Songkhla (สงขลา) is the provincial capital of Songkhla Province. The city itself is surrounded by beaches such as Samila (สมิหลา) & Son Awn (สนอ่อน) and also known as "the great city on two seas". With the beaches, some historical centres and nice green parks, this place is definitely a good battery recharge point before heading to more lively Hat Yai.
Laem Samila beach, Songkhla
Songkhla or Singgora in Malay, was a city of an old Malay Kingdom of Langkasuka with heavy Srivijayan influence. It has been under Thai suzerainty since the 18th century.
Previously a port and a coastal trading post where Indian, Persian and Arab merchants came to exchange their products, this place was initially named "Sing Lha" after the 2 lion-shape islands at the mouth of the city's lake. Currently, these 2 islands are known to us as Ko Nu (Rat Island) and Ko Maeo (Cat Island).
In the 18th century many Chinese immigrants from Guangdong and Fujian came here. One of them won the bidding for the major tax farm of the province in 1769, thus establishing the Na Songkhla (i.e. 'from Songkla') family as the most wealthy and influential. In 1777 the family also gained political power, when the old governor was dismissed and Luang Inthakhiri (Yiang, Chinese name Wu Rang (吴让)) became the new governor. In 1786 the old governor started an uprising, which was however put down after four months. The post was inherited in the family and held by 8 of his descendends until 1901, when Phraya Wichiankhiri (Chom) was honorably retired as part of the administrative reforms of Prince Damrong Rajanubhab. The family's former home is now used as the Songkhla National Museum.
The government bus station has relocated to Th Nakhon Nok (ถนน นครนอก), a few metres from Viva Hotel.
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 Songkhla bus terminal daily. The distance is ~984 km and normally takes 12.5 hours.
- 24 seats VIP bus (พิเศษ, piset) costs 1,125 baht, departs from Bangkok at 18:00. On the reverse, the departure is at 16:45.
- 47 seats Class 2 bus (ม2) costs 563 baht, departs from Bangkok at 08:00, 14:30 and 19:00, Songkhla at 07:30, 11:30 and 14:00.
To/from Chumphon: Class 2 bus (ม2) costs 290 baht, departs daily.
To/from Nakhon Si Thammarat: Class 2 bus (ม2) costs 125 baht, departs daily.
To/from Surat Thani: Class 2 bus (ม2) costs 125 baht, departs daily.
To/from Hat Yai: Ordinary buses (big green buses) depart to Hat Yai from Ramwithi Rd (ถนนรามวิถี) for 20 baht. From Hat Yai, you need to catch one at any bus stop along Phetkasem Rd (ถนน เพชรเกษม), at the intersection close to Montri Rd 1 (ถนน มนตรี 1) or catch the bus at the clock tower near the train station. In Thai you say Haw Naa ree gaa ("clocktower" in English) and the friendly locals will point you in the right direction. From Hat Yai last bus at 19:30. A songthaew (green pickup truck with two bench seats) may run as late as 20:00 if you are lucky. Usually price 20 baht, but for this late-night service they will charge 25 to 30 baht.
Minivans depart to Hat Yai from the Th Ramwithi (ถนน รามวิถี) for 30 baht. On the other hand, minivans leave for Yala and Pattani for 120 baht from the southern end of Th Ramwithi (ถนน รามวิถี), at the intersection close to Th Chaimongkol (ถนน ชัยมงคล). You can also get a songthaew from the clock tower in Hat Yai, 20 baht.
Songthaews orbit around the city for 12 baht. Motorcycle taxis do the same for 20 baht. Expect rates to double at night.
Ko Nu and Ko Maeo (เกาะหนู – เกาะแมว)
This well-known symbol of Songkhla is situated off the shore of Samila Beach. A legend says that a dog, a cat, and a mouse, on a Chinese sampan stole the merchant’s magic crystal and tried to swim ashore but drowned and lost their lives. The mice and cats became the islands in the Songkhla Lake while the dog died on shore and became the hill called Hin Khao Tang Kuan near the bay. The crystal was totally destroyed and became the white sandy beach called Hat Sai Kaeo.
Golden mermaid statue at Samila beach
Gen Prem Tinsulanonda potrait at Pathammarong Museum
- Ban Sattha (บ้านศรัทธา) is situated on a hill slope overlooking the Tinsulanond Bridge to Ko Yo. It is surrounded by coconut plantations. The city people had it built for H.E. Prem Tinsulanond, the Privy Councilor and Statesman, when he was the Prime Minister. Construction was completed on 26 August 1991. In 1996, H.E. Prem gave the house back to the people of Songkhla. There is a public library nearby.
- Institute for Southern Thai Studies (สถาบันทักษิณคดีศึกษา), situated on Ko Yo, near the foot of the second part of the Tinsulanond Bridge. It was established in 1978 for the studies of southern art and culture. Its museum has comprehensive exhibits on local art and culture, and southern lives as well as artifacts echoing local wisdom accumulated through several generations. The systematic exhibits cover more than 30 rooms displaying history, religion, tradition, occupation, folk play, handicrafts, and various artifacts. Viewing points for the Songkhla Lake and aquaculture farms should not be missed. Admission fee is 50 baht. Call 0 7433 1185-8.
- Khao Noi (เขาน้อย), near Samila Beach, has a road to the hilltop for paying homage to the statue of Prince Lop Buri Ramet (The Southern Viceroy), and to view the city. On the east is a public park with food services and tennis courts. On the northeast is Suan Seri, another park with ornamental plants in animal shapes. Tamnak Khao Noi, on the south, was built in 1911 as the residence of Prince Lop Buri Ramet and was used by His Majesties the King and Queen on their visit to the south in March 1959. Today the mansion is the residence of the Songkhla Provincial Governor.
- Khao Kao Seng (เขาเก้าเส้ง) is located about three kilometres to the south of Hat Samila. It can be reached via the road to The National Coastal Aquaculture Institute. It is one of the beautiful beaches of Songkhla, dotted with large boulders one of which is on a rock, the locals call it “Hua Nai Raeng”. It was said that underneath this boulder there used to be treasures stored by the people as funds for the construction of the Nakhon Si Thammarat Chedi and had protecting spirits.
- Khao Tang Kuan (เขาตังกวน) at Samila Beach has the Sala Vihan Daeng, the royal pavilion built during the reign of King Rama V. On the hilltop is a Dvaravati chedi housing the Buddha’s relics that was built during the Nakhon Si Thammarat Empire. In October there is a festival to clad the chedi with a cloth, to pull the Buddha’s image, and to offer alms to monks. A panoramic view of the city and the Songkhla Lake can be enjoyed on the hilltop. To reach the top, take a 30 baht cable lift or climb 305 steps. The cable lift service is available daily, 08:30–18:30.
- The Great Serpent Nag is a monument to Nag built in 2006 and is divided into 3 parts. The head which is a water spout is situated on the northern headland facing the port. The navel is sited on the front near the road up to Tang Kuan Hill and the tail is further south. The head and tail are about 3 km apart.
- Ko Yo (เกาะยอ) is a small island in the Songkhla Lake but is the important tourist attraction of Songkhla. The island, covering an area of 3,710 acres, can be reached via Tinsulanond Bridge The coastal plain is suitable for agriculture, resulting in famous fruit-growing such as a special kind of jackfruit called Jampada. Another famous product is the hand-woven fabric.
- Laem Sai Estuary Fortress (ป้อมปืนปากน้ำแหลมทราย) was constructed in the reign of King Rama III, at the time of the city’s establishment. Today this fortress is behind the Songkhla Provincial Police Headquarters.
- Namtok Boriphat Forestry Park (วนอุทยานน้ำตกบริพัตร) is about 52 km from Amphoe Mueang Songkhla, on Hwy 406, at the 35-36 km stone. Turn onto a dirt road for about one kilometre. It is a small all-season waterfall.
- Phathammarong Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์พะธำมะรง), on Chana Road near the Songkhla National Museum. It was constructed constructed in the late 80s, built in a Thai style to resemble the birthplace of H.E. Prem Tinsulanond, the former prime minister and statesman who is a Songkhla native. The construction was based on his testimony when his father was the prison warden. Admission is free, open from Tue to Sun, 08:30-16:00, close on public holiday. The tourist information centre is at the entrance of the museum. Guided tour to the museum will be given by the tourist information centre personnel who will also hand you a copy of useful Songkhla tourist brochure with a useful map inside.
- Samila Beach (แหลมสมิหลา), about 2.5 km from the fresh market (Thalat Supsin or Thalat Sot Thetsaban). This peninsula is well-known for its white sandy beach, shady pine groves, and the statue of a mermaid that is Songkhla’s symbol. East of this statue is cat and rat sculptures. This is a nice, peaceful beach to stroll along, plenty of benches can be found between casuarina trees. Many facilities such as sidewalks, pavilions havce veen added to enhance this place as the main attaraction of Songkhla. It is serviced by Hat Yai-Songkhla buses. From within the city, one can take a minibus to the beach.
- Son On Beach (แหลมสนอ่อน) is situated to the northwest of Laem Samila. It is well shaded with sea pines. At the end of the peninsula stands the statue of Prince Chumphon Khet Udomsak. This peninsula is the best spot to view Ko Nu and the Songkhla Lake.
- Songkhla’s City Pillar (ศาลหลักเมืองสงขลา), on Nang Ngam Road, is a revered site to Songkhla’s population. The Chinese architectural style building was constructed together with the city itself. Nearby dwellings, especially on Nakhon Nai and Nakhon Nok Roads also bear the same influence. The Chinese immigrants who came to settle there at the beginning of the 24th Buddhist Century had a major role in the establishment of Songkhla, hence, the distinctive Chinese lifestyle of the area.
- Songkhla Lake (ทะเลสาบสงขลา), the only natural lake in Thailand is about 80 kilometres long and 20 to 25 km wide. It is a freshwater lake with brackish water near the mouth. There are several islands across from its mouth, the major ones include Ko Yai, Ko Si, Ko Ha, Ko Kaeo, Ko Mak, Ko Rai, and Ko Yo. Boats are available for touring the lake. The port behind the post office or the fresh market has all-day long-tailed boat services.
- Songkhla National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติสงขลา), on Chana Rd, 0 7431 1728, . The museum was originally built by Phraya Sunthararak (Net Na Songkhla), the assistant Governor of Songkhla during 1878-1894, as Songkhla ruler’s mansion in Chinese style. It became the domicile of Songkhla’s upper administrative officers and finally the City Hall. It displays southern folk art and crafts, Thawarawadi and Siwichai artifacts, prehistoric finds, old Thai and Chinese ceramics, art objects of the southern peninsula. It has a notable collection of the artifacts of the ‘Na Songkhla Family’ that used to rule the city. It is open to the public, from 09:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:00, except Mondays, Tuesdays, and public holidays. Admission is 150 baht.
- Songkhla Zoo (สวนสัตว์สงขลา) is an open zoo, on the Songkhla-Chana Highway, Tambon Khao Rup Chang. It was established for the preservation of Thai wildlife and to return them to the wild. The zoo covers a hilly area with an asphalt ring road. The various animals have been grouped separately, such camels, birds, red gaur, tigers, crocodiles, and others. One of the highlights in the zoo not to be missed is the viewing point for the city where food stalls are available. For more information, call +66 74 325 037-8.
- Tinsulanond Bridge (สะพานติณสูลานนท์) spans the Songkhla Lake and is part of Hwy 408. It is the longest concrete bridge in Thailand, with two parts: the first part connects the coast of Amphoe Mueang Songkhla at Ban Nam Krachai to the southern coast of Ko Yo, this part is about 1,140 m long; the second part connects the northern shore of Ko Yo to the coast of Ban Khao Khiao, a length of 1,800 m. It was opened to traffic on 25 September 1986.
- Wat Chai Mongkhon (วัดชัยมงคล), on Phetmongkhon-Chaimongkhon Road, has a chedi that was built to house the Buddhist relics brought back from Langka by a monk named “Na Issaro” who was teaching Pali there in B.C.E. 2435.
- Wat Matchimawat (Wat Khlang, วัดมัชฌิมาวาสหรือวัดกลาง), on Sai Buri Road, is a large temple and the most important in Songkhla. It is about 400 years old. It was said that Yai Si Chan, a millionaire of Songkhla donated a large sum of money to construct the temple. Later on Wat Liap was built on the north, and Wat Pho on the south. The people then changed the name of the temple from “Wat Yai Si Chan” to “Wat Khlang” or “Wat Matchimawat”. This temple also has the Phattharasin Museum that houses various artifacts gathered from Songkhla, Sathing Phra, Ranot, and elsewhere.
- Take a free tour with the Singora Tram. Tours run 6 times a day, starting at 09:00 hourly departing at the city wall/national museum. The tour around the city takes about 40 minutes. NOTE: As on December 2012, this service has been temporarily suspended.
- Mini golden mermaid statue replica for 20 baht.
- Excellent weekend night food-market on Friday and Saturday in the centre of town with many food stalls.
- Mudmee Restaurant on Thanon Sai Ngam, in alley opposite Singora Hotel. Great curries and also Isaan food.
- Try the kao tom mag, a delicious Thai dessert.
- ABC Home Stay Guest House, Corner of Ramwhiti and Plata Roads (one minute walk from night market), ☎ +66 82 730 7741 ([email protected]). Very friendly owner who is a teacher in an elementary school. Bicycle rental available. 200+ baht.
- Guest House Romantic. Good value accommodation with cold shower and TV. The rooms are from 250 baht, and 350bht for a large room, with air con. 250-350 baht.
- Jalan Jalan Home Stay, Soi 7, Saiburi Rd (thai: ta non sai bu ree soi jed), ([email protected]). Ask for discounts for Wiki readers. From Hat Yai Train Station walk 5 minutes to "Haw Nariga" (clock tower). Get big green bus for 20 baht to "Soi 7 Saiburi Rd". They may charge an additional 20 baht if you have heavy luggage. Last bus 19:30. If lucky you may get songthaew (green pickup truck as late as 20:00 for 20 to 30 baht. You'll get one of two clean rooms with a large LCD TV. Indoor locked garage for parking one car. King 500 baht, Queen 400 baht.
- Queen Hotel. Good value accommodation with hot shower, TV and a/c. 330 bath.
- Songkhla Guest House, Rong Mueang, Bo Yang, Mueang Songkhla (A street behind the National museum, parallel to Th. Chana / night market). For 250 baht, you'll get an average sized clean room with fan and TV, cold shower outside (small and combined with toilet, but clean). Most expensive rooms additionally have air and en suite hot shower. 150-450 baht.
- Yoma I Guest House, Rong Mueang, Bo Yang, Mueang Songkhla (same street as Songkhla Guesthouse). checkout: 11:30. Rooms have TV, no mosquito net, cheapest rooms have shared (clean) bathroom. Towels and soap provided. Opposite (north) the national museum. 250 baht.
- Viva Hotel - Internet, massage & conference facilities, clean rooms, central location.
- BP Samila Beach Hotel & Resort, (Samila Beach), . High-rise hotel conveniently located on Hat Samila adjacent to the mermaid statue. Numerous good restaurants nearby. Rates include breakfast buffet. Frequent weddings and other events may detract from a relaxed holiday feeling. Guests with a sea view may catch local residents performing early morning aerobics. That means you get an unwanted wake-up call at 05:15 with sugar-sweet Thai pop music at full blast. The reception doesn't bother to warn you when they sell you those expensive rooms. Rooms 2,300-2,500 baht, suites 5,000-20,000 baht, discounts available.
- Rajamangala Pavilion Beach Resort, (Chalatat Beach), . Boutique resort located on Hat Chalatat about 3 long blocks south of the mermaid statue.