The town was established as a trading centre in the first century AD and flourished between the seventh and 12th centuries. Its importance rested on its role as a relay point for communications between the east coast of Thailand and Palembang (Srivijaya) in Sumatra. It was then known as Krung Thani and later as Trangkhapura, the ‘City of Waves’. The name was shortened in the 19th century to Trang. During the Ayutthaya period, the town was located at the mouth of the river and was a popular port of entry for Western visitors continuing north to Ayutthaya. Later, during King Mongkut’s reign, the town was moved inland because of frequent flooding.
The arrival of the Teochew (Chinese) community in the latter half of the 19th century was a boon to the local economy which, until the introduction of rubber from Malaysia, was reliant on tin mining. Trang’s rubber plantations were the first in Thailand (the first tree was planted just south of the city) and its former ruler, Phraya Rasdanupradit Mahitsara Phakdi, is credited with encouraging the spread of its cultivation. He also built the twisting road from Trang across the Banthat Range to Phattalung. There is a statue of him 1 km out of town on the Phattalung road.
The best time to visit is between January and April, out of the monsoon season. In the low season, some of the islands close down except for one or two bungalow set-ups so you do need to check availability. If you have found a place during the low season then you need a bus to Langu and from there a tuk-tuk, songthaew or cab (if you can find one).
Trang has an airport, 20 minutes from town, and an air-conditioned minibus costs ฿฿100 and drops you outside the train station. It is possible to charter a tuk-tuk for ฿฿150, but this depends very much on your bartering skills. Buses arrive at the Thanon Huay Yod terminal, including buses from Satun, which used to arrive at Thanon Ratsada. To visit the islands you need to arrange minibuses to Pak Bara in the high season (May to November). There are also two overnight trains from Bangkok which stop at the station on the western end of Thanon Rama VI.