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Now well into my seventh year of shuffling back and forth to Thailand, I find myself frequently fielding the question, “haven’t you seen it all?”

Heck no! The truth is, I can’t imagine a day I’ll ever be done exploring this country. Thailand has seventy-six provinces, and despite the dozens of expired visas in my passport I’d only spent the night in nine of them up until this particular visit to the Kingdom (I managed to rack up five new ones in my most recent seven month stay). So when the Tourism Authority of Thailand put together a post-TBEX press trip — the ability to apply for these is a big perk of attending the conference —Ā  that would introduce me to both the provinces of both Trang and Satun in just three short days, I eagerly signed aboard.

Trang, Thailand Travel Guide

Trang, Thailand Travel Guide

Together, Trang and Satun are Thailand’s Southernmost provinces along its West coast. Our first stop was Trang, either a long bus or train ride or a very quick and cheap Nok Air flight from Bangkok. We availed ourselves of the latter, and not long after a bittersweet goodbye from the Sofitel So Bangkok did I find myself wandering the grounds of Wang Thep Taro.

This surreal sculpture garden is the brainchild of retired local school teacher Mr. Jaroon Keawla-eiad, who has transformed the roots of hundreds of local theptaro trees into dragons, manatees, and other creatures and creations. Talk about off-the-beaten path — a farang anywhere in mainland Trang is a notable sight, but this particular eccentric attraction requires insider info, a set of wheels, and a bit of adventurous spirit to get to. (If you’re interested in visiting, I recommend stopping by the tourism office in Trang for directions and advice on a taxi.)

Thep Taro Palace, Trang, Thailand

Thep Taro Palace, Trang, Thailand

Thep Taro Palace, Trang, Thailand

Thep Taro Palace, Trang, Thailand

Our next stop? Lampura Village, a neighborhood of Trang known for its spongy bundt cakes, a local specialty. We visited a locally owned shop where we were welcomed into the workshop and spoiled with samples.

Mango sticky rice may continue to reign as my favorite Thai dessert, but I’ll never turn down the chance to give another sweet treat the chance to oust it.

Lampura Cake, Trang, Thailand

Lampura Cake, Trang, Thailand

Lampura Cake, Trang, Thailand

Lampura Cake, Trang, Thailand

Lampura Cake, Trang, Thailand

Lampura Cake, Trang, Thailand

While we were leaving the shop, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a Chinese New Year procession. For good luck, we only had to insert a handful of baht into the dancing dragon that worked its way down the road to the delight of onlookers. Not a bad bargain.

Other notable festivals in the area include the Trang Cake Festival the first week of August, Trang’s Roast Pork Festival in the first week of September, and the Vegetarian Festival in the ninth month of the Chinese calendar — do you sense a theme? This is a province that knows how to eat.

Yet the festival that entices me the most is the Trang Underwater Wedding, an annual Valentine’s Day event that sees several couples takes the plunge — literally and figuratively — at once. I had to turn down my press invitation to cover the 2016 festival, but it’s on my wish list to attend someday in the future!

Finally, we made our way to the Na Muen Si Weaving Collective. This women’s weaving group keeps the area’s weaving heritage alive by producing beautiful textile products and souvenirs.

My favorite part of our time in Trang was lingering in workshop, watching the artists at work, sharing a few shy smiles, and attempting to capture the beauty of this age-old practice on camera.

Na Muen Si Weaving Group, Trang, Thailand

Na Muen Si Weaving Group, Trang, Thailand

Outside of its islands, many of which are popular at least with intrepid travelers, Trang sits comfortably off the banana pancake backpacker trail. I smiled to see that many of the restaurants we stopped in didn’t even both with signs or menus in English.

One Trang dining experience no traveler should miss? Morning coffee and dim sum for breakfast — an unusual combination for Westerners, but a local favorite among the residents of Trang.

Trang, Thailand Travel Blog

Trang, Thailand Travel Blog

Dim Sum, Trang, Thailand

Dim Sum, Trang, Thailand

On our final morning in Trang, we made our way to the Pak Meng pier for a peek at Trang’s tourism superstar, Koh Muk. Our brief stop here was the reason I signed on for this trip in the first place, and I treated it as a preview of an island I’m determined to return to for a longer stay someday.

The jewel in Koh Muk’s palm-fringed crown is the Emerald Sea Cave, or Marakot Sea Cave in Thai. This peaceful place is accessible only by swimming in or by sea kayak, and entry and exit needs to be timed precisely with the tides.

Koh Muk, Thailand

Koh Muk, Thailand

When we first swam in, there were just four kayakers sharing the idyllic space. By the time we left an entire speedboat had arrived, and so I treasured those first moments of solitude. Can you imagine what the first people to discover this hidden cave must have felt?

Koh Muk, Thailand

Koh Muk, Thailand

Albeit very brief, my time in Trang was an eye-opener to the enormous potential for independent exploration in this province. With nearly thirty million visitors per year, some might mistakenly believe Thailand is nothing but well-worn roads. Trang reminded me that there are countless hidden gems — and at least sixty-two provinces — left to discover.

Have you gotten off the beaten path in Thailand?
Spill your secrets in the comments below!

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Many thanks to the for hosting me on this post-TBEX press trip.
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18 Comments...
  • Julia Nix
    June 11 2016

    Glad you discovered a new place in Thailand. šŸ™‚ LOVE reading your thailand blogs.

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2016

      Thanks Julia! Stay tuned for one more tomorrow!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    June 11 2016

    A province that knows how to eat in a country that already has some of the most fantastic food in the world – where can I sign up? šŸ˜‰ I’ve admittedly never heard of this part of Thailand before, but your post has certainly spiked my interest, especially the mention of cake! šŸ˜‰ Can’t wait to learn more about the places you visited on your latest stay in Thailand!
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2016

      Thanks Melanie! I didn’t really realize how many new places I went in Thailand until I sat down and wrote this particular post. It’s pretty amazing! I guess that’s what happens when you spend seven months in one country…

  • Kacy
    June 11 2016

    I had no idea those places even exist, but the food in Trang sounds right up my alley and that hidden cave is the stuff of dreams. I love learning about off the beaten path places like this.
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2016

      As I don’t eat seafood a lot of the magic of eating in Trang was lost on me… thankfully the cake swung things back in my favor šŸ˜‰

  • Dominique
    June 11 2016

    It looks like a beautiful province! Those manatee statues are so cute! I’ve only explored the trodden path in Thailand, but I see I should venture outside for the really gorgeous spots!
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2016

      I’m obsessed with manatees so while everyone was freaking out over the very intricate dragons I was just dying over those cute little manatees!

  • Jen
    June 11 2016

    Awww, fat puppy belly <3

    • Meihoukai
      June 13 2016

      So cute, right?! I wanted to pack that pup up and bring him to Koh Tao with me!

  • Justine
    June 12 2016

    That trip was definitely calling my name! It sounded like it would be incredible. I’m sad to say that I don’t feel like I’ve gone off the beaten path at all in Thailand. But it’s so true. Thailand is a huge and diverse country, and there is so much to explore. I can’t wait until Thailand and I meet again. Perhaps next time I’ll head south šŸ™‚
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 13 2016

      Aw, I wish you had come on it Justine! That would have been super fun to spend some time together šŸ™‚

  • cate
    June 12 2016

    Its so cool to know tHAt there are so many places in the world to explore- even in a country you’ve lived in!
    cate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 13 2016

      I know! My Thailand bucket list keeps getting longer instead of shorter…

  • Cake and sea caves? Where do I sign up?

    It’s so different seeing how you can explore every nook and cranny over a long term stay, while most of us just brush the highlights on a short trip from the States.
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 13 2016

      Indeed. It’s definitely a privilege to have the time to see a place so thoroughly!

  • becky hutner
    June 25 2016

    I’ll never forget the time I was preparing for my first trip to Thailand — and to Asia full stop — and a jaded friend sneering, “Thailand! I can’t imagine there’s anywhere in that country that isn’t completely spoilt.” He was at the time, a much more experienced traveler than I, so I immediately felt embarrassed about my travel plans but how very wrong he was and is!! Time and time again, I’ve found that even in the most popular and storied of destinations, it’s quite easy to forge your own a path and discover aspects that don’t make the travel mags and guidebooks.
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 26 2016

      Just WAIT until I publish my post about wine tripping in Thailand — send that to him and see what he has to say for himself šŸ˜‰