TRANG – CITY OF COFFEE SHOPS AND FRIENDLY PEOPLE
Trang. The capital of the province of the same name, located in South Thailand, less than 180 km from the Malaysian border. Same as Surath Thani in the central part of the country, Trang is treated by tourists as a transit city to the surrounding, paradise islands of the Andaman Sea. If there is any farang (white people in Thai language), they usually sleepover near the railway station that it would be easier for them to run away to the next destination, mainly on the beach.
The genesis of the city’s name has two meanings. One of the theories says that Trang comes from the word “Trangka” which means “waves” because in the northern part of the city the area is characterized by high and low formations, creating a wave look. The second theory, more common, claims that Trang “derives from the Malay word” Trang-Kae “, which means “dawn” or” the day is coming “. Legend has it, that the ships of Malaysian merchants who traded along the coast always moored in the harbor in the morning, at dawn.
An interesting fact is that in Trang, in 1899 was planted first rubber tree imported from Malaysia. Till today rubber plantations are controversial but let’s just talk about it another time.
An ordinary Thai city but there’s something special here. Even green tuk tuks look different. Most of them are mainly a tourist attraction (it just doesn’t pay off) so we were looking for a public bus but this time mission failed. Big backpacks and moto taxi are not a good option so we decide to take the old vehicle which have already behind the best years of activity. Tuk tuks in Trang are also smaller and except our two large backpacks and us there’s no more space here! Well, unless you’re a Thai. They are able to transport people and things in the strangest way and configurations. But this is a common feature for all Asian countries. A skill that you will never master.
On the surrounding hills there are coffee plantations and the city itself is famous in Thailand because many cafes serving traditional Thai coffee called Kofi. It is a very strong espresso with condensed milk, layered like an Italian latte. You can also try iced brew coffee, grown in the north of the country, on the Chiang Rai hills and roasted by local companies. Coffee is served in a glass bottle, always on ice. It has the same strong taste as traditional Kofi and after adding sugar syrup it tastes even better. It provides energy on hot days, which especially at this time of year can be very hard. Trang are a great alternative to the northern Chiang Mai city, which in the last few years has become a backpacker’s mecca and people working on-line. For us Chiang Mai doesn’t has any climate. I have the impression that there are more expats than local people and we are looking for something opposite. Of course it all depends upon your preference.
What to try with coffee? Of course the cake! But only those special, known for the whole country (I’m not joking) and produced on the spot. This is nothing more than a punch cake, which is so important in Trang that every year, in August there is a famous cake festival! You can choose from a variety of flavors such as coconut, banana, coffee, butter and something in a more Thai flavor like pandan leaf. The tradition of baking dates back to 1960 and the father of this sweetness was an immigrant from China – Kook Ming, who like many others came here from China for work. Today,his daughter runs a big business but remains faithful to the traditional recipe. The dough consists of only a few ingredients such as flour, butter, sugar, food color, baking powder and eggs. Then all the ingredients are mixed together and poured into a cake mold with a hole in the middle. Of course it tastes the best with a cup of Kofi.
The charm of coffee shops in Trang is added by beautiful wooden tables and black and white photographs of the city adorning the walls. And if you are bored teddy bears will keep you company. We didn’t expect such a hipster climate in such a non- touristy town.
The city is the perfect place to start a trip to the cave Tham Marakot (Emerald cave) located on the Koh Muk island. The 80 m long cave can only be reached by a boat and only at low tide. It’s the best to get there between 10 am and 2pm, because then you can see a phenomenon occurs,when the sun shines on the water, which reflects colored light all over the cave’s wall.
Trang is also a multicultural city. As in the whole of Thailand there is a Chinese community, which has a big impact on the cuisine of the region. However, we didn’t saw so many dim sums anywhere else. It’s definitely worth going to one of the Chinese breakfast restaurant serving “Trang style breakfast”. It’s nothing more than roasted pork, previously long marinated, delicate inside and surrounded by crunchy skin, dim sum and necessarily regional coffee. This kind of breakfast might surprise you but I can assure you that nothing makes day better than good coffee and roasted pork! Ordering dim sums compared to ordering anything else here is very simple. All you need to do is a choose a basket with dim sum and after a few minutes you will get them on the table ready to eat. Each basket costs 20 THB (0,50 £), when you want to pay a waitress counts every basket. Easy. Especially for us. Note, that snacks served as a starter are extra payable.
Roasted pork is very important here. It’s so important that in September inhabitants celebrate the Roast Pork Festival. Dear vegetarians, don’t worry! Also in October, when is full moon, for 9 days, Thai people celebrate vegetarian festival dressed in white. They don’t eat meat because this is a way to ensure happiness and wealth.
However, what is the most captivating in this place and makes you want to stay longer here are people. Literally everyone were greeting us with a hearty hello, others were waving to us from their cars and scooters, someone just stopped us for a short conversation even they didn’t speak English. People sitting in pubs invited us inside without expecting anything in return. Unfortunately, as a tourist, you still have the feeling that if someone accosts you, he usually wants something. Usually it’s a special price for you my friend. Nowhere else during our 60 days in Thailand we have met so many kind and friendly people.
We spent two days in the city and if we would have more time, we would stay here for another two more nights. Because we always believe that nothing happens without a reason, our colleague Rell got a teacher’s job here! Trang is a real pearl of Thailand, unspoiled by mass tourism. I hope it will not change.
How to get there:
From Bangkok Don Mueang airport you can get to Trang by Air Asia or Nok Air. Ticket in low season costs only 12£ in one way and 22£ with 20kg luggage.
Night train from Bangkok Hua Lamphong (next to Chinatown) to Surat Thani (15£) and than by minivan (3,6£) about 4 hours drive. Watch out for the scammers they wanted to sell us a ticket for 11£!
We stayed in S2S Queen Trang Hotel for 9£ per night. We used a promotional link on booking.com so we only paid for one night. If you also want to receive this discount, just use this link: booking.com code
- Tham Marakot (Emerald cave)
- Rent a bike for 2£ and explore the area, Trang has access to the beach.
- rent a scooter for 7£ and go around, for example to the Te Te waterfall, botanical garden, cave
- visit coffee shops and go for a Chinese breakfast
- speak with the locals!