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Phatthalung

Phatthalung is an ancient city in southern Thailand. It is a land of mountains. In town is Khao Ok Thalu, which is clearly visible from afar. Phatthalung is regarded as the birthplace of the shadow play and the Nora dance. From ancient times to the present, Phatthalung has been closely linked to Songkhla Province, particularly in terms of geography, history and migratory settlements through many ages. During the Srivijaya period (13 th -14 th Buddhist century), the Phatthalung community received Indian cultural influence in the way of Mahayana Buddhism.

In the reign of King Ramathibodi I (U Thong) of Ayutthaya, Phatthalung became one of twelve royal cities. Later, during the reign of King Rama I in the Rattanakosin period, the king had the Ministry of Defense oversee Phatthalung, upgraded it to secondary city status and moved it to the mouth of Pam River.

When there was an administration reform in the reign of King Rama V, Phatthalung prefecture came under Nakhon Si Thammarat prefecture until 1924, when King Rama VI relocated the city to Tambon Khuha Sawan, where it has been ever since. Upon the abolition of the prefecture system in 1933, Phatthalung became a province outright. Phatthalung city is situated on the west bank of Songkhla Lake, about 846 kilometres from Bangkok. It has an area of 3,424.473 square kilometers.

Attractions

Phatthalung lies between 2 mountain peaks, Khao Ok Talu (Punctured Chest Mountain) to the northeast and Khao Hua Taek (Cracked Skull Mountain) to the northwest. Local legend says these 2 mountains, the 'mistress' and 'wife', fought over the male Khao Muang (City Mountain), with both incurring injuries. The 250-m Khao Ok Talu has a naturally formed tunnel near its peak, the 'punctured chest', while Khao Hua Taek has a dented peak (cracked skull).

Located on Khao Hua Taek, the Ayutthaya-style Wat Tham (cave) Kuha Sawan became the province's first royal temple and contains many Buddhist grottoes. Numerous statues of monks and Buddha images are housed inside the lower cave, while the upper cave has a great view of Khao Ok Talu and the surrounding areas. The front of the cave contains inscriptions written by various members of the royal family.

Phra Phut Nirokuntarai Chaiyawat Chaturathit, or commonly known as 'Phra Si Muem Muang', is the holiest Buddha image in Southern Thailand and the principal image associated with Phatthalung. The gold-cast image is housed in the Chaturamuk Pavilion, in the foreground area between the provincial hall and the provincial court. 

Contrary to its name, Thale Noi (Small Lake) Waterfowl Park is the largest wetland bird reserve in Thailand that serves as a resting and feeding ground, for thousands of exotic migratory birds flying from China and Siberia to Sumatra and Australia.

Though it has a swamp-like appearance, it is actually a freshwater lake with a maximum depth of 1.5 meters. The best way to explore the 30 sq km park is by long-tailed boats, though a viewing platform in the middle of the lake is ideal for bird-watching, especially at dawn. The 150 plus migratory bird species visit the park during the months of January and April, swelling the population to as high as 100,000. The population starts to shrink in May and only a small number of native species are left from October to December.

The restored Governor's Palace occupies a peaceful site in the small fishing community of Lam Pam, slightly east of the city. Built in 1889, the palace is comprised of 2 individual buildings. Closer to the road, the outer teak building served as the living quarters for the governor's family. The main building is built around a courtyard with a large tree and is situated by the river. 

City Attractions

Wat Tham Khuha Sawan is at the foot of Khao Khuha Sawan near Phatthalung market. A left-hand road at Khao Hua Taek takes visitors to the temple. The temple was built in the Ayutthaya period and was later upgraded to be the first royal temple in the province. Inside the cave is a large reclining Buddha image and another in a sitting posture. The cave walls and entrance are full of the initials of many kings and royal family members. 

Phra Phutthanirokhantarai Chaiwat Chaturathit, or as it is called, "Phra Si Mum Mueang" is a Buddha image of southern Thailand, and is a sacred relic of Phatthalung. It is housed in a square pavilion in an area between the provincial hall and the provincial court. This bronze image, in the meditation posture, was given to the province by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1968.

Khao Ok Thalu can be accessed from Wat Khuha Sawan by taking Highway No. 4047. Khao Ok Thalu rises majestically east of the train station. This mountain is a symbol of the province. It is about 250 metres high. Stairs lead up to the summit where visitors can get a panoramic view of the province. The name of the mountain derives from a hole near the top that allows people to see through it. 

Wat Wang is in Tambon Lam Pam, 6 kilometres from the city on Highway No. 4047 (on the same route as Khao Ok Thalu). This is an important historical site of the province. It was built by Phraya Phatthalung (Thongkhao) in the reign of King Rama III, and was once the place where government officials performed allegiance pledges in the early Rattanakosin period. Inside the convocation hall are murals of dusted paint, in the time of King Rama IV, about the biography of Lord Buddha and about angels. The main plaster Buddha image is from the same period. A total of 108 images line the balcony around the building.

Phatthalung Governor's Residence is at Tambon Lam Pam, near Wat Wang. Originally a government place and the home of the city lord, the part called Wang Kao (old palace), are three adjoining Thai houses, built in the time of Phraya Phatthalung when he was the provincial governor. The palace later became the property of Mrs. Praphai Mutamara, the daughter of Luang Si Worachat. The new palace, or Wang Mai, was built in 1889 by Phraya Aphaiborirakchakrawichitphiphitphakdi (Net Chantharotchanawong), the son of Phraya Phatthalung, then the provincial governor. The Chantharotchanawong family has given this palace to the country. The Fine Arts Department declared it a national historical site in 1983.

Phraya Thukrat monument is at Tha Miram intersection in Phatthalung municipality. Records show that Phraya Thukrat was a monk named Phra Maha Chuai who resided at Wat Pa Lilai during the reign of King Rama I. When the Nine Armies War took place, Phra Maha Chuai rallied villagers to help Phraya Phatthalung defeat Burmese forces. When he left the monkhood, he was appointed by the king to be Phraya Thukrat to help the city lord. His title of Phraya was of the same level as the city lord. 

Hat Saen Suk Lam Pam is about 2 kilometres past Wat Wang on Highway No. 4047. This shady pine-fringed beach on the bank of Songkhla Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Thailand. In the middle of the rotary is a sculpture of a school of Lam Pam fish native to the area. A water pavilion named Sala Lam Pam Thi Rak is ideal for viewing the scenery. A bridge spans the beach and an islet created by sediment from the river. In Lam Pam Lake are dolphins, which can be seen frequently.

Handicrafts village is Ban Khok Wua, Tambon Chai Buri, Amphoe Mueang. The village is about 6 kilometres from the city on the road from Sai Yuan intersection. The village is famous for making products from coconut shells, now called the Million Baht Coconut Shell Village. The community leader, Mr. Plum Chukhong, pioneered the idea of getting villagers to make products from coconut shells that can be found locally. Products include kitchenware, household items and decorations. Eventually over 100 households began such an industry and later received support from the Industrial Promotion Department. Popular items are spoons, coffee cups, mugs, ladles, plates, bowls, lamps, and other decorations sold domestically and to 16 countries worldwide. Visitors interested in seeing demonstrations and buying products can contact Mr. Plum Chukhong, No. 42, Mu 1, Ban Khok Wua, Tambon Chai Buri, tel: 0-1465-5751. 

Khuan Khanun

Thale Noi Waterfowl Reserve is the largest waterfowl reserve in Thailand. It can be reached via Highway No. 4048 from Amphoe Muang to Amphoe Khuan Khanun and to Thale Noi, for a total distance of 32 kilometres. The road is paved asphalt all the way. The reserve is the responsibility of the Royal Forestry Department and covers 450 square kilometres, divided into 422 square kilometres of land (94%) and 28 square kilometres of water (6%), or Thale Noi.

The sea is 5 kilometres wide and 6 kilometres long with an average depth of 1.2 metres. The sea is covered with assorted flora such as lotus, bulrush, reed, and grass used for thatching. More than 187 species of waterfowls, migratory and indigenous birds make their home at Thale Noi. Some live here throughout the year and some migrate only in winter from October to March when the population density is at its highest. The low season is June-September which is the nesting period. Species that are prevalent here are those of the heron and stork family such as yellow bittern, great egret, painted stork, red stork; ducks such as lesser whistling duck, cotton pygmy goose, and garganey; grebe; rails such as white-browed crake, white-breasted waterhen, watercock, common moorhen, and Eurasian coot; jacanas such as pheasant-tailed jacana and bronze-winged jacana; cormorants such as great cormorant and little cormorant; black-winged stilt; Brahminy kite; red-wattled lapwing; whiskered tern; common kingfisher; and barn swallow. The best time to study flora and fauna is during October-March when there is an abundance of birds and pink lotus in full bloom cover the reserve. Moreover, tourists can visit villages and see cottage industries like reed mat making. 

Thale Noi has been named the first world ramsar site (wetland site) in Thailand. This aims to preserve the sustainable ecology of the area, one that is being developed into one of the country's most important nature study centres. As such, there is careful control of eco-tourism in Thale Noi in order to minimize impact on the environment.

Tourists can take boats from Thale Noi pier and go on two routes; the first one for tourists with services by the Thale Noi community and the second for academics and nature study by requesting permission and guides from a reserve official. The reserve has comfortable accommodation. For more information, please contact the Royal Forestry Department in Bangkok, tel: 0- 2579-7223, 0-2579-5734, and Thale Noi Non-hunting Area, tel: 0- 7468-5230.

Travel to Thale Noi is easy by boat and car. Access can be made from seaside districts like Ranot, Sathing Phra and Muang of Songkhla, and Pak Phayun, Khuan Khanun and Mueang of Phatthalung. Visitors by train can alight at Pak Khlong station and continue by car to Thale Noi for 8 kilometres.Tourist Advice on a Nature Study of Thale Noi Waterfowls.

Obtain information from and make accommodation reservation at the park 30 days prior to the visit, tel: (074) 615722, 685230. Thale Noi Non-hunting Area is in Tambon Thale Noi, Amphoe Khuan Khanun, Phatthalung 93150. 

Tourists studying migratory birds and water flora should know the best time to see them:

  • The boat tour to study waterfowls provided by the Thale Noi community goes along a fixed route and takes 1 hour. The fee is 200 baht for 8 persons.
  • Researchers and nature watchers interested in studying birds must obtain permission from the park directly, and must strictly follow the advice of park officials.    
  • Embark boats with caution and try to disperse the weight of passengers evenly through the boat. Passengers should not stick arms and feet outside the boat while it is cruising or disturb the boat's balance.    
  • Visitors should not make loud noises during the tour or pick flowers and plants along the way.    
  • Visitors should wear attire that is in tune with nature and bird watching equipment, and should wear a life vest in the boat.    
  • Do not eat or drink during the tour and dispose of garbage in bins in the park.

Khao Chaison

Wat Khian Bang Kaeo is on Highway No. 4081, 7 kilometres past Khao Chaison district office, in the area of Ban Bang Kaeo at Km. 14. A left-hand road leads to the temple. Wat Khian is situated on the bank of Songkhla Lake. This old monastery has the sacred Phra That Bang Kaeo, built in the same style as Phra Maha That Chedi in Nakhon Si Thammarat but smaller. This is one of the oldest historical sites of Phatthalung, dating back to the early Ayutthaya period. It is believed that the temple area was once the site of Phatthalung town because many laterite ruins and Buddha images have been found here.

Hot Spring, in Wat Bo Nam Ron, can be reached by driving south from the province on Highway No. 4 for 25 kilometres to Km. 47 (Ban Tha Nang Phrom), then turn left onto Highway No. 4081 to Amphoe Khao Chaison for 7 kilometres. At Sukhaphiban Road, Soi 2 next to the district office is an asphalt road on the right-hand side. Take that road for 1 kilometre to Khao Chaison cliff. The area is a recreation site. About 300 metres further is Wat Bo Nam Ron. The hot spring is believed to be holy in that spring water can cure a few ailments.

Laem Chong Thanon is at Tambon Chong Thanon. To get there from Amphoe Mueang, drive along Phetchakasem Road and turn left past Khao Chaison for 12 kilometres. The total distance is about 39 kilometres. Laem Chong Thanon is a fisherman's village on a dirt hill that slopes down to Songkhla Lake that has saline water. The village has a good view of islands and the surrounding area. 

Pak Phayun

Ko Si and Ko Ha, in Songkhla Lake, can be reached by leaving from Tambon Lam Pam pier (25 kilometres) or Pak Phayun pier (10 kilometres). The travelling time is about 1 hour. The islands are home of flocks of sea swallows, so many that they are called Ko Rang Nok (bird's nest island). Concessions are given out for the collection of the nests for sale. The natural beauty of the islands is one of the finest in Phatthalung. King Rama V once visited here and left his initials on a cliff. Nearby is a monument of him. As Ko Si and Ko Ha are concession areas of the private sector, permission must first be obtained in Pak Phayun district. 

Kong Ra
Phraiwan Waterfall  is in Ban Phut Forest Protection Unit in Khao Banthat Wildlife Reserve, Tambon Khlong Chaloem. To get there, go from Khlong Muai by the Tambon Lam Sin-Ban Kong Ra road (Highway No. 4122) for about 20 kilometres. The waterfall entrance is to the west about 3 kilometres away. This is a large waterfall with serene natural surroundings that are rich in tropical flora. A parking area and a restaurant are available.

Tamot

Namtok Tamot or Namtok Mom Chui is 12 kilometres from the district office. Take Highway No. 4121 and Highway No. 4137 (south of Phatthalung city) from Highway No. 4 all the way to Wat Tamot. The waterfall is located in Tamot Wildlife Protection Unit, about 4-5 kilometres past the temple. The waterfall is in the middle of a lush forest. The waterfall falls down several levels that have different names to a pool below. A wide rock plateau is suitable for relaxation.

Si BanphotKhao Pu - Khao Ya National Park is in Ban Nai Wang, Tambon Khao Pu, about 37 kilometres from the city. Take Highway No. 41 to Amphoe Khuan Khanun, then turn left onto Highway No. 4164 to Amphoe Si Banphot. Drive for 17 kilometres, and then turn left for 4 kilometres to the park headquarters. The area is still a dense jungle. Flora here includes hardwood trees and animals are rhinoceros, tapir, monkey, and birds. The total area is 694 square kilometres. The park has the following places of interest:

  • Tham Matcha Pla Won is a cave near the park headquarters. Inside the cave are beautiful curtain-like stalactites and stalagmites. A pond of 400 square metres is full of fish. This pond was formed from water that flows through Khao Nai Wang. The cave entrance is black rock and covered with shady trees.
  • Namtok Riang Thong is around 3 kilometres from Talat Khao Pu community. The source originates from the Banthat and Nakhon Si Thammarat mountain ranges. The waterfall is called the Hundred-level Waterfall. The loveliest level is the 13 th level where visitors can see Thale Noi and Khao Pu-Khao Ya.  
  •  Pha Phung Viewpoint  is about 250 metres from the park headquarters. The outstanding feature of the cliff is that during February-April of every year, bees will make hives here numbering in the hundreds. When the rainy season comes, the bees will abandon the hives. The observation point gives a good view of the park and its flora.

Nature trails are near the park headquarters. There are 2 trails that are ideal for studying flora.
Moreover, in the area of the headquarters is a tourist service centre that is a small exhibition place for publicizing useful information for tourists. The park has set up a good exhibition of pictures with captions, plus a park official to help explain and answer questions. A meeting room is available for conferences and seminars. It can hold up to 30 people. In addition, there are about 50 tent sites around the park.

For information on overnighting, please contact the park headquarters at Mu 9, Tambon Khao Pu, Amphoe Si Banphot, tel: 0-7461-9654. 

Bang Kaeo

Shadow Play Handicrafts Village is at Mu 1, Ban Bang Kaeo, Tambon Tha Madua. It is about 9 kilometres from the Phetchakasem-railway intersection and 200 metres from the railway to the centre. The total distance from Phatthalung city to the village is about 36 kilometres. The village has 25 members, all of whom make shadow play figures from hides in various styles made to order. The work is delicate and beautiful. The products are sold nationwide and exported to about 16 countries. For persons interested in seeing and buying shadow play products, please contact Mr. Im Chanchum, the centre's president, or the Amphoe Bang Kaeo Community Development Office at tel: 0-7469 -7380.

Khlong Hu Rae is in Tambon Tha Madua, approximately 33 kilometres from Phatthalung city. Take the Phetchakasem Road for about 20 kilometres, turn left onto Khao Chaison-Chong Ke road (Highway No. 4081) and turn right at the Khao Chaison district office onto a laterite road for around 5 kilometres to the site. There are hired motorcycles in front of the office. Khlong Hu Rae is a wide canal with clear water. The canal bed is sandy, with rocks in the deeper parts. The canal is ideal for rest and swimming. Food stalls and restaurants provide good food for tourists. 

King Amphoe Srinagarindra

Tham Sumano is at Tambon Ban Na, about 21 kilometres from Phatthalung city on the Phatthalung-Trang road (Phetchakasem Highway No. 4). The cave is about 500 metres from the road. The cave features stalagmites and stalactites, as well as a huge hall that is a natural work of art. The cave has two levels; the first is on level ground whereas the second is underground. The cave houses many Buddha images in different postures. Apart from its natural tranquility, the cave is noteworthy as a famous place for meditation. 

Khao Banthat Wildlife Reserve is at Tambon Ban Na, 27 kilometres from Phatthalung city on Highway No. 4. The park has an area of 167 square kilometres, covering Trang, Songkhla and Satun. The topography is mountainous. It is a watershed of several rivers and the home to many valuable plants. 

Festival

Thale Noi Bird Watching Festival was first held in 1998 as a special activity to mark the Amazing Thailand project, and promote the most important tourist destination of Phatthalung. The festival consists of eco-tourism activities lasting 1 month (14 February-15 March) when there are plenty of birds and Thale Noi is at its most beautiful. The festival takes place in the Thale Noi Non-hunting area. Daily activities include boating on long-tailed boats to observe flora and fauna, local performances, agricultural produce for sale, demonstrations of native life, and an assortment of local products for sale.

Phon Beating Festival is the most important festival of the province. This popular Buddhist tradition is held at the end of the Buddhist Lent when people have a Buddha image procession by land or water. Phatthalung normally has a land procession accompanied by drums to give the procession a good rhythm. When a procession from one temple passes another temple, the procession participants will challenge the temple people to come out and see who can beat the drums to give the best rhythm. This tradition has evolved to become a grand festival of Phatthalung. It is held every October. Processions will go take Buddha images throughout Phatthalung city. The festival is held at Phatthalung Provincial Stadium and Saen Suk Lam Pam beach in Amphoe Muang. Activities of the festival include drum competitions of temples in the province, dramatic arts, boat procession contest, folk plays, religious ceremonies, water sports on Lam Pam Lake such as boat races and water boxing, exhibitions, and arts and culture demonstrations of Phatthalung and nearby provinces like reed mat making and coconut shell products. 

Hotels and accommodation

  • Dina Inn : Chai Buri Road, Chong Ko Intersection Amphoe Muang [0 7461 1029.] : 350 baht
  • Ho Fa Hotel : 28/30 Khuha Sawan Road, Amphoe Muang [0 7461 1920-2] : 160-280 baht
  • Lam Pam Resort : 88 Mu 6, Aphai Borirak Road, Tambon Lam Pam, Amphoe Muang. [0 7461 1486] : 300-1,600 baht
  • Thai Hotel : 14-14/1-5 Ditsara-Sakhrin Road, Amphoe Muang [0 7461 1636, 0 7461 1797-8] : 150-360 baht 

Restaurants 

  • Chao Sua : Phadung Don Yo Road Tel: 0-7462-7500
  • Christan Café : Phadung Don Yo Road Tel: 0-7461-1886
  • Fa Si Rung : Phatthana Road, Tamnan Intersection Tel: 0- 7462-7390
  • Hong Thong Restaurant : Pracha Bamrung Road (banquet only) Tel: 0- 7461-3128
  • Im Yok : 393 Ramet Road Tel: 0-7461-3393
  • Isan 21 : Phadung Doi Road
  • Khu Hu : 9/10 Pracha Bamrung Road Tel: 0-7461-1938 
  • Khuan Maphrao : 5 Mu 9, Tambon Khuan Maphrao Tel: 0-7461- 2895
  • Khun Ta Restaurant : Ramet Road Tel: 0-7461-1468
  • Nai Nang : Phetchakasem Road Tel: 0-7461-1790
  • Phak Phuak : 283 Phadung Don Yo Road Tel: 0-7461-3719
  • Suan Ahan Suan Phai : Asia Road Tel: 0-7461-2930
  • Wine and Coffee : Phadung Don Yo Road Tel: 0-7462-7503 

How to get there

* By car 
From Bangkok, there are 3 ways.
- The first is via the Phetchakasem National Highway No. 4 to Chumphon (Phathom Phon junction) into Ranong, Phang-nga, Krabi, Trang, and Phatthalung. The total distance is 1,140 kilometres.
- The second route is to Chumphon and then onto Highway No. 41 (Asia) to Phatthalung, a total distance of around 846 kilometres.
- The third route is to Nakhon Si Thammarat via Chumphon and Surat Thani, then onto Highway No. 403 and Highway No. 41 to Phatthalung. 

* By bus 
Transport Co. has daily Bangkok-Phatthalung services. The trip takes about 13 hours. Air-conditioned buses, varying in 3 types, depart from Bangkok to Phatthalung at the following times:
VIP Bus : 6 p.m. 

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