Lying some 950 kilometers south of Bangkok, Songkhla, with a population of about 1.36 million, is a major seaside city, connecting with Kedah State of Malaysia. It has emerged as the economic center of the lower southern region and it is worth a visit in all seasons.
Hat Yai district of Songkhla is the best-known business center in the southern region of Thailand. It plays an important role in the southern economy and serves as the junction of communication and a gateway welcoming Malaysian and Singaporean tourists. Recognized as a popular shopping venue, Hat Yai offers numerous kinds of local and imported products at low prices. Tourists visiting Hat Yai are found to spend most on shopping, followed by entertainment, accommodation, and food and beverage.
Songkhla is set to become a rubber city, serving as a rubber-processing industrial estate for the development of Thai-Malaysian border. The issue was raised for discussion at the ASEAN Rubber Seminar, hosted by Thailand in Phuket province on 10-11 April 2013. The rubber city will be established at the border area adjacent to the Prakop border checkpoint in Na Thawi district, which is seen as the most suitable site by both countries.
Songkhla was chosen because the province has many large rubber planting areas, and the largest rubber trading center in the South is located in Hat Yai. Another reason is that rubber research in Hat Yai meets international standards, so the development of this product can be handled on a full-cycle basis there. The province has very good potential for development as a production and marketing base to supply Thai rubber to the world market, as well.
Songkhla Lake, known in Thai as Thale Sap Songkhla, is a major food source for local people and the largest inland body of water in Thailand. It covers about 260,000 acres, with shores on three provinces, namely Songkhla, Phatthalung, and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Around 168 villages, with at least 10,000 fishermen, are located in this area, which produces 1,400 tons of fishery resources a year as part of the country’s food supply. Among numerous routes in southern Thailand, none is comparable to the route around Songkhla Lake, where the scenery of both the Gulf of Thailand and this inland body of water can be seen at the same time.
Because of its beautiful scenery, Songkhla Lake has become a tourist attraction and is recognized as the largest lake in Southeast Asia. Although the lake has several islands, Ko Yo is the most famous one and most attractive to visitors. It is an old fishing community rich in fruit crops. Ko Yo fabric has made a name for Songkhla because of its unique designs, and although Ko Yo is surrounded by water, it is accessible by crossing Tinsulanonda Bridge. Attractions on the island include orchards, the weaving of the Ko Yo fabric, and old monasteries.
A document recorded by a French engineer who came to Thailand to make a map in 1687, during the Ayutthaya period, indicated that pepper was grown in abundance in Ko Yo. During the early Rattanakosin or Bangkok period, this island was known as a major source of pottery; clay from Songkhla Lake was used to make fine pottery here.
Hat Samila, Laem Samila, and Laem Son On are among major tourist attractions in this province. Many visitors enjoy taking photographs with the bronze mermaid on the rock at Hat Samila as a souvenir. Two famous islands here are Ko Nu and Ko Maeo, which are suitable for fishing. Songkhla Zoo is the first zoo in southern Thailand and the hornbill and the tapir are among the rare species in this zoo, which has adopted artificial breeding techniques to help increase the number of both hornbills and tapirs. It is set to become a complete recreational center, providing both education and fun to all family members. The exhibit that attracts visitors to Songkhla Zoo most is the show of the tigers’ talent and ability.
In the town of Songkhla, visitors may stop to have delicious dishes and buy some food to take along with them. Among famous indigenous food here are Hat Yai fried chicken with sticky rice and spicy seaweed salad.