The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) continues to expand the ‘12 Hidden Gems’ campaign that encourages visitors to go off the beaten path and discover new Thai local experiences in emerging destinations around the kingdom.
First introduced in 2015, the campaign features 12 provinces which offer countless attractions for visitors to explore and discover.
Known as the city of horse carts, but a walking tour of Lampang’s old town is the best way to see the sights. It starts at the Ratsadapisek bridge, which leads across the Wang River from Talat Kao Road. It’s hard to believe now but when built in 1894, this bridge was supposedly the longest in Thailand. A little bit outside of town and worth the trip is the famous thousand-year-old Wat Phra That Lampang Luang.
The best way to experience the beauty of Nan is cycling around the city. Inside town Wat Phumin is the main attraction with its wall paintings depicting the lives of the local populace. Doi Phu Kha, Khun Nan and Mae Charim National Parks are popular destinations year around with many new guesthouses and boutique hotels offering quality accommodation. Restaurants line the banks of the Nan River offering tasty Thai cuisine and sublime views.
Cool weather all year round is the charm of Petchabun. Khao Kho is the province’s most popular destination famous for its flowers, strawberries and winter vegetable farms. Camping under pine trees is possible at Nam Nao National Park and Tung Salaeng Luang National Park, while Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park features flower covered hills and waterfalls. In town visits to Wat Trai Phum and Wat Sat Thai and their famous Buddha images are highly recommended.
Located on the Mekong River, Loei is one of the coolest provinces in Thailand, especially during winter visits to Phu Ruea, Phu Lam Lo and Phu Kradueng National Parks. Traditional Thai culture is preserved in Chiang Khan village with its old wooden houses on the Mekong River. While the cultural heritage of the yearly Phi Ta Khon Festival is preserved at the Dan Sai Folk Museum at Wat Phon Chai.
The main attraction in Buri Ram is a visit to Prasat Hin Phanom Rung. The impressive Khmer site is perched atop an extinct volcano, while Prasat Hin Muang Tam is at the foot of the volcano. Inside Buri Ram town modern attractions include the i-Mobile football stadium and Chang International Racing Circuit, which will host Motor GP motorcycle events from 2018.
Ratchaburi has long been famous for its freshly made egg noodles with each shop in town featuring its own recipe. A Nang Yai shadow puppet performance at Wat Khanon is an annual highlight during the Thai New Year Songkran celebration. Meanwhile the Suntree Land of Dolls is part of a factory as well as a play area for children and doll collectors. Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat is the most important temple in town not to be missed.
The main attraction Samut Songkhram is the bronze Buddha image Luang Phor Wat Ban Laem in Wat Phet Samut Woravihan. The Mae Klong Railway Market, or Talat Rom Hup, is located near the Maeklong Railway Station and offers fresh and dried food, including seafood. The Amphawa Chai Pattananurak Project features local canal houses transformed into galleries and gift shops that include handicraft and gastronomy tourism demonstrations
Trat is the gateway for visits to Ko Chang, Ko Mak, and Ko Kut islands among others. At Laem Ngop Viewpoint, stunning ocean views reward all who visit. The Khlong Bang Phra community features old shop houses that once flourished during colonial times. The province is famous for its gastronomy tourism with many crab noodle restaurants and rice and curry shows set beside mangrove forests not far from the night market.
The province’s 111-kilometre-long beach road passes wind along the coast with bicycle lanes for cyclists. Other attractions include the so-called ‘Red Building’, built by French soldiers in 1893, located around the beautiful Laem Sing Beach and picturesque Rai Phan Din Village. This Thai local experience features 400 homes built on stilts over the sea. The province is also known for its many seafood restaurants in Klung District.
Other must-visit attraction is the Chanthaboon Riverside Community, also among TAT’s four model sustainable tourism areas under the recently-launched “Follow the King’s Wisdom for Sustainable Tourism” initiative.
Chumphon is the jumping off point for Ko Tao and is full of natural charm. The Prince of Chumphon shrine at Sai Ree Beach pays respect to the founder of Royal Thai Navy and is consider a must visit attraction. Nearby is beautiful Mu Ko Chumphon National Park known for its kayaking opportunities. Other must-visit tourist destination are Thung Zang Bay, Mo Bao Beach and Laem Thong cape all offer uncrowded beaches from May to October.
A homestay experience is also available at communities around the Nong Yai Royal Development Project. These villages are among TAT’s four model sustainable tourism areas under the recently-launched “Follow the King’s Wisdom for Sustainable Tourism” initiative.
Nakhon Si Thammarat
Nakhon Si Thammarat town’s main attraction is the splendid Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahavihan. Just outside town, Khanom District is popular for its sightseeing boat tours in search of endangered pink dolphins. The Thai local experience in Pak Phanang is noteworthy for its 100-year old market and old houses. A visit to see national artist Suchart Subsin at Ban Nang Talung features a traditional Nang Talung shadow puppet show that is well worth a visit.
Trang is well-known for gastronomy tourism. Recommended dishes include grilled pork, dim sum treats and seafood. When visiting Trang, offshore islands are the primary draw especially Ko Muk, Ko Kradan, Ko Chuek and Ko Ma. The province is also home to the largest peninsular botanical garden (Thung Khai) with its wide variety of wild flowers and trees. Bo Hin farm stay offers a unique chance for overseas visitors to learn first-hand about the life of local Thai fishermen.
This treasure trove of emerging destination features hidden beaches, verdant national parks and Thai local experiences. Visitors that add any of the ‘12 Hidden Gems’ to their next Thailand itinerary will be richly rewarded.