Songkhla’s name derives from Singora in Pattani Malay( lion city). Songkhla is a town with a touch of Georgetown, the potential of Hoi An and also similarities to Phuket old town. But it also has its own unique, distinctive character. In my opinion, this is the most charming city of all the cities in the South. The historic old town with Sino – Portuguese shophouse heritage is located by the largest lake of Thailand – literally the only natural freshwater lake in the country.
Songkhla was once an important harbour for foreign trade with India, China and the European powers. Study more about the city’s importance for business historically in the colourful Songkhla National museum(once a Chinese palace). The history is very well documented in the exhibitions
This city has proximity to the sea with the white, casuarina pine grove covered Samila beach fading into the Bay of Thailand. The mermaid on the beach is the city symbol of Songkhla.
The restoration from the heritage fund
The Songkhla heritage fund did great work to restore former merchants homes into museums, restaurants and coffee shops opened up, and the instagramable street art murals are hugely popular. The good idea is to stroll around in the old town during the early morning hours when the light is favourable for taking pictures of the shophouses and murals. When the heat makes its presence known, continue to a lovely café by the lake and visit the museums. The traffic tends to be busy during the day also, so activating the early bird in yourself will be beneficial.
My hotel in Songkhla
The Club Tree hotel where I stayed was a clean “but nothing special hotel”, with a good location close to the lake view heritage area.
The good part was that opposite the hotel, there was a great morning food market with multiple choices of southern curries on rice (30-40 baht). I never paid for breakfast in the hotel, which was dull anyway. Breakfast in the morning market, watching the monks do their alms, and then returning to the hotel for free coffee(machine) and borrowing a bike for exploring.
I went pretty far with the bike, riding to Thailands longest concrete bridge, the Tinsulanond Bridge that connects to the southern coast of Koh Yo Island in Songkhla lake. I passed through Muslim and Buddhist villages on the island and finally took the local ferry back to the town.
It is also lovely to take the lift up to the Tang Kan Hill lift. You will get a great panoramic view from there.
You can easily spend a weekend just enjoying downtown Songkhla, but there is more to do. For instance, you can explore old fortresses in the mountains, and from Songkhla, you are very close to Phattalung province with the Tale Noi bird sanctuary and just a 45 – 1 hour ride to bustling Had Yai.
Getting there from Chiang Mai
I flew in with a direct flight with Air Asia from Chiang Mai to Hat Yai, and then from there, I got a taxi to Songkhla. Songkhla is the province’s capital with the same name, and you should check your embassy’s travel advice for the region. Some embassies still advise not to go here due to events in the past. I visited in September 2020. The place was pretty much deserted due to Covid -19 travel restrictions. But my assumption at the time was that Songkhla was a very welcoming and friendly place.
Let’s round up with a few favourite eateries.
- Singapore Ice Cream – Delicious ice cream with sticky red rice in coconut milk. Cute shop and friendly owners.
- Makan – for the Nasi Lemak.
- Bo Yang – Your perfect noodle lunch.
- Tae Hiang New – When you are craving Chinese food.
I can’t wait to go to Songkhla again!!