644km (400 miles) S of Bangkok
Surat Thani, or "Surat," was an important center of the Sumatra-based Srivijaya Empire during the 9th and 10th centuries. Today, it is a rich agricultural province yielding rubber and coconuts. Apart from its night market, its seedy massage parlors and pushy touts give it little appeal to the many travelers who use it merely as a gateway to farther destinations. From Surat, you can access ferries to Ang Thong Marine National Park, as well as Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, and Ko Tao. It's not impossibly far to the jungles of Khao Sok National Park, or to go west from here to Phuket, Krabi, and the Andaman coast. Popular local produce includes the Surat oyster and the rambutan (ngor in Thai). Near Surat is Suan Mokkh, an international meditation center.