Songkhla | Thailands own Lion City

The great city between two seas

National museum Songkhla
National museum

Deriving from the word Singora in Pattani Malay( lion city) this town has a touch of Georgetown, the potential of Hoi An, similarities to Phuket old town, but also a distinctive own character. In my opinion the most charming city of all the towns in the South. The historical old town with Sino – Portuguese shophouse heritage is located by the largest lake of Thailand – literally the only natural freshwater lake in the country.

Sino Portugise shophouse
Sino – Portugise heritage in the old town

Once an important harbour for foreign trade with India, China and European powers of its time, that importance is well documented in the colorful Songkhla National museum(once a Chinese palace), you also have the 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.

Mermaid of Songkhla
Not only in Denmark..

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. A 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 then start visiting the museums. The traffic tends to be busy during the day also so activating the early bird in yourself will be beneficial.

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 fantastic morning food market with multiple choices of southern curries on rice (30-40 baht). I never paid for breakfast in the hotel, which was a bit 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.

Morning alms

I went quite far with that bike. Rode 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 taking the local ferry back.

Leaving the island

It is also nice to take the lift up to the Tang Kan Hill lift. You will get a great panoramic view from there.

Panorama of Songkhla
Yes, there are beaches.

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.

I flew in with a direct flight with Air Asia from Chiang Mai to Had Yai and then from there, I got a taxi to Songkhla. Songkhla is the capital of the province 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.

Eating Malay Nasi – “Lemak and enjoying the famous coconut ice cream.

I can’t wait to go there again!!

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.
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