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Hat Yai | Songkhla

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The famous Songkhla mermaid at sunset

The famous Songkhla mermaid at sunset

 

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Songkhla Town in Songkhla Province

Brief Introduction

Chinese figures for sale at Songkhla Sunday morning market - Click for larger image Hat Yai and Songkhla are very closely linked but if they are twins they were separated at birth and brought up very differently. Songkhla is everything that Hat Yai isn't, and vice versa, with Hat Yai having most of the vice and Songkhla having most of the versa.

Hat Yai is dirty, brash, aggressive and frenetic. Songkhla is the cleanest Thai town I have ever visited; it's quiet, peaceful and actually quite pretty.

This is not by accident. The Thais have identified certain locations they wish to protect from tacky tourism and commercialism and Songkhla is one of them. One local told me it has nothing to do with the fact it is Prem Tinsulanonda's home town.

I don't believe this for a minute and feel certain that Prem's influence has gone a long way in making Songkhla what it is today, but that is a good thing.

Prem Tinsulanonda - Click for larger image Many Thais live in Songkhla and work in Hat Yai, or perhaps live in Hat Yai and study in Songkhla. For this reason, hundreds of buses and minivans travel between the two towns every day. There used to be a train that served this route but it was discontinued many years ago.

It's never a problem travelling between the two places up until around 7pm or 8pm, as there are frequent minivans and buses.

Being the administrative centre for Songkhla province, there are lots of government buildings, as well as schools and universities. There are also lots of temples. These buildings are located on wide, clean streets with little traffic and flowers everywhere.

Relaxing in Songkhla - Click for larger image Equally significant is what Songkhla doesn't have. Most conspicuous by their absence are any large supermarket chains. The citizens of Songkhla don't want these kind of places and are happy to make the journey to Hat Yai when they need to shop.

In fact, there aren't really any large shops in Songkhla at all - just small shops and traditional markets. You also won't find massage shops every 10 yards or shops that have been set up purely for tourists - as you will find in Hat Yai.

There is a small nightlife industry in Songkhla and to a certain extent it is driven by the local oil industry which employs a lot of foreign workers.

Something significant that Songkhla has, compared with Hat Yai, is a beach and some coastline. To be honest, it doesn't compare with certain parts of the Andaman coast in terms of beauty but the beach is clean and some days the sea does actually look quite blue.

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People

Muslim children playing in the sea at Kao Seng, Songkhla - Click for larger image Historically, this area was home to many Chinese and Muslims and you will still find areas which have been predominantly settled by these two ethnic groups. One ex-governor was Chinese and his Chinese-style house is now the Songkhla National Museum.

Nowadays there are lots of Buddhist Thais and not an insignificant number of farangs but nothing on the scale of Phuket, Samui or Pattaya. Farangs living Songkhla, if they are not there as oil workers, tend to be those types who want a quiet life in Thailand. The town, with its many schools, also provides opportunities for English teachers.

It is a favourite day-trip retreat for people in the three troubled southern provinces. On the beach you will see lots of Muslims and if you speak with them - as I normally do - you will often find they come from Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani.

They are just as tired of the ongoing problems as everyone else and take trips to Songkhla to escape the madness.

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Seafood

Muslim boys fishing at Songkhla - Click for larger image There is a very active commercial fishing industry in Songkhla and if you pass anywhere near one of the fish canning factories on a hot day the overwhelming smell will make this quite evident.

From atop the hill on Ko Yo (a small island near Songkhla town) you will see thousands of enclosures in the surrounding sea where people buy small fish and grow them into large ones to sell.

Songkhla has many seafood restaurants, especially along Samila beach. There isn't much between them as far as the food is concerned but probably the most attractive restaurant is Samila Sea Sport (Tel. 074 327244-5).

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Things To Do

Tanon Naang Ngaam in Songkhla - Click for larger image As I said, Songkhla is for people who like a quiet life. Occasionally, a banana boat drags people around but you won't find hundreds of jet-skis as you will at Pattaya or Patong.

Samila beach is very popular on Sunday evenings. People stroll along the beach road, eat seafood, and Thai teenagers like to cruise around on their motorbikes.

The National Museum I mentioned above is located in an interesting old Chinese house but it isn't the greatest museum in the world. Near the museum is part of the old city wall.

Nearby Ko Yo, which I also mentioned above, is a pleasant place. The Institute of Southern Thai studies is a far better museum than the one in Songkhla and I have covered it elsewhere in these pages. Ko Yo produces lots of fish and fruit, and there is also an active cloth weaving cottage industry.

Young boys practising lion dancing at an old Chinese temple in Songkhla - Click for larger image Songkhla zoo (which I have also covered elsewhere) is a fantastic zoo in a fantastic location. The local government (so I am told) has plans to build a cable car system at the zoo but I suspect it will be many years before this happens - if at all.

The newly opened aquarium has been very well done and is worth a visit. It's not the largest aquarium you will ever see but they have a pretty good selection of fish.

One of my favourite areas is the old town, especially Tanon Naang Ngaam, which is full of old wooden houses and Chinese temples. Chinese lanterns are strung across the street and I believe the area is protected by a preservation order.

Persian cat at Kao Seng, Songkhla - Click for larger image There are lots of small speciality shops selling such things as traditional, home-made Thai ice cream and sticky rice with mango. This dessert is only available when the mangoes are in season and the shops that sell it are so famous that people travel great distances to buy this sweet delicacy.

Tang Kuan hill has a Buddhist shrine at the top and a funicular railway to get visitors up and down. From the top of the hill there are good views of Songkhla. This area is also home to a large colony of monkeys. Vendors sell bananas and peanuts to feed them and it's good fun watching their antics.

The problem is that their main source of food now comes from human visitors. On a Sunday, when there are plenty of visitors and plenty of food, the monkeys are quite well behaved but on quiet days with few visitors and little food to go round they are hungry and can get quite aggressive.

I enjoy watching them but I am always a little on edge because they are wild, unpredictable animals with large teeth. You do not want to upset a full-grown male macaque, or even a female nursing a baby. The consequences could be pretty dire.

Treat them the same as you would any wild animal, be careful, and don't tease them - as I saw one Thai man doing.

Kao Seng is a small Muslim fishing village at the southern end of Samila beach which I enjoy visiting. The people there live simple lives that revolve around fishing. The men go out early for the catch while the women repair nets and prepare the fish ready to be sold.

The children in the village play simple games to amuse themselves and the sea is their playground. Muslims cannot touch dogs so Muslim areas of Thailand are one of the few places where you won't see hundreds of stray dogs. One small shop in Kao Seng is home to a large collection beautiful Persian cats.

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Accommodation

The main beach hotel is the BP Samila which offers sea view rooms for Bt1,250 a night and rooms with a view of the golf course on the other side for a little less. I have noticed a gradual deterioration in quality at the hotel since I first stayed there at the end of 2003 but it's OK and the location is convenient.

The Rajamangala Pavilion a little further down the coast is a smaller hotel with better rooms at cheaper prices but the location isn't quite as convenient. I have stayed at both hotels.

There are a number of small hotels in town as well as guest houses. Some backpacker type guest houses can be found next door to the National Museum.

It's not normally necessary to book but the large hotels host meetings, seminars and wedding receptions fairly often which can limit room availability. You can try to get a discount but last time I stayed at the BP Samila I heard the receptionist talking to a farang on the phone who was trying his best to get a discount and she wouldn't budge on the price which she claimed was already discounted.

Find and reserve hotel rooms in Songkhla with Agoda.

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BP Samila Beach Hotel And Resort (★★★★)

BP Samila Beach Hotel And Resort, Songkhla - Click for larger image

View from BP Samila Beach Hotel And Resort, Songkhla - Click for larger image

Agoda Rating: Very good 7.3 - See here for details

Address: 8 Rachadumnern Road, Songkhla, 90000
Telephone: +66 (0)74 440222
Fax: +66 (0)74 440442
Room Rate: Bt1,250

Comments: This large hotel is right on the beach and there are great views across the Gulf of Thailand.

Get The Best Deal At The BP Samila Hotel In Songkhla

The hotel room rates quoted on this site are walk-in rates, also known as rack rates. These are full price rates with no discounts, and in most cases this is the most expensive way to pay for a hotel room.

Booking your hotel through an on-line travel agent such as Agoda or Booking.com is the easiest way to get the cheapest deals available.

  1. Agoda : I have researched prices for many hotels in Thailand and Agoda rates are usually the cheapest, however, you must pre-pay. Pre-paying doesn't concern me and I always use Agoda myself.
  2. Booking.com : Some people object to paying in advance and if you book through Booking.com a pre-payment isn't required for most hotels. You simply pay at the property when you arrive.
  3. Hotels Combined : If you want the cheapest possible deal and don't want to spend a long time researching prices, you can compare prices using Hotels Combined. Just enter your hotel and travel dates and Hotels Combined will search the top travel sites to find you the cheapest price.

The following are direct links that will take you straight to the relevant page for this hotel without needing to search.

Book Now!

Alternative

Compare Prices

Guest Comments: No guest comments yet. Be the first to comment. Send an e-mail to phil@phil.uk.net, or use the following form. Comments will be added anonymously.

Important - Please read the following carefully before sending me your comments: Do not use this form for availability or rate enquiries. I am not a travel agent, and neither am I affiliated with any hotels or guest houses in Hat Yai. Contact the establishment directly using the information given above. Use this form only if you have stayed at this particular establishment and wish to give some feedback.

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Rajamangala Pavilion Beach Resort (★★★)

Rajamangala Pavilion Beach Resort, Songkhla - Click for larger image

Rajamangala Pavilion Beach Resort, Songkhla - Click for larger image

Agoda Rating: Good 6.2 - See here for details

Address: 1 Ratjadamnoennok Road, Amphur Muang, Songkhla, 90000
Telephone: +66 (0)74 487222, 487081-4, 487438-50, 487352
Fax: +66 (0)74 487353
Web Site: Rajamangala Pavilion Beach Resort
Room Rate: Bt1,200

Comments: This hotel is also right on the beach with great views across the Gulf of Thailand, but it is a little isolated.

Get The Best Deal At The Rajamangala Pavilion In Songkhla

The hotel room rates quoted on this site are walk-in rates, also known as rack rates. These are full price rates with no discounts, and in most cases this is the most expensive way to pay for a hotel room.

Booking your hotel through an on-line travel agent such as Agoda or Booking.com is the easiest way to get the cheapest deals available.

  1. Agoda : I have researched prices for many hotels in Thailand and Agoda rates are usually the cheapest, however, you must pre-pay. Pre-paying doesn't concern me and I always use Agoda myself.
  2. Booking.com : Some people object to paying in advance and if you book through Booking.com a pre-payment isn't required for most hotels. You simply pay at the property when you arrive.
  3. Hotels Combined : If you want the cheapest possible deal and don't want to spend a long time researching prices, you can compare prices using Hotels Combined. Just enter your hotel and travel dates and Hotels Combined will search the top travel sites to find you the cheapest price.

The following are direct links that will take you straight to the relevant page for this hotel without needing to search.

Book Now!

Compare Prices

 

Guest Comments: No guest comments yet. Be the first to comment. Send an e-mail to phil@phil.uk.net, or use the following form. Comments will be added anonymously.

Important - Please read the following carefully before sending me your comments: Do not use this form for availability or rate enquiries. I am not a travel agent, and neither am I affiliated with any hotels or guest houses in Hat Yai. Contact the establishment directly using the information given above. Use this form only if you have stayed at this particular establishment and wish to give some feedback.

Name (required): 

E-mail (required): 

Mth/Yr of stay (required): 

Comments (required): 

Tick if this isn't spam: 

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Get The Best Deal On Your Songkhla Hotel Room

Listed opposite are some of my personal recommendations for hotels in Songkhla based on budget. Each link will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand. Every time I research hotel prices the Agoda price is always the lowest and I have received good customer service so I am happy to recommend the company to other people.

If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand

 

 

Top End

Mid Range

Budget

 

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