That’s What I Like About the South—Thailand, that is…
If southern Thailand is a masala mix of tourism, ex-pats, rebellion, and boredom, then Trang somehow finds itself at the center of it all. And while it has few attractions of its own in the city proper, that in and of itself is one of the attractions. That is a Backpacker Principle: authentic is better, as long as it’s not boring. Trang is not, though I have yet to see a go-go or ‘dark side’ (a la Songkhla) bar, good deal.
It doesn’t have the old-fashioned and well-defined Sino-Portuguese shop-house district of Songkhla, but that’s an anomaly in Thailand peculiar to Songkhla. At the same time it’s got more than the typical boring layout of 50’s-era Stalinesque architecture, typically defined by a sh*t-stained white exterior that has obviously only been painted once in its stressed-out life.
Trang reminds me a bit of Chiang Rai up north, actually, with a fairly well-defined center and tangents streaming off at all angles.
And at that center is the railroad station, very convenient, and something hard to find in this day and age of remote transportation ‘centers.’ The problem for us authenticity-seekers is to find that authenticity and isolate it from all the rest of the mass-market BS.
My favorite thing about southern Thailand, besides all the seacoast (not to be confused with beach), and the connections to neighboring Malaysia, are all the birds—the ones in cages. This seems to be peculiar to the entire region, and while the birds seem fairly ordinary, though quite audible, the cages themselves are very beautiful, wooden waxed and polished to a high sheen.
And the connections to neighboring Malaysia are numerous, down to the curry-based cuisine and the tuk–tuks which look more like Indonesian becaks than Thai tuk-tuks. They also have two short benches in the back, more like Thai seelors or songtaews. I also like the little glimpses of history poking out from behind weathered teak, as much Malay and Chinese as it is Thai. There is even a sizable Christian presence here, which definitely precedes the current evangelical movement.
Most of the tourist attractions here are centered around nature—caves and waterfalls, in addition to the beaches. That’s nice enough, of course, but many typically look like most of the rest. I’m a culture vulture foremost if not first, and that’s more prevalent in the cities. Though I love Nature intensely, if I focused entirely on that, then I’d be remiss. A visit to a rubber plantation might be nice, though, the product still known here by the Brazilian province the first trees were smuggled out of: Para. It’ll wait I guess.
I persevere in my search for authentic experience. Trang may not be the end of that search, but it’s not a bad stopover. From here
I catch the train back to Bangkok. P.S. I just realized something: I’ve only seen one 7-11 in Trang. I didn’t notice until I needed one. This is huge! On the down side, this is the only place I’ve ever seen Buddhist monks smoking cigarettes, two so far; so much for non-attachment. Soon they’ll be ‘vaping’, I guess.