The largest province of the South located 685 kilometers from Bangkok is Surat Thani the province with a name that literally means "City of the Good People". A former capital of the Srivijaya Empire, the province covers an area of approximately 12,891 square kilometers. Surat Thani Province borders the Gulf of Thailand to the north and east, Chumphon Province to the north, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Krabi Provinces to the south, Phang-Nga and Ranong Provinces to the west and Nakhon Si Thammarat Province to the east.
High plateaus and forested mountains are located to the west of the province, while there are low basins in the center and along the eastern coast. This topography has created 14 river basins including Tapee, Pum Duang, Tha Thong, Tha Krajai, Chaiya, Tha Chang which are the most important basins. All rivers in Surat Thani flow east of the province to the Gulf of Thailand.
The numerous islands along the coast makes Surat Thani (often known as Surat in short) a perfect hideaway for vacationers from around the world. The ideal destination for many is the Penang-sized Ko Samui, Thailand's third largest island, and its neighbour Ko Pha-ngan a celebrated island that hosts the biggest beach full moon party. North of Ko Pha-ngan is Ko Tao, renowned for its excellent coral reefs. To top it all is the dazzling 250-square-kilometer Ang Thong Marine National Park, where a stunning archipelago awaits to greet visitors with their charming palm-fringed beaches, crystal clear water and colorful coral reefs. The best time to enjoy one of these islands to the fullest is from April to November.
Khao Sok National Park
This virgin rainforest dotted by limestone mountain ranges and rugged high cliffs was established as a national park in 1980. The poised limestone mountains resemble to those in Guilin, China resulting in the local nickname of “Thailand's Guilin”. Covering an area of approximately 646 square kilometers, the park extends beyond Ban Ta Kun, Phanom and Khiri Ratniyom Districts.
The main attractions in the park include Namtok Mae Yai which can be reached by car and Namtok Sip Ed Chan (eleven-tiered waterfall), situated approximately 4 kilometers from the park office. There are also other magnificent waterfalls and caves, which are mostly accessible by foot.
Khao Sok is inhabited by rare wildlife such as wild elephants, leopards, serow, banteng, gaur, dusky langurs, tigers and Malayan sun bears. Bird lovers will be enthralled visiting , as there are over 180 bird species to watch.
Rare flora are found along nature trails particularly to the south of the park where local plants such as lianas, bamboo, ferns and giant rattan, of over 10cm. in diameter, can be found. To top it all, the bua phut is perhaps what visitors to Khao Sok look forward to seeing most. Bua Phut or Rafflesia kerri meyer, a flower which can only be found in Khao Sok, is claimed as the largest flower in the world. When in full bloom, the Bua Phut is approximately 80 centimeters in diameter. The flower is a natural parasite without roots of its own, but relying on roots of a jungle vine to survive. The best time to see Bua Phut is from October to December, when they are in full bloom. Contact the park's headquarters for a local guide. Note that a 5-8 hour walk is required to see such a rare flower. However, there photographs of Bua Phut in the headquarters' office, with information displayed on the ecological system of the park.
The park and other entrepreneurs provide bungalows, camping areas and raft-houses while accommodation owners normally provide food. The park is at its best from December to April.
Ratchaprapha Dam or Chieo Lan Dam
The Chieo Lan Dam, built in 1982, is a rock with fat-clay core dam that is 94 meters in height and 761 in length. The reservoir (lake) covers an area of 185 square kilometers and boasts an electricity generating capacity of approximately 554 million kilowatt / hour. The lake offers an incomparably breathtaking view of limestone mountains and over 200 small islands.
Accommodations near the dam are available from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, For those wishing to see the lake closer, boat rental service is also available.
The dam is located 70 kilometers west from Surat Thani on Highway No. 401. Travel along the Highway, turn right at the kilometer 52-53 marker and proceed for another 12 kilometers along an access road until you see the extensive lake beyond the Dam.
Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand, approximately 84 kilometers east of Surat Thani Province, or approximately 700 kilometers south of Bangkok. Known as the Coconut Island, Ko Samui is one of the most famous and popular attractions of Thailand. With an area of 247 square kilometers,
Ko Samui is the third largest island of Thailand after Phuket and Ko Chang (of Trat Province). The topography of the island is that of a plain with a mountain range in the middle and 7 important streams. In addition, there is a 50-kilometer paved road that encircles the island. Moreover, the area of the island stretches to a group of 48 surrounding islets. Despite the fast pace of development, Ko Samui has been able to maintain its charm its classical image of a tropical beach resort fringed by coconut trees. Travelers to the island can enjoy a mixed blessing of vibrant day and nightlife along side with tranquility which can easily be found across different parts of Ko Samui as the archipelago is a peaceful home for fishermen and a natural den for seagulls and other rare birds.
Hat Chaweng and Hat Lamai are Ko Samuis most beautiful and most popular beaches. Both have a huge selection of accommodations suitable for every budget. Please note that room rates increase during the high season, from December to July, when Samui sparkles. The nightlife of each beach is different: Hat Chaweng is better for couples, women and families, while single men are drawn to the beer bar culture of Hat Lamai. These resorts, as well as Na Thon (Samui's main town), have communications, exchange and car/motorcycle hire facilities. Other beaches include Hat Choeng Mon, Hat Mae Nam in the north and Hat Na Thon, the island's major seafront settlement where shops, restaurants and tour agencies are concentrated.
Apart from its many lovely beaches and tranquil bays, Ko Samui is also noted for its high quality coconuts that grow densely everywhere. The best time to visit Ko Samui is from February to April when the sea is calm. The Southern dialect and the standard Thai language are spoken while English is widely understood in tourist areas.
Mu Ko Ang Thong Marine National Park
This comprises some 40 islands about 20 kilometres or two hours by boat northwest of Ko Samui. The park covers 250 square kilometres, of which approximately one fifth is land mass. The most attractive islands include Ko Wua Ta Lap, Ko Mae Ko, Ko Prayat, Ko Sam Sao, Ko Nai Put and Ko Wua Te. Most islands comprise limestone masses reaching heights of up to 400 metres, and fringed by beaches and rain forest.
An emerald saltwater lake known as Tha-le Nai (Inland Sea) on Ko Mae Ko is the park's major scenic attraction, and entails a mildly strenuous climb. The resultant views are well worth the effort. Another popular venue is Ko Sam Sao where an extensive span of coral reef and a huge rock arch offer scenic fascination.
The park office is on Ko Wua Ta Lap where bungalow-style accommodation is available. Visitors wishing to stay overnight should make advance bookings and specify whether meal services are required, either through the Ang Thong Marine National Park