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.