South Thailand is not heavily visited these days. Songkhla is one of those sleepy little harbor towns that deserve a bit more attention it gets. The town is situated 30 km north east of Hat Yai.
The town has a few excellent hotel accommodations available. Find the best deals, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about Songkhla and the hotels in town at TripAdvisor
As a town with tourist attractions you are also at the right place. There are a few beaches in town, a nice cable car B30 and a decent museum (unfortunately since December 1 2008, the entrance ticket has been raised to a hefty B250.
Pride and joy of Songkhla is of course the golden mermaid at Samila Beach. It's located at the far end of a long beach stretch. The mermaid is here since 1966 when it was sculptured by the former director of the Bangkok Arts and Crafts College in response to an idea of the local mayor at the time. Since than it became the prime tourist attraction of Songkhla.
The beaches itself at east of the city are just OK, I wasn't too impressed with them but they offer a nice afternoon stroll. Also good for a stroll is the Sunday market in the heart of the city next to the National Museum Songkhla and the remains of the old city walls.
An annual event is the celebration of the erection of the City Pillar by the governor of Songkhla, Praya Vichiankiri (Tian Seng).
The City Pillar Shrine is a historic shrine erected in 1842. Inside stood the City Pillar bestowed by King Rama III as a symbol of auspice and propserity for the establishement of the new Songkhla City. The governorarranged the planting ceremony and as a Chinese Hokkien descendant, he built a Chinese shrine to house the City Pillar and the many Chinese deities who are revered by the Songhkla people.
Near the boulevard you find some smaller fishing boats. And part of the seaside is used for growing seawater plants. Next door to the boulevard is the central market located. It's the usual hustle bustle of vegetables, fish, meat and other things people need in daily life.
Just outside the town, on the road to Narathiwat, you will find the Songkhla Zoo.
Just before entering the town center, there's the junction to the beaches of Songkhla. Here you find the famous Songkhla mermaid:
Of course it is here where the larger fishing boats wait for sailing out. In the heat of the day you can see the fishermen preparing their nets for the next day.
Songkhla is easy assessable from Hat Yai by a wide open road, with quiet a bit of traffic. From Songkhla you can cycle out south east along the coast for 23 km where the road joins road #43 to Pattani. See this page for more details.
Yala is nearby, 45km, and although Yala is forgettable, it might be a good point to start your journey south to Betong which is a scenic road and on which you can visit the Bang Lang Dam (the resorts at the dam are all closed, so you have to cycle all the way to Betong in one piece.
Going north leads to Nakhon Si Thammarat on a road that mostly follows the coastline and which is also mostly flat.
If Phattalung (for Krabi) is your destination (from Songkhla), you can take the ferry at the north west of the peninsula and cycle to Singhanakhon. Here road #408 leads to Nakhon Si Thammarat. You can follow this road as far as the junction Ranot and cycle along the north side of the lake to Phattalung. It's a nice route.
Alternative you can take the junction to Khuan Niang and follow directions to Pak Payun and from there along the west side of the lake to Phattalung on very quiet and excellent roads. (see this page for an extended description)
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Songkhla to Phattalung and back
Description of the road from Songkhla to Phattalung and back. This is a journey that can be done in 2-4 days depending on how many stops you want to make.
The road to Betong
South Thailand is much underrated. This has of course everything to do with the troubles of Islamic extremism in south Thailand. It's sad that the majority of the people here have to suffer from a few ideologists (idiots, if you ask me).
The road from Hat Yai to Yala and Betong is worth a visit, especially on bicycle. It's a much nicer road to enter Malaysia then traveling to Padang Besar.