Trang: Home of Beautiful Islands
There’s more to the peaceful Andaman town of Trang than sea cows and underwater weddings.
Trang, a small town next to Krabi has never been at the top of tourists’ must-visit lists, with its biggest claims to fame being the famous annual underwater wedding ceremony and the only place in Thailand where you can see the mysterious dugongs (sea cows) in the wild. But with budget airline AirAsia now adding a direct flight to Trang from Bangkok, we give you three more reasons to go.
The center of Trang is a rather non-descript place, especially when compared with the likes of Phuket Town. That’s because it only became the town center 100 years ago. Before 1915, Trang was a bustling trading post, centered around the deep-water port of Kantang, where local goods, like rubberwood and rice were shipped off to international markets—Penang, Malaysia, to be precise. A trip to Kantang gives you the chance to discover this bygone heyday.
The history and success of Trang is inextricably linked with one of its former governor’s Phraya Rassadaupradit Mahitsornpakdi, who, between 1900-1913, helped reinvigorate this sleepy town into a bustling port. It makes sense then to stop by the Phraya Rassada Museum (Open Tue-Sun 8am-4pm), where his photographs, furniture and household items are on display. Speaking nine different languages, he had an innovative approach to running the town, but perhaps his lasting legacy is obtaining Thailand’s very first rubberwood plant from Malaysia, now one of the country’s leading agriculture businesses.
Not far from the museum is Kantang Train Station, which is one of the country’s oldest that’s still in service. The wooden station was constructed in 1913 and is entirely made of wood. You can still get a train from Bangkok to Kantang station, which will arrive once a day around midday and takes around 18 hours. Right next door is an old train that’s been transformed into a public library.
While here you really shouldn’t miss a chance to try the local cuisine—especially their traditional breakfast. Residents are particularly known for their love of some muu yang (sweetened grilled pork) in the morning, but, thanks to the strong Chinese culture in the area, locals enjoy a wide selection of Chinese titbits for their first meal of the day. Entering a local eatery means you’ll find a table covered with baskets of Hokkien-style dim sum, buns, pathongko (deep fried dough-stick) and, of course, sweetened grilled pork, all together with hot tea or black coffee. You’ll find this all over town, but be warned: It’s only served from around 6am to no later than 10am. We recommend Lay Trang 2 (Sai Ngam Soi 2, next to Ratchadamnoen Hospital, 075-217-700. Open daily 6am-2pm, 5-10pm) and Nak Rong (Plearn Pitak Rd., 087-278-5212. Open Tue-Sun 5:30am-noon) for dim sum lovers, while Phong O-cha (Huay Yod Rd., near Thamarin Thana Hotel, 075-219-918) is probably the most famous spot to enjoy the sweetened pork. Still, we asked the locals and they also suggested a visit to the fresh market (Talad Mueng Trang, Ratdumnern Rd. Open daily 5am-noon) for the best range of choice and taste.
Like other provinces sitting along the Andaman coastline, Trang is home to beautiful islands, sandy beaches and crystal-clear seas. But unlike the more famous Phuket and Krabi, Trang is blessed by its off-the-beaten-track status, which means you can still find empty beaches free of sun loungers and the roar of jetskis.
Most of the islands in Trang are contained within the national park, which also helps ensure their unspoiled charms. Among the collection of islands, Koh Kradan is probably the best-known and most beautiful island in the province. Blessed with large, powdery white beaches, emerald-colored water and shallow-water corals, it’s also limited to just three places to stay, making it ideal for a Robinson Crusoe-style break. Nearby is the larger Koh Mook, which, as well as the prerequisite sandy beaches and clear water, is home to the Emerald Cave. Hidden away on the northwest side of the island behind steep, rocky cliffs is a tranquil lagoon, where, if you believe the stories, pirates used to hide their treasure. You can only access the lagoon by swimming through a cave hidden underneath the cliff. When the sun shines upon the water, the bright green color of the sea reflects back onto the walls’ of the cave turning the rocks a beautiful emerald green.
There are plenty of other small islands within the park, like Koh Ma and Koh Chuek, which are good for snorkeling, while there are a couple of resorts on Koh Ngai, if you want to stay overnight. These islands sit on the northern end of the park and can be reached by a 30-minute speedboat ride from Pak Meng Pier. The easiest way to visit all the islands listed here is to buy a one-day trip from one of the tour operators at the pier, with rates costing about B700-900 per day/per person (try www.triptrang.com). Located further south is Libong Island, home to dugongs and good scuba diving spots, including Koh Lao Liang and Koh Petra. There is a B200 entrance fee to the park. Trust us, it’s a very small price to pay for a little slice of paradise.
AirAsia (www.airasia.com) has started flying a daily, direct flight from Bangkok to Trang since last month. The plane leaves Bangkok at 9.40am and takes around 1.20 hours. The promotional rates start from B990 per trip. Another option is Nok Air (www.nokair.com), which flies twice a day.
Where to stay
Though Trang has a variety of hotel options, only a few provide adequate levels of comfort. The most popular is the long-standing Thumrin Thana Hotel (from B1,400; 69/8 Huayyord, Muang, Trang, 075-211-211), which is close to the famous Phong Ocha grilled pork. But we encourage you to try the recently-renovated Rua Rasada Hotel (from B3,700; 188 Patalung Rd., Muang, Trang, 075—214-230). This ship-shaped hotel has just been through an overhaul and now boasts contemporary designs and amenities. For a budget-yet-chic option, Sritrang Hotel (from B450; 22-26 Sathani Rd., Muang Trang, 075-218-122.) is a good option. This old shophouse-turned-hip boutique hostel is located next to the train station and the walking street—perfect to grasp the local lifestyle.
Because most of the area is a part of the Marine National Park, you can stay overnight only on some islands like Koh Kradan, Koh Mook and Koh Ngai. On Koh Kradan, the most luxurious is Seven Seas (075-203-389/90, www.sevenseasresorts.com), which features 39 tropical-modern rooms and villas, and has the crystal-clear sea water right outside of your room. While on Koh Mook, the bright yellow cottages of Koh Mook Sivalai Resort (089-723-3355, 088-765-0999, www.komooksivalai.com) are perched on a peninsula, offering you a 360-degree panorama view of the blue sea.
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