Go beyond Bangkok

Dannok, a border town between Malaysia and Thailand, is still largely unknown to most of the world. Overshadowed by more popular cities such as Bangkok and Hatyai, Dannok remained for many years as a quiet place one passed through from the Sadao Customs and Immigration. Recently, however, the town has shown slow but steady progress in making the place more tourist-friendly.

Dannok is a small town, perfect for a day trip from popular cities. If you’re driving, park at the duty-free complex in Bukit Kayu Hitam and walk to the checkpoint. You won’t have to take a tuk-tuk to get anywhere—everything is reachable on foot, but have sunblock and umbrellas at hand if you melt easily. Start your journey before noon and you’ll be satisfied by night time. Here’s a list of things to do while in this darling place for the day.

 

1. Raid the convenience stores

Shopping in Dannok is a pretty unorthodox but fun experience. There are no malls here, but don’t let that put you off. What Dannok does have is a proliferation of convenience stores, from 7-Elevens to their local cousins. There are so many you’ll literally find another every few meters.

Convenience store shopping sounds odd, but it’s the best way to get the Thai snacks you can’t live without. We’re talking Tao Ke Noi seaweed, Thai instant noodles (they sell these in bulk and individual packs too), chips, and Pocky. You’ll find that most snacks are much cheaper in Dannok than anywhere else because they’re manufactured locally. Great deals on groceries and other essentials are also to be had.

 

2. Go on a street food hunt

Foodies will rejoice at the accessibility of the street food here. All you need to do is walk—both sides of the main road have no shortage of delicious fare. There are already stalls literally steps away from Customs, but do wander around as there are lots more options. Within 200 meters of the Oliver Hotel, you’ll find many stalls scattered around, selling every kind of food from som tam to pad ka pow. There’s also a morning market, a good choice if you want to do as the locals do.

Be sure to sample the famous mango rice; there’s also a durian and mixed version for those who can’t decide which fruit they like better. Fried or grilled chicken (kai yang) with glutinous rice is a popular choice, as is phat kaphrao (spicy minced chicken with basil over rice).

 

3. Relax in a massage parlor

Even if you’ve only got a day, that shouldn’t stop you from finding inner peace under the professional hands of a masseuse. You’re in Thailand, after all. Head to Mei Spa in He Jia Grand Hotel (42 Moo 7, Karnjanaruji 2 Road, Samnakkam, Songkhla, 90320 Sadao, Thailand) for a great oil massage with unlimited usage of spa facilities after your session. You’ll feel completely rejuvenated and ready to continue exploring without any soreness or pain, as the staff is all experienced.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer an establishment not in a hotel, there’s the Gaya Thai Spa (16-18, Rattanakorn 2 Road, Samnak Kham, Amphoe Sadao 902320 Thailand), opposite the Oliver (you’ll find the Oliver a very handy landmark if you get lost). Simple but clean and unpretentious, this is the place to go for traditional foot massages that will bring back a spring to your step.

 

4. Experience the Asian Cultural Village

 

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The newest attraction in town, the Village (888/333 Moo 7, Kanchanavanich Road, Samnakkham, Sadao 90320, Thailand) is suitable for the whole family, and will undeniably become the best part of your trip. This expansive park has over 10 separate highlights, guaranteeing a great time for everyone.

Kids will adore the aptly named Panda and Lovers’ Park, where about 50-odd panda statues dot a serene garden- all of them hand-painted. The Dinosaur Park is one of the main attractions and should not be missed for those who know their velociraptors from their Triceratops, as the exhibits are all larger than life, and the roars frighteningly real. There’s also the Wu Lin village, featuring two long rows of traditional Chinese wooden shophouses. Rows of red lanterns lend a festive look to the place, where you can check out each gorgeously decorated room, and maybe even try on some pretty traditional costumes for a small fee. If you get hungry, fear not, as there’s a seafood restaurant and food stalls in the park itself.

For shopping, there’s a duty-free store selling all kinds of Thai food products, all nicely packaged for your convenience. A forested area with a small huts for local vendors to sell their handmade crafts also makes for a unique experience . By night, most of the attractions light up brilliantly- a true sight to behold. Besides all these, there’s also a mini zoo, two temples, waterpark… we could go on, but you’ll have to come and see this amazing place for yourself.

 

5. Have a fabulous Thai meal at the Water View Restaurant

You can’t miss having a satisfying meal while in Dannok, and if going as a large group or a family, Thai-Chinese restaurants will be your best bet. For lunch or dinner with a view, the Water View Restaurant more than provides. It’s in a remote area near the border, so charter a tuk-tuk to get there.

They serve delicious seafood and authentic local favorites. Have a few items in mind before ordering, ask your waitress for accurate pricing and prepare to be wowed. Orders come by boat (yes, really) as the restaurant is stretched along the banks of a lake. With your own private hut to feast in, you’ll appreciate the peaceful atmosphere in the afternoon, and the twinkling lights at night.

Even with all that said, the greatest part about Water View still has to be its food. Prepared by Thai chefs, each dish is expertly spiced and cooked to perfection, from the fried fish to the cashew chicken. This also means no watered-down tom yam kung- you’ll face the whole heat of the chilies here. Bring a crowd, place your orders, and have some Singha while just enjoying the natural surroundings.


This article first appeared on Trip101; your one-stop guide to discover the world.