Thailand is the country that conjures up images of Khao San road littered with backpackers, teenagers covered in neon paint and the culturally rich Ping Pong shows. But these farang (westerners) who have traveled hundreds of miles to visit Thailand often fail to appreciate the country that the locals would recognise as home. Indeed there is far more exotic beauty and things to do in Thailand than can be found at the bottom of a bucket.
Where to go
Sangkhlaburi is on the Thai border with Burma and is a six-hour bus ride from Bangkok. Do not let this distance deter you, Thailand’s ultimate tourist traps Koh Samui and Phuket are both 12 hours from Bangkok and involve chartering a rather unsavoury ferry crossing as well. Whereas getting to Sangkhlaburi only costs 300BHT (£6.00) for first class Thai travel. So if you fancy living more like a local, or are looking for things to do during a long stay in Thailand, then listen up.
Image by Jitenshaman
What to do
Sangkhlaburi has been accused of being boring. Granted it is no Disneyland, but this quaint town is perfect for slow paced, rural Thai living. Nestled in the mountains and draped in mist, it was founded in 1940 after various groups of refugees escaped persecution in Burma. Karen, Mon and Thai populations all live here, each speaking in their mother tongues, unable to gain permanent residency. As a result these wanderers embrace other visitors into their fascinating melting pot of Thai culture.
The first thing to do in the town undoubtedly has to be Mon Bridge, a globally recognised Thai attraction. It is the second longest wooden bridge in the world and this is as impressive as it is terrifying. The endless piles of wood on the bridge are reminiscent of a fairground that needs the patchy workmanship to be completed. But if it’s local you’re looking for, this meeting point and playground is the life-blood of the town.
Image by Buileshuibhne
For something a little sturdier, Wat Wang Wiwekaram is a gold Thai temple built to replicate Mahabodhi Stupa in India. The temple is highly prized by the locals who are often protected by the monks when Thai troops attempt to exile the castaways. Many hiking and Elephant trek opportunities are also be found in the forests and lakes around Sangkhlaburi.
If you fancy a day trip out of the town, Three Pagodas Pass, the border point to Burma is also worth a visit. Although tourists are not allowed to making the crossing due to drug smuggling, the area has rugged impressive scenery and a small Thai market specializing in silk and silverware traded by passing merchants.
Image by Jitenshaman
What to eat
If you are feeling truly adventurous then the local market, the focal point of the town, is open all day and especially bustles in the morning. If you don’t fancy eating the food (there is a general stench of fish about the place) it is still worth a visit, especially after school when mothers attempt to keep their uniformed children from touching stray dogs or falling in piles of vegetables.
Image by TriBUI
Given the size of Sangkhlaburi, Thai restaurants are somewhat in abundance. You should avoid the Western eatery run by an expat from Texas, afterall this food is not emblematic of local Thai cuisine. However the local Burmese Inn serves great food, with recipes brought across the border with the fleeing immigrants. A particular favourite of mine is the lamb Massaman curry, with plates for less than 50bht.
In Sangkhlaburi visitors can expect to be treated like the King, as well as like a Thai local.
Main Image by Rongricker
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Category: Expert Guides