the reclining Buddha.

There are also many Chinese temples and shrines in Trang which show the huge influence that settlers from China have played in the history of the province. With their dragons and distinctly Chinese imagery; these temples offer an interesting contrast to their Thai counterparts.

If you are interested in the golden age of travel, you should stop by Trang’s famous Kantang train station which offers a nostalgic peep back to the days when getting around the kingdom was a distinctly more romantic than the tedium and transit lounges we endure today.

The station, built in 1913, is crafted entirely of wood and is one of the oldest in Thailand as well as the last stop on the railway south. Being historically significant, Kantang is maintained to a high standard but remains a working station. Little wonder the station is so often photographed and used as the backdrop for romantic movies.

To meet the locals, head for their favourite dining spots and coffee shops or make friends in the little local markets. Pong Ocha Restaurant is best known for its dim sum, roasted pork – the famous dishes of the Trang – and local cuisine and ingredients. This is where tourists are advised to mingle with the locals and try local dishes to start the day.

These are just a few of the wonders of Trang, but you’ll see a great deal more by plunging in and exploring for yourself.

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Getting there

Nok Air and Air Asia fly daily from Bangkok to Trang airport. Trang can also be reached by train, and you get to disembark at the lovely Kantang train station.

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