Quirky Lady in Surat Thani’s ‘Land of Friendliness’
If Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles”, the small riverside community of Khlong Noi near Surat Thani should be known as the “Land of Friendliness”. Arriving in Khlong Noi feels like going back to a time of gentleness, hospitality, and generosity. It sounds almost too good to be true, but this small community located only half an hour from the Surat Thani train station must be home to some of the most cordial people in the Kingdom.
The land here is green. Palm trees line along the river that is used as the main form of transport; the mood is slow and easy. Although close to Surat Thani, a big city, once in Khlong Noi one feels removed from the modern world. It’s time to shift down a few gears and relax.
There are no hotels in Khlong Noi, we have to stay with a local family – this is community tourism at its best. Soon after guests arrive their hosts will be delighted to show them around at the Spartan yet clean accommodations. English is not widely spoken here but hand gestures and smiles go a long way. The houses are located along the river and swimming in the cool waters is a must for the weary traveler.
Later during their stay, it will be time to embark on the local activities. These include taking a longtail along the river. There is plenty to see and visit; a small shipyard which makes big longtail boats for fishermen, a family that weaves nipa palm, an old couple who make fishing rods to catch large river shrimp, and our favorite: a quirky lady who feeds fish on the river. At every house one is welcomed with smiles and invited to watch the daily activities. The local people are proud of their community and are eager to show it to strangers. Sitting down the river just watching the day go by next to a friendly grandma while eating some sweet coconut is a priceless travel memory.
There is beauty in the scenery, in the bucolic river atmosphere; it is undoubtedly a beautiful destination; but the real treasure of Khlong Noi is its people. Spending time in Khlong Noi is a sweet balm to the heart. It is one of those places that are not easily forgotten. And it’s just waiting for people to discover it.