Most people visit Southern Thailand for the beaches. But what about the cities? Which are the best cities in Southern Thailand. I thought about this topic for a while and came up with the following list. It is pretty much based on the idea of food, friendliness and heritage that creates and atmosphere for exploring and walking. Simply nice towns and cities.
Songkhla is often called the pearl or the jewel of the South. As a tourist destination it is already popular with Singaporeans and Malaysians that fly in to Had Yai and transfer to Thailands own Lion City. The town in the deep south is off the beaten route for most western visitors yet because many western countries still have a travel advisory not to go there.
Songkhla has its own Heritage foundation that has restored the Sino-Portugise houses in downtown. It is so lovely to stroll around these buildings and the street art that comes with the area in the early morning. It is packed with restaurants, cafes and galleries.
Some of the eateries are even facing the Songkhla lake. Outside the old town you can access great view points, you can visit small temples and local markets with very inexpensive local food, and then there is the sea. Moreover, there is a beautiful national museum and ruins of old fortresses in the mountains from the days when this city was on the trade route for Indians/Europeans and Chinese.
Here you have a town that is reminiscent of Georgetown and a bit of Hoi An. However, of course most of all Songkhla has its own identity. A tourist attraction in Thailand waiting to happen. A tale between two seas packed with outstanding food and historical heritage. Read more here.
Phuket City is often referred to as Phuket Town. The administration has come a long way here to restore and upgrade the old Sino – Portugise shophouses and the old proud bank buildings. Phuket old town is very walkable and every night the buildings are illuminated. There are old Chinese shrines hiding in the alleys, amulet markets and top class diners both local and international. Remember that Phuket City caters not only to tourist but also to the people that built their riches from tin and tourism. So some of the best restaurants are not located in the actual heritage area.
Phuket town also has this street art route that you can follow. From Phuket town you are just a stone throw away from some of the worlds best beaches but while you are in Phuket town they feel like they are quite far away. Read about a walk in Phuket town here, and about the food scene here.
Not to forget, the oldest resort town in Thailand. A jet set holiday area since the early 1920s. Hua Hin grew from a fishing village to wide stretched city following Petchkaserm road Southwards. Popular among Scandinavians and Bangkokians there is no lack of world class resorts, food and golf. Walking the beach is a pleasant experience. There are also historical sightseeing spots like the old train station with the Royal Pavilion and a visit to the former Railway hotel, nowadays Centara, for a high afternoon tea and memorable moment in the garden is a must. From Hua Hin it is easy to access some wonderful national parks like Sam Rai Yod or Kaeng Krachan.Read more about Hua Hin here.
“Another” from mining to rubber success town. As of the tourist part, not so much yet. You will have to settle for smaller hotels and hostels or some gigantic two to three star city hotel complexes. Trang is Songkhla and Phuket town light when it comes to Sino-Portugise architecture. And definitely more quiet. But it is a shining star when it comes to local food. Nightmarkets for sure. However, try waking up early and join in for roasted pork, dim sums and patong go dough sticks. Read more about Trang here.
How can you not like a city whose name translates as “The city of the friendly people”. Surat Thani has a historical heritage dating back to the days of the Srivijaya the trading kingdom of Java and some impressive buddhist monuments. But the obvious highlights are a boat trip along the canal system of the Tapi river and the extraordinary food market every night. So before you head to the islands. You should give Surat Thani a day or two of your time. Read more about Surat Thani here.