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Khao Luang National Park is one of Thailand’s best kept tourism secrets. Photo by Anuchit Ngoylung
The Southern Thai province of Nakhon Si Thammarat is bursting with an abundance of natural wonders. From the jungle-clad hills of the interior to the powder-soft sands of the coast, this captivating region is home to some of Thailand’s most spectacular landscapes and a dazzling diversity of flora and fauna. It is little surprise that it has been nicknamed ‘the green lungs of Thailand’ where travellers come to simply unplug from their daily lives.
For many years however, Nakhon Si Thammarat has remained a well-kept secret, attracting only Thai residents and intrepid ‘in the know’ international visitors. But all that is about to change. A combination of public sector promotion, private sector innovation and enhanced transport infrastructure is set to open up this ecological paradise to the world. A brand-new international terminal is due to launch at Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport before the end of 2023, opening up the province to a new wave of overseas visitors with direct flights expected from Singapore, Taiwan, China and Malaysia. The Samui Bridge project is also in discussion as part of the wider Southern Economic Corridor project.
Perfectly timed with this major development, the provincial governor’s office of Nakhon Si Thammarat and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have both confirmed plans to increase tourism promotion, based on the key pillars of nature and community. “Nakhon Si Thammarat sells nature in abundance. There are 200km of mountains, 200km of sandy beaches and perfect air quality. In future, we will also develop the medical and wellness sector, further leveraging our natural heritage,” said Apinan Phuakphong, Governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Pioneering a nature-based vision for Nakhon Si Thammarat: (left) Apinan Phuakphong, Governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat meeting Ravi Chandran, Special Advisor to Urasaya Property; (right) David Johnson of Delivering Asia Communications with Pitsinee Tatniyom, TAT’s Director for Nakhon Si Thammarat.
“Our focus is nature and community. We feel it will appeal to Thais and international visitors now more than ever before, as it offers a chance for a personal detox – a chance to reset and get back in touch with nature,” revealed Pitsinee Tatniyom, TAT’s Director for Nakhon Si Thammarat.
This call-to-action has been heeded by the private sector, and specialist tour operators have unveiled new itineraries for Nakhon Si Thammarat. For example, Tarzan Adventure recently launched a dragon’s back-style trekking program that takes experience-seekers on a journey into Khao Luang National Park, including mountain ridges, lush jungles, natural hot springs, surging waterfalls and mist-shrouded valleys and canyons.
Multi-day adventures are also available, including the chance to scale the 1,780-metre summit of Khao Luang, Thailand’s second highest peak. The 570km² national park is also home to the 1.7km-long Hong Cave, the 19-tier Karom Waterfall, the crystalline waters of Klong Nam Sai, as well as numerous rivers and rock formations. These geographical marvels, plus an array of flora and fauna, including 300 types of orchid, 340 species of bird, and large mammals such as leopards, tapirs and porcupines, makes this an outstanding option for wildlife and landscape photography.
(left) sunrise over Khao Luang National Park; (right) Krung Ching waterfall
Just a short drive from the national park, Sichon was recognized by world-renowned travel guide Lonely Planet as one of the best 10 beaches in Thailand. This will be the location of Urasaya, a new residential and hospitality development that will promote eco-conscious, locally-inspired tourism. Senior advisor to Urasaya is Ravi Chandran, formerly of Laguna Phuket and Banyan Tree Holdings.
“Nakhon Si Thammarat is like Thailand unplugged. It feels as unique and pristine as it was 30 years ago. Many travelers crave the Thailand of the past, before mass tourism arrived. This is the place where it still exists – a place to escape, to revive your senses and enjoy a detox from daily life,” said Chandran.
Just an hour’s flight time from Bangkok and with the popular tourist island of Koh Samui visible offshore, Nakhon Si Thammarat is no longer a remote corner of Thailand – it is easily accessible and waiting to be discovered. With such a wealth of natural wonders for visitors, ‘the green lungs of Thailand’ is set to breathe new life into the kingdom’s tourism industry.
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