The Tapee River is the longest river in Southern Thailand and runs from it source in the Khao Luang mountains of Nakhon Si Thammarat some 230km through the centre of Surat Thani before meeting the sea in Bandon Bay. The Tapee was named after the Tapti River in Gujarat State, India. Surat Thani itself was named after Surat City in Gujarat in 1915. Surat Thani is a relatively new city.
The Tapee River is the life blood of the city and the province in general. It is teeming with fish and feeds the agriculture (rubber and palm trees) upon which Surat Thani province depends. It also forms the social and leisure centre of the city.
Surat Thani Night Market
The highlight of the week for residents of Surat Thani is the Sunday Night Market.
The main market area is located in the Sitapee Public Park behind the Wang Tai Hotel, stretching back toward the town centre along the banks of the river. The focus of the market is food. You will find classic Southern Thai food that is not sold in the restaurants and it is one of the best places in Thailand to taste the types of food Southern Thai people traditionally cook at home.
From the Sitapee Park as you walk back towards the town centre the river side path broadens into a wide public promenade where live bands and other entertainment starts from around 8pm or 9pm. This is where the locals sit on the floor to eat their purchases from the market, picnic style in large groups.
Where this promenade meets the Namueang Road there is a lively restaurant and bar area, particularly so on Sunday nights. The most popular place is Cafe by the River on the Namueang Road, although Isan Rimnam, Samila, and Sum Tamlueang Thong restaurants (in the same area) are also lively in the evening. Cafe by the River doesn’t have a sign in English but it is easy to spot: it’s at an intersection with a side road; there is normally a live band inside; there is seating on the pavement in front and the entrance way is a brick arch. The food there is superb: we recommend the seafood salad (yam talay) and red curry (kaeng Penang).
Wang Tai Hotel
For a view of the Tapee River and access to the Night Market we recommend the Wang Tai hotel. The rooms cost around 600 to 1000 THB (£12 to £20) a night and feature great views of the town and river, in particular Koh Lampu Island which is directly opposite the hotel. The hotel restaurant has a great outdoor seating area directly on the banks of the river where you can dine with the benefit of the cool river breeze at night.
The Wang Tai Hotel is one of the best hotels in town. The rooms are well decorated and furnished in European style with air-conditioning and satellite TV. The hotel facilities are good as well. There is a gym, a pool, a coffee shop and a very good restaurant. We recommend dining there. The hotel does a lot of catering (it’s a popular place for the well to do of Surat Thani to hold wedding receptions) and they produce some very good Thai and Chinese style cooking. Expect to pay 100 to 300 THB a dish. The portions tend to be large as they are intended for sharing Thai style. Try the fried snapper with sweet and sour sauce or garlic and pepper – it is very good.