Songkhla is a southern border province, adjacent to the State of Kedah (Sai Buri), Malaysia. It is an important port and coastal province of Thailand since the old days with Amphoe Hat Yai as the southern center of commerce, transportation and rapid economic growth. The province is ideal for tourism because of its two distinct characteristics: the old buildings of Amphoe Mueang Songkhla, and the developed Amphoe Hat Yai, separated by only about 30 kilometers.
The old part of Songkhla is located at the present-day Amphoe Sathing Phra. Indians, Persians, and Arabs came to trade and called the place “Singhla”. The name came from two islands with the shape of crouching lions at the mouth of Songkhla lagoon. The islands are presently called Ko Nu and Ko Maeo.
Thai Airways International operates daily flights between Bangkok and Hat Yai. For more information, call 1566, 0 2280 0060, 0 2628 2000 (Bangkok Office) or 0 7424 5851-2 (Hat Yai Office) or visit www.thaiair.com.
Hat Yai International Airport  (HDY) has daily flights to/from Bangkok (BKK) and several other airports in the region - see Hat Yai | Airport for more information.
There are daily buses from Bangkok to Songkhla and Hat Yai. The journey takes about 13 hours. Air-conditioned buses, varying in 3 types, depart from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal at the following times:
VIP Bus - 4:30PM, 5:30PM and 6PM
Standard 1 Bus – 7AM, 4PM, 5:30PM, 6PM, 6.15PM, 6:30PM, 7PM, 8PM and 8:20PM
Standard 2 Bus – 7AM and 9:45PM
Standard 1 Bus – 5PM, 6.:45PM and 7:30PM
Standard 2 Bus – 8AM and 4:30PM
The schedule may be changed. Please check a current schedule and further information from the Southern Bus Terminal at tel: 0 2435 1199-200. For Hat Yai, call the Transport Co., Ltd. (Bo Kho So) at tel: 0 7423 2789, 0 7423 2404, Piya Tour 0 7442 8972, Thai Doen Rot 0 7442 9525.
From Hat Yai Bus Terminal, there are buses to other provinces in the south. Pho Thong Transportation Co., Ltd. 0 7431 1126 provides buses from Songkhla to Hat Yai. Ranot Transportation Co., Ltd. 0 7431 1523 operates buses from Songkhla to Nakhon Si Thammarat.
The State Railway of Thailand provides daily rapid and express train services from Bangkok to Hat Yai. The trains depart from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Railway Station at 12:25PM, 2:20PM, 2:45PM, 3:50PM and 10:50PM Travelling time is about 17 hours. For further information call 1690, 0 2223 7020, 0 2223 7030 or Hat Yai Railway Station at 0 7424 3705, 0 7423 8005 or visit www.srt.or.th.
Wat Matchimawat, in Songkhla. The most important wat in Songkhla. It is about 400 years old. This temple also has the Phattharasin Museum that houses various artifacts gathered from Songkhla, Sathing Phra, Ranot, and elsewhere.
The Songkhla National Museum in Songkhla is an interesting museum which has been converted into a museum with exhibits on local archeology, history, and folk art and culture.
Samila Beach - This peninsula near Songkhla is well-known for its white sandy beach, shady pine groves, and the statue of a mermaid that is Songkhla’s symbol.
Songkhla Zoo - An open zoo, on the Songkhla-Chana Highway which was established for the preservation of Thai wildlife and to return them to the wild. The various animals have been grouped separately, such camels, birds, red gaur, tigers, crocodiles, and others.
Songkhla Lake, in Songkhla. The only natural lake in Thailand. The island of Ko Yo is an important tourist attraction, with the Institute for Southern Thai Studies and various leisure activities.
Wat Hat Yai Nai, in Hat Yai is the site of the third largest reclining Buddha in the world - revered by both Thai and foreign tourists alike.
Ton Nga Chang Waterfall near Hat Yai. This seven-level waterfall is one of the beautiful in the south.
Khao Nam Khang National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติเขาน้ำค้าง) has lush forest cover. There are two waterfalls within this park: Ton Dat Fa and Ton Lat Fa. Tourists can take two routes to the park: from Amphoe Sadao for 26 kilometers or from Amphoe Na Thawi on the Na Thawi-Ban Prakop Road for 31 kilometers. Please call Amphoe Na Thawi Office for more information at 0 7437 1010.
Khao Nam Khang Historic Tunnel (อุโมงค์ประวัติศาสตร์เขาน้ำค้าง) is situated in Khao Nam Khang, Mu 1, Tambon Khlong Kwang, about four kilometers from the Park Office. This tunnel was once known as the Piyamit Village 5, run by the Communist insurgents. After almost 40 years of fighting with the Thai Government, the Communist Party terminated the fight and became part of Thai Development Participants in 1987. It is the largest and longest man-made tunnel in Thailand, completed in two years with three separate corridors and three levels deep. It could accommodate about 200 persons with several rooms such as conference room, sick bay, radio transmission room, kitchen, firing range, and others.
Chedi Phi Nong Yot Khao Daeng (เจดีย์พี่น้องยอดเขาแดง) consists of two stupas:
Chedi Ong Dam (The Black Chedi), is situated at the top Khao Daeng, Tambon Khao Daeng. It was built by Chao Phraya Phra Khlang (Dit Bunnak) and Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Phrayurawong to commemorate the victory over the Sai Buri Revolt in B.E. 2373.
Chedi Ong Khao (The White Chedi) was built by Phraya Si Phiphat (That Bunnak) and Somdet Chao Phraya Maha Phichaiyat to commemorate the victory over Sai Buri, Pattani, Penang, and Malayan Revolts. After the victory, Phraya Si Phipat remained in Songkhla for two years and built this Chedi to accompany the first one, then returned to Bangkok.
Wat Ek Choeng Sae (วัดเอกเชิงแส) is in Tambon Choeng Sae. Its old name was Wat Ek. It has the revered coral Buddha image that had been covered with plaster. The image is 70 centimetres wide at the lap and 120 centimetres tall. Tel : 0 7439 9075
Laem Khwai Rap Wildlife Protection Unit (หน่วยพิทักษ์สัตว์ป่าแหลมควายราบ) is located at Tambon Ko Yai. The Office is at the Songkhla Lake and can be reached by boat from Khu Khut Waterfowl Park or by a road from Amphoe Khrasae Sin. There are a large number of waterfowls around the Unit and can be seen without having to travel by boat into the Lake, especially in the morning and evening when the birds are out searching for food.
Sacred Pond at Wat Laem Bo Tho (บ่อน้ำศักดิ์สิทธิ์วัดแหลมบ่อท่อ) is situated at Mu 4, Tambon Ko Yai, about seven kilometers from the District Office. It was said that a monk named Phra Sin Narai and a layman named Khun Wichai Phromsat built this pond on their way from India to Ayutthaya. This sacred pond has clean freshwater all year round.
Bull Fight (กีฬาชนโค) is the famous local favorite sport since the time of Phraya Mueang, in the Srivijaya Period. After the harvest, owners would bring their bulls to fight as a gesture of solidarity and festivity. Two bulls would fight each other in each round lasting between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the bull’s conditions. Today each district has its own bull fighting ring with monthly fights on either Saturday or Sunday. Fighting schedules are agreed upon by various district rings.
Khao Java Birds (นกเขาชวา) is the favourite domesticated bird in the south. The famous bird-culture area is Amphoe Chana, about 40km from Amphoe Hat Yai, on Highway 408. Bird singing contests are usually held annually from January to July. Singing birds are judged by their tone, voice, beat, loudness, and continuation. The winners are highly priced.
Shooting for sport (กีฬายิงปืน) in Songkhla can be carried out at two shooting ranges that are open to the public, as follows.
Ruchirawong Range (สนามยิงปืนรุจิรวงศ์) is in Amphoe Hat Yai, across from the Hat Yai District Police Office, and is open daily. Please call for more information at 0 7424 3311.
'Songkhla Royal Navy Range (สนามยิงปืนราชนาวีสงขลา) is located within the Songkhla Navy Base, on Chalatat Road (on the coast). For more information please call 0 7431 1451-5.
Thai Boxing (มวยไทย) in Songkhla is held either at the Songkhla Navy Base boxing ring at 0 7431 1451-5 on Wednesday nights, or at the Hat Yai boxing ring at 0 7423 2682.
Golf (กอล์ฟ) can be enjoyed at various courses, as follows.
Hat Yai Exclusive, with 18 holes, is located at Ban Wang Pha, Tambon Thung Sao, Amphoe Rattaphum. Please call 0 7423 4921 or 0 7424 3179
Hat Yai Country Club, with 9 holes, is located at Ban Phru, Amphoe Hat Yai. Please call 0 7423 2582 or 0 7434 3121.
Kho Hong Golf Course, with 9 holes, is located at Senanarong Army Camp, Royal Thai Army Region 4. Please call 0 7421 1500-3, extension 549.
Thong Yai Golf Course, with 9 holes, is located at Samila Beach, Amphoe Mueang Songkhla. Please call 0 7432 3761.
Southern Hill Golf and Country Club, with 18 holes, is located at Tambon Thung Lung, Amphoe Hat Yai. Please call 0 7434 3560-3.
Shrimp and fish crackers are one of the local products of Songkhla. They are delicious and inexpensive. There are also nam budu, cashew nuts, and dried crystal shrimp that can be purchased from any stalls on Nakhon Nai Road in the city.
Nang Talung (shadow puppet) is the south’s folk art that is shown to the general public in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Trang, and Songkhla. A temporary platform is usually built for the performance. The puppets, cut from animal hide, are placed against the rear of a white screen in front of a bright light so the audience can see their shadows. The story is told by narrators. The puppets can be purchased from souvenir stores.
Ko Yo Hand-woven Fabric is another folk product of Songkhla, produced mainly from Ko Yo, Amphoe Mueang Songkhla. The sturdy hand-woven fabric has intricate designs such as Lai Rat Chawat, and Lai Luk Kaeo and can be purchased from stores on Nakhon Nai and Nang Ngam Roads.
Songkran Festival (ประเพณีสงกรานต์) is held on April 13. In Hat Yai the festival is held around Niphat Uthit 1, 2, and 3 Roads, from morning till evening. Malaysians and Singaporeans often join in the festivities with their Thai hosts.
Thai Goods and Produce Promotion Fair (เทศกาลส่งเสริมสินค้าและผลไม้ไทย) is usually held in the middle of July when fruits are at their peaks. The fair boasts large selection of the best agricultural products from all southern provinces both for display and for sale.
Tham Bun Duean Sip (งานเทศกาลทำบุญเดือนสิบ) is another southern tradition that is held on the full moon of the tenth lunar month. This festival grew from the belief that during the new moon phase in the tenth month, the souls of the deceased relatives and friends, especially those not yet reborn would be released to meet the living relatives. So the living would prepare foods to offer them to the monks in their names. In Sathing Phra this festivity is different than in other districts whereby tall gold figures are paraded as the “proxy” for the deceased who were respected by the villagers.
Lak Phra and Tak Bat Thewo (giving alms, งานประเพณีลากพระและตักบาตรเทโว) is held on the new moon in the eleventh lunar month, around October of every year in Amphoe Mueang Songkhla. The festivity would start one day before the actual day to wrap a large cloth around the top of the Chedi on Khao Tang Kuan. In the morning of the festival day, alms are offered to monks (tak bat thewo) at the foot of the hill. Several hundred monks would walk down from Khao Tang Kuan to receive the offerings. Late in the morning monks travelling by boat from other temples in Songkhla would proceed along the waterfront so the Buddhist can offer alms and pull their boats along. Such acts are considered highly merited. The monks’ boats would congregate at the lotus pond to participate in the boat decoration contest. On the festival ground there are also art and culture performances.
In 2004, long-simmering resentment in the southern-most Muslim-majority provinces burst into violence in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces. All are off the beaten tourist trail, although the eastern rail line from Hat Yai to Sungai Kolok (gateway to Malaysia's east coast) passes through the area and has been disrupted several times by attacks.
Hat Yai (Thailand's largest city after Bangkok and its Nonthaburi suburbs) has also been hit by a series of related bombings, however the main cross-border rail line connecting Hat Yai and Butterworth (on the west coast) has not been affected, and none of the islands or the west coast beaches have been targeted.
In September 2006, three foreigners were killed in bombings in Hat Yai. Some rebel groups have threatened foreigners, but while targets have included hotels, karaoke lounges and shopping malls, westerners have not been singled out for attacks.