The Sugnai Upe Canal once was the most important trade route around Southern Thailand’s Thung Wa area hundreds of years ago. Its name originated from the Malay words for “canal” and a certain species of betel nut palm, with seafarers in the olden days naming the canal after the most common plant found in the area. The town itself became so prosperous it was once considered second only to the port in nearby Penang.
Long after its glory days has passed, its charms can still be found in abundance, be it the many Shino-Portuguese buildings dating back to the Rama V era, archaeological sites at Tham Le Stegodon or the Ancient Elephant Museum at Thung Wa – where 1.8 million-year-old fossils of Stegodon are on display.
As for community-based travel, experiencing the traditional fisherman’s lifestyle is something not to be missed. Other fun activities include cooking local desserts alongside the village’s local women group to drying preserved fish and making shrimp paste. One can explore the garden and help out with planting pitcher plants or tapping rubber trees for latex. If you’re flexible in terms of when to come, it’s also recommended to visit when the villagers’ hold their ancestral spirits worship ceremony, an age-old tradition unique to Thung Wa community.