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The 12 Hidden Gems campaign in Thailand

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To attract more tourists from ASEAN this year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is promoting the ambitious “12 Hidden Gems” campaign, which was already introduced in 2015. In this campaign, TAT introduces 12 lovely provinces that should bring joy to every step of the journey. These 12 provinces to visit are featured in a booklet that describes a myriad of attractions tourists can explore and discover.

  1. Lampang – Sleeping Beauty (Northern Thailand)

The main attraction in Lampang is certainly a tour of the old town on a horse-drawn carriage to see old wooden houses and temples. The thriving teak trade of former days encouraged many Burmese traders to come to Lampang. This is why so many buildings are built in a mixture of Burmese and Lan Na Thai architectural style. Especially some unique temples are characterized by their castle-like roofs, exquisite glass decorations and delicate wood-carvings, such as Wat Si Rong Muang, Wat Si Chum and Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao. A little bit outside of town is the famous Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, which is more than a thousand years old. With its temple arch entrance, it hides a relic pagoda covered with gold plates and the Phra Chao Lan Thong monastery. Other attractions not to be missed are the Mae Moh Mine with its LigniteMine Study Center Museum, Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum, the place of Pa Boonsri Khanom Jeen Noddles and the old market of Kad Kong Ta. Even if tourists don’t travel by plane, Nakhon Lampang Railway Station is a must to visit. This railway station was built during the reign of Rama VI, before the construction of the Khun Tan tunnel by German engineers.

  1. Petchabun – Bliss in the Mist (Northern Thailand)

Cool weather all year round and very cold weather in the winter is the charm of this province. Khao Kho is the most visited place there with its beauty of flowers, strawberry and winter vegetable farms. To enjoy camping under pine trees is possible at Nam Nao National Park and Tung Salaeng Luang National Park. Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park has stories to tell of Thailand’s struggle between democracy and communism. Blooming mountains and waterfalls abound. The town of Petchabun features Wat Trai Phum and Wat Sat Thai with their famous Buddha images. Kaiyang Buatong (Buatong Grilled Chicken) eaten with sticky rice and green papaya salad (Som Tam) are classical Phetchabun dishes. Many nice restaurants, resorts and hotels invite the tourists to stay. The Sweet Tamarind and Petchabun Red Cross Fair are held each January.

  1. Nan – Slow Life City (Northern Thailand)

Wat Phra That Chae Haeng is one of the most venerated places of worship in Nan. It features a high golden chedi and a remarkable vihan luang, which is decorated with eight artistic serpents coiling around each other.

Inside the city, Wat Phumin is the main attraction with its wall paintings depicting the lives of the Nan people. The NanNational Museum, called Ho Kham, was formerly the residence of Phra Chao Suriyapong Paritdech, the ruler of Muang Nan. Nowadays, the museum is filled with precious artifacts, one of them being a black ivory task, and exhibits recounting local history and illustrating Nan’s ethnic heritage. Doi Phu Kha, Khun Nan and Mae Charim Natrional Parks are very popular to visit. Nice guesthouses and boutique hotels abound, while restaurants along the Nan River offer local tasty food. Traditional Long Boat Racings in Nan Province are traditional events. Boats are made of entire tree trunks. The best way to experience the beauty of Nan is cycling around the city.

  1. Buriram – Dual Diversions (Northeastern Thailand)

The main attraction in Buriram Province is a visit to Prasat Phanom Rung. The impressive Khmer site, perched atop an extinct volcano, excites tourists from the moment they arrive. Walking across the Naga Bridge, you feel like you’re traveling in time to experience the glory of the old Khmer Empire. The temple’s largely intact ornamentation is an exquisite example of stone carvings, while Prasat Muang Tam at the foot of the volcano is distinctively different with its five-headed naga statues, the square ponds and the absence of ornamentation. Inside the town of Buriram, don’t miss the City Pillar Shrine. Modern attractions are the I-Mobile Stadium and Chang International Circuit, which can play host to world-class racing events. Very popular is the busy Sroew Ground Walking Street, where you can find popular local OTOP products. Also, kick off at a luxurious restaurant at the Amari Buriram United Hotel, serving Thai and international cuisine.

  1. Loei – Be Cool (Northeastern Thailand)

Loei on the Mekong River is one of the coolest provinces in Thailand. Very popular are visits in the Phu Ruea, Phu Lam Lo and Phu Kradueng National Parks. Old wooden houses along the mighty Mekong River can be seen at Chiang KhanVillage. Nearby Phu Tok and Kaeng Khut Ku are places to relax. The cultural heritage of the Thai Dam from Dien Bien Phu in Viet Nam can still be seen at Ban Na Pat Nat Village, while in the Dan Sai Folk Museum at Wat Phon Chai you can learn about the yearly Phi Ta Khon Festival. The nearby Phra That Si Song Rak stupa commemorates the friendship between Thai and Lao peoples. The most famous restaurant in Loei City is Loei Da Nang Restaurant to taste delicious Vietnamese food.

  1. Samut Songkhram – River’s Tempo (Central Thailand)

The main attraction of the city is the bronze Buddha image Luang Phor Wat Ban Laem in Wat Phet Samut Woravihan, standing and holding an alms bowl. It is said that this statue was caught in a fisherman’s net. The Mae Klong Railway Market is located near the Maeklong Railway Station and offers fresh and dried food, including seafood. The Amphawa Chai Pattananurak Project features houses along a canal as galleries and gift shops and includes demonstrations of making palm sugar and coconut leaf handicrafts.

Other attractions are the Bang Noi Floating Market and Tha Kha Floating Market. Besides, there are the showcase ofKing Rama II Memorial Park and other eco-tourism highlights, such as Bang Plub and Klong Klone communities. Most tourists come to see the 60-room Baan Amphawa Resort and Spa, where on the evening guests can see fireflies along the canal. Home Krateng Chao Lay Restaurant offers seafood fresh from the sea, including fried mackerel served with seaweed leaf and chili paste on steamed rice.

  1. Ratchaburi – Art, et al. (Central Thailand)

The artists of Ratchaburi showcase their brilliant ideas around the town. Visit the Siam Cultural Park with its wax sculptures and the Tao Hong Ceramics Factory. Chic accommodations abound. And the popular Krua Mon Kai serves tourists mouth-watering dishes, desserts and healthy drinks, same as the Restaurant Je Orn, in front of Wat Khu Bua. Ratchaburi has long been known for its egg noodles and each shop has its own recipe. The Nang Yai Shadow Puppet Drama at Wat Khanon is held annually at Songkran, while Suntree Land of Dolls is part of a factory as well as a play area for children and doll collectors. At Suan Phueng, you even can learn how to shear sheep and sample sheep’s milk ice cream. Wat Phra That Mahathat is the most important temple in town not to be missed.

  1. Trat – Islands of Dreams (Eastern Thailand0

Trat is a paradise for sunshine lovers. It is the starting point to visit the islands of Koh Chang, Koh Mak, and Koh Kut among others. In the town is recommended a walk to Wat Phai Lom with its Three Venerable Monks Wax Museum. Then continue to Wat Buppha Ram to learn about the ancient murals and view inside Vihan Phra Buddha Saiyat. End the day’s wandering with a visit to the City Pillar Shrine, decorated with Chinese auspicious symbols. Ban Tha Ranae mangrove forest is a conservation tourism attraction along Khlong Chek that is stepped in history. Khlong Bang Phra Community features old shop houses that once flourished during the colonial area. At the Laem Ngop Viewpoint the vastness of the sea together with large lighthouse and sea-bridge can be fully enjoyed. Resorts and boutique hotels abound. Famous are the Suan Phu Restaurant beside the mangrove forest and Sukhumvit Crab Noodles not far from the night market. Khaokang Jeh Moi Saentung has been a rice and curry shop for over 40 years. The Trat Fruit Fair is held annually during May-June. The road to Ban Hat Lek leads to Cambodia’s Koh Kong Province.

  1. Chanthaburi – The Fruitful Land (Eastern Thailand)

The local Catholic Church of Chanthaburi was built in imitation of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but tourists visit Chanthaburi because of its famous Ocean Sea World. The 111km long beach road passes through many scenic spots, with bicycle lanes for cyclists. Located around the beautiful Laem Sing Beach is the Red Building, which was the work of French soldiers in 1893. The Khao Khitchakut National Park attracts tourists to the mountain with a sacred footprint of Buddha.

While a cruise to the picturesque Rai Phan Din Village is worth to see 400 local homes built out on the sea, with the Nam Weru Shrine, the main attraction in the town of Chanthaburi is still its Gems & Jewelry Center, where people from around the world can buy a variety of gems, such as local rubies and sapphires. Visiting farms and tasting delicious fruits is a must, same as a visit to Chanthaburi’s riverside community of Tha Luang, Talad Klang and Talad Lang. The Ban Laem Immigration Checkpoint is at the border between Thailand and Cambodia. KP Grand Hotel is known as one of the highest building in town, while Mu Liang Noodle (Phraya Trang) is one of the most popular restaurants. Besides, there are many seafood restaurants, such as Pikul Phochana, located in Klung District, and Krua Khun Daeng Rim Khlong, which serves the crab in dipping sauce. The Chanthaburi World Gems Show is held annually at the beginning of December.

  1. Trang – Gastronome Extravaganza (Southern Thailand)

Trang is well-known for eating delicious food. Recommended foods include grilled pork, Dim Sum dishes and seafood. When visiting Trang, don’t miss to travel by frog-head Tuk Tuk. The islands of Trang can all be explored in one day, namely Koh Muk, Koh Kradan, Koh Chuek and Koh Ma. Wang Thep Taro becomes a new learning tourist destination, while the large peninsular botanical garden (Thung Khai) is home to a wide variety of wild flowers and trees. An interesting Bo Hin Farmstay is possible to learn the life of local fishermen. The 289-room Thumrin Thana Hotel has been welcoming tourists since twenty years. It goes without saying that Pier 88 is a pub and restaurant with a great atmosphere of Trang City. Meringue & Me offers a wide selection of delicious bakeries and tasty coffee. The Trang Cake Festival is scheduled for every first week of August.

  1. Chumphon – Eternity Beach

Chumphon is the way to beaches full of natural charm. Thung Wua Laen is an all-inclusive beach for all seasons and the very first famous tourist attraction in Chumphon, especially for surfers and divers. The Mutsea Mountain Viewpoint shows the Pak Nam Chumphon Community and is also home of a statue of Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Mercy. The Prince of Chumphon Shrine for the father of Royal Thai Navy, is a must-visit tourist destination and is located at Sai Ree Beach, where is also located the Mu Ko Chumphon National Park for kayaking possibilities. Thung Zang Bay, Mo Bao Beach and Laem Thong are other popular places to go. The Chumphon Cabana Resort is highly recommended to stay, but there are many more hotels and resorts. Kru Rim Khlong is the kitchen for delicious seafood. The Prik Hom Restaurant can also maintain standards, same the outstanding Casita Restaurant, managed by the Novotel Chumphon Hotel.

  1. Nakhon Si Thammarat – Pure Indulgence (Southern Thailand)

The main attraction of Nakhon Si Thammarat is the splendid Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahavihan, which is known for its golden relic stupa. To walk there is like being in another world. Outside the town, tourists like to visit the popular Khanom District, where local boat tours highlight various kinds of pink dolphins.

Also interesting is to watch the way of life of people in Pak Phanang, where  you can stroll in the 100-year old market to see old houses, while Laem Talumphuk is well-known for its beautiful scenery. The sandy beach invites for swimming. Resorts and boutique hotels abound. The Tha Sala Seafood has been popular for almost 20 years. The Tai Chi Restaurant opposite Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahavihan is highly recommended, same as the Roti Pa Nom branch shop opposite the National Museum in town. Krua Nai Nang serves authentic southern dishes and offers a show of performing arts every night. Don’t miss to visit the house of the national artist Suchart Subsin at Ban Nang Talung, where is a demonstration of the Nang Talung Shadow Play as well as a souvenir shop to buy handmade products. For nature lovers, not go further than Kiriwong Village in Lan Saka District, where you can buy beautiful handicrafts and processed food products in the shadow of Khao Luang, the highest mountain in Southern Thailand. The Tenth Lunar Month Festival is held annually and features colorful parades along Ratchadamnoen Road in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Coming to the end of describing the marvelous 12 Hidden Gems of TAT’s promotion campaign, it will be hoped that more and more ASEAN tourists will visit Thailand in the future. For further information, please go to: www.tourismthailand.org

Written by : Reinhard Hohler