So, it has been announced. Chiang Mai opens to fully vaccinated foreign travellers. But not every district and under some conditions. At least we are on the right path. Chiang Mai and its citizens are so dependent on tourism so it need to get in the game as soon as it is possible.

Four districts will open. Mueang Chiang Mai is the downtown /central district. Furthermore, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng and Doi Tao.

Mueang Chiang Mai

When Chiang Mai opens, its old town has so much to offer. The historic heritage and the temples. Food and weekend markets. Now we will have to see what happens to the old night market at Chang Klan road. There has been talking of an upgrade of the old market. In Muang Chiang Mai you also find the sprawling and sparkling trendy Nimmanhemin area with its coffee shops, bars and restaurants.

Explore the temples in the old town. Wat Chedi Luang is very beautiful during the blue hour.

Mae Rim

The Mae Sa Valley and the playground of Chiang Mai. Mae Sa waterfall, Queen Sirikit Botanical garden, Insect museums. Home to elephant camps and sanctuaries and of course Elephant poop making.

Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden in Mae Rim

Mae Taeng

Also a scenic and beautiful area by the river Taeng. Mae Taeng has the impressive pan Buddhistic temple Wat Ban Den, the inviting and interesting Bua Tong sticky waterfall and nice camping sites. It is bordering the scenic and exciting district of Chiang Dao.

The extraordinary sticky waterfall in Mae Taeng

Doi Tao

The southern district on the road to Hot is famous for local farm life and Doi Tao lake.

For more details and the conditions for travelling in Chiang Mai, stay updated with the TAT website. As it stands it seems that travellers will not be able to freely roam the Chiang Mai districts but need to join certain tour programs.

I have very little information regarding the rules and conditions now but the hopes are that people after staying in Phuket for a week might want to go up north to be cultural for a week.

So as earlier mentioned, follow the Tourism Authority of Thailand for updates regarding the opening of other destinations outside Phuket. Hopefully, the whole of the country will be open by January 15th 2022 as earlier announced.

The temple of Wat Doi Kham is the perfect light morning hike with kids. Persuade them by telling them that you are ascending a Golden Mountain. Just park or get dropped off below the staircase that goes through a part of nature with holy trees. After that section, you get to the part with the steep 300 steps Naga staircase that leads to the top. Up here you occasionally get beautiful panoramic sunrises over Chiang Mai.

The temple is open from early sunrise to sunset. It has a magic location at the foothills of the Kham Mountain and on the other side of Chiang Mai City. Walking up adds to the experience and gives you that “wow” feeling when you reach the temple after a 15 – 20 minutes walk.

Standing Buddha at Wat Doi Kham
A standing Buddha to welcome you up.

Sometimes you will see people exercising and going up and down the stairs again and again. This section is also part of some of the hiking trails you can do in the Doi Kham loop. Coming down you can reward yourself with breakfast or some coffee at Cup Fine Day which is also a nice playground for the younger kids.

If you prefer you can always drive the whole way up or rent a Songthaew. Songthaews are the red buses that serve as local transportation in Chiang Mai. The drivers perform transfers up and down to the temple for the price of 20 baht each way.

Songtaew, red buses in Chiang Mai.
Red buses at the parking and foot of the mountain

The rise of Wat Doi Kham

When we had just moved into Hang Dong area in 2005, I would occasionally ride my motorbike up to Wat Doi Kham. Or Wat Phra That Doi Kham that is the full name. It was a serene spot, a very local temple with not that many visitors. It did have a long history though but was even deserted for a while in the 1960s.

Then stories about a businessman started to appear. After making merit at this temple she/he had managed to recover lost fortunes. The business started to flourish.

Attaching gold leaf to a ball in the temple.
Attaching gold leaf as way of merit making in the temple

Wat Doi Kham started to obtain a lot of attention. It came to be the temple where you pray for luck and a good career. As well as blessing your business. This is what you learn from the loudspeakers in the temple. Monks inform how to pray, how many offerings to give and so on. If your wish is fulfilled you are supposed to bring a lot of jasmine flowers back to the temple. That is why you see so many vendors selling jasmine. One wish to the Buddha of success, Luang Por Tan Jai, is approved of, and the offering should be done in garland in multiples of 50!!

Jasmine garlands
Plenty of jasmine

Moreover, If your hope is granted you should return to say thank you after 3 months.

The Big Buddha at Wat Doi Kham
The famous 17 meters sitting Buddha at Wat Doi Kham Temple. Visible from different spots of the city.

All these aspects boosted the temple to grow and become very opulent. This temple is particularly popular to visit in the dry season among the Bangkok crowd and especially during New Year.

There can be a heavy traffic jam around those days in December and January. It is interesting to observe everything that is going on in the compounds. Go and indulge in the atmosphere, the scent of incense and listen to the chanting.

The Wall paintings

Some amazing legends and historic scenes are depicted on the walls outside. There are scenes from the Ramakien as well as a procession telling the story of the Haripunchai Queen Chamadevi. The kingdom of Haripunchai had its nucleus in Lamphun. The story says that the original temple was built the Queens two sons.

A wall painting at Wat Doi Kham
A recent wall decoration at Wat Doi Kham, a Royal Procession

Remember to dress properly. So take off the shoes where advised and cover shoulders and knees in the temple grounds.

Also worth mentioning is that when you are at Wat Doi Kham you are just above the Ratchaphreuk Garden, also called the Royal Flora. You are close to nice coffee shops like Ban Suan Cafe embedded by the lush teak forest by a stream. Or Fernpresso at the lake that sits by one of the dams connected to Chiang Mai University. This is also the area where you find the Chiang Mai Night Safari.

Sooo easy!

The Legend of Doi Kham

Finally something about the name “Doi Kham”. It derives from a tale. When giants received the Buddha’s hair a period of storms and bad weather happened. The rain scoured and blew a lot of gold ore from the mountain slope and to the mouth of a cave. This resulted in the mountain’s name “Doi Kham.

A modern tale says that pilots from Thai Airways used the landmark of Doi Kham Temple as help for landing their planes.

Motifs of religion the wax floats

In 2017 a dream came true. Finally, I got the chance to experience the Wax – Candle Festival in Ubon Ratchathani. I left the Toe Sang hotel on a hot July morning, the streets were already basked with sunshine. But the crowd had done their homework shading themselves with umbrellas. I put on my best hat and sunglasses, grabbed some water and proceed downtown to have a look at the parade of the festival floats. It was the day of Khao Pansa, the Buddhist Lent Day, which marks the official start of the rainy season. It also marks the period when monks traditionally retreat to their temples for three months of study and meditation. So, the festival is celebrated in commemoration of the first sermon of the Lord Buddha, Asahna Bucha which is the day just before Buddhist lent.

Making candles for the monks retreating in temples during Lent has been a long historical tradition and that tradition has evolved into this festival and friendly competition to make festival floats with candles and out of bee wax.

Isan dancers candel festival Ubon Ratchathani
Isarn dancers in action

So this is a twoday Buddhist festival where there is also a 48-hour alcohol ban. It doesn’t stop the festival fun however.

The centre for the festival is around the Thung Sri Muang park where the floats will be parked and markets held. It is popular to walk around in the evening and some good photos.

Festival floats made from bees wax from the candle festival in Ubon Ratchathani.
Festival floats parked along the moat

The floats depicts Hindu and Buddhist motifs but are occasionally also a bit humourous.

How are the floats made?

To begin with, the floats are made up of a frame where wires and sometimes wood is attached as well as rice husks and dried vegetation to help shape the structure. Secondly, the frame is attached to a large flatbed trailer. Then plaster is applied and hot wax is poured over the construction. One group will be working on moulding wax tiles that will be attached to the float. It is normally a hot period during this festival so the wax float is getting sprinkled with water to keep the wax from melting.

Below is a slideshow from the Candle festival in Ubon Ratchathani

Hotels in Ubon Ratchathani

Remember to prepare your stay well ahead of time. It is always good to be aware that festivals attract many visitors in Thailand. Here are some examples of the hotels available in Ubon Ratchathani.

Contact regarding the festival

To check the exact dates of the festival and if the festival is on contact the local tourist information.

In Ubon there is a TAT office 045 243 770

Read more about Ubon Ratchathani here. And about the ancient rock painting of Pha Thaem here.

Founded in the 18th century by Laotian immigrants, Ubon Ratchathani(often just Ubon) is one of the “big four” in the Nnortheastern part of Thailand called Isarn(Isan/Esarn). This is a city that spreads itself out over the landscape, very much a town that evolved to big a city.

As a province, Ubon Ratchathani borders Cambodia in the South and Laos in the East. Ubon is on the Korat Plateau sloping down towards the Mekong.

Ubon expanded a lot with the American presence here during the conflict in Indo-China. From 1961 five Thai bases were used for American reconnaissance flights over Laos. Ubon airport built in the 1950s was one of these airports. From 1965 American planes flew bombing missions to North Vietnam from Ubon Ratchathani.

The city’s airport is located in the middle of the city and it is a mighty approach flying in over the Mun river, almost touching the rooftops of the buildings and viewing the emerald green rice fields during the monsoon season. Ubon is Thailand’s fifth-largest province, and the Easternmost and the largest city in Northeast Thailand.

The proximity to Laos and further to Vietnam makes Ubon a kind of emerald of Isan now. ASEAN has been working to expand trade routes within the trade zone and more and better roads and soon a high-speed railway from Kunming to Singapore gives Ubon a favourable position on the map. Already a significant amount of “Friendship bridges” has been built over the Mekong. In Ubon, there is a big Central Mall and even some international schools.

With the further opening of ASEAN and trade with Vietnam and Laos, the city is likely to increase in importance thanks to the Chong Mek border with Laos.

Mun and the Moon river and a story of Alexander the Great

The Mun river flows through Ubon Ratchathani. It reaches the Mekong in Kong Chiam where there is a viewpoint called “Two colour river”.

The Mun rises in the San Kamphaeng Range northeast of Bangkok and flows east for 673 km and receiving the Chi River, its main tributary.

Amerikan airmen named the Mun the Moon river from Andy Williams classic song. Listen to it here.

It was also by the Mun river that Oliver Stones movie Alexander the Great (2004 with Calm Kilmer and Angelina Jolie and the Thai actor Bhin Banleurit that plays the Indian King Porus)was filmed for the section of the great battle at the Jhelum River. In those days that was in Northern India. There is a grand battle between heploits and an Indian army with war elephants.

To remember the making of the movie an Alexander the Great Museum was built in the area.

Here is one of the battle scenes from the movie.

Exploring Ubon

Every time I stayed in Ubon I have stayed at the ToeSang City( now Heritage hotel.)And I did my walking from there. The hotel itself is simple but aiming for a contemporary image. Moreover, the staff is friendly and the hotel offers an interesting local breakfast.

What is nice in Ubon is that the city offers a real taximeter system for taxis. I found it inexpensive and that there were friendly and helpful drivers. People in Ubon would occasionally show up and ask if I was lost and if I needed them to call a taxi. As a matter of fact, I just enjoyed wandering around. Ubon is so full of wonderful diners and street food stalls so I was like a truffle dog sniffing my way around.

The city of the Royal Lotus is famous for its laap phed. The herbal minced meat dish could be pork or beef but Ubon is renowned for duck meat. An institution for Isan food in general and many varieties of papaya salad is the Som Tam Jinda restaurant.

Duck laap , typical food in the Northeast of Thailand. Here at Som Tam Jinda.
Laarp from duck meat in Som Tam Jinda

Kuey – Jap 99 is an inexpensive restaurant and there are tasty options of chicken, pork rib, pork sausage and egg.

If you need a break from spicy Isarn food try the Japanese buffet at Oshinei.

On Fridays and Saturdays, there is a night market on Thung Sri Muang or the street also know as Ratchabut Rd(City pillar park) leading down to the river. Along and opposite the river there are some bars and restaurants.

A Garruda. The holy eagle that Vshnu rides on.
Impressive Garuda at the City pillar

Must see temples to visit in Ubon Ratchathani

Wat Nong Bua is intriguing for its rare in Thailand and unique in the regional architecture. The temple is very similar to the Mahabodhi Bodhigaya in India which inspired the construction of Wat Nong Bua in the 1950s.

Wat Nong Bua in Ubon Ratchatani
The Royal Lotus temple

Standing in the nucleus of the temple grounds is a 56-meter high pagoda called ‘Sri Maha Pho Chedi’. To resemble Mahatibodi it has a square base and is formed like a pyramid.

It has an enchanting white and gold layout and the architecture inside is just as impressive. In the middle of the chedi, the original smaller and older chedi is located with a Buddha statue contemplating on each of the four sides.

Also worth mentioning, near the pagoda and just behind a Ficus Religiosa tree there is a recent contribution to the temple. Here you can see an ordination hall and it serves as an example of Ubon’s more contemporary temple style. Broad semi-circular windows cover the upper walls on each side. They are divided by parts from half of a Dharma wheel. 

Wat Thung Sri Muang is also worth the visit. Especially to see the library in a pond full of water lilies. The pond serves to protect the scriptures from termites and insects. This library is also described as an integration of Lao, Siamese, and even Burmese motifs. It could be a re-creation of the library from Wat Saket (before filling up the pond there.)

The temple was built by the Venerable Chao Khun Phra Ariyawongsachan around 1829 during the reign of King Rama III and has a delightful Ordination Hall in the northeastern architectural style that is taller than its width.

Ho Trai, a library building in Wat Thung Sri Muang. Ubon Ratchatani.
The library building is called a Ho Trai

Voices from the past about Ubon Ratchathani

A Frenchman by the name Louis de Carné, who travelled the town as a member of the Mekong Exploration Commission in 1867, explains:

“As to the town, it was the largest we had yet met. The streets are broad, and pretty well laid out, parallel or perpendicular to the river. In the more important, there are even wooden pavements, which are of the greatest use to the people when the rains have soaked the thick coat of sand with which the ways are covered.”

This enthusiasm seems to be something shared by the people who resided there; Aymonier recounts:

The girls in Oubon still wore their hair in a bun, like the Laotian girls of the east. The women rubbed themselves with turmeric and applied perfumed wax to their lips. The men, who often tailored their hair with pork fat, more happily adopted Siamese fashion, and they had pretensions in the way of elegance, as a popular saying expressed: ‘One sees ant hills in Sisakêt, unfortunates in Mœuong Dêt, and elegant idlers in Mœuong Oubon.’16

The Vax – Candle festival

Thailands Northeast is home to some of the most beautiful and funny festivals there are in the country. The Candle Festival is held in July.

A wax candle festival float from 2017

Read more about the Candle festival here, and also about the Ghost Festival in Loei here and don’t forget about the Rocket festival in Yasothon that you can read more about here.

Finally, just for curiosity, the Blue Moon Riverside Resort is one of the most googled places in Ubon Ratchathani.

Pha Thaem National Park is overlooking the Mekong. The national park is 90 kilometres from Ubon Ratchathani and it is best to make a stop at 7/11 on the way out from Ubon Thani for the purchase of drinks and visit toilets. It takes 1.30 minutes to 2 hours to drive from Ubon. You need your vehicle to get here or book a tour of the town. There is also the option to go from Kong Chiam and rent a motorbike there.

Sao Chaliang

On the way to the national park there is a checkpoint where you pay for entrance, last time I was there it was a 400 baht charge for foreigners. After the checkpoint you will drive pass the mushroom-like pillars named Sao Chaliang. The monolithic stone pillars consist of two different types of sandstone. The standing pillar is from the Jurassic period 180 million years ago and the mushroom roof on it is younger, from 130 million years ago.

A mushroom pillar in Pha Thaem nationalpark of two kinds of sandstone.
Mushroom pillar

The pillars have been worn down by rivers and wind over the years.

The Historic Rock Paintings in Pha Thaem National Park

Drive on and you will get to the “Visitors centre” with toilets and where you can read some background information about the prehistoric paintings. You can also enjoy a lovely view of the Mekong with 160 meters down to the river. (But note, there is no railing/fence! So do not go too close.)

Views of the Mekong river in Pha Thaem nationalpark
Mekong views in Pha Thaem Nationalpark

From the visitors centre, it is about 1 kilometre to walk to the peak, the no. 2 of the rock paintings. (There are 4 but then you have to walk 4 kilometres) It’s a rocky staircase down and a bit uneven, but then follows a flat nice path to walk on with a view of nature and the Mekong. The mountains belong to the Dangrek(carrying pole mountain) range.

First, you get to the paintings at Information sign number 1. This rock painting is a bit difficult to distinguish. Then you move on to peak no. 2 about 300 meters later. This amazing ancient painting is 180 meters long and shows various aqua animals, turtles, giant Mekong catfish and even pigs. There are maybe as many as 300 motifs.

There are around 200 sights with ancient rock paintings scattered all over Thailand, mostly in the north and northeast.

Rock Paintings in South East Asia

If you look at the total all over Southeast Asia there is around 1000. Very little research has been devoted to this “rock art”. Humans kind of looks like aliens, or creatures with vases on their heads. Also, someone has interpreted rice fields. The rice fields are the wavy patterned motifs over the creature’s heads.

An interesting fact, in the past red colour was often used in burial ceremonies. Interestingly enough in these sandstone mountains, there are also quartz and iron.

Rock paintings in Pha Thaem nationalpark
Part of an ancient painting

Possibly the hand palm has been used in the creation of the murals. The artists could have dipped their hands in paint and then painted on the bedrock. It is supported by the impression of palms on the walls. Animal blood was used for dyeing. However, it is not known exactly how old the paintings are. But it is estimated that they are older than 3000 years.

After your walk, you return to the same visitor centre. There is a lovely café at the visitors centre. Actually a good place to wait if someone in your company can not do the walk for some reason.

Also, If you get here during the dry period, of the year, wildflowers bloom on Thailand’s largest meadow by a waterfall. The locals calls it Heaven’s necklace, Soi Sawan.

Overnight in Kong Chiam

From Pha Thaem to Kong Chiam, where it is convenient and nice to overnight, it is about a 30 minutes drive. Also, an interesting option is to take a boat trip along the river. Kong Chiam is a nice place to chill for some days, after all, it is by the mighty Mekong. But it is also a popular spot to stop by before you continue into Laos and Pakse via the overland border.

For our tour programs Kong Chiam was a kind of starting point for exploring Southern Laos and the 4000 islands and Vat Pho in Champasak, and then proceeding overland via the Khone falls to Siam Reap in Cambodia.

The drive from the Laos border to Siam Reap can be done within one day nowadaws. Furthermore, on the way you pass some of the lesser-explored temple ruins in Cambodia such as the recent Unesco World Heritage Koh Ker, for instance.

Pha Thaem National Park is one of my favourite national parks in Thailand. I hope I can return there soon. The rock paintings fascinate me and I never get tired of the Mekong river views.

Street Art Songkhla

Most people visit Southern Thailand for the beaches. But what about the cities? Which are the best cities in Southern Thailand. I thought about this topic for a while and came up with the following list. It is pretty much based on the idea of food, friendliness and heritage that creates and atmosphere for exploring and walking. Simply nice towns and cities.

  1. Songkhla
  2. Phuket City with Phuket Old Town
  3. Hua Hin
  4. Trang
  5. Surat Thani

Songkhla

Songkhla street art

Songkhla is often called the pearl or the jewel of the South. As a tourist destination it is already popular with Singaporeans and Malaysians that fly in to Had Yai and transfer to Thailands own Lion City. The town in the deep south is off the beaten route for most western visitors yet because many western countries still have a travel advisory not to go there.

Songkhla has its own Heritage foundation that has restored the Sino-Portugise houses in downtown. It is so lovely to stroll around these buildings and the street art that comes with the area in the early morning. It is packed with restaurants, cafes and galleries.

Some of the eateries are even facing the Songkhla lake. Outside the old town you can access great view points, you can visit small temples and local markets with very inexpensive local food, and then there is the sea. Moreover, there is a beautiful national museum and ruins of old fortresses in the mountains from the days when this city was on the trade route for Indians/Europeans and Chinese.

Here you have a town that is reminiscent of Georgetown and a bit of Hoi An. However, of course most of all Songkhla has its own identity. A tourist attraction in Thailand waiting to happen. A tale between two seas packed with outstanding food and historical heritage. Read more here.

Phuket City

Kasikorn Bank Phuket
Retrofeel Kasikorn Bank Phuket

Phuket City is often referred to as Phuket Town. The administration has come a long way here to restore and upgrade the old Sino – Portugise shophouses and the old proud bank buildings. Phuket old town is very walkable and every night the buildings are illuminated. There are old Chinese shrines hiding in the alleys, amulet markets and top class diners both local and international. Remember that Phuket City caters not only to tourist but also to the people that built their riches from tin and tourism. So some of the best restaurants are not located in the actual heritage area.

Phuket town also has this street art route that you can follow. From Phuket town you are just a stone throw away from some of the worlds best beaches but while you are in Phuket town they feel like they are quite far away. Read about a walk in Phuket town here, and about the food scene here.

Hua Hin

Hua Hin Railway station.
Iconic Railway station Hua Hin

Not to forget, the oldest resort town in Thailand. A jet set holiday area since the early 1920s. Hua Hin grew from a fishing village to wide stretched city following Petchkaserm road Southwards. Popular among Scandinavians and Bangkokians there is no lack of world class resorts, food and golf. Walking the beach is a pleasant experience. There are also historical sightseeing spots like the old train station with the Royal Pavilion and a visit to the former Railway hotel, nowadays Centara, for a high afternoon tea and memorable moment in the garden is a must. From Hua Hin it is easy to access some wonderful national parks like Sam Rai Yod or Kaeng Krachan.Read more about Hua Hin here.

Trang

Breakfast in Trang, fried doughs ticks, dim sum and roasted pork.
Breakfast in Trang

“Another” from mining to rubber success town. As of the tourist part, not so much yet. You will have to settle for smaller hotels and hostels or some gigantic two to three star city hotel complexes. Trang is Songkhla and Phuket town light when it comes to Sino-Portugise architecture. And definitely more quiet. But it is a shining star when it comes to local food. Nightmarkets for sure. However, try waking up early and join in for roasted pork, dim sums and patong go dough sticks. Read more about Trang here.

Surat Thani

Life along Tapi river Surt Thani
Daily life Surat Thani

How can you not like a city whose name translates as “The city of the friendly people”. Surat Thani has a historical heritage dating back to the days of the Srivijaya the trading kingdom of Java and some impressive buddhist monuments. But the obvious highlights are a boat trip along the canal system of the Tapi river and the extraordinary food market every night. So before you head to the islands. You should give Surat Thani a day or two of your time. Read more about Surat Thani here.

Trang has been a constant favourite for me, a love story since the first time I explored the archipelago in 2001. It was the drowsy atmosphere on the islands that was such a stark contrast to Phuket or Ao Nang. At the time we stayed on Koh Ngai during the low season. Having a beer on the balcony overlooking a tree full of for bills feasting on some figs or something. Tropical charm at its best to sit there under jungle wrapped karst peaks and gazing at the inviting indescribable Andaman sea.

Overnight on some island, and enjoy beach restaurants with a table in the sand overlooking the horizon where the sun gradually melts into the ocean. On our last overnight with the family, we chose Koh Muuk for the pretty, family-friendly bay. We had a few days at Charlie Beach Resort Bungalows. The bungalow that we stayed in had beachfront access but was simple. We did choose the aircon option though.

There were kayaks for rent and you could easily go to the Emerald Cave, Tham Morakot. Locally promoted as stalactite cavern with a secret beach where pirates used to hide their treasures. (Honestly, it is so small so they must have dug up each other’s treasures). Still, a great excursion. Go there early, or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. Most sightseeing boats will include it in the itinerary.

The archipelago consists of Koh Ngai, Koh Muk, Koh Kradan, Koh Libong, Koh Lao Liang, Koh Sukon, Koh Phetra, Koh Rok Nai and Koh Rok Nok.

A day tour with Island Hopping.

Enjoying a day tour with island jumping is also a good option. You will get to the Emerald Cave early in the morning and the cruise will take you around the archipelago for nice beach stops and snorkelling. Onboard the boat you will indulge in a homemade lunch. This kind of sightseeing enables a lot of nice snapshot opportunities within one day

.

Cruise boat for IsIsland hopping in Trang
Daytrip in the archipelago

Trang Town

The town gets it to name from the Malay word Terang, meaning light. Trang got its first Governor in 1811, even though it is mentioned in Thai records for 900 years. The road to fame started with the arrival of James Low in the early 19th century and negotiations for commercial deals related to tin mining. The area surrounding Trang was early to adopt rubber plantations after the first seeds arrived in Thailand in 1901.

Trang town is small, quaint, and tranquil. It has an intriguing blend of Chinese immigrants that came for the mining once in the days, a big Muslim presence and a blend of different faiths. It is easy to do the town by foot and you discover churches, mosques and temples blending in with small parks and simple and frequently a bit shabby Sino-Portuguese shophouses.

Most historical dwellings in Trang can be found between Kantang Rd, Sathanee Rd and Ratchadamnoen Rd. A simple, old-fashioned lifestyle exemplifies this low-profile town.

Eating Trang

The town has two night markets. I like the one near the railway station the best(not open every day). Here you find an excellent blend of homemade sushi, kebabs, southern curries and a range of snacks and pastries for the sweet-toothed.

If you prefer a restaurant instead of a street food dinner and you crave an evening with spicy Southern Thai curry try the Khao Gaeng Ban Suan.

A typical Trang town breakfast
When you can’t decide, have a bit of everything.

However, Trang is first and foremost famous for breakfast. Get up early to find the local atmosphere and eat Dim Sum, dough sticks (Patong go with sweet condensed milk)and a must, the roasted sweet pork restaurants. Check out the frequency of all the Dim Sum eateries in Trang. Ruan Thai Dim Sum is often praised as one of the best. But there are so many choices.

Try the pork! The whole pig is roasted for two hours. But firstly, the pig has been rubbed with a sweet, fragrant five-spice-based marinade for 8 hours. It is mouthwatering and melting in your mouth. The secret is the crispy skin but yet candy-like lean meat. Thais refer to the dish as ” muu yang Trang”. They eat every part of the pig but the most popular is the fatty belly. Whatever your choice is for breakfast, it will come with local tea or the “Cafe Boran” ancient style and strong coffee. Trang Moo Yang is a classic breakfast place for having pork.

This is a typical local Thai-Chinese breakfast.

The day starts exceptionally early for some people because they are going to the rubber plantations to work.

In town, they also bake a delicious sponge cake, convenient enough called a Trang cake. It comes in numerous flavours like vanilla, pandan, orange, coconut or coffee. Try the famous Cake Kook Ming shop to buy yourself some Trang cakes.

Trang Botanical Garden and the Tree Walk.

Canopy walk in Trang Botanical Garden
Canopy walk in Trangs Botanical Garden

If you have the time. This is an interesting easy one hour walk just outside town. It is a well-marked forest walk with the canopy walk as the highlight. You reach it after 15-20 minutes walk. It is not a Botanical garden in its original meaning with various theme areas with flora.

Getting to Trang:

The city is on the railway net. The most convenient way is to go by plane from Bangkok. When we have travelled from Chiang Mai we have used the direct connection with Air Asia to Krabi and then enjoyed a night in Ao Nang before renting a car or taking a minivan to Trang. If you are in no hurry you are close to many highlights in Southern Thailand like the under-visited Phattalung province with the wonderful Tale Noi lake and the jewel of the south Songkhla.

Trang downtown seen from Thumrin Thana hotel.

Modern Lamphun is famous for its Industrial Zone, the so-called Northern Region Industrial Estate. Attracting among others some Japanese companies like Hoya Optics. Lamphun has an ancient history to be proud of as well, it was once where the kingdom of Haripunchai was seated under the rule of a Mon Princess by the name of Chamadevi ( (Phra Nang Chammathewi) พระนางจามเทวี)in the mid 8th Century. According to some legends, Lamphun at the time was close to the ruler of Lopburi who sent his daughter here because Haripunchai asked for a ruler for the town.

In the pre-Lanna times of Northern Thailand. Harichunchai was one of many Mon states in the Dveravati kingdom. In the late 13th century, king Meng Rai of Lanna conquered Lamphun and integrated it into the kingdom.

Drive the ” Rubber Tree Road to Lamphun”

The old road of 106 is lined with tall dipterocarp trees and it goes parallel with the railway to Lamphun for about 25 kilometres. The starting point of the road is at the intersection with 1006 as it crosses the Ping River to become Thapae Road leading to the Old Town. These trees were supposedly planted in 1899 by the governor of Chiang Mai at the time. It is called the Rubber Tree road but the trees that are also bearers of sanctuaries to the locals are Dipterocarps. The most monumental of the trees is 40 metres in height.

Road 106 from Chiang Mai to Lamphun
Small cars and huge trees on the Intayongyot road.

Taking the train is also an option and then you can get off in the Khun Tan railway tunnel by the Doi Khun Tan national park which is also a great camping place. The tunnel was built between 1907 and 1918 and is Thailands longest railway tunnel with its 1352 meters.

When you follow the 106 from Chiang Mai it will automatically guide you straight to the main sight of the town, the temple Wat Haripunchai. And just opposite the temple you have a great coffee shop and gallery called the Temple Cafe and there is also a local Hainanese chicken on rice restaurant with some of the best Kao Man Gai in the country.

Wat Phra That Haripunchai

Wat Haripunchai is indeed one of the grandest temples in Northern Thailand. There are several viharns and chedis within the temple area as well as a museum and a library. The timespan for the structures spans over 1000 years. Officially built in the 12th century, some structures are from the 9th century and others are from the 20th century.

The 46 meter Lanna style Chedi from the 15th century inshrines the relics of the Buddha. On its top, there is a gilded umbrella weighing 6 1/2 kilo. Inside the Chedi, there is an older Mon Stupa. In the four corners, there are gilded umbrellas added in the 19th century.

Chedi at Wat Hariphunchai
One of the most famous temple complexes in Northern Thailand should be part of anyone’s itinerary.
Re-colouring the great Buddha in the main Viharn. This Buddha was cast in the 15th century and has the nickname the Buddha with the sharp shins. The Viharn itself is very elaborate with its impressive and intricate facade.

The temple is open from 6 am to 6 pm except for Mondays and there is nowadays a 50 baht entrance fee for foreigners.

If you have time don’t miss the Haripunchai National Museum. It holds around 3000 antique artefacts from Lamphun province. It is not far from Wat Haripunchai, here.

Salak Yom, the famous festival of Lamphun

The celebration is a way to perform merit-making for the ethnic Yong minority of Lamphun. Their origins are actually from today Myanmar. Many of them were forced to resettle here by the Lanna king Kawila after war and raids into Shan and Yong territory. The largest inpouring of Yong occurred in 1805 when 10,000 people were sent from Muang Yong to be resettled in northern Thailand.

A Salak Yom is an impressive bamboo pole, often higher than 12 meters ornamented with thousands of brightly coloured, tufted rods.

In the past, the Salak Yom poles were manufactured by families with mature daughters. It is believed that the merit made by putting together these decorative poles equalled that of having a son ordained into monkhood. Also, it was a way to declare for the Yong families that their daughters were masters of various crafts and stood ready for marriage.

Each Salak Yom pole embodies a community, a mutual effort of everybody in the neighbourhood. The poles are also a lot taller, each measuring 12 meters or more, and elaborately decorated to be the most stunning when erected side by side.

Salad Yom is a three day event that takes place in September. The main site for the event is Wat Haripunchai.

The Temple House and Gallery

Just opposite the entrance, there is a modern, air-conditioned and comfortable coffee shop with excellent coffee and tasty pastry. It also serves as a gallery. A perfect break from the tropical heat. Location here.

Hainanese Chicken – Kao Man Gai Thailand

Also just opposite the temple, there is a Kao man gai restaurant (ข้าวมันไก่). This is the Thai variation of Hainanese chicken rice, a dish that’s extremely popular throughout Southeast Asia. This restaurant is called Kao Man Gai Thailand/ข้าวมันไก่ไทยแลนด์. They have both the boiled and the deep-fried version, or if you prefer a combination of both. It is very popular but most of the time there are available tables. Tai people write down their order on a piece of paper but you can always point to the pictures on the menu as well. This is a meal that is inexpensive and still a perfect filling lunch.

Hainanese Chicken
The deep fried version of the Hainanese chicken.
Preparing chicken and rice

Wat Chamtewi

This temple is also named Wat Ku Kut. It is on the way when you drive to the Terracotta Garden from Wat Haripunchai, on the Chamadevi rd.

The temple was founded in the 12th century in the era of the Kingdom of Hariphunchai. The local tales say that the temple was founded much earlier in the days of Queen Chamadevi around her time of death 731. 98 years old! Legend says that one of her sons, after 7 days of mourning, put her ashes in the stupa.

Today it is considered to have been built by King named Athitayarat as a memorial to his victory over the Khmers. The present appearance was given to the stupa in 1218 when it was rebuilt by King Sapphasit after it was damaged in an earthquake. 

Stupa at Wat Chamtewi
Wat Camadevi/Chamadevi/Chamtewi. There are many ways to spell the name of the ancient queen. This narrow and square-based stupa is called the Ku Kut stupa. It could be influenced by Satmahal Prasada at Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka.

The area is very interesting and worth a visit. There are some spectacular wooden structures and a manmade cave replica with statues depicting hermits.

The Terracotta Garden at Lamphun

Part restaurant/coffee shop part selfie and Instagram hotspot and also apparently someone is in love with religious Khmer art. There are lintels and art decorations reminiscent of the ones in the pink temple Bantey Srei in Cambodia for instance. A whole stupa has been built on the other side of a wooden bridge. Creating the feeling of the Hindu notion of the whole mountain Meru surrounded by the world oceans. I wasn’t quite sure what to think about it. The restaurant and the garden were nice though. Good coffee and pastry. Very busy on a Sunday. It is the type of place that you probably either love or strongly dislike. But better go there and make up your mind. The effort and I suppose money that is put into it is amazing.

Terracotta-tiles in Lamphun Terracotta garden
Hindu and Buddhist art, a lot of pretty but broken terracotta tiles on the ground.
Lamphun Terracotta garden
The cafe part with the bull Nandin as a guardian. You can sit inside in the air conditioner or outside. It was Sunday when we visited and we had to wait ten minutes for a table.

The location of the Terracotta Garden is just by the Ping river.

The Sun Waterpark

A somewhat unconventional waterpark that I address in another blog post. Read more about it here.

Lamphun is also famous for Lammyai fruits and a harvest festival is held in July.

Amazing Ao Yon and The Cove

The view from inside the Cove

Visualize briny waves slowly and gently moving in and soothing the sandbed, coconut palms hanging low out in the sea, direct access to the bluish water for the kids while you are enjoying a cocktail or some delicious food, a mouthwatering pizza from the wood-fired oven or some smoked salmon carpaccio. The Boutique hotel and beach club The Cove on Ao Yon offers just that. The Cove also has sun loungers on their little artificial beach. And like a hotel, they have only three rooms. For the pictures below you have to think of yourself in the same place on a nice sunny high season day.

Ao Yon just beyond Cape Panwa is a picnic spot for locals and has a word to it that it is a bit too good to be true. Well sheltered and shallow. A beach that is definitely within reach but still a well-kept secret. It is between Cape Panwa and Panwa Beach. I had this low season heavy rain there when I was there. But still hung around for some time. Being here was simply very de-stressing. Sitting by a table in the sand looking out at the bay and the sailing boats. The area is popular for sailing. This would be an ideal spot to work for a few hours on the computer and just relax the eyes on the sea on a good day.

As for a day trip with kids, this could also easily be combined with Cape Panwa and the Phuket Aquaria/ Aquarium there. The largest aquarium in Thailand and a good place to go for the whole family and education as well.

Ao Yon is also in close reach to Phuket Town with all its cafes, street art and restaurants. The Cape Panwa section of Phuket has this Singapore light atmosphere. Well managed and organized.