I have been to Hatyai four times now but never once had I ever bothered taking a trip to its neighboring city of Songkhla. Yet, the irony is that Songkhla is the provincial capital and not Hatyai itself – and this is despite the latter having twice the population of Songkhla.
This time my Thai friends brought me to visit Songkhla for the first time and it turned out to be such a heaven, with a LOT lesser tourists than in Hatyai. Most importantly, it has more places of interest than I knew!
I ended up stopping by this relatively laid-back town again a few days later and staying there for three nights – bunking in a room for just 250 baht per night with a Korean, Dae Hee, before travelling to Phatthalung.
If you are not a fan of touristy places like me, then this is a place you may want to check out. Below I list down the 10 things to do when in Songkhla:
1. See the panoramic view of Songkhla atop ‘Khao Tang Kuan’
‘Tang Kuan’ means ‘monkey’ in Thai, therefore the hill is also popularly known as the Monkey Hill. Trek all the way to the hill top – or if you are lazy simply take a 45-degree elevator to the top for only 30 baht – and you will get a spectacular, panoramic view of the Songkhla city.
On the hill top sits the Dvaravati chedi tower said to house Lord Buddha’s relics. It was commissioned by and built during the reign of King Rama V.
2. Touch the golden mermaid statue
The golden mermaid statue is situated at the Samila beach, about fifteen minutes away by foot from the foot of Khao Tang Kuan.
My friend Pom said if I touched its breasts, I would have a Songkhla girlfriend. Not telling if I did touch them. ;)
3. Check out the Naga/Dragon head statue
Situated at the Songkhla Municipal Song Thale Park, what is interesting about this statue is that it has its head, body, and tail scattered across three different areas!
If in Singapore there is Merlion, this ‘very long’ Naga that spills water into the sea it is facing is definitely Songkhla’s version of Merlion.
4. Get buried in the sea of sunflowers
The sunflower field is situated along the way to the site of the Naga head statue.
5. See 30-meter long reclining Buddha statue
This statue must not be confused with the 35-meter long reclining or sleeping Buddha statue situated at Wat Hat Yai Nai in Hatyai.
This one is situated at Wat Phranon Laem Pho on the Ko Yo island and accessible by car.
6. Visit Songkhla’s City Pillar a.k.a. old town
The dwellings, and in particular old shophouses along the Nang Ngam Road (also along Nakhon Nai and Nakhon Nok Roads) are certainly one of a kind and have a traditional Chinese vibe. This old town features a slew of cafés and restaurants with interesting concepts.
This area was just so good I visited it for three days in a row!
7. Strike a pose in front of the new mural art in old town
I was blessed to have come across this mural, which has since gone viral and attracted many locals, just three days after it was painted.
It was spectacular.
8. Get a taste of Ong Ice Cream at Nang Ngam Road
What is really special about this famous ice cream shop, which is regularly thronged by many local customers, is that its ice cream is topped with raw egg yolk.
The stall is situated somewhere in the middle of one of the rows of shophouses along the Nang Ngam Road. I personally prefer the other less famous stall at the corner, and the photo below is how their version of the ice cream looks like: it comes with raw egg yolk, sea coconut bits, banana slices, and Milo powder.
9. Chillax at Blue Smile Coffee
Again this cozy little café is situated along the Nang Ngam Road. This is definitely not an advertorial, but the Blue Smile Coffee was so good and the people so friendly I feel it is worth a mention. Thanks to my friend Yha for recommending it.
Just grab a cup of coffee and some snacks and proceed to the rooftop of this three-storey, corner shophouse to enjoy the panoramic view of the old town by the seaside.
10. Experience Songkhla Tae Raek night market
Open on Fridays and Saturdays only, this night market can be found within the vicinity of the Songkhla National Museum or along the Chana Road.
One can find a variety of foods and drinks, as well as clothes and souvenirs, and even enjoy good street performances at the market. It is a great place to stroll around with your partner.