Surat Thani is a city located in southern Thailand, most commonly known as a jumping-off point to other attractions rather than for its own activities.
For travellers on a tight time frame, Surat Thani is probably best suited as just a transportation hub and entryway to the popular islands on the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Phanghan and Koh Tao) or the Andaman coast (Krabi, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi).
However, for those with a bit of time to spare it may be worth setting aside some time to get a glimpse of the ‘real’ Thailand that is slowly becoming buried by tourism.
Here are our favourite things to do in Surat Thani:
#1 Spend all day and night exploring markets
No matter how many markets you’ve already seen, and there’s A LOT in Thailand, there’s always time for one or two more!
Pra Cha Rat Floating Market
Bangkok’s floating markets might be vibrant and exhilarating but they are also bustling with tourists.
Pra Cha Rat is different! Unlike in Bangkok, this market isn’t for the tourists but a way for locals to make their living, giving it that authentic feel Bangkok’s sometimes lack.
Once you step through the ornate green and gold archway, your eyes will be met with local stalls selling cheap and delicious food served in bamboo and banana leaf bowls.
Cast your eyes to the riverbank to see it lined with boats filled with locals from the surrounding rural areas, who all come to sell their produce and products.
In addition, most of the boat vendors also offer trips up and down the river, offering insights into local life and the flourishing mangroves.
New to Surat Thani? We’ve written this compact Surat Thani city guide to show you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Surat Thani!
Surat Thani Night market
Rated highly for its spectacular food and cheap prices, Surat Thani Night Market allows you to immerse yourself in an experience central to community life in Thailand.
With the majority of vendors selling traditional Thai food, it’s the perfect chance to try something new. We recommend the Pad Thai noodles, salted duck eggs and refreshing, tropical fruit to cleanse your palette afterwards.
Here you’ll also find many locally-crafted goods that can be hard to find elsewhere. One of these is Phum Riang silk. The designs are intricately produced using techniques passed down through generations in a near-by Muslim village called Phum Riang.
#2 Take a day trip to Khao Sok National Park
We would recommend dedicating more than a day to appreciate all that Khao Sok National Park has to offer. However, if you just can’t find the time, you can make a day trip from Surat Thani.
Just 2 hours away, there are local buses and shared minivans that will get you there for 100-200 baht one way. The journey gives you a perfect opportunity to catch up on some sleep or just admire the views.
The national park is believed to be 160 million years old, making it the oldest evergreen forest in the world!
And that’s not the only amazing thing about Khao Sok National Park. You can’t help but be wowed by the limestone mountains sprouting above the green carpet of swaying tree canopies, or the diverse wildlife that’s thriving all around you.
You may even be lucky enough to spot an elephant or tiger skulking amongst the trees whilst trekking through the jungle. Or you can give your legs a rest and float down the rivers in a canoe or kayak.
#3 Make sure to visit Cheow Lan Lake and Dam
Hidden within Khao Sok National Park is the enchanting Cheow Lan Lake and Dam. It’s easy to believe that Cheow Lan is one of Mother Nature’s greatest creations. In fact, this 185 square kilometer lake is actually man-made, but this in no way takes away from its beauty.
The hydroelectric dam was built to provide electricity for Surat Thani and other areas in southern Thailand as well as for flood control.
Whilst being heavily protected by the Thai government, you will be able to witness Thai anglers in their element before they retire to their floating raft houses.
Take this all in whilst gliding effortlessly across the tranquil water in a long boat whilst shoals of silver fish dart and dance under the water.
A place of respect and tranquility, it is said to house the city’s ancestor’s spirits and is visited daily by locals praying and paying their respects.
Take the time to admire this stunning white shrine which has been kept in pristine condition and the intricate details.
Next up, Chaiya. In this tiny fishing village surrounded by rubber tree groves, you’ll find Wat Phra Borommathat. Inspired by the eye-catching Javanese style, it stands as the most elaborate example of Srivijaya influence remaining in Thailand today.
Enjoy the peacefulness of this site without the hordes of other tourists at most other temples.