Southern Thailand has it all: forests, mountains, waterfalls, beaches, caves, lakes, and islands. The long and wide stretch of eastern coastline gradually slopes into the shallow Gulf of Thailand, while the more rugged terrain of the western side drops abruptly into the deep Andaman Sea. Though it is in a tropical zone and the weather is generally hot, there is constant rainfall year-round due to the 2 monsoon seasons. During May to September, the southwest monsoon creates large waves on the Andaman side. The northeast monsoon wrecks its havoc on the Gulf of Thailand coastlines during the months of November to February.
Historical records showed that the Malay Penisula was formerly a central commerce center with many prosperous towns. The Srivijaya Empire (7th-13th century), based in present day Sumatra, was the first prominent force on the Malay Penisula. After that empire fell, independent states emerged, with Nakhon Si Thammarat being one of the more dominant ones. When the Ayutthaya Kingdom expanded their coverage to the south, Nakhon Si Thammarat became the center of governance from which to rule the entire Malay Peninsula.
Because of its strategic location, it benefited from trade with China, India and other foreigners at an earlier age than the rest of the country. Along with trade came exposure to new religion. During the 9th-12th century, trade with Persia and Arab nations prospered, and so did the Islamic religion. Aside from Buddhists and Islamic people, the South is comprised of the "chao ley" or sea village people. These peace-loving, dark-skinned, aquatic nomads believe in animism and follow their unique way of life. Southerners are known for their perseverance, wit, and strong and definitive determination.
Southern Thai food is very flavorful and can be quite piquant. However, it is the fresh seafood that has really made the south stand out from the rest of the country.