Tucked away in Thailand’s southeastern corner, bordered by the Cardamom Mountains to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the south, Trat has been largely overlooked by visitors to the country in favour of better-known destinations like Phuket and Koh Samui. But with its old-world charm, spectacularly diverse landscape and luxurious accommodation and dining offerings, there’s good reason to believe that Trat might be Thailand’s best-kept secret.
Trat is Thailand’s easternmost province and the last stop for many travellers heading further east to Cambodia and beyond, especially in recent years since the city area has become better connected to roadways and commercial flights. Visitors would be remiss, however, not to first delve into Trat’s many treasures before continuing on.
The town of Trat, about 315 kilometres from Bangkok in the south of the eponymous province, is dripping with authentic local atmosphere and hospitality. In place of big resorts and restaurant chains are rustic guesthouses, bustling markets and winding lanes lined with colourful murals and paper lanterns. The old Siamese flag, depicting a white elephant on a red background, is also flown in commemoration of the province’s independence after a brief annexation by the French in the early 20th century.
The crowning jewel of Trat Province is the series of islands scattered off the south coast, jutting into the Gulf of Thailand. These can be accessed with a simple bus transfer from the main town followed by a 45-minute ferry ride to Koh Chang, the best-known of Trat’s islands and the third largest in Thailand after Phuket and Koh Samui.
Koh Chang and the 50 or so smaller surrounding islands form the Mu Koh Chang National Park. An area of awesome natural beauty, this archipelago is a natural tapestry of pristine white-sand beaches, brilliant coral reefs and verdant forestry. With a range of experiences as diverse as the landscape, from traditional spa treatments and wellness programs to adventurous rainforest hikes and water sports, it’s no wonder that Trat is quickly gaining the interest of discerning travellers the world over.
Where to stay
Rimklong Boutique Hotel, Trat
Located in the heart of old town, Rimklong Boutique Hotel is roughly 35 kilometres from Trat Airport. The intimate five-room property is run to the highest standard by owner, Mr Tuu. All rooms are well-appointed with stylish decor, air conditioning, Wi-Fi and a balcony with city views. Staying at Rimklong Boutique Hotel will have you well placed to explore Trat city, with markets, restaurants and popular tourist destinations within walking distance.
Sea View Resort & Spa, Koh Chang
Spread along the magnificent Kai Bae beachfront, the Sea View Resort & Spa boasts unobscured views of perhaps the most scenic point of Koh Chang. Each of the spacious rooms, villas and suites feature contemporary Thai artwork, plush amenities and eco-friendly innovations. A hillside cable car is available to transport guests between the upper and lower regions of the expansive resort grounds and lush tropical gardens. Laze in a beachfront or clifftop pool, dine on world-class Thai cuisine and healthy international fare or select from an exhaustive menu of sea- and land-based activities, all without having to leave the resort.
Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood
Nestled amid the dense jungle and resplendent beaches of Koh Kood – Thailand’s fourth largest but least populated island – Soneva Kiri offers a glimpse into Thailand as it once was. Following the Soneva philosophy of ‘Intelligent Luxury’ with emphasis on providing peace, time and space, guests can choose from one- to six-room villas with stunning ocean, beach or jungle views. Experience one of Thailand’s most remote areas in consummate comfort and style, with indulgent touches like a private white-sand beach, open-air cinema and bespoke dining experiences.
Where to eat and drink
Sang Fah, Trat
In a culinary scene defined by relaxed market-style dining and street eateries, Sang Fah on Sukhumvit Road is perhaps the closest thing to fine dining in Trat town. The brief menu delivers a selection of exceptionally prepared Thai specialities, served up by friendly staff. Make sure to leave room for their much-lauded deserts.
Night Market, Trat
You can’t say you’ve truly experienced Trat without embarking on a journey into the sights, sounds and smells of the region’s famous night market. This bustling open-air market in the centre of town comprises of a single walking street lined with stalls selling fresh fish and other seafood as well as traditional eats like spicy green papaya salad.
Lighthouse Restaurant, Koh Chang
One of the signature restaurants of Sea View Resort & Spa, the luxurious Lighthouse Restaurant is a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach. Enjoy aromatic Thai classics and an international à la carte menu, while soaking up unparalleled views of the Gulf of Thailand.
Chef Benz restaurant at Soneva Kiri
This signature Thai gourmet restaurant, with renowned Chef Benz at the helm, offers a no-menu dining concept with a vast selection of dishes inspired by locally sourced ingredients and freshly caught seafood.
Things to do
Get lost in the streets of Trat town
Most travellers choose to spend only a night or two in Trat town before venturing to the islands, but there is certainly some magic to be found in this unassuming provincial capital. Weave through the narrow old town lanes from the guesthouse neighbourhood to the atmospheric commercial district, taking in scenes of everyday life.
Snorkel around Mu Koh Chang National Park
Mu Koh Chang National Park is a world-renowned snorkelling hot spot, famed for its crystal clear waters, dazzling coral reefs and diverse marine life. Most tour providers offer half- or full-day tours with boat transport to some of the archipelago’s most spectacular snorkelling spots, such as Koh Rang, the group of 12 uninhabited islands at the centre of the Marine Park.
Ecotourism in Koh Mak
Entirely reliant on solar power and committed to keeping the land and surrounding water free from pollutants, Koh Mak is a paragon of conservation and sustainable practices. In place of high-rise condos and busy night spots, visitors to this privately-owned island will find some of the most pristine white-sand beaches in Thailand and an abundance of eco-friendly experiences such as traditional fishing and farming, rainforest hikes, and visits to sea turtle conservation centres and rubber tree plantations.
Visit Klong Chao Waterfall on Koh Kood
Most people flock to Koh Kood for its magnificent beaches but the interior of the island is overflowing with swathes of untouched rainforest, waterfalls and wildlife. Perhaps the most stunning site to visit is Klong Chao Waterfall, found a few kilometres inland via a narrow road from Klong Chao Beach. Enjoy a picnic lunch by the cascading falls as butterflies float by on the breeze.
Indulge your senses at a wellness spa
One of the most popular things to do when visiting Thailand is to indulge in one of the country’s many traditional spa and wellness treatments, and the luxury resorts throughout the Trat province provide an unparalleled experience. Soneva Kiri’s Six Senses Spa offers a sumptuous menu of body treatments, specialist traditions and wellness therapies using locally sourced scrubs and oils.
Take a cooking class
Another benefit of a resort stay in Trat Province is ease of access to the region’s best cooking schools. A culinary journey into the textures and aromas of authentic Thai cuisine is an integral part of experiencing the country, plus you’ll be able to impress your dinner guests back home with a flavourful and perfectly spiced curry.
Baan Nam Chiew Community
While Trat is not the place to visit if high-end, luxury shopping is at the top of your list, there is a world of hand-made trinkets and local produce to be found at Baan Nam Chiew Community on the Trat mainland. Wandering the narrow, stall-lined alleys of this small fishing community is a shopping experience like no other.
This article was produced with content supplied by Tourism Authority of Thailand and is a Signature Luxury Travel & Style digital exclusive. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the enewsletter here.