Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan
Turn Back Time
Where: City center
Soon to be a UNESCO World Heritage site, Nakhon Si Thammarat has done well to preserve its ancient southern Thai roots, and just strolling around town is a pleasure in itself thanks to landmarks like Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan temple. Start your expedition at Ran Copee (4/1 Nang Ngam Rd., next to city hall, 075-340-160), which serves not only great kopi (hot or cold black coffee) but also one of the beat breakfasts in town—braised pork leg, well-rounded bakuteh soup with tender pork ribs and khao niew Benjarong (five color coconut sticky rice with five traditional toppings). Next, move on to Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan to visit its 800-year-old pagoda before dropping by the Nakhon Hatthagam Group at their craft house, where master craftsman Nikom Nok-aksorn turns out some of the country’s finest krueang thom (jewelry and decorative pieces made from a mix of silver, copper and lead). Also check in at the national artist Suchart Subsin’s Shadow Puppet Theater, which has a collection of shadow puppets from around the region, including some that date back to WWII.
Credit: Rangsit Thongsamakr
Where: Pak Phanang
A little out of town, the unspoiled Pak Phanang peninsula is home to the century-old Pak Phanang Market, where you can find old wooden shops selling local delicacies. A Pak Phanang river cruise
(Thanam Non cruise service with dinner at B5,000, 075-333-333, 086-323-999) will also take you along the area’s natural waterways and past ruins of 100-year-old rice mills once visited by King Rama V. At the end of the river you’ll come to the crescent-shaped Laem Talumphuk Cape with its magnificent view of Khao Luang towering above the river basin. If you’d rather just take the afternoon easy and lie on a beach, then head to the nearby Had Sai Kaew Resort
(103/1 Tha Sala, Nakorn Si Thammrat, 075-355-959, ow.ly/Tj60D
), where you’ll also find an esoteric, privately-owned museum displaying an impressive collection of ancient beads from around Southern Thailand.
Where: Kiriwong Village, Lanska district
Recently awarded the Green Ranger Award (a prize given to “green destinations” by CreativeMove, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thai Airways and Hivesters), Kiriwong Village
is the most-talked-about eco-friendly village in the kingdom. Only a 20-kilometer drive from Nakhon’s city center, this sleepy little town houses a beautiful rocky waterway which streams through the middle of the village, backed by Khao Luang, the highest mountain in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Thailand’s Pollution Control Unit also says it has the purest air in the country—100 times purer than the standard level for good air quality. The activities on offer here also help draw travelers in with a taste of the slow life. Workshops include making your own dream catchers, batik fabric and natural tie-dye and mangosteen soap production. To sample the local fruit at its finest, head here between Aug-Oct, when you can pluck langsat, rambutan, mangosteen and “Puang Manee” durian right from the tree. The biggest local festival, Chak Pra Tang Bok, also happens at the end of October, when the whole village unites to drag a heavy Naka wooden carriage without wheels for about five kilometers, to pay respect to a revered local Buddha image and mark the end of Lent. Many locals also offer homestays, which include both board and food. Contact the village head directly at Kiriwong Group
) or book via Hivesters
), who will also provide an English-speaking guide.
Khao Plai Dam
Ban Plai Thon Village
Sports and Sea
Where: Sichon district
On the radars of nature lovers and sportsmen, Sichon is home to a whole host of outdoor activities. To see some of the local fauna, head to Khao Plai Dam, a 2km stretch of beach and mountain backdrop that’s listed as a wildlife sanctuary for both its forest and marine life. The eco-friendly fishery at Ban Plai Thon Village is also a paradise for local seafood lovers, who flock here every morning to buy the fresh catch from local fishermen at very special prices. Think giant blue crab at just B250 per kilo. For adrenaline junkies head to Hin Ngam Beach for Sichon Cabana Beach Resort (www.sichoncabana.com) is well known for sports like windsurfing and cycling, and is even home to a little-known triathlon training camp that makes the most of its location between the mountains and the sea. We’re also in peak season for surfing and windsurfing until the end of November. Renting equipment in the area is easy, as is finding a coach for beginners. For cyclists, there are two main routes to try: Hin Ngam Beach-Plai Thon Beach-Klong Thung Kha if you’re looking to take things easy; or the Khao Plai Dham route if you’re looking for something more mountainous and challenging.
How to get there
Budget airlines operate daily flights between Bangkok and Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Where to stay
Sichon district: Seastone Hotel
(327/55 Moo 3, Sichon, 075-536197, 075-536198, www.fb.com/seastonehotel
), room rates start at B1,500 for deluxe rooms, B2,000 for beachfront villas and B4,000 for a panoramic-view family suite.