Narathiwat (นราธิวาส) is a city in Deep Southern Thailand.
Narathiwat is the easternmost of four southern provinces that border Malaysia. The economic and border tourism centre is at Sungai Kolok where Malaysians like to spend their holiday and shop. The area has a constant flow of culture and trading.
The majority of the population is Muslims, with the Yawi language predominantely used in verbal and written language (Yawi has roots from the spoken Malay language and uses consonants and alphabets of the Arabic language).
The Province of Narathiwat covers a total area of 4,475 square kilometres. It is on the eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula. The north borders Pattani and the Gulf of Thailand, the west borders Yala, the east borders the Gulf of Thailand, and the south borders Kelantan in Malaysia. Most of the area consist of primary rainforest jungles and overgrown mountains. The plains where 4 rivers converge are adjacent to the gulf. The rivers are namely: Sai Buri, Bang Nara, Tak Bai, and Sungai Kolok. Narathiwat has a tropical climate and has only 2 seasons; summer and rainy. The wettest period is during November to December.
Originally, Ban Bang Nara or Manalo was just a village on the bank of the Bang Nara River next to the sea. In the reign of King Rama I, Ban Bang Nara was under the administration of Sai Buri. It later became a precinct and came under the responsibility of Rangae in Pattani province. In 1906, iduring the reign of King Rama V, Ban Bang Nara grew into a large community, with highly active land- and seabound traderoutes touching the town. The provincial government offices were shfted from Rangae to Ban Manalo and in 1915, King Rama VI visited Bang Nara and grenamed the city Narathiwat, meaning "home of wise people".
Nok Airlines and Air Asia serve Narathiwat Airport, located about 15 km north of the City near the Chulabhorn Military Installation from Bangkok. There are no public busses picking up passengers at the airport, but you can take grey minibusses to Mueang Narathiwat (town), 80 baht, Taba (Tak Bai) Checkpoint, 180 baht, and Su-Ngai Kolok, 200 baht.
Su-Ngai Kolok in the Province of Narathiwat near the Malaysian Border with the State of Kelantan (Kota Bharu) is the southern Terminal station for the Bangkok - Su-Ngai Kolok route. Several trains run daily. Visitors to Narathiwat City may disembark prior to this station but lack of public transport may make travel from the smaller stations to the Province's capital awkward. Plans to connect the missing link (21 km of track) between Su-Ngai Kolok and Pasir Mas in Malaysia are on the tables but executing construction hasn't begun yet. Pasir Mas lies on the northern leg of the socalled "Jungletrain", connecting the northern Malaysian Gulfregion with the rest of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.
Recent Terrorist activities in the Province lead quite frequently to a cancellation of trains proceeding further south than Hat Yai. Derailments of passenger trains by means of sabotaged tracks and the recent killings of Railway staff within the train have again lead to temporary halts of all services. Trains full of passengers have also be prone to wildly fired bullets by insurgents. Presently the services have resumed, please inquire before departure on current situations there.
To/from Bangkok: Air-con buses by The Transport Co. Ltd (บริษัท ขนส่ง จำกัด (บขส.), bor-kor-sor) run between Bangkok southern bus terminal (สายใต้, sai-tai) and Narathiwat bus terminal daily. The distance is ~1161km and normally takes 14 hours. 24 seats VIP bus (พิเศษ, piset) costs 1295 baht, departs from Bangkok at 17:15. On the reverse, the departure is at 12:30. 47 seats Class 2 bus (ม2) costs 669 baht, departs from Bangkok at 15:30 and Narathiwat at 12:45.
Scheduled minivan services ply the routes between Su-Ngai-Kolok / Hat Yai / Yala / Pattani and the new Narathiwat bus terminal on the outskirts of town, roughly 500m past the Provincial Hospital on the left hand side of the road to Ranggae. Ticket prices are 80 baht for Su-Ngai-Kolok and 170 baht to Hat Yai.
Take motorcycle taxi around the city area at about 10-20 baht. Alternatively, a bicycle can be rented at a rate of 50 baht/day to explore the city area. Motorcycle rentals are not available in town. Songtheauws ply the scenic route to Taba (Tak Bai) and take passengers from the Monument square to either Ratchanivet Palace or near Ao Manao National Park. A new airconditioned busline connects the bus terminal with the beach at Hat Narathat, fare is a flat 9 baht.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has a well-supplied office (gantong theaw) on Narathiwat-Takbai Road. It is just outside Narathiwat town. Get there by motorcycle taxi. Staff is quite helpful, speaks English and can support you with all kinds of maps and brochures on what to do and see in the Southern provinces.
Miniature Korlae boats, colorful headcaps and headscarves
Restaurants are plenty, but be aware that most serve local muslim oriented dishes only. There are a couple of Chinese restaurants and foodstalls too. Around the market, especially in the late afternoon, you can find Khao Yam (Malay: nasi krapau) sellers. Narathiwat is also famous for its fish crackers (Malay: krupuk ikan) and budu, a fermented fish sauce that can be served salty or sweet. Ask around to find a nice place to eat.
Unlike in most other Thai towns, here are no bars and clubs due to the predominantly muslim population. There seem to be some 'karaoke' places. However, alcohol can be bought at most hotels, grocery stores and at the 7-elevens in town.
In 2004, long-simmering resentment in the southern-most Muslim-majority provinces burst into widespread violence in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces. Some rebel groups have threatened foreigners, and three foreigners were killed in bombings in Hat Yai (in neighbouring Songkhla Province) Further tourists and locals fell victim to this violence ever since. Main target of bomb attacks seem to be public markets, hotels, entertainment venues and shopping areas. Train services have repeatedly halted to all 3 southernmost provinces due to rebel activities targeting trains and killings of train staff.