SOUTHERN THAILAND is a long narrow isthmus that extends to the border of Malaysia, which itself is continuation of the isthmus. It is known to tourists mainly for its beautiful islands and beaches, which are located both on the east side of the country on the Gulf of Thailand and on the west side on the Andaman Sea, with some places sure to fit you idea of an idyllic paradise. There are also impressive limestone rock formations and ruined cities which were influenced by cultures in ancient Cambodia, Java and Sumatra. The interior is dominated by mountains and dense rain forests. Some places get a lot rain, up to eight months out of the years, as they get walloped by both the Indian ocean monsoon to the west and the South China Sea monsoon to the east.

The South is distinctive in climate, terrain, and resources. Its economy is based on rice cultivation for subsistence and rubber production for industry. Other sources of income include coconut plantations, tin mining, and tourism, which is particularly lucrative on Phuket Island. Rolling and mountainous terrain and the absence of large rivers are conspicuous features of the South. North-south mountain barriers and impenetrable tropical forest caused the early isolation and separate political development of this region. International access through the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand made the South a crossroads for both Theravada Buddhism, centered at Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Islam, especially in the former sultanate of Pattani on the border with Malaysia.

Southern Thailand occupies the top part of a long and narrow peninsula occupied by Malaysia to the south. Situated between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, with high mountains down the middle, region commands an area of 70,715 sq km, comprising 14 provinces: Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang-nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, and Yala. Season periods (Summer is the tourism season): 1) East coast: A) Summer – May to September; B) Rainy – October to June; 2) Andaman coast: A) Summer – November to April; B) Rainy – May to October.

Southern Thailand is influenced by the sea on both sides, which means that it is heavily rained on for most of the year. Most areas are flat, with rolling and mountainous terrain made up of major mountains such as the Tanaosi mountains to the west, lying from Kanchanaburi in the central region down to Ranong, as well as the Nakhon Si Thammarat mountains in the middle, and the Phuket mountains along the west coast to Phuket Island, with the Tanaosi and the Sankala Khiri forming the boundary with Malaysia. All southern provinces except Yala have a seacoast. The region is rich in minerals, such as tin, found in Phang-nga, Phuket, and Ranong, and gypsum, abundant in Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Fishing and tourism are the mainstays of the South’s economy.

With the sea so nearby to almost every place in the south it is no surprise that people here have traditional made a living from the sea either as fishermen or traders. The biggest agricultural products are rubber, coconuts and tin. There are quite a few Muslims living in the south and people say the economy is largely controlled by the Chinese. The “Deep South” is a predominately Muslim area near the Malaysian border in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces. There has been a lot of violence here over the past decade (See the “Deep South”) but it has not affected the tourist areas further north.

Among Muslims, Muslim holidays are practiced. A major tradition of the South is the Buddha Procession Festival, in which people in communities come together to make merit; they carry a prominent Buddha image from a local temple in a procession, on land and water, through the community. It is believed to bring plentiful seasonal rains and is a way to for people to make great merit. The festival strengthens unity and amity between community members and the neighborhood, as they all come out to help the procession advance toward its destination.

Surat Thani

Surat Thani (685 kilometers south of Bangkok, jumping off area for Ko Samui) is the largest province of the South. Located on the Gulf of Thailand about equidistant between Bangkok and the Malaysian border, it covers an area of approximately 13,000 square kilometers of high plateaus and forested mountains in the west of the province that diminish to low basins towards the eastern coast. This mountainous topography has created 14 river basins all of which flow east of the province to the Gulf of Thailand.

Surat Thani is also known as “the province of a thousand islands” — many of which lay off the coast in the Gulf of Thailand, including the archipelago that contains Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and the Mu Koh Ang Thong Marine National Park. Once the refuge of backpackers, the islands of Surat Thani are now some of the most visited places in Thailand; however, there are a number of historical, cultural, and natural attractions on the Thai mainland to make a stop in Surat Thani province worthwhile on the way to or from the islands.

Surat Thani city was once a provincial capital of the 10th century Indonesian Srivijaya Empire. The name of Surat Thani may mean "City of the Good People" Chaiya, just north of Surat Thani city, is the home of Wat Phra Boromathat, Thailand's most important monument from the Srivijaya period. Surrounded by walls and moats, this temple features a cloister with a large number of Buddhist images. At the center of the courtyard is an ancient Srivjaya-style stupa restored during the reign of King Rama V. The small Chaiya National Museum contains mostly copies of fine Srivijya Art discovered during excavations at Chaiya.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Surat Thani Office, 5 Thalad Mai Road ,Baan Don,Amphoe Mueang, Surat Thani 84000, Tel. +66 7728 8818-9, Fax. +66 7728 2828, E-mail Address: Accommodation: Both Surat Thani city and some areas along the coast have a variety of accommodation options for visitors, including luxury hotels, guesthouses, beach resorts, and bungalows. Website: ;

Getting to Surat Thani

As it is the largest province in southern Thailand and the primary launching point for boats to Koh Samui, Surat Thani is well serviced by air, bus, and rail. There are numerous ways of getting to Surat Thani and a well organized system of transfers to get you from one mode of transportation to the next in order to get you to your ultimate destination. By Car: Surat Thani can be most conveniently reached by car from Bangkok by taking Highway No. 4 through Petchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan Provinces to Chumphon Province and then taking Highway No. 41 and Highway No. 401 directly to Surat Thani City.

By Train: Trains leave Bangkok's Hua Lumphong Railway Station 10 times daily from 12pm until 10.50pm The trip takes approximately 12-13 hours. Ask for the train from Bangkok to Phun Phin, the closest station to Surat Thani City, located 13 kilometers away. A bus service between the station and the town is available as are tuk tuks and songtaews that service the ferry piers. For further details, please call 1690, 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020 or visit

By Bus: Air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal to Surat Thani Province everyday. For more information call the southern Bus Terminal tel: 0 2434 5557-8 or visit From Surat Thani there are three bus stations from which buses depart: Talaat Kaset 1 has bus service for travel within Surat Thani province; Talaat Kaset 2: has buses and minivans for destinations farther away, including Krabi, Phuket, and Hat Yai; and the New Station is for air-conditioned buses to Bangkok.

By Air: Thai Airways and Thai AirAsia have daily flights connecting Bangkok and Surat Thani. The flight time is approximately 70 minutes. Many consider the budget flight on AirAsia to Surat Thani a money saving alternative to more expensive flights directly to Koh Samui, though visitors should be aware that with transfers from Surat Thani airport to the pier and the boat ride to Koh Samui, the entire journey can take upwards of a full day.

Near Surat Thani

Monkey School (10 kilometers from Surat Thani) is run by Somporn Saekow, who believes that monkeys can be trained to fully utilize their capacities to the fullest. He established this training college for monkeys. Students are mostly local pig-tailed monkeys from the forests. Monkey owners must pay a tuition fee, which is inclusive of food and accommodation. Classes of 3-6 months are classified into three levels, beginners, intermediate and advance. Graduate monkeys are trained to pick only ripened coconuts from the trees. To get there, take Surat Thani Nakhon Si Thammarat (Highway No. 401) and drive for approximately 7 kilometers. Upon approaching a junction, turn right to the dirt road and proceed for approximately 2 kilometers. The college is located on the right side. Interested visitors are advised to check with local travel agents for full details. Alternatively, call the College at 0 7722 7351, 08 4745 5662 for more details. Open everyday from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

Tai Rom Yen National Park covers a total area of 265,625 rai of land and was declared a national park in December 1991. It contains lush virgin forests where rare plants can be found. Mountains, covered by mist all year round, are the origin of the Tapi River. Wild animals such as elephants, mountain goats, tapirs, chevrotains, wild boars can also be seen here. Interesting attractions include Tat Fa Waterfall, Muang Thuat Waterfall, Khamin Cave naturally decorated with stalactites and stalagmites, and Camp 180 as well as Camp 357, which once were the base of the Communist Party of Thailand.

Location and Contact: Tai Rom Yen National Park Tai Rom Yen National Park or Tambon Lam Phun, Amphoe Ban Na San, Surat Thani, Tel. 0 2562 0760, 0 7791 8611; Hours Open: Open everyday from 6.00am - 6.00pm. Admission: Adult 200 Baht Child 100 Baht Website: Official Thailand National Park website, Use Google translate /

Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park (near Surat Thani, Km. 109 on Highway 401) is the largest national park in southern Thailand (646 square kilometers) and a home to many species of wildlife, including gibbons, helmeted hornbills, grey-headed fish eagles, great salt woodpecker, elephants, Asiatic black bears and Asiatic wild pigs. Kayak trips that begin with a long-tailed boat trip across a reservoir in the park are available. The shores of reservoir have bamboo forests and old growth forests and limestone formations.

The landscape at Khao Sok National Park includes several towering limestone mountains covered by lush plants that look as much sculptures as geological formations. The area is also surrounded by emerald green streams that bend along the woodland path and a number of interesting trails. Due to the location, Khao Sok National Park faces monsoons from both sides and there are rains sprinkling down throughout the year. Thus, it maintains the full features of a rain forest. The national park is considered a kingdom full of exotic plants. For example, Rafflesia kerri– the world’s biggest flower whose diameter is 70-80 centimeters— is found here along with Thismia javanica, and Thismia clavigera – a regional plant with fancy shapes and colors. Rafflesia kerri blooms once a year and gives a rotting smells. It is a different species from the Rafflesia found in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Location and Contact: Moo 6, Klong Sok sub district, Panom district, Surat Thani, 84250; contact 077-739-5154. Getting There: By car from Bangkok: follow the route which heads south via Chumporn. Take the highway No. 41 through Chai-ya district, and turn right when you reach Punpin district. Then drive along the highway No. 401 (Surat Thani – Takaopa) pass Ban Takhun district. Once you find the 109th milestone, turn right and continue for approximately 1.5 kilometers to the national park office.

Elephant Trek at Khao Sok National Park

On her experience doing an elephant trek at Khao Sok, Cindy Loose wrote in the Washington Post: “I pull into the parking lot of Elephant Hills Nature Lodge in southern Thailand, a beautiful place, surrounded by lush vegetation, in view of massive limestone mountains that jut straight up from the earth before ending in sharp, pointed peaks. The tent is luxurious and bug-free, with reading lamps and, behind a tent flap, a full, modern, private bath with hot and cold running water. The food is exceptional, the elephant trek, canoe trip and jungle walk delightful. The 20 tents on the property can accommodate 40 adult guests. [Source: Cindy Loose, Washington Post, October 21, 2007]

I awake to the sound of the call of gibbons and birds in the rain forest. Later that day, during a walk in the jungle, I get to see a few rare hornbills but never catch even a glimpse of the monkeys, gibbons, deer, porcupines, wild elephants, tigers or bears known to inhabit Khao Sok National Park, which adjoins two wildlife sanctuaries and another national park that together cover 1,500 square miles. Then again, there are hundreds of species of ferns, trees and flowers. Plus, in the middle of the hike, the guides give a cooking class over a fire pit at an open-sided hut, and you can eat what you've learned.

The elephants are kept about a 10-minute drive from the tents, where they live among the huts on stilts that are the homes of the Karen trainers and their families. The Karen tribesmen have been in the elephant-trekking business for generations. The animals are being used less and less for such traditional jobs as moving logs in the north, and some elephants brought to the south are mistreated by neophyte trainers who don't know what they're doing, according to Suzy Carter, one of the camp's managers.

I'm horrified to see the short iron hooks held by the mahouts, who balance atop the elephants just behind their massive heads. But during our two-hour ride, the mahouts never even touch the elephants with the emergency tool. Instead, they guide their charges with quiet grunts and gentle prods with their bare feet. I'm also happy to find that while we sit in seats atop the elephants' backs, the animals are not so much taking us for a ride as they are going on a snack run. The mahouts make no objection when the elephants repeatedly stop to enjoy various green plants, or even when they wander into thick underbrush to pluck out pineapples invisible from the trails but apparently fragrant enough for an elephant to smell. At the end of the trip, we buy our elephants big baskets of watermelon, papaya and pineapple.

Back at Elephant Hills, lunch is as good and plentiful as dinner the night before, and we're soon off on a canoe trip through the clear waters of a river fed by mountain streams. We pull the canoes ashore in the middle of the ride and leap into a cool swimming hole while the guides make a fire to brew tea served in bamboo cups...At a cave temple... dozens of monkeys, some of them with babies clinging to their necks, are hanging around hoping for tourists.They keep a respectable distance of about two feet even when food is offered, I'm glad to say. But when I return to my car, I find nearly a dozen monkeys sitting on it. Closer inspection shows that, since I stupidly left my windows down, a few have set up house inside. They apparently have decided it's a much better place to live than in the trees and have become territorial about it. The monkeys that had been so friendly snarl and scream at me when I approach my vehicle. I run shrieking in shock. Luckily, a local comes and shoos them away.

The all-inclusive price includes a 7:30am pick up in Phuket. On a family that did that Loose wrote: their vehicle turned down a long dirt road through a deep woods to a tiny pier next to someone's hut, where they boarded a speedboat that took them to another, Burmese-style boat. Later they transferred to kayaks, and during that trip watched puffer fish and schools of other varieties and visited a waterfall, then a private beach where they caught and released giant hermit crabs. After a gourmet lunch on the Burmese boat, the speedboat took them along a river and past 100-year-old mangrove trees, where they saw a monitor lizard and snakes coiled in the branches. Before ending up at Elephant Hills, they stopped at a local market and bought bananas to feed monkeys that hung around a Buddhist temple built inside a cave.

Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan

Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan (in Nakhon Si Thammarat,100 kilometers south of Surat Thani, 200 kilometers north of Songkhla) is the main Buddhist temple in predominately Muslim Southern Thailand. It was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012. According to a reported submitted to UNESCO: It is located on the main sand bar of Nakhon Si Thammarat on which the ancient town and the present town of Nakhon Si Thammarat were built. The ancient town of Nakhon Si Thammarat developed from the early state of Thailand called Tambralinga and the name of which is mentioned in the Pali canon of the Buddhism as one of the prosperous port towns of the Eastern world, and thereby archaeological evidence found at many sites in Nakhon Si Thammarat supports the literary evidence. Tambralinga became a flourishing port town and was ruled independently since the 5th century CE. and continued onwards. At some points of times it joined a union with Sri Vijaya, the Mahayana Buddhist Kingdom, which was famous for the world maritime trade networks during the 8th to the 12th century CE. It is recorded that the non-Buddhist like the Muslims donated money and materials to restore the stupa and the religious buildings of the temple. [Source: Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment]

According to the Nakhon Si Thammarat’s chronicle, the main stupa of the temple, called Phra Borommathat Chedi, literally, the Great Noble Relics Stupa, was built prior to other religious architectural buildings in the temple by King Sri Dhammasokaraja in approximately the early 13th century CE. in order to establish the Theravada Buddhist symbol on the land and to serve the belief of his people on the presence of the Buddha’s relics in situ which should be housed by the stupa. Other literary sources provide a reasonable assumption that after the misery of an epidemic which was sweeping through the town, people scattered and the town was almost deserted. The king’s project of building the stupa for housing the relics was created as a mean of encouraging greater participation by his subjects. Thus the stupa caused the coming back to rebuild and develop the town community which was united in its support for constructing and maintaining the stupa and the temple as the main spiritual centre for the people. Other religious architectural buildings in the compound had been built from the early 13th century to the 18th century CE. including Wihan Bodhi-Lanka, the roofed cloister round the Bodhi Tree which is believed to be a sprout of the Bodh Gaya’ s Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha reached Enlightenment.

The Thai name for the temple, Phramahathat woramahawihan comes from Pali, vara maha dhatu vara maha vihara, literally meaning ‘the Great Noble Temple of the Great Noble Relics Stupa.’ The stupa, regarded as the most important building of the temple, is the gigantic-bell-shaped stupa which was directly inspired by Sri Lankan Buddhist art reflecting the belief on the transmission of King Asokan tradition of stupa from India to Sri Lanka and on the preservation of the Buddhism by following King Asoka’s footstep. In this connection, it is evident that the ruler of Nakhon Si Thammarat who initially built the stupa and the successive ones who restored and refurbished the stupa and the temple, are called Sri Dhammasokaraja, which was named after the epithet of King Asoka the Great; i.e., Sri Dhammaasoka- raja or Asoka-dhammaraja. The name of the town ‘Nakhon Si Thammarat’ from Pali, Nagara Sri Dhammaraja, literally meaning ‘town of Dhammaraja,’ denotes the adoption of two simultaneous concepts; i.e., the Buddha as the Dhammaraja, the spiritually righteous king of the Buddhists and the Dhammaraja of King Asoka the Great, the secularly righteous king. After establishing the main stupa and its religious edifices of the temple, it is known that during that time Nakhon Si Thammarat was the centre of the Theravada Buddhism both intellectual and artistic practices. According to the first Inscription of the Sukhothai Kingdom, Nakhon Si Thammarat had a powerful influence on the strength of the Theravada belief and practice in the Sukhothai Kingdom, including the architectural tradition of the stupa’s building.

Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan Structures and Construction

The temple, built on a rectangular plan and enclosed by brick walls of its rectangular enclosure and the four gates which afford access to the temple, covers 5.14 hectares. The temple is divided into two parts, according to the traditional zoning of the Buddhist temple; Buddha-avasa, the sacred area for doing religious activities, and Sanghaavasa, the residential area of the Buddhist monks. The Buddha-avasa is considered the monumental zone in which Phra Borommathat Chedi, the Great Noble Relics Stupa, stands at the heart of the temple. The 22 sculpted standing elephants covered in stucco surround the base of the stupa. The base is square with a low brick wall that provided a space for clockwise ambulation by worshippers that access to by a stairway on the north. On the base the four small bell-shaped stupas, one in each corner, surround the main stupa. This remarkable stupa has the large bell-shaped body, a square platform and an umbrella-like spire formed with 52 rings. The square platform above the top of the bell-shaped body is separated from the spire by a row of walking Buddha images in relief. The 10.89 metre-high spire is covered with gold leaf weighing around 600 kilograms and studded with precious stone. The principal stupa stands in an immense cloister covered with coloured tiles and surrounding it is a gallery lined with numerous Buddha images. The oldest one is a standing Sukhothai-style Budha image, dated to the 13th -14th century CE. Between the principal stupa and the cloister, there are: 158 minor chedis housing ashes and bones of the Buddhist devotees; the chapel (Wihan Khian and Wihan Phra Ma) with two remarkable stucco reliefs depicting a scene from the life of the Buddha on its inner walls; the Bodhi Tree enclosed by a small roofed cloister. Outside the cloister is the main assembly hall called Wihan Luang, with columns that lean inward in the Ayutthaya style, dated to the 15th - 16th century CE., and a richly decorated ceiling. Apart from this, there are the chapel enshrined the image of Kaccayana, the eminent monk in the Buddhist history, the temple museum building filled with historical objects, especially images of Buddha, auspicious objects and offerings.

The principal stupa was built according to the Buddhist tradition of the Theravada. It preserves not only its traditional form, but also the Buddhist philosophy. For instance,the 22 number of the elephants surround the base of the main stupa signifies the Twenty-twofold Spiritual Faculties (Pali: indriya); the 52 number of the rings signifies the Fifty-twofold Mental Factors (Pali: cetasika); and the 8 number of the walking Buddha denotes the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering (Pali: ariya-atthangika-magga) which is the highest doctrine of the Buddha.

he principal stupa of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan preserved with total integrity its original late 13th century CE. architectural structure. Its shape was inspired by Sri Lankan art that followed the Asokan concept of Buddhist art. However, the round section was reduced, resulting in slender. Thus, the bell-shaped stupa, Phra Borommathat Chedi, represents the typical style, differs from that of Sri Lanka, reflecting the successful integration between the local trend and the original Buddhist tradition. Moreover, the relative size of its height and width as 2:1 (H. 28 wa, W. 14 wa; 1 wa = 2 metre) logically implies its complete integrity of corporeal and spiritual aspects; that is to say, according the Buddhist philosophy, there are 28 corporeality and 14 functions of consciousness, so that the height of the stupa is supposed to represent the first and the width of the stupa is the latter. In the ancient time, the bell-shaped stupa was considered exemplary model. Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan’s role as intermediary for the spread of Theravada Buddhist cultures and their arts throughout the territory of Southern Peninsula, and later in other parts of Thailand; i.e., the Sukhothai and the Ayutthaya Kingdoms, was confirmed by the prevailing style of the stupa.

The Phra Borommathat Chedi is regarded as the oldest bell-shaped stupa housing the Buddha Relics in Thailand. The temple is directly and tangibly associated with the history of the spread of Buddhism, one of the major religion in the world. The people’s belief in the sacred of Buddha Relics which is one of the most important of Buddhism, has given rise to the merit-making traditions in various forms, literary works, songs, and performance art. All these have lead inexorably to performing of various ceremonies connected with the religious traditions. The merit-making ceremony which is regarded as the grand event of all is Hae Pha Khuen That, literally, carrying robe to wrap around the stupa. Every year on the Buddhist holidays, Magha-puja and Visakha-puja, Buddhists from local areas, other parts of the country and the world pay homage the stupa by organizing a long procession bearing a painted robe joined in a single piece with unlimited length to wrap around the bell-shaped body of the stupa. The large number of Buddhists come every year evidently shows the faith of people in the Lord Buddha and his teachings which has been transmitted over time.

The wall of the temple marks the boundary of the sacred site. The principal stupa in the centre, surrounded by the well-planned buildings inside the wall, has its distinctive shape and size, which is prominent feature of the sacred area. All these give the temple to be a site of unimpeachable integrity. It is an outstanding example of the well planning and of the complete buildings of the Theravada Buddhist temple of the early 13th century CE that its intactness to function effectively as a living monument is not in question. The living tradition of merit-making by performing ceremonies occurring every month brings people together, including visitors. The unity of the Buddhists’ faith is illustrated by the religious practices at the temple during the ceremonies. The principal stupa of the temple is regarded as a mark of people’s esteem. The tradition of wrapping the stupa by the long painted robe made by numberless devotees, solemnly carried by tremendous number of people together, signifies spiritual integrity of the Buddhists. The outstanding example is the unceasing ceremony of the procession of carrying the Buddhist painted robe to wrap around the stupa.


MUSLIM DEEP SOUTH OF THAILAND is a predominately Muslim area of Thailand, embracing Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Satun provinces. About 80 percent of the residents of these provinces are Muslim of Malay descent. Most speak Yawi, a Malay dialect. The provinces plus part of Songkhla province were former sultanates that were once part of the Maly kingdom of Pattani They became part of Thailand in 1902.

About 1.8 million people live in Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani Provinces. Although most are Muslims, there are many Buddhists too. Rubber and rice are important crop. The landscape is dominated b rubber plantations and rice paddies. Many people make their living as rubber tappers. The Deep South is unsafe. Among the groups on the loose are Muslim separatists, rogue police and soldiers, bandits. Articles on the Violence in the Deep South

Situated in southern Thailand, near the Malaysian border and 37 kilometers south of Pattani, Yala is a provincial capital. It is on the Pattani River and on the railway that runs from Songkhla to northeastern Malaysia. The residents of Yala are Malay in their language and culture and Islamic in religion. The city's exports include rubber and tin.


HAT YAI (950 kilometers south of Bangkok and 30 kilometers from the Malaysian border) is the largest city in southern Thailand. Located relatively near the border of Malaysia and frequently spelled Had Yai, it is home to nearly 800,000 people. Hat Yai is located in Songkhla Province and, while not the provincial capital, is home to The Prince of Songkhla University, making it Southern Thailand’s educational center as well as the south’s hub for transportation, commerce, and tourism.

Among other things, Hat Yai is renowned for its outstanding seafood, which is served in various styles thanks to Hat Yai’s diverse population of Chinese, Malays, and Thais. Hat Yai also features a multitude of markets, both local and international in style, and has a festive nightlife, including pubs and discos that are particularly popular with tourists from neighboring Malaysia. While there have been occasional violent attacks from regional terror groups, Hat Yai is a relatively safe city to visit, particularly if one avoids the most crowded tourist venues and enjoys the local flavor of the city and the culture of its diverse inhabitants.

Regional attractions include Songkhla Lake (the largest in Thailand), an enormous reclining Buddha that visitors can walk inside, the Bhasawang Big Splash (a 15 meter long water slide), and the region’s most popular spectator sport, bullfighting. Monthly bull fights are held at Nurn Khun Thong Arena on Highway No.4 near the airport. One the week end Hat Yai is visited by hundreds of Indonesians, Singaporeans and Malaysians on shopping trips.

Tourist Information for Hay Yai

Tourist Office and Website: /1 Soi 2 Niphatuthit 3 Road , Amphoe Hat Yai, Songkhla 90110, 0 7423 1055 , 0 7423 8518, 0 7424 3747, 0 7424 5986. Warnings: Banks, shopping centers, restaurants, entertainment venues, and the Hat Yai airport have, on occasion, been targeted by regional terror groups. Visitors should be aware of potential risks as well as increased security measurements, such as bag searches and metal detectors, at areas where large numbers of people gather.

Accommodation: There are more than 100 hotels in Hat Yai that fit the budget of any traveler from backpacker to businessman, though most cater to Malaysian and Singaporean visitors who make up most of Hat Yai’s tourists. Most of these are mid-range hotels that are fairly inexpensive and feature the necessary amenities, though they are far from luxurious. For slightly better accommodation there are several finer establishments around the more upscale Lee Gardens area. For budget accommodation, the guest houses near the railway station cater to foreign backpackers. It should be noted that because Malaysians are the primary visitors to Hat Yai, hotels are frequently booked on Malaysian holiday weekends. If you are planning a visit to Hat Yai over one of these weekends, it is best to inquire in advance to make sure that rooms are available prior to arrival.

Getting to Hay Yai: Hat Yai is the primary transport hub of southern Thailand and therefore features a variety of transportation options for getting around in the region and for traveling north into greater Thailand or south into Malaysia. Getting Around in town or to sights throughout Songkhla Province is equally easy to arrange. By Train: The Hat Yai train station serves as a major stopping point along the route from Bangkok to Butterworth, Malaysia. From Hat Yai it is possible to travel by train through Malaysia and into Singapore or up to Bangkok and onwards to Nong Khai or Chiang Mai. By Bus: Hat Yai is a major hub for both public and private buses, servicing buses from Malaysia and Singapore to the south and most destinations within Thailand to the north. By Air: Hat Yai international airport is one of the busiest in Thailand and is serviced by both Thai Airways and a number of budget air carriers, including AirAsia. There are numerous daily flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to Hat Yai International Airport. Airport Transfer To get to and from the airport, there is an Airport Taxi Service (0 7423 8452) that departs from the Thai Airways office on Niphat Uthit 1 Road. From the airport, the Airport Taxi Service offers hotel drop-off. Otherwise, private taxis charge around 200 baht in either direction.

Places in the Deep South of Thailand

Nakhon Si Thammarat is the home of Wat Phra Maha That, a temple with a vast cloister covered with colored tiles, chapels with Sukhothai-style Buddha images, and 260-foot-high chedi sheathed with gold leaf and decorated with precious stones. The Museum of Nakhon Si Thammarat houses antiquities collected in the region, including images of Indian Hindu divinities and Buddhas. Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Nakhon Si Thammarat Office, Sanamnamueang, Ratchadamnoen Road , Amphoe Mueang, Nakhon Si Thammarat 80000, Tel. +66 7534 6515-6, Fax. +66 7534 6517, E-mail Address:, Website:

Sungai Kolok is a tourist town bets known for a strip of bars and brothels that attract tourists from Malaysia. It is now in a dangerous part of southern Thailand . Tourist Office: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Hat Yai Office, Areas of Responsibility: Songkhla,Phatthalung 1/1 Soi 2 Niphatuthit 3 Road , Amphoe Hat Yai, Songkhla 90110, Tel. +66 7423 1055 , +66 7423 8518, +66 7424 3747, Fax. +66 7424 5986 E-mail Address:, Website: ;

Yala has see a large amount of violence. It has a monastery called Tham Kuha Phiumuk located about five miles outside of town. The large cave nearby contains a reclining Buddha images that is believed to date from 757 A.D. Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Narathiwat Office, Areas of Responsibility: Narathiwat,Yala,Pattani, 102/3 Mu 2, Narathiwat-Takbai Road , Tambon Kaluwonuea, Amphoe Mueang, Narathiwat 96000, Tel. +66 7352 2411, Fax. +66 7352 2412, E-mail Address:, Website:

Songkla has a museum housed in the former Thai-Chinese-style residence of a local luminary, with a collection of ceramics ranging from prehistoric to modern times.

Budo-Sungai Padi National Park (in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani Provinces) has an area of 294 square kilometres (114 sq mi) The Budo mountain range is part of the Indo-Malayan equatorial tropical rainforest that has high humidity because of the year-round rainfall that it gets. The park has several waterfalls, such as Phu Wae, Pacho and Pako. The best known and accessible is “Pacho” that has a high cliff. The word “Pacho” is a Malay word meaning “waterfall.”

The park is rich in rain forest wild life. Rare animals in the area are rhinoceros, agile gibbons, tapirs, white-crowned pied hornbills, helmeted hornbills and Sumatran serows. The most important animal is the spectacled langur that inhabits Southeast Asia in the south of Myanmar and Thailand all the way to Malaysia and some islands. It lives on high mountains and in deep jungles in groups of around 30-40. The strongest male is the leader. The langur is usually shy, afraid of humans and not aggressive like monkeys. Apart from the spectacled langur, there are 3 other types in Thailand; banded langurs, gray langurs and northern spectacled langurs. All 4 species of langurs are currently endangered mammals.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2020

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