|Central Gulf Coast |
The beaches of Ko Samui, the full moon parties at Ko Pha Ngan, diving at Ko Tao, the natural splendor of the Ang Thong Marine Park and the Khao Sok National Park.
|Northern Andaman Coast |
Khao Lak, Similan Islands, Surin Islands and the beautiful limestone rock formations of the Ao Phang Nga National Park.
The original Thai paradise island, now very developed but still with a lot of beautiful beaches.
|Krabi Province |
White sandy beaches, crystal clear water, fascinating coral reefs, caves and waterfalls, as well as numerous islands.
|Southern Andaman Coast |
Some truly picture-postcard tropical islands in the Ko Tarutao archipelago, as well as the Trang islands.
|Southern Gulf Coast |
Beautiful beaches and nature, popular among Malaysian travellers. Due to separatist struggles, the three deep southern provinces might be better avoided.
- 1 Chumphon — gateway to Southern Thailand with four daily ferries to Ko Tao
- 2 Hat Yai — largest city of Southern Thailand
- 3 Krabi Town — base for plenty of beaches and islands
- 4 Nakhon Si Thammarat — provincial capital historically known as Ligor
- 5 Patong — one of Asia's great party cities on the island of Phuket
- 6 Phuket Town — administrative centre of the popular beach island
- 7 Ranong — border town with Kawthoung in Myanmar, often used for visa runs
- 8 Songkhla — beach resort popular among Malaysian and Singaporean travellers
- 9 Surat Thani — main city of the Srivijaya Empire, gateway to the Samui archipelago
- 1 Ao Nang — top beach destination in Krabi Province
- 2 Ao Phang Nga National Park — famous for its limestone cliffs, caves, mangroves, fishing villages, and James Bond Island
- 3 Khao Sok National Park — spend the night in one of the jungle's huts
- 4 Ko Lipe — set in the middle of 52 uninhabited islands with excellent dive sites and beaches
- 5 Ko Pha Ngan — home to the infamous Full Moon Party
- 6 Ko Phi Phi — Thailand's largest marine national park and backpacker favourite where The Beach was filmed
- 7 Ko Samui — coconut and paradise island quickly moving upmarket
- 8 Rai Leh — a peninsula with stunning limestone cliffs, beaches and no motor vehicles, rock climbing Mecca
- 9 Similan Islands — national park with spectacular views over and under water
Unlike the rest of Buddhist-majority Thailand, the four provinces of Satun, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat have a Muslim majority, most of whom are ethnic Malays. The dialects of Malay spoken are similar to those in northern Peninsular Malaysia, in particular the states of Kedah and Kelantan, which often makes them incomprehensible to speakers of standard Malay. Songkhla province also has a substantial Muslim population (about 25%), though unlike the aforementioned four provinces, ethnic Malays now make up a minority even among the Muslim population, and most of the Muslim population is ethnically Thai.
There has been talk of building a shipping canal across the Isthmus of Kra with financial backing from China, allowing ships travelling between China and Europe or India to bypass Singapore and save several days of travel. However, concerns over separatism among the ethnic Malay Muslim community have repeatedly held back attempts to do so.
The dialect of Thai spoken here is the southern dialect, which differs noticeably from the central dialect spoken in Bangkok. Dialects of Malay are spoken by the ethnic Malays, who form the majority in Satun, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, and a significant minority in Songkhla province. Unlike in Malaysia and Brunei, the Malay language is written exclusively in the Arabic-derived Jawi script in Thailand, and Rumi (the Roman alphabet) is virtually unknown.
There are international airports in Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai and on the island Ko Samui. Phuket Airport is the busiest Thai airport outside Bangkok, and is served by some intercontinental flights to Europe and Australia, particularly during the high season, as well as to many Asian cities. Otherwise, the most common way to reach the region is to connect to a domestic flight in Bangkok, or you can connect in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, both of which have flights to all the four aforementioned airports.
The final leg of journeys to most of the islands as well as some of the more isolated coastal spots will be by boat. Long distance boats from near Bangkok are also available.
It is now possible to travel by ferries in hi season (Nov-May) from Phuket and island hop your way down the coast all the way to Malaysia and Indonesia.
This can now be done without ever touching the mainland, Phuket (Thailand) to Padang (Indonesia).
Islands en route:
- Ko Phi Phi
- Ko Lanta
- Ko Ngai
- Ko Mook
- Ko Bulon
- Ko Lipe - Ko Lipe being the hub on the border between Thailand and Malaysia having a Thai immigration office.
- Langkwai- Malaysian immigration here.
The Thai portion can be done in a day, although chances are you'll want to stop on some of the islands.
The region's major cities are served by frequent long distance buses run by both the government and tour operators. International buses also run from major cities into Peninsular Malaysia, with some of them even headed all the way to Singapore.
Trains from the north pass through the region en route to Malaysia.
The reefs around Ko Lipe are largely intact as they have been protected by being within Thailand's oldest marine parks.
Sailing and island hopping
The islands in the southern Gulf of Thailand including the Ang Thong National Marine Park provide a beautiful sailing ground. Island hopping sailing cruises between Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui.
On the west coast you also will be able to find many beautiful sailing areas, like Phang Nga Bay, Similan islands, Phi Phi islands. Some charter companies offering day trips and overnight tours from Phuket to Phang Nga and other islands around Phuket. There are hundreds of islands just in Phang Nga Bay and you will need more than just a day trip to explore them all. The best way to explore this sailing ground is to charter a sailing boat for several weeks.
Unsurprisingly for a coastal region, seafood features prominently on the menu. Traditional southern Thai food includes milder coconut milk-based curries popularly associated with Thailand: the dry, Malaysian-influenced Penang curry and Indian-influenced massaman (Muslim) curry with potatoes and nuts.
A wide variety of international cuisines is available in the many resort towns, visited by millions of overseas tourists every year and home to many expats. Tourism has also brought migrants from other parts of Thailand, and their food with them.
In 2004, long-simmering resentment in the southernmost Muslim-majority provinces burst into violence in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces. All are off the tourist trail, although the eastern rail line from Hat Yai to Sungai Kolok (gateway to Malaysia's east coast) passes through the area and has been disrupted several times by attacks.
Hat Yai (Thailand's largest city after Bangkok and its Nonthaburi suburbs) in Songkhla has also been hit by a series of bombings, however the main cross-border rail line connecting Hat Yai and Butterworth (on the west coast) and the main road connecting Hai Yai with Bukit Kayu Hitam has not been affected, and none of the islands or the west coast beaches have been targeted.
In September 2006, three foreigners were killed in bombings in Hat Yai. Some rebel groups have threatened foreigners, but while targets have included hotels, karaoke lounges, and shopping malls, Westerners have not been singled out for attacks.
- Central Thailand - to Prachuap Khiri Khan
- West Coast of Malaysia - to Kedah, Perak, or Perlis
- East Coast of Malaysia - to Kelantan
- Myanmar - to Tanintharyi Division via Ranong and Kawthoung