320 kilometres southeast of Bangkok lies Trat province, an ‘off the beaten track’ holiday destination in Thailand. If you are looking for a getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, then Trat is the place. You know Trat is a laid-back province when you are greeted by the single lane tarmac and open-air terminal upon landing at the airport. It feels almost exclusive as Trat Airport is operated only by Bangkok Airways. This for me, was the start of an ideal holiday.
Fun Activities to do in Trat Province
1. Authentic Homestay at Ban Nam Chieo
This community of Buddhism and Islamic cultures is home to one of the biggest mangroves in the eastern part of Thailand. One can immerse in the local culture by experiencing their way of life and eating their specialty food.
One of the first activities to do in Trat province would be a mangrove riverboat ride. We took a boat ride along the river, through the dense mangrove vegetation. We were flanked by mangroves and their aerial roots. This special feature helps the mangrove trees breathe in habitats with waterlogged ground conditions.
After about a 45-minute boat ride out, we were greeted by the expanse of the open sea. There were people in the water in the distance. They must be snorkelling, I thought to myself. To my surprise, they were wallowing in the shallow muddy waters. That was the spot to hunt for lamp shells and sea cucumber!
Our friendly boatman took a dip in the waist-high waters and pulled out a lamp shell (also known as ‘hoi pak ped’ in Thai) almost immediately, talk about experience! Sea cucumbers were also a common sight in these waters. We spent some time watching the locals fish and tourists struggle to do so before making our way back to the Ban Nam Chieo community.
2. Supporting Local Communities in Trat
We were then ushered to a communal area where we were offered a tasty local snack, ‘khao kriep ya na’, a crispy rice cracker with sticky sugar syrup and coconut, carrot and dry shrimp mix. This was accompanied with jasmine green tea. We tried making our own ‘khao kriep ya na’. Ban Nam Chieo community is part of the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) entrepreneurship programme in Thailand aimed at supporting local communities and their special products. The ‘khao kriep ya na’ is unique to them. The OTOP programme ensures that the authenticity and quality of the product is maintained. Each village specialises in a certain product and I will cover another of such OTOP specialty as you read on.
3. Handicraft Tour -- Hat Making with Palm Leaves
Part of the experience also included a demonstration of hat making with palm leaves, a natural resource found in abundance in that region. You’ll get to keep a local handmade hat as a souvenir. A homestay package with the Ban Nam Chieo community will give you the opportunity to experience the sustainable and low carbon lifestyle. Other activities include cycling around the community, planting of trees at the mangrove and watching fireflies at night.
4. Ban Tha Ranae Mangrove eco tour
I was expecting this eco-tourism community to be similar to Ban Nam Chieo but I was pleasantly surprised. This time, the boat ride was along a narrow meandering canal with the mangrove trees creating an arch canopy. Upon getting off the boat, we walked on the intertwining roots of the taboon trees and into the heart of the dense mangrove vegetation. These roots were formed and grown for more than a hundred years which gave it a mystical feeling. It also felt like a natural obstacle course walking on varying levels and thickness of the tree roots.
5. Look out Point in Trat
It was not long after that we were led to a boardwalk and a viewing tower. The tower provided a 360- degree view above the mangrove trees. It was breath-taking! This entirely different perspective showed the vastness of the mangrove vegetation and the stillness of nature. As we continued on the boardwalk, we saw crabs and mudskippers on the muddy mangrove shores. We were told that freshwater fishes and shrimps thrive in the waters, providing food for the community.
6. Local Food and Snacks in Trat -- Shipworms!
We were also introduced to shipworms, a local delicacy found in wood stems. He offered fresh samples, picked up along the way and claimed they taste like shellfish. However, the shipworms are not for the faint-hearted. I think he was secretly happy that we all squirmed at the sight of it. He would then be able to slurp them all up!
As we approached the end of the boardwalk, we were treated to the fragrance of something cooking. They were fried leaves of the taboon trees and the roi roo herbal tea. The locals believe that drinking this tea helps to prolong life. What a nice appetiser before our lunch. Ban Tha Ranae is also part of the OTOP programme.
7. Island tour from Trat to Koh Chang, Koh Kut and Koh Mak
Trat is home to many islands on the Gulf of Thailand. No visit to Trat will be complete without spending a few days at the nearby islands. You can take a ferry from Ao Thammachat or Centrepoint pier in Trat to Koh Chang. It takes about 45 minutes. A quieter retreat to Koh Mak can be reached via a 50-minute speedboat ride from Laemngob harbour. Read more about the things you can do on Koh Mak here.
Where to Eat in Trat
Khon Plat Thin Restaurant
Lunch at Khon Plat Thin Restaurant was an unforgettable one. Hundreds of hawks appeared suddenly from beyond the trees during feeding time. I was absolutely captivated by the sight of them feeding on the fish food and swooping down with such grace, grabbing it with their claws. The food at Khon Plat Thin Restaurant was great and made better with the company of hawks.
Saeng Fah Restaurant
Some other best recommendations of where to eat in Trat would be at Saeng Fah Restaurant where I had one of my favourite meals in Thailand. The oyster omelette on the hotplate and Thai curry with durian are must-tries.
Rimtalay Seafood Restaurant
This restaurant serves a wide variety of fresh seafood and is conveniently located beside Laemngob harbour which makes a good meal before or after a trip out to Koh Mak.
Street food at the Trat local night market
Last but not least, in Thailand, one must not forget a visit to the night market! I really enjoyed this night market in Trat (near Trat Hospital) as it did not consist of stalls selling cheesy souvenirs for tourists. Instead, there were stalls selling local street food, clothes and accessories. There was also a funfair with old school games.
Trat Hotel and Guesthouses Suggestions
Trat City Hotel
This hotel is centrally located and only a five-minute drive away from the Trat Transport Station. The rooms are nice and clean and the overall premise is well maintained. It is value for money with buffet breakfast included, hence definitely one of my Trat Hotel and Guesthouses suggestions and recommendations.
Bangkok to Trat Travel Options
If flying is not your preferred, another Bangkok to Trat travel option would be by bus. A bus ride from Bangkok takes about 5 hours, arriving at Trat Transport Station.
Now that I have shared all the best sights and activities to discover in Trat province, including a transport guide to getting there and around, are you ready to pay this destination a visit?
So goodbye Bangkok, are you ready to visit Trat province?