Satun, with a population of about 22,000, is the gateway to Thailand's southern-most islands in the Andaman Sea. There is an abundance of pristine nature and mountainous forests with more than eighty beautiful surrounding islands. The best-known islands are Ko Tarutao, Ko Adang, Ko Rawi and Ko Lipe.
Satun is only a few kilometres from the Andaman Sea but a whopping 940 km from Bangkok. Although a majority Muslim population town, Satun has largely escaped the strife that plagues some of the neighbouring provinces of Narathiwat and Pattani, Satun is a safe and very friendly place to visit.
Satun covers an area of 2,478 sq km. Geographically, it features high hills. On the eastern side, there is a plain, mountainous forests and water sources. The plain and mountains together with a basin lie in the middle near the coast. Along the coastal line is a plain and an occasionally-flooded mangrove forest where mangrove and Samae trees are mostly found.
Nok Air offers two daily flight+minivan services from Bangkok to Satun and Tammalang Pier v.v. by flying with Nok Air from Bangkok to Hat Yai and transferred on a minivan to Satun taking approximately 3 hours. This can be booked directly from their website.
Travel Bangkok-Hat Yai or Bangkok-Trang. Then take a bus from Hat Yai or Trang to Satun.
Satun bus terminal is located south end of the city. If you are coming into Satun, getting off in downtown area will save you tuk-tuk ride. It is also possible to catch outbound bus in downtown area. There is hourly second class bus service to Krabi. Minivan to/from Hat Yai leaves from the terminal.
Minivans and Songthaws leave to La-Ngu, where is short songthaw ride from the pier to Ko Lipe, from different locations in town alongside the main road.
There is once daily private minivan service at 9am to towards Penang, Malaysia.
From Malaysia- Express buses to Kangar leave hourly from Butterworth (RM10.40, 2 hours 15 min). Then, head to Kangar city bus terminal from the express bus terminal and take Mara Liner's Kuala Perlis bound bus (RM2.00, 35 min) to the jetty. This kind of city-bound bus departure is infrequent and it is always good to plan ahead. The approximate departure times are 11:45, 13:45, 14:45 and 16:45.
The journey can only to be continued with long tail boat from Kuala Perlis's Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia (LKIM) jetty, which is about 200 m from the Langkawi-bound jetty.
Upon reaching Satun Tammalang Pier, take red songthaew to Satun town (30 baht, 10 min). The songtheaw is most probably available when ferry arrives. If you are stuck waiting for a songthaew, motorcycle taxis are another option, and costs 60 baht.
To travel by car from Malaysia, first take the road from Kangar towards Padang Besar and take a left turn towards Wang Kelian approximately 8 km before reaching Padang Besar. Pass the border checkpoints of Wang Kelian on the Malaysia side and of Wan Pra Chan on the Thailand side. You may want to stop at the morning market at the border area for some fresh fruits and vegetables. Drive pass some scenic mountains on the way to Khuang Don and take a left turn towards Satun town. On the way you will pass by the town of Chalung. The trip from the border check points takes about 90 minutes.
No ferry service was operated to Koh Lipe during 2013/14 season.
Update April 2014 - Due to tougher Malaysian immigration, tourists are no longer enter/exit Malaysia with fisherman's boat. To reach Kuala Perlis (and southwards), there is a minivan service at 9am. Guesthouses in Satun will make arrangement for you. It is also possible to take ferry to Kuala Perlis or Penang via Langkawi but is a costly option.
Kuala Perlis Fisherman's Boat - Kuala Perlis situated on Peninsular Malaysia. Gateway to Langkawi, and Satun. No reservations, just show up. Stay a night at Putra Brasmana Hotel and take a trip cruising the Perlis river to the pier. From there, take long tail/fishing boat from Kuala Perlis's Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia (LKIM) jetty, which is about 200 m from the Langkawi-bound jetty.
Upon reaching Satun Tammalang Pier, take red songthaew to Satun town (30 baht, 10 min). The songtheaw is most probably available when ferry arrives. If you are stuck waiting for a songthaew, motorcycle taxis are another option, and costs 60 baht. The trip takes 45 minutes and and the fare is 150 baht / RM15 one-way.
Tammalang immigration closes at 5pm. Later arrivals need to proceed to Satun town immigration which closes at 8pm - note vessel number and skipper's name on arrival card.
There is not much excitement in the predominantly Muslim town of Satun. Most visitors head for the Tarutao National Park (a group of beautiful islands about 2 hours by ferry ride from the jetty of Tammalang). Tammalang is the southern gateway to Satun (by ferry from Langkawi or from Kuala Perlis).
From Tammalang, the departure time to the island of Ko Li Pe is 12.30 and takes about three hours. To Ko Tarutao is 10:00, arriving 16:00 (varies, the ferry may turn up at 17:00 or 18:00 local time). Check out the island activities at the local tour agent at the Tammalang jetty point. After booking your tour, you may want to head back to Satun to stay the night before the next morning early tour.
While in Satun, walk around to discover the quaint attractions of Satun town and enjoy the local food. Local food includes spicy Thai food, Chinese style fare, and Malaysian-influenced cooking of roti canai. There are a few pubs along the main town street. The only disco in town is about 3 km from the town centre.
Wake up early and try to jog around the Monkey Park. It's just at the back of Phiman School and you will see a rocky mountain and a river besides it. You can circumnavigate this mountain by motorbike or by car as they have built concrete roads here and you will be amazed by the population of tamed monkeys here because they are used to the locals feeding them. Be sure to bring some fruit and snacks, but the monkeys now prefer snack food to fruit. Be attentive to your belongings as the monkeys tend to steal them. There are also little caves here around the base of the mountain that are worthy of photos. Also, you can climb up the mountain by the concrete stairways the government had built. There are also cottages here for free if you want to listen to the gush of flowing water in the river and watch the monkeys fool around. You can also go here in the afternoon before sunset.
The above ferry trip to the Tarutao National Park islands costs about 1,000 baht return (you can book the ticket through the agent too). Scuba gear and snorkelling kit are available for rent at the island dive shops. Just bring your suntan lotion and cash (better exchange rates are offered on the mainland).
Although there are many restaurants in Satun, most don't seem to have prominent signs or branding. Fortunately, most of the food is good Thai, with a noticeable lack of Western franchises such as McDonald's or Starbucks. Don't be afraid to walk up to any place that looks as if it's serving food and just use sign language or simple English to order food. Most people are very receptive and will go out of their way to help you get something in your belly. Phonetically "Pad See Ewe" is fried noodles with various vegetable bits and perhaps some meat. Be adventurous, chew slowly and watch out for bones.
Satun's night market, occupying a single street in the centre of town, is open seven days a week, and offers a range of food from stalls. There is a notably delicious Pad Thai stall as well as a variety of places to get Thai, Chinese and southern Thai Muslim food. In Muslim stalls, they prefer their "Rotee" with a sauce. There is also a decent un-named fish ball soup stand on the main road across from the night market.
On's Restaurant and Guest House, just down the street from the main bus stop in the town centre offers a range of western dishes as well as some Thai options. It is also a good place to go for a strong cup of espresso. If you are spending the night in Satun, you can also go to their companion bar, @On's The Living Room two doors down from the restaurant to have a cold beer with the rag-tag ensemble of travellers, English teachers and other expats living in Satun.
Fahat is a clean, modern Muslim-run restaurant with some Western options and decent coffee.
Ok Sing Kun is a charmingly old-fashioned Chinese coffee shop serving strong Thai-style coffee, tea and a range of local treats.
Sunshine restaurant, next to the Rain Tong Hotel, near Sinkiat Buri Hotel and the fresh food market, specialises in seafood noodles and a good chicken soup. Also offer some rice dishes and delicious ice cream sundaes. You can sit outside next to a peaceful mangrove, where it is possible to see giant lizards, otters, turtles and sea eagles on most days.
Southern Thailand is predominantly Muslim which means that most people don't drink. Alcohol is available in some restaurants and in most mini-marts. There are a few bars downtown and some karaoke places in the area. Generally it's not a hot spot for three day drunken clubbing binges.
One place offering or cool drinks and food is Port Satun" at the fresh market and Rientong pier.