Southern Thailand's Secluded Adventure Spot
Trang is a coastal province in Sothern Thailand that's a gateway for seaborne adventure.
The popularity of Thailand’s southern region is with good reason because of its ample sun, emerald seas, and soft sands. There are parts of it, however, that have become crowded for comfort. If we don’t make the conscious effort to protect all the things that make Thailand amazing, we risk destroying what we love about Southern Thailand.
There are other provinces few mainstream know about and are worth your visit. For instance, Trang is a coastal province in Southern Thailand, bordering Krabi to the north and Satun to the south. A shoreline stretching almost 200 kilometers separates Trang Province from the Andaman Sea to the west, turning it into a gateway for a seaborne adventure that rivals the beauty of Phang Nga and Krabi with less of the crowds. Trang, fortunately, manages to come across as off-the-beaten-track while being super-accessible.
“The beauty of [Trang] is the uniqueness of the diving and the fact that you’ll almost be the only divers there,” explains Mary Biron, a travel journalist who joined a four-day live aboard cruise around the Andaman Sea off Trang in January 2020. “The Andaman Sea is perfect this time of the year, and the dive spots around here are not crowded with as many divers as other places in Thailand.”
What to Do Around Trang's Islands
Many first-time visitors to the area are doing what Mary Biron did—exploring the islands and dive spots around the Andaman Sea. Others are venturing further inland to explore the cultural and natural attractions around Trang town, and the nature reserves on the mainland.
The karst geography of Southern Thailand (much the same as you’d find in Krabi) are responsible for the unique appearance of Trang’s local islands. The wilder, woolier feel of Trang’s islands, though, allows visitors to feel as if they’ve just happened onto an undiscovered secret.
Our suggestion is to first visit Hat Chao Mai National Park. It is a marine national park whose sea territory covers seven major islands and their respective attractions. Attractions within the national park include:
Ko Muk, renowned for its glistening white beaches and the Tham Morakot (Emerald) cave, whose waters turn a brilliant emerald green when the sunlight hits it at just the right angle.
Ko Kradan, site of Trang’s most famous beach. Thanks to its location in a protected area, Kradan Beach has little by way of development, leaving the brilliant white sand and blue sky and sea as the island’s main spectacle. A tinier, but no less spectacular cove called Sunset Beach on the west coast of the island, is a great place to watch the sun descend at day’s end.
Ko Libong is Trang’s largest island, and it is part of the Libong Archipelago Wildlife Reserve, covering 40,000 square kilometers of out-of-the-way beaches and natural features amidst its mangrove-tree fringes. The seagrasses in the waters around Ko Libong feed a community of dugong, endangered sea mammals that serve as Trang’s unofficial spirit animal.
For Mary Biron and other undersea enthusiasts, the best part of Trang lies under the surface. In essence, the islands off the province offer a breathtaking variety of dive sites accessible from liveaboard cruises cruising the Andaman Sea.
Starting at the tiny island of Ko Waen, Mary and her crew “did a few relaxing dives on a beautiful reef with healthy corals and plenty of sea life,” she explains. “The dive guide took us swimming along a small reef-wall, and the dive ended up around some huge coral boulders.”
It was at Hin Dang and Hin Muang where Mary had her “best [dive] ever”: “At the surface, you’ll only see some bare rocks here, but once you dive down, you’re greeted by a world of its own,” she marvels. “We managed to see mantas, reef sharks, more marine life than in a minute than on most other dives, and a tail of a whale shark (we just missed the full view of it).”
Going Under... And Over
Swimming into the brilliant emerald waters of Morakot on Ko Muk may be Trang’s most famous cave experience, but Tham Le Khao Kob comes a close second. In essence, the boat passes through a point where the ceiling is so low, passengers have to lie flat on the deck to pass “under the dragon’s belly.”
If you’re uncomfortable with confined spaces, then how about going in the opposite direction—skyward? The east-facing cliffs at Ko Lao Liang Noi provide an alternative climbing experience to Railay and Tonsai, with plenty of challenges for bouldering and deep water solo enthusiasts.
Explore Trang's Local Culture
You won’t get the full picture of the province until you explore Trang’s cultural side. Start at its eponymous capital Trang, a centuries-old entrepot whose history at the crossroads of Malay, Chinese, Portuguese, and Thai trading routes have left an indelible mark on the old city.
In between visiting old Chinese shrines and Malay mosques, you can take food breaks to explore the local food scene, which covers crispy Trang-style roast pork, airy Trang cake, and the local coffee. Ride the local “frog-head” tuk-tuks (unique to Trang) to get around.
The town of Kantang, south of Trang Town, became a boom town early on, thanks to its pioneering of rubber cultivation in the early 20th century. The first rubber tree still grows near the road leading to Kantang; the Phraya Ratsadanupradit Mahitsaraphakdi Museum, housed in the former governor’s mansion, honors its namesake government official who first brought rubber to Trang.
At the Na Muen Si village in Na Yong, women have passed on a unique weaving tradition down through the generations—tourists can see and buy their handiwork at the Na Muen Si Weaving Group’s shop, and watch the weavers work their magic on old-school wooden looms.
How To Get To Trang
Daily flights from Bangkok-Don Mueang Airport take an hour and a half to cover the distance from the capital to Trang. Two overnight trains from Bangkok offer a more laid-back way to get to the province, if you’re more interested in the scenic route.
From Trang town, you can take a minivan to Pak Meng Pier to make the seaborne connection to Ko Muk, Ko Kradan and Ko Libong. Ferry connections from Phuket (via Rassada Pier) and Ko Lanta (via Saladan Pier) also serve travelers from these nearby destinations, who disembark at Hat Yao Pier in Trang.
Best Time to Visit
Time your visit for the dry season between November and April, and you’ll enjoy bright, sunny skies and refreshingly cool breezes for the duration of your trip. Romantic travelers can visit during Valentine’s Day in February when underwater wedding ceremonies are held around Morakot Cave, certified by the folks at Guinness as the biggest of its kind in the world.
Where to Stay in Trang
You can find accommodations at Trang town on the mainland and the islands. For the latter, visitors seeking five-star stays should find a resort on Ko Ngai, where room rates and other expenses are quite expensive—but you do get what you pay for!
Less expensive/more rustic stays can be found on neighboring islands Ko Muk, Ko Kradan, and Ko Libong, which are within proximity of local fishing villages. To experience life like the locals, book a stay at Bo Hin Farm Stay, where guests take part in immersive experiences like tours of local mangrove forests.