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8 Highlights in Thailand’s West and Upper South

Thai Regional Travel Experiences in 2022

Western Region via Pak Chong

1. Beach Settings at Cha-am, Phetchaburi Province

Given our coastal location, crab was especially fresh and delicious, and fairly easy to consume with some shell removed in advance.

After a few nights in Pak Chong in May 2022, we drove to Cha-am, via the amazing Baan Nuntawan Dessert Store. For lunch we visited a Seafood restaurant surrounded by the small island, Koh Tha Sai, which was a lovely setting. Arriving at Byon Coffee Bar the rain came teeming down so we savoured our delectable coffee from the comfort of cover. The Eco Cozy Beachfront Resort, our hotel, was nearby so whilst waiting for the rain ease, we headed there. Later, we enjoyed a swim and then dined at the beachside restaurant before heading to Kanchanaburi the next morning.

Family swim in the resort pool which looked straight out to the calm, blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

2. Kanchanaburi Provincial Food

Left to Right – Pandan Chicken, Steamed Fish Curry and Fried Fish with accompaniments.

Approaching Kanchanaburi we passed the War Cemetery en-route to lunch at Keeree Tara, adjacent to the River Khwae. Our table provided fantastic views of the Bridge, and the dishes, provincial and regional (western-upper southern Thai), were incredibly appetising. These included fried fish accompanied by chili paste and veggies, fish curry and chicken wrapped in Pandan leaves. The pandan leaves, although not eaten, infused flavour whilst keeping the meat tender, and these came with a delicious dipping sauce. Another dish consisted of steamed fish fillets with spicy herb salad containing garlic, chili and lemongrass.

3. The Bridge over the River Khwae, Kanchanaburi – An unforgettable History

The Bridge over the River Khwae forms part of the Thailand-Burma railway, built by the Japanese army during World War II. The railway empowered the Japanese army in Burma and India by using a secure land route instead of sea route. By cause of extremely inferior working conditions, more than 100,000 labourers and allied prisoners of war died during the construction. Tragically it’s said that one man died for every sleeper laid, and nearby is the War Cemetery where many are buried. Due to bomb damage, the Thai government renovated the bridge post war, with the inclusion of a walkway for foot traffic.

Trains pass the route daily meanwhile people walk over the railway bridge.

4. Phraya Nakhon Cave, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Prachuap Khiri Khan

In September 2022 we travelled down to Prachuap Khiri Khan Province from Chiang Mai, via a stop in Korat. A night in Hua Hin provided insight into a popular tourist city, before we headed 60km south to Phraya Nakhon Cave. Khao Sam Roi Yot (meaning mountain with 300 peaks) National Park comprises coastline, beaches, mangrove forests, mountains and freshwater wetland. Indeed, parts of the mountain rise to 600metres, amongst which caves are dotted including Phraya Nakhon, the largest.

The vast main cavern at Phraya Nakhon has it’s own mini-ecosystem.

Phraya Nakhon Cave – A spectacular experience

The 430metre hike started close to Hua Khao Tian Viewpoint offering stunning views of Laem Sala Beach and several islands. The trail involved ascending and descending steps through mangrove forests and limestone karsts leading to the Phraya Nakhon complex. The cave consists of three caverns, two of which are natural sinkholes penetrating sunlight to cause trees to grow beneath. Witnessing the illumination of the caves on one side with stalactites and stalagmites the other produced a mystical image. On our return hike we spotted several Dusky Langurs, amazingly tame, and the Southeast Asian bockadam Snake.

The delightful Dusky Langar, witnessed on our cave trek, which feeds on fresh leaves and sprouts.

Southern Region via Pak Chong and Hua Hin

5. Robusta Coffee, Chumphon Province

A selection of beans at Khao Talu Inter Cafe.

One reason for exploring Chumphon Province was to understand Robusta coffee production, specifically in Khao Talu. Robusta beans have lower acidity, greater bitterness and increased yield, so are commonly used in the global instant coffee market. Despite sentiments that Robusta is lower quality than Arabica, it’s found in specialty roasts and blends as it produces superior cremas. Robusta is often favoured for it’s distinct flavours: nuts, chocolate and earthy, some we experienced at Khao Talu Inter. This mountainous cafe, 50km from Chumphon, we sampled Americano and Espresso, produced from Khao Talu beans.

6. Dinner at Farida Cha Roti in Chumphon City

Roti Mataba at this well-known Chumphon restaurant opposite our hotel.

We dined here on our final night selecting Massaman Curry, Turmeric Chicken Rice (Kaao Mok Gai) and the trademark Mataba Roti. Made from dough, thinly rolled and fried to create a flat bread, Roti comes with various fillings, Mataba Roti containing curried chicken. The chicken in Kaao Mok is marinated in spices like curry powder, cardamom, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon, sprinkled with crispy fried shallots. The dish is accompanied by turmeric rice and served with pickled cucumber and red onion. Both dishes have evolved from the Thai Muslim community in Southern Thailand and are now popular nationwide.

7. Cacao Ranong Cafe, Ranong Province – fascinating insight

Travelling onto Ranong through remoter parts of Chumphon Province, we noticed signs for Cacao Ranong, an interesting enterprise of cacao growing. Besides the backdrop of Cacao trees, there was a ‘chocolate lab’ and a cafe that comprised cocoa-related drinks and goods. We enjoyed cacao husk tea and iced cocoa before browsing placards with the stages of cacao production. These included details on harvesting, fermenting, drying, roasting, cracking, winnowing, grinding, conching and molding. Products like cacao beans, husk, peeled cacao, cocoa nibs, butter, powder and chocolate were displayed for sale.

Southern Thailand is particularly conducive to Cacao cultivation, another ‘plantation’ we visited en route was ZMO Cocoa, Prachuap Khiri Khan.

8. Porn-rang Hot Springs, Ranong Province

Our final stay was in Ranong where a memorable highlight was visiting Porn-rang Hot Springs, 15km from the City. This was a large area of hot spring and mineral pools, natural phenomenon’s indicating accumulation of thermal power beneath Earth’s surface. Some pools have temperatures of 37-44 Celsius yet others are cooler and you’re able to swim in the adjacent river. Certainly, there are many health benefits to bathing in hot minerals, sulfate and magnesium, like reducing stress and boosting metabolism. Hot springs also help relieve muscle aches and improve blood circulation. A highly recommended visit when travelling to Ranong.

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