Thailand Vacation

Thailand Vacation Destination - Hat Yai & Songkhla

INTRODUCTION

Songkhla , 950 kilometres from Bangkok, a town with a thriving fishing community and the lovely Samila beach and the Great Songkhla Lake hosts the 520- square- kilometre Khu Khut Waterfowl Park, the home of some 140 species. Songkhla is one of the most famous seaside resort towns of the south having Hat Yai as the principal commercial, communications and entertainment centre and regularly attracts visitors from nearby Malaysia and Singapore.

The province is situated on the eastern side of the Malayan Peninsula occupying an area of 7,393 square kilometres, bordering on Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phatthalung to the north; Yala, Pattani and States of Kedah (Sai Buri) and Perlis to the south; the Gulf of Thailand to the east, Satun and Phatthalung to the west. It is administratively divided into 14 Amphoes ; they are: Amphoe Muang, Chana, Hat Yai, Na Thawi, Ranot, Rattaphum, Saba Yoi, Sadao, Sathing Phra, Thepha, Khuan Niang, Krasae Sin, NA Mom, Singha Nakhon.

Hat Yai
Linked to Songkhla by a 30-minute road journey along Route 407, Hat Yai is Songkhla province's principal town. Hat Yai is southern Thailand's major commercial, communications, entertainment and shopping centre, and offers excellent transportation and accommodation.

HAT YAI & SONGKLA - TWIN CITIES TWO SEAS

Although the two towns are often paired they are of distinctly different character. Hat Yai has a more Malaya feel to it than Thai does. It is very much a cross border town where Malays come to visit their cross border wives. It is a transit point for people going somewhere else. Until I visited the town all I knew of place was how to tell if the Bangkok- Butterworth train was on schedule. If the train was running late I could buy a copy of that days Bangkok Post, if it were on schedule I couldn't. Hat Yai really has very little to offer a western tourist.

However just 32kms the town of Songkla on the Gulf of Siam does with miles of clean white sandy beaches and clear blue water to swim in, although few have visited it. " And let's hope it stays that way" said one offshore oilrig worker who when on land lives in Songkla.

One of the first things to surprise me is that a fishing town in the south of the country should have three embassies-Indonesia, China and Malaysia. The answer was the centre of the Asian growth triangle. The Malaysia Embassy is convenient for foreigner to their visa run. The building that houses the Embassy of China today was once the American Consulate.

Songkla 947 km by rail or 1,200 kms by road south of Bangkok is a very clean safe town ideal for families. There are no go-go bars and it generally has a better climate than Phuket or Samui. Thais have a certain respect for the town, as it was the birthplace of one of Thailand's greatest statesmen General Prem also the father of HM the King. Songkla is where Thailand's Universities and Medical system was founded. The majority of tourists that do come to Songkla arrive on cruiseships sailing between Bangkok and Singapore.

Songkla was a City-State until 1628 when Suliman the Magnificent and his son Mustapha were attacked and conquered by Narai the Great. During World War II it was the point of the Japanese sealanding into Thailand. Not surprisingly it was also to be home to the British High Command at the same time. The colonial style building at the foot of the Fitness Park the British Officers Club complete with Tennis Court and a golf course across the road.

The town boasts that it was the home to Sukiyaki a dish created in a restaurant in Tanon Raman to cater for the visiting Japanese troops. The restaurant didn't survive but the legend did.

The 1997 Baht crash didn't affect Songkla as it is very much a town of old money. Today it is the largest fishing port in Thailand. The fishermen are all Chinese Muslim. When leaving harbour it is their custom to let off firecrackers as they pass Tiger Cave to wake the spirits so that they will look after them while ensure that they return with a bountiful catch.

The old Muslim Village of Songkla stood on the site of the now Samila Beach Hotel. According to rumour, one day while walking on the beach. Former Thai Prime Minister General Thanon stood in some human excreta and yelled "Get these people out of here". And immediately they were relocated to there present location at Khao Seng headland. This is the best and cheapest place in town to buy fresh fish.

Some fine examples of Songkla's Sino European architectural history can be found in Nakhon Nork and Nakhon Nai.

With it's wide variety of trees and flowers as well as many herbal plants grown for educational purposes The General Prem Botanical garden is a pleasant relaxing spot, close to Tinasulanond Bridge. The bridge 2.6 km long crossing Songkla Lake and straddling Koh Yoh Island is the longest bridge in Thailand. Songkla Lake is Thailand's largest body of inland water, 80km long and 20km wide. Legend has it that a highly venerated monk was being held captive by a band of pirates in the lake. Noticing that his captors were extremely thirsty and had no fresh water he turned the lake's salt water into fresh water. And out of gratitude they released him.

The must-sees in Songkla are Koh Yoh, The Dutch GraveYard (it's unmarked but is the land infront of Total building), the Muslim graveyard with the mausoleum of Boyyand and the old town of Songkla.

Baan Sattha (House of Loving Respect) was built in honour of His Excellency General Prem Tinsulanon. Privy Councillor, Elder Statesman and 16th Prime Minister of Thailand. The house is 6 buildings in Thai style architecture joined by balconies with 5 bedrooms, 2 general-purpose rooms, a prayer room, kitchen, dinning room, a storage room, 3 washrooms and a garage. It is almost impossible to put a value on the house as the material used in the construction were donated but estimates of the cost was about Baht 50 million. The house was presented to General Prem on 26th August 1991 as gesture of the people of Songkla's appreciation for his work .He lived in the house for a period of five years. On 7th April 1996 he returned the house to the province of Songkla because although he enjoyed every night he slept in the house he felt that it should really be the property of the people of the province. It was developed as an historical tourist attraction for Songkla.

Despite all that Songkla has to offer the real reason to go there should be the miles of unspoilt beaches and the clean water to swim in. The town's prominent symbol is the Golden Mermaid infront of Samila Beach Hotel, but no one seems to know where she came from and why she is there. Just another unsolved mystery.

TRANSPORTATION

BY RAIL:
Trains depart daily from Bangkok for Hat Yai at 10.20 AM, 14.00 PM, 15.15 PM, 15.50 PM. Train leave Hat Yai for Bangkok at 11.45 AM. 16.55 PM, 18.10 PM., 18.40 PM. Further information may be obtained by telephoning Bangkok at 223-7010 & 223-7020, and Hat Yai at (074) 243705.

Tickets may be purchased up to 90 days in advance at the Advance Booking Office in the Bangkok Railway Station between 8.00 AM and 6.00 PM on weekdays, and 8.30 AM and 12 noon on Saturday, Sunday and official holidays.

BY AIR:
Flying time aboard a Thai Airways International Boeing jet is 1 hour and 15 minutes. Air schedules may be obtained, or confirmed, at Thai Airways International (Bangkok) Tel: 280-0070, 280-0080, 2800090-110 and (Hat Yai) (074) 245851-2, 243711, 246165, 233433.

BY BUS:
Air conditioned buses leave Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal (Tel: 411 -4978-9) 9 times daily between 4.00 and 8.00 PM. (30 minutes interval) The fare for the 998 kilometre journey, which takes 14 hours, is 428 baht. Information may also be obtained by telephoning Hat Yai at (074) 232404, 232789, 246002

Non-airconditioned coaches leave from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal on Charansanitwong Road (Tel: 411-0511 & 411-0112) 3 times daily at 6 PM, 9.45 PM and 11.50 PM. The fare for the 15-hour journey is 224 baht. Information may also be obtained by telephoning Hat Yai at (074) 232404, 234789, 246002.

For further information please contact Tourism Authority of Thailand's Hai Yai office, Tel: (074) 243747, 238518, (FAX) 245986

Transportation between Hat Yai & Songkhla.
The green bus No. 1871 leaves the bus stand on Phetkasem Road in front of the Hat Yai Plaza Theatre (clock tower) every 30 minutes from 6.00 AM until 7.30 PM. The fare is 9 baht per person. A taxi service between Hat Yai and Songkhla is available from 6.00 AM until 10.00 PM. The taxi stand is at the President Hotel. The fare is 15 baht per person. (Each taxi accommodates 7 passengers.)

Transportation within Hat Yai Songkhla
Transport within Hat Yai is most convenient by the four-wheeled 'Tuk-tuk' minibuses that accommodate up to 10 people. Fares are 5 baht per person within the town or Hat Yai municipal area. Fares must be bargained for longer distances.

Transport within Songkhla is either by trishaw (with a minimum fare for short distances of 10 baht) or by 'Tuk-tuk', at 5 baht per person for a town route beginning from Talay Luang Road, via Ranevitthi, Platha, Ratchadamnoen, Laem Sai, Nakhon Nai, KampangPhet Roads and back to Talay Luang, or vice versa.

ATTRACTIONS
Songkhla is an eastern coastal province in Southern Thailand covering some 7,150 square kilometres. The provincial capital, also called Songkhla, is 950 kilometres south of Bangkok. Songkhla was formerly known as Singha-la (Lion) by Indian, Persian and Arabian merchants since the small offshore Cat and Rat islands had a somewhat leonine appearance from the sea.

Once a medieval pirate stronghold, Songkhla is a historic, albeit sleepy Gulf town with a thriving fishing community and the fine Samila Beach facing Cat and Rat islands.

City Attractions

SAMILA BEACH, some 3 kilometres from the Municipal Market on Ratchadamnoen Road, is characterized by soft white sand and beachside pine trees. The most prominent landmark is a Golden Mermaid statue on the headland fronting the beachside Samila Hotel.

KHAO NOI, the low hill behind the hotel, commands a panoramic view of Songkhla town and the Samila Beach. The hill's SUAN SERI contains a small topical garden.

The Samila Beach WATER SPORTS CENTRE provides water sports equipment, including rowing boats, paddle boats and speedboats. Shower facilities are also available.

SONGKHLA GOLF COURSE (Thong Yai Golf Course) is beside the Samila Hotel. The 9-hole beachside course is open to the public daily. The Green Fee is 100 baht. The Caddy Fee is 50 Baht. The Golf Club Rental Fee is 200 baht. Golfers can make reservations by telephoning the Samila Hotel at (074) 311310.

SON ONN BEACH is directly north of Samila Beach. Hundreds of beachside pine trees provide cool shade and several restaurants offer simple but deliciously fresh seafood and deckchairs for beachside relaxation. The area is particularly attractive and popular in late afternoon and evening.

CAT & RAT ISLANDS are prominent landmarks facing Son Onn and Samila beaches. Coastal island waters are favored by anglers.

KHAO SENG headland is some 3 kilometres south of the Samila Beach headland and shelters a Muslim fishing village where distinctive Koralae boats are decorated with hand-painted floral motifs.

THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF COASTAL AQUACULTURE, 1 kilometre south of Khao Seng, was established in 1981 as a development and information centre for coastal fishery resources development. Attractions include laboratories, a fish museum and hatcheries for important marine life, including prawns, turtles, giant sea perch and groupers. Visitors may telephone (074) 311895 during office hours to gain entry.

TUNG KHUAN MOUNTAIN is west of Khao Noi. Steps lead to the summit. Ancient pagodas and royal pavilions are major attractions.

PAK NAM LAEM SAI FORT, along Laem Sai Road from Khao Tung Khuan, dates from the early 1800s, when 'modern' Songkhla was constructed.

SONGKHLA NATIONAL MUSEUM on Rongmuang Road dates from the 1870s. The lovely complex was built in southern Thai Chinese architectural style as the residence of a local luminary. The museum houses Thai objects d'art from prehistoric to modern times, and several archaeological artifacts discovered locally. The museum is open daily, except Monday and Tuesday, between 9.00 and 12.00 AM, and 1.00 to 4.00 PM.

ANCIENT CITY WALLS beside the museum mark the limits of the ancient town.

CENTRAL MARKET on Nakhon Nai Road opposite the Post Office is the major venue for purchasing fresh poultry, meats, fish, vegetables, spices and fruit. The market operates every day from early morning to late afternoon.

SONGKHLA FISHERY STATION on the shore of the Great Lake is the major unloading place for trawlers. Early morning and late afternoon activity reveals the amazing variety and volume of fish caught. Much is exported as fresh or processed produce.

SONGKHLA'S SUNDAY MARKET (Sunday mornings only) offers a bewildering range of household, agricultural, garden and fashionable products traded by local merchants.

NAKHON NAI ROAD is the oldest road in Songkhla. Ancient dwellings along the thoroughfare display distinctive Chinese architectural influence.

SONGKHLA CITY PILLAR dates from the early 1800s and is highly revered by local people.

WAT MATCHIMAWAT (Wat Klang) on Saiburi Road is Songkhla's largest monastery. The complex is some 400 years old and houses a museum containing several ruins and artifacts discovered throughout southern Thailand.

Thailand Vacation Activities