With popular tourist destinations like Ayutthaya, Phuket, and Ko Samui, South Thailand has certainly put itself on the map. To a foreign visitor, and even to some locals, the region has plenty of things to offer – tropical islands with sun-kissed beaches, coral reefs, fishing villages, hills, and enormous rock formations, religious caves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, historic settlements, and picturesque Buddhist and Islamic temples.
By far, the most popular tourist destination is the island of Phuket. With its Phi Phi Island, Similan Island, Phang Nga Bay, Kong Pha-Ngan, Kata Beach, Bang Tao Beach, Surin Beach, and the royal favorite twin beaches of Thong Nai Pan, it is a true beach-bum paradise. There are several thousand islands in the world, but Phuket boasts a selection of beaches that are envied by the world over.
But Phuket extends far beyond luscious beaches and stunning tropical sunsets. It also offers a wide variety of entertaining activities. Some of the must-see, must-experience activities in the island are the Phuket Fantasea Show that combines trapeze artists, pyrotechnics and performing elephants in a somewhat wacky show, Simon Cabaret that showcases perhaps the largest group of cabaret performers in the region, the Old Phuket Town that lets tourist feel the old luxury of Sino-Portuguese communities, and the night-life of Patong. For a more serene feel, you can always go to Phuket’s temples, waterfalls, and national parks and forests.
For a break from the sand, you can always go to Ayutthaya, a province in South Thailand that boasts numerous magnificent ancient ruins. It boasts the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park which features a long stretch of historical ruins in the city. For a sampler, the city showcases three gorgeous palaces that indicate how prosperous, and magnificent Ayutthaya was during the 17th century onward – the Grand Palace, and the Front and Rear Palaces called the Chantharakasem and Wang Lang Palaces. On top of these, you can also visit Thai Royal palaces such as the Nakhon Luang Building and the Bang Pa-In Palace.
For Buddhist tourists, you can hop around the island’s various Buddhist temples, some of them working, others are ruins of old ancient temples. For a small fee, you can visit Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Phra Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, and Wat Phra Ram. The working temples of Phra Chedi Suriyothai and Wat Thammikarat in U Tong Road and Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit, famous for the large bronze cast of Buddha, are open to the public for free.
For the more adventurous beach-combing visitors, Koh Samui offers an idyllic getaway. Although the recent structural developments in the island have somewhat put it in the league of Phuket’s beaches, many areas in Koh Samui still remain as untouched as they were some decades ago. For remote destinations, you can choose between the Taling Ngam Island, Bang Kao and Hua Thanon for some peace, quiet and privacy.
South Thailand offers everything from superb beaches to ancient ruins to the well-heeled visitors and backpackers alike.