Songkhla is a small coastal village, located about 900 kilometres (575 miles) south of Bangkok. It is the gateway to the deep south of Thailand and the closest land border is that of Malaysian. Here you'll find two beaches suitable for swimming and sunbathing. The most popular one is palm-fringed Samila Beach.
Set in a beautiful Chinese Mansion is the National Museum. It's where you'll find ceramics as well as relics recovered from an ancient shipwreck in the Gulf of Thailand. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm. In contrast, there is also a 400 year old dusty museum called Wat Matchimawat.
Nearby is the Khu Khut Waterfowl Park, a beautiful sanctuary containing about 140 bird species. Though I'm not particularly interested in birds of the feathered kind, enthusiastic bird watchers could find something awesome about the place.
Songkhla Lake is the largest natural lake in Thailand. It was formed from several deep ocean inlets. The southern most part is formed from a 380 metre wide opening coming directly from the Gulf of Thailand and has the salinity of about half of that of the ocean. Most of the water here is tan-colored and rather brackish. There are also several small islands scattered about the region.
The water becomes less salty and takes on a much fresher greener colour at the Thale Luang which is situated further north beyond a six kilometre bottleneck. At the northern most end is the Thale Noi settled between a mangrove swamp.
The most striking feature is the 75 kilometre long Sandspit or just spit which separates the lake from the sea. Unlike most spits, it was probably formed when originally existing islands became interconnected by the silting from the lake precursor.
The commercial capital of the deep south is a town called Hat Yai. It's a brash modern town, has clean air, an excellent road and rail system, but unfortunately lacks any real charm. The town is frequented by mostly sybaritic Malaysian men who pour over the border to enjoy the illicit pleasures that are denied in their home country. Shame on you guys.
The nightclubs, massage parlours and escort agencies are huge magnets for men while women and families come for the shopping markets and restaurants. For a more cultural interest, why not go and see the third largest Buddha in Thailand. You will find this big Buddha at Wat Hat Yai Nai in the middle of the town.
On a Sunday, go to one of the bullfighting arenas to watch an alternative form of entertainment. Yeah! Thai-style bullfighting. This is where the bulls pit one against the other while face to face. The fights last until one of the bulls are bullied to the edge of the arena or the bull simply runs away. Not quite the same atmosphere as that of a Spanish-style-corrida with matadors and picadors, but at least in this case, the bulls get to live longer.
Pattani is a fishing town situated in the deep south of
Thailand. It is also home to a mostly Muslim community. A few kilometres
from town you'll find the 400 year old Kreuse Mosque originally built by the Chinese settler To Khieng.
Legend says that the structure was never fully completed because Lim Ko Niaw, the sister of To Khieng, sailed to Thailand from China to plead with her brother to renounce Islam and to return to their ancestral home. The brother refused the offer. Lim Ko Niaw placed a curse on the mosque, saying it would never be finished. She then hanged herself from a nearby cashew-nut tree.
Today the mosque remains in its original state by the faithful few. No attempt to complete her have been undertaken as the local Muslims believe that lightning will strike anyone who dare try. Today an annual festival is held during the third lunar month in recognition of her esteem honour.
Pattani Central Mosque as seen in the photos, is located on the outskirts of Pattani and approximately 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Songkhla. It is the largest and most beautiful mosque in Thailand and a must see for visitors to the town. It's where Thai Muslim communities hold their religious ceremonies.
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