The Ultimate Guide to Songkhla, Thailand
Located on Thailand’s southern coast, Songkhla allures travelers with its captivating combination of natural beauty and deep-rooted cultural heritage. As you explore its historic streets adorned with ornate street art and charming shophouses, you’ll be immersed in the city’s rich past.
Population: 1.433 million (2018)
Settled: 7th century
Currency: Thai Baht (THB)
Time Zone: Indochina Time (ICT), UTC+7
Length of Trip: 2-3 days.
Trip Type: culture / nightlife / gastronomic.
Our Experience: We’ve spent a total of 9 days in Songkhla during 2022.
Disclaimer: Before planning your trip, it’s essential to check for any travel restrictions, visa requirements, and other relevant information, as these might change over time.
Songkhla is ideal for:
It isn’t ideal for:
Step into the charismatic world of Songkhla, a charming coastal province nestled along the pristine shores of Thailand’s southern coast. As you wander through its quaint streets and soak in the rich cultural heritage, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a nostalgic 1970’s Kodachrome photograph, where time seems to stand still.
The pronvice’s storied past comes alive as you explore ancient temples and ornate landmarks, each telling tales of a bygone era. The blend of ancient and modern creates a unique ambiance, transporting you to a place where tradition and modernity harmoniously coexist.
But it’s not just the cultural allure that draws you in – Songkhla’s beautiful shoreline invites you to unwind and laze in the serenity of the sea. Here, you’ll find authentic fishing communities, offering a glimpse into a way of life that has remained unchanged for generations.
From vibrant street markets to drool-worthy seafood, every moment in Songkhla is a delightful adventure. Whether you’re navigating through the bustling cityscape or enjoying the coastal views, you’ll be entranced by the warmth and charm that pervade this hidden gem.
With its blend of cultural treasures, stunning landscapes, and culinary experiences, Songkhla promises an unforgettable journey that will leave you with cherished memories of southern Thailand.
Explore the Old Town: Immerse yourself in Songkhla’s rich history by wandering through its Old Town. Admire the well-preserved colonial architecture, visit the historic Wat Matchimawat, and stroll along the picturesque Nakhon Nok Road that overlooks Songkhla Lake. The blend of ancient heritage and modern touches creates a chilled vibe that’s perfect for leisurely exploration.
Discover Koh Yo: Escape to the laid-back island of Koh Yo, located just a short drive away from Old Town Songkhla. This peaceful island boasts secluded beaches, marine-rich waters, and an under-the-radar atmosphere. Pamper yourself in a beachside retreat, drool over local seafood offerings, or explore the island’s coastal gems.
Marvel at the Central Mosque: Don’t miss the chance to visit the iconic Al-Rahman Mosque. With its striking golden dome and intricate Islamic architecture, this majestic landmark stands as a testament to the city’s diverse cultural heritage. Take a moment to admire the grandeur of this significant religious site.
Pay homage at the Mermaid Statue: A visit to Songkhla is incomplete without encountering the iconic Mermaid Statue, which stands as a symbol of the city. Located on Samila Beach, this mythical figure is a popular spot for photos and provides breathtaking views of the Gulf of Thailand.
Cruise the Songkhla Lake: Go on a boat cruise across Thailand’s largest natural lake and try to spot the migratory pink dolphins that frequent the area. The serene boat ride offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the lake’s surrounding landscape.
Ascend to Hat Yai’s Municipal Park: Find solace and breathtaking vistas at the splendid Hat Yai Municipal Park, perched atop a hill overlooking the city. As you reach the hill’s summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the entire city and the glistening sea beyond.
Experience Greenway Night Market: Head over to Hat Yai’s Greenway Night Market, a gastronomic paradise that will satiate your taste buds. Feast an array of delectable Thai dishes and international delights as the market comes alive with colorful stalls and lively entertainment. The aroma of the street food and the buzz of the crowd, will guarantee you an unforgettable dining experience.
Embarking on a gastronomic journey in Songkhla is an experience that unveils a vibrant tapestry of flavors. These must-try dishes showcase the region’s culinary prowess and are sure to leave a lasting impression on every discerning food enthusiast.
Crispy Fried Chicken: Wallow in a culinary masterpiece that has earned a reputation as Thailand’s best fried chicken. Hat Yai’s fried chicken spoils the senses with its perfectly seasoned and golden-brown exterior, while the meat inside remains tender and juicy. Smack your lips over the mouthwatering flavors of this local delicacy, often served with a tangy dipping sauce that enhances its greatness.
Duck Noodle Soup: Delight your taste buds with the comforting flavors of Kuay Teaw Ped Toon. Succulent pieces of tender duck are served in a savory broth infused with aromatic herbs and spices. The flavorful combination of tender meat and springy noodles creates a satisfying meal that will warm your cold heart, making it a must-try for any foodie.
Gaem Som Goong: A tantalizing Thai sour soup featuring plump and succulent prawns. Gaem Som Goong is characterized by its balance of tangy and savory flavors, derived from a harmonious blend of lemongrass, lime, and other Thai herbs. This spicy and zesty soup is a surefire way to awaken your taste buds and experience the vibrancy of southern Thai cuisine.
Kanom Sum Pun Nee: Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kanom Sum Pun Nee, a delicious Thai dessert that exemplifies the essence of the region’s culinary culture. These soft and creamy coconut cookies are handcrafted from freshly grated coconut, coconut milk, and palm sugar, resulting in a delectable treat with an irresistible texture. Each bite of these sun-dried cookies reveals a mind-boggling symphony of flavors, capturing the richness of coconut and the subtle sweetness of unrefined palm sugar.
No matter where you choose to stay in Songkhla, each area offers its own unique experiences, ensuring an enjoyable stay within this captivating province. Below our are top three recommendations:
Hat Yai: Dive into the urban heart of Songkhla in Hat Yai, a buzzing city with a diverse range of accommodation options. From luxurious hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses, Hat Yai caters to every traveler’s preference. Explore the city’s abundance of markets and devour local street food or just hedonistically plunge into the lively nightlife scene. Strategically, the central location of Hat Yai makes it an excellent base for venturing out to other nearby attractions.
Old Town: Step back in time in Old Town Songkhla, where history and charm converge. This nostalgic neighborhood boasts traditional Thai-style houses, quaint cafes, and antique shops. Stay in rustic guesthouses that retain the old-world allure while providing modern comforts. Take leisurely strolls through narrow lanes adorned with colorful murals and immerse yourself in the area’s rich heritage. Discover ancient temples, wander through historical sites, and relish the timelessness that permeates Old Town Songkhla.
Samila Beach: Embrace coastal life at Samila Beach, a beautiful area renowned for its golden sands and turquoise waters. Here, you’ll find a mix of upscale resorts and cozy boutique hotels, all within a stone’s throw of a pristine shoreline. Wake up to stunning sea views and enjoy long walks along the beach at sunset, after which you’ll stuff yourself with fresh seafood at beachfront restaurants.
If possible, plan your trip to Songkhla during these ideal times to make the most of your visit:
November to February: Songkhla’s peak tourist season welcomes travelers with cooler temperatures and pleasant weather. Enjoy the refreshing sea breeze and explore the province’s attractions without the scorching heat.
Songkran Festival (April): Experience the lively and colorful Songkran celebrations, Thailand’s famous water festival. Join locals in water fights and enjoy cultural performances during this festive time.
June to September: Despite being the rainy season, this period offers lush green landscapes and fewer crowds. Embrace the occasional showers and take advantage of lower accommodation rates.
Loi Krathong Festival (November): Witness the extraordinary Loi Krathong Festival where thousands of illuminated floats are released on the water, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. Immerse yourself in this beautiful and symbolic Thai tradition.
October and March: These months mark the transitional periods between seasons when the weather is still pleasant, and you can enjoy a mix of the province’s attractions without the peak tourist rush.
Tracing its origins back to the Srivijaya Empire, which flourished from the 7th to the 13th century, Songkhla served as an important maritime trading hub. Under the influence of Indian merchants, the province thrived as a center of trade and learning, fostering a rich amalgamation of cultures and traditions.
During the 14th century, Songkhla came under the rule of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, marking a turning point in its history. As part of the Thai kingdom, the province played a strategic role in protecting the southern borders and became a melting pot of diverse influences, making it an intriguing destination for modern-day explorers seeking remnants of its illustrious past.
Throughout its history, Songkhla bore witness to various periods of growth, decline, and resurgence, each leaving behind traces of its unique story. The echoes of its colonial past are evident in the architecture of Old Town, where century-old buildings stand as a testament to its colonial legacy.
Moreover, Songkhla’s coastal location rendered it susceptible to invasions and piracy, shaping the city’s fortifications, such as the iconic Songkhla City Wall and the Samila Beach Mermaid statue, symbolizing the province’s resilience and enduring spirit.
Street art holds significant cultural and artistic value in Songkhla as it plays a vital role in shaping the province’s identity and promotion of local creativity. The emergence of street art in Songkhla has transformed once mundane walls into vibrant canvases that tell stories of the its history, traditions, and contemporary issues. The artworks often showcase the region’s heritage, depicting scenes of local festivals, folk tales, and traditional customs.
Beyond its cultural significance, street art has become a powerful tool for promoting tourism and attracting visitors to Songkhla. Tourists and locals alike are drawn to the colorful murals and graffiti, making them popular photo spots and boosting foot traffic in previously overlooked areas. As street art gains popularity, it also fosters a sense of community pride and encourages residents to engage with public spaces in new ways.
Moreover, street art in Songkhla serves as a platform for local artists to showcase their talents and creativity. Many artists use street art as a means of self-expression, using the walls as a canvas to share their thoughts, emotions, and ideas with the world – making the province an open-air gallery that allows artists to share their work with a vast audience.
After experiencing the charms of Songkhla, venture further off-the-beaten-path into nearby provinces of southern Thailand. From well-preserved wetlands to idyllic islands and tranquil beaches, each destination promises a wholly unique experience.
Trang: Paradise awaits you on the island of Koh Kradan, nestled off the coast of Trang. Feel the soft sand between your toes and immerse yourself in the crystal-clear waters, where vibrant coral reefs welcome snorkelers and divers. Embrace the simplicity of this island retreat, where lush tropical foliage and gentle sea breezes create an escape from the world’s hustle and bustle.
Nakhon Si Thammarat: Journey to the shores of Khanom Beach, a hidden gem in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, where unspoiled beaches stretch for miles and serene turquoise waters invite you to unwind. Delight in the abundance of local attractions, from enjoying mouthwatering seafood feasts, to soaking in panoramic views at Mu Ko Thale Thai, to exploring the eccentric temple of Wat Chedi (Ai Kai), it’ll be a memorable extension of your trip.
Phatthalung: Venture into the wetlands of Phatthalung, where Thale Noi awaits. This vast freshwater lake serves as a sanctuary for a myriad of migratory birds and abundant wildlife. Embark on an early-morning boat excursion through lotus-covered waters, capturing breathtaking moments of nature’s splendor. Be engrossed by the harmony between wildlife and locals as you witness traditional fishing practices that have thrived for generations.
Songkhla is worth visiting for travelers seeking a blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and authentic experiences. This coastal gem in southern Thailand offers a refreshing escape from the bustling tourist hubs, presenting a more laid-back and authentic ambiance. The stunning Samila Beach, with its iconic mermaid statue, invites leisurely strolls along the waterfront and breathtaking sunsets. Exploring the historic Old Town, with its charming streets and well-preserved Sino-Portuguese architecture, provides a glimpse into its storied past.
Food enthusiasts will delight in the mouthwatering local dishes, including the famous Hat Yai Fried Chicken and delectable duck noodle soup. Additionally, the city’s vibrant Greenway Night Market offers a gastronomic adventure with an array of street food delights.
Whether it’s immersing in the local culture, relishing the culinary delights, or photographing its natural beauty, Songkhla offers a unique and enriching experience that is well worth a visit.
Songkhla is generally considered to be cheaper than Bangkok. As a smaller and less touristy city, Songkhla offers more budget-friendly accommodation and transportation options as well as dining choices compared to Bangkok.
Additionally, entrance fees to attractions and activities in Songkhla are usually lower too.
Songkhla is generally considered safe for tourists. However, like any other destination, it’s essential to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and theft can occur in crowded places, so it’s advisable to keep your belongings secure.
Additionally, always follow local laws and customs, and avoid engaging in any activities that may be considered disrespectful or illegal. By using common sense and being mindful of your surroundings, you can enjoy a safe and pleasant visit.
For a well-rounded experience, spending 2 to 3 days is what we generally recommend. This timeframe allows you to explore the city’s key attractions, such as Samila Beach, the Old Town, and the Greenway Night Market, while also providing time for relaxation.
In Hat Yai, the city’s vibrant and bustling atmosphere comes alive after dark, offering a range of entertainment options, including lively bars, nightclubs, and karaoke joints. The Greenway Night Market is a popular spot where you can indulge in delicious street food while enjoying live performances.
On the other hand, Old Town Songkhla has a more laid-back and relaxed ambiance, making it ideal for those seeking a quieter and tranquil evening.
Getting to Songkhla from Bangkok, offers various transportation options that suit different preferences and budgets.
Flights: The quickest and most convenient way to reach Songkhla is by taking a domestic flight from Bangkok to Hat Yai International Airport (HDY), which is the nearest airport to Songkhla. Several airlines operate daily flights between the two cities, providing a seamless journey.
Trains: If you prefer a more scenic route, you can take a train from Bangkok to Hat Yai Railway Station. Thai Railways offers multiple daily train services, including overnight sleeper trains, which allow you to enjoy the picturesque landscapes during your journey.
Buses: Another affordable option is traveling by bus. Numerous bus companies operate regular services from Bangkok to Songkhla, with various types of buses available, including VIP, express, and standard. The journey takes around 12-14 hours, depending on the type of bus and the traffic conditions.
Private Car: For those seeking a more personalized and flexible travel experience, renting a car or hiring a private driver is an option. The journey from Bangkok takes approximately 10-12 hours by car, and it allows you to explore the scenic countryside at your own pace.
Traveling to Songkhla from Malaysia is easily accessible, and there are several transportation options available to make the journey convenient and enjoyable.
By Car: If you prefer a road trip, you can drive from Malaysia to Songkhla. The most common border crossing is at the Sadao Immigration Checkpoint in Thailand, which is approximately 45 minutes from Songkhla. Ensure you have all necessary travel documents and adhere to immigration regulations when crossing the border.
By Bus: There are direct bus services from various cities in Malaysia to Songkhla. Buses depart from major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang and travel to Hat Yai, a bustling city within Songkhla.
By Train: Traveling by train is another option. You can take a train from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar Railway Station, which is located near the Thai-Malaysian border. From there, you can take a short taxi ride or local transport to the Sadao Immigration Checkpoint and then continue to Songkhla.
By Air: If you prefer a quicker and more convenient option, you can fly from Malaysia to Hat Yai International Airport (HDY). Several airlines operate regular flights from Kuala Lumpur and Penang to Hat Yai.
Traveling from Singapore to Songkhla is a convenient journey, and you have several transportation options to choose from:
By Air: The fastest and most convenient way to reach Songkhla from Singapore is by flying. You can take a direct flight from Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN) to Hat Yai International Airport (HDY), which is the nearest airport to Songkhla. Several airlines offer regular flights on this route, making it easy to plan your trip.
By Bus: If you prefer a more adventurous journey, you can take a bus from Singapore to Hat Yai, a city within Songkhla. Several bus companies operate services between Singapore and Hat Yai, and the journey usually takes around 10-12 hours, depending on traffic and border crossing time.
By Train: While there is no direct train service from Singapore to Songkhla, you can take a train from Singapore to Padang Besar Railway Station, which is located near the Thai-Malaysian border. From there, you can continue your journey to Songkhla by taking a short taxi ride or local transport.
By Car: For those who enjoy road trips, you can drive from Singapore to Songkhla. The route involves crossing the border from Singapore to Malaysia and then continuing through Malaysia to reach Songkhla in Thailand. Make sure to check immigration regulations and have all necessary travel documents for the border crossings.