Surat Thani at a glance
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, Phangnga 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, Thailands third largest island, and its neighbor Ko Pha Ngan a celebrated island that hosts the biggest beach full moon party. 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 November.
History of Surat Thani
Surat Thani is a city with a long history. Archeologists believe that it was once a community of prehistoric tribes of indigenous people including the Saemang and original Malays who built their communities on the Tapee River Basin and Ao Ban Don. Later on, the Indians migrated into the area and gradually spread out their culture, as evidenced in the discovery of ruins of ancient communities in Tha Chana and Chaiya Sub-districts.
In the 13th century, the city became a part of and, as some historians might claim, a center of the glorious Srivijaya Empire the kingdom that dominated the whole Malay Peninsula and much of Java. It was during this period that Mahayana Buddhist reached its height of influence. The empires grandeur can still be admired in many areas of Chaiya District.
When the empire hit the bottom, it was divided into 3 main cities namely Chaiya, Tha Thong and Khiri Rat. They were all under the jurisdiction of Nakhon Si Thammarat until King Rama IV decided to move Tha Thong City to Ban Don and required that it report directly to Bangkoks administration. The name Ban Don was, at the time, changed to Kanchanadit. It was with the establishment of the Monthon, a former administrative unit, that all three cities were merged into one under the name Chaiya. In 1915, King Rama VI changed the name Chaiya to Surat Thani.
The seal of Surat Thani says a lot about its history. Featuring the pagoda of Phra Boromathat Chaiya, the seal is proof of the influence of Mahayana Buddhist on Surat Thani. Phra Boromathat Chaiya is the most revered and important historical place in the province. It is believed that the pagoda contains Buddha relics.
Today, Surat Thani is an important commercial and shipping hub for rubber and coconut trading.