Songkhla in the south, about the province and some history
Thailand’s deep south starts at Songkhla province Hat Yai is the biggest city here and the third biggest in the whole country after Bangkok and Chiang Mai. This area is not much integrated into the travel pattern although Ht Yai has some entertainment tourism fueled by tourist from Malaysia and Singapore, Tiger airways is the only international airline serving the airport out of Changi AirportSingapore.
In the city center are several hotels big and small, they are not on a scale as Hat Yai Hotels but quite ok. They have some bars, karaoke, girls and nightlife in the coffee shops there are also several nightclubs in the vicinity. This area is dominated by farm and fishing communities and was until recently the hub for the gas drilling platforms out in the Gulf of Thailand.
The city is partly squeezed between the Gulf of Thailand
and the big lake. the province has plenty of attractions like empty beaches, waterfalls, hill forest, parks, a interesting fishing port. Some old heritage is still visible such as parts of the city wall and plenty of artifacts in the museum. The city is also known as ‘great city on two seas’. Its over 1000km south of Bangkok but easily reachable either by road travel, bus, air and rail from Bangkok and elsewhere. Markets are plenty as everywhere in the country one is in front of the post office, Suan Thaokae market, Wachira market and more. Even as the city is not on the usual “tourist radar” some traveler find the way and they find a pretty and interesting town.
A good choice to stay is the Pavilion Hotel at down town, the Mermaid at the beach is one of the landmarks.
Towards the west is the biggest mosque in the area. Further south to the Malaysian border is Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, they are bordering the state of Kedah in Muslim dominated Malaysia and this are the three problem province with a merciless insurgency which kills everyone they can. It won’t matter if this are children, Monks, old people, teachers, police men, the Thai military or any other civilian, they even torch schools and Buddhist monasteries
The insurgency is a strange situation partly fueled by money from the Arab Peninsular. When the situation got real virulent some years ago the police found large sums of money on the bank accounts of a leading figure of the insurgency which came from welfare institutions in Saudi Arabia, this was written in an article in the Bangkok Post of that time whose people investigated that subject. There are some indications that this has something to dowith this situation.
View from Lee Garden Hotel with the Hat Yai Songkhla mosque
View from Lee Garden Hotel
View from the Thaksin Khadi Sueksa Institute
The insurgency has plenty of sympathizer over the border in which supply a safe zone since the Thai military won’t follow.
Luckily is only very seldom shattered by the conflict, the problem is contained along the border area around 100km and more to the south.
Port with vessels in rather rotten conditions
Near the border at Sadao
is the home of a huge fishing fleet, but over fishing is rampant and every year less fishes are catched. Tourism is not very developed here and only few people do some travel into this area.
Most people bypasses at the west side to the border at Sadao and Padang Besar which are the two crossings into Malaysia.
Sadao and Hat Yai are two of the hottest nightlife with girls spots, fueled by the guys from the south. There is a monoculture of rubber and oil plantations, the raw latex is processed in huge factories built along the highway to the south.
At Sathing Phra this is the old town quarter
Fragments from the past are still visible, among other artifacts is a stone axe, around three thousand years old which was found at Ban Phli Khwai , Sathing Phra, and a very old bronze drum was found near Chana.
As many other places the city has experienced plenty of foreigners from different nations passing through since ancient times, Indians, Arabs, Malay, Chinese, Persians, Europeans and more.
The old name of the place was “Singhla” which morphed into the present day name over time, it identifies two islands looking like crouching lions at the entrance to the lagoon.
In the first 2 centuries A.D. communities of Hindu traders emerged on the Sathing Phra peninsular, the peninsular was a agriculture area and transformed into the port afterwards.
City Wall close to the museum
National Museum Inside
In the sixth century some Indian traders brought Buddhist culture, created temples and placed statues there.
In the seventh century Sathing Phra emerged as an international harbor and plenty of junks came in from the south China Sea. In the second half of the seventeen century the Chinese took over commercial activities in this area. There are several museums to show what was going long times ago.
The premier showcase is the National Museum, this museum is located in an old Chinese mansion at down town.
Beside of folk arts and crafts, ancient ceramics plus Buddhist and Hindu objects are shown.
Thaksin Khadi Sueksa Institute with old Thai houses
A visit to the Thaksin Khadi Sueksa
Institute makes some sense to understand the past better. This days the port is mainly used by fishing boats and vessels.
Some years ago the city has become a center of the offshore oil and gas business and exploration in the west side of the gulf of Thailand, all the big US companies are here such as Unocal, Halliburton etc. since they are the one who have the expertise.
The hotels make good business with the professionals who shuttle everyday from the local heliport to the offshore platforms. It looks like not much from the money created through this business find the way into the local environment.
Flower pond at the museum
Offshore platform at Songkhla
Buddhist Statues from the past