Hat Yai & Songkla - Twin Cities Two Seas
Although the two towns are often
paired they are of distinctly different character. Hat Yai has
a more Malaya feel to it than Thai does. It is very much a cross
boarder town where Malays come to visit their cross boarder wives.
It is a transit point for people going somewhere else. Until I
visited the town all I knew of place was how to tell if the Bangkok-
Butterworth train was on Schedule. If the train was running late
I could buy a copy of that days Bangkok Post, if it were on schedule
I couldn't. Hat Yai really has very little to offer a western
just 32kms the town of Songkla
on the Gulf of Siam does with miles of clean white sandy beaches
and clear blue water to swim in, although few have visited it.
" And let's hope it stays that way" said one offshore oilrig worker
who when on land lives in Songkla.
One of the first things to surprise
me is that a fishing town in the south of the country should have
three embassy's Indonesia, China and Malaysia. The answer it was
the centre of the Asian growth triangle. The Malaysia Embassy
is convenient for foreigner to their visa run. The building that
houses the Embassy of China today was once the American Consulate.
947 km by rail or 1,200 kms by road south of Bangkok is a very
clean safe town ideal for families. There are no go-go bars and
it generally has a better climate that Phuket or Samui. Thais
have a certain respect for the town, as it was the birthplace
of one of Thailand's greatest statesmen General Prem also the
father of HM the King. Songkla is where Thailand's Universities
and Medical system was founded. The majority of tourists that
do come to Songkla arrive on cruiseships sailing between Bangkok
Songkla was a City-State until
1628 when Suliman the Magnificent and his son Mustapha were attacked
and conquered by Narai the Great. During World War II it was the
point of the Japanese sealanding into Thailand. Not surprisingly
it was also to be home to the British High Command at the same
time. The colonial style building at the foot of the Fitness Park
the British Officers Club complete with Tennis Court and a golf
course across the road.
The town boasts that it was the
home to Sukiyaki a dish created in a restaurant in Tanon Raman
to cater for the visiting Japanese troops. The restaurant didn't
survive but the legend it.
The 1997 Baht crash didn't effect
Songkla as it is very much a town of old money. Today it is the
largest fishing port in Thailand. The fishermen are all Chinese
Muslim. When leaving harbour it is their custom to let off firecrackers
as they pass Tiger Cave to wake the spirits so that they will
look after them while at and ensure that they return with a bountiful
The old Muslim Village of Songkla
stood on the site of the now Samila Beach Hotel. According to
rumour, one day while walking on the beach one day Former Thai
Prime Minister General Thanon stood in some human excreta and
yelled "Get these people out of here". And immediately they were
relocated to there present location at Khao Seng headland. This
is the best and cheapest place in town to buy fresh fish.
Some fine examples of Songkla's
Sino European architectural history can be found Nakhon
Nork and Nakhon Nai.
it's wide variety of trees and flowers as well as many herbal
plants grown for educational purposes The General Prem Botanical
garden A pleasant relaxing spot, close to Tinasulanond Bridge.
The bridge 2.6 km long crossing Songkla Lake and straddling Koh
Yoh Island is the longest bridge in Thailand. Songkla Lake is
Thailand's largest body of inland water, 80km long and 20km wide.
Legend has it that a highly venerated monk was being held captive
by a band of pirates in the lake. Noticing that his captors were
extremely thirsty and had no fresh water he turned the lake's
salt water into fresh water. And out of gratitude they released
The must-sees in Songkla are Koh
Yoh, The Dutch GraveYard (it's unmarked but is the land infront
of Total building), the Muslim graveyard with the mausoleum of
Boyyand and the old town of Songkla.
(House of Loving Respect) was built in honour of His Excellency
General Prem Tinsulanon. Privy Councillor, Elder Statesman and
16th Prime Minister of Thailand. The house is 6 buildings in Thai
style architecture joined by balconies with 5 bedrooms, 2 general-purpose
rooms, a prayer room, kitchen, dinning room, a storage room, 3
washrooms and a garage. It is almost impossible to put a value
on the house as the material used in the construction were donated
but estimates are the cost was about Baht 50 million. The house
was presented to General Prem on 26th August 1991 as gesture of
the people of Songkla's appreciation for his work .He lived in
the house for a period of five years. On 7th April 1996 he returned
the house to the province of Songkla because although he enjoyed
every night he slept in the house he felt that it should really
be the property of the people of the province. It was developed
as an historical tourist attraction for Songkla.
Despite all that Songkla has to
offer the real reason to go there should be the miles of unspoilt
beaches and the clean water to swim in. The town's prominent symbol
is the Golden Mermaid infront of Samila Beach Hotel, but no one
seems to know where she came from and why she is there. Just another
There is a regular bus service from Bangkok's Southern Bus Station
(66-2-435-1199) and Hat Yai Bus Terminal (66-74-232404).
Both rapid and express
trains link Bangkok and Hat Yai.
THAI Airways International
has a regular service direct from Bangkok and via Phuket to Hat
Hotels in Hat Yai