Deep South Rides: Songkhla - Pattani - Yala - Betong - Satun

Discussion in 'South Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by Goran Phuket, May 3, 2015.

  1. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    I lived and worked in Malaysia between 1993 and 2001. My first ride into Thailand was June 1995, via Rantau Panjang (Malaysia) / Sungai Golok (Thailand) border check point on Suzuki GSXR 1100. Sungai Golok and deep south were at that time wild frontier full of gangsters, Thumbstone of Thailand as some locals called it. I guess to certain extent Sg Golok's reputation hasn't changed much since then. However, some of the nicest and smartest people I ever encountered in Thailand were from deep south. First of all, food is fantastic, this is not Malay food I am talking about.... People are incredibly friendly and hospitable, not materialistic as in other parts of Thailand, especially Phuket where I live. It made no difference to me if they were Muslims or Buddhist, they were all equally nice. People were practically competing in inviting me to stay at their homes or having a meal with their families. For them, lone bike riding Mat Salleh (Malay term for "Farang") was a major attraction....some thought due to my black hair and tanned sun-burnt complexion to be Hindustan movie star hahaha....over there they love watching Bollywood and Pakistan soapies. Not once have I feared of being in any sort of danger, either physical harm or being cheated, robbed etc except Sg Golok itself. That place is something else....

    Anyway, since then I have visited these parts so many times I lost the count. Considering what is going on there right now (violent insurgency by muslim separatists), in my opinion deep south is still safe place to ride thru. On other hand, living there long term could be totally different experience. I am quite amazed by high quality of roads there....back in 1993 I drove car from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket and it was absolute nightmare....Hwy 4 was under construction, roads around Phatthalung, Krabi and Phang Nga in disastrous condition. But Yala and Pattani had amazing roads and they are even better now. Unfortunately at those times I didn't care much about taking pics, something I regret a lot till today. The photos in this report are fairly recent ones.

    Hat Yai city is of no interest to me. It is largest city south of Bangkok but full of weekend tourists from Malaysia. If you are into shopping, night clubs and soapie massage, this place is for you :roll:. Songkhla town, the provincial capital is not that far away, nicely situated at peninsula between Songkhla Lake and Gulf of Thailand. I decided to go straight to Songkhla, look around and spend the night over there.

    Just before line separating Phatthalung and Songkhla province I left Hwy 4 and went down Route 4181 / 4014 to village called Pak Ro. Crossed the bridge at Songkhla lake and continued towards beautiful coastal road 408. There is a 10 minute ferry accross the lake instead of continuing down 408 so I boarded the barge for 5-10 minutes ride. Price = 7 Baht, yes seven. Disembarked right next to Samila Beach.

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    The map and coordinates:
    07.22105, 100.57444 (DECIMAL)

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  3. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Decided to spend the night at BP Samila Beach hotel. Nice hotel right on the beach, next to famous Songkhla Mermaid sculpture. Can't remember how much was the rate, hotel room was nice but internet sucked big time - wi-fi signal accessible only at the lobby.

    At the hotel lobby

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    Fantastic view from my room

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    Mermaid hiding behind one of those damn trees....what are the odds lol

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    Don't matter, went down and took this pic. Place is full of locals with odd foreigner here and there.
    Btw, did you know there are only 2 places in the world having mermaid as as city symbol? Songkhla and Copenhagen :angel:

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    Nicely landscaped gardens and clean pathways

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    Rent-a-pony and ride at the beach

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  4. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Friendly Songkhla food vendors

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    Here you won't see any trash strewn...immaculately clean, food and souvenir stalls nicely set and regulated by local government.

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  5. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Following day by 8am I was on my way towards Pattani. Less than 10 km out of town and first big check point. This was the only check point where they stopped me and asked for ID. I passed thru at least another 50-60 checkpoints on the way to Betong.

    On the way out I went across Tinsulanonda Bridge, the longest bridge over water surface in Thailand. Named after General Tinsulanonda, current president of Royal Privy Council.

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    It's been a while since I used this road.....awesome! riding 200km/h ++ :) unless slowing down for checkpoints.
    Good morning from Pattani.

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    Decided to go downtown and check the things. City ordinance: bikes must be parked middle of the road, not on usual parking spots next to buildings. This is to minimize damage in case of explosion due to bomb hidden inside motorcycle. Also, riders are forbidden to wear helmets...

    This is Pattani Central Mosque. It got my attention because of it's Taj Mahal style architecture.

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    As I was taking this pic, local imam comes out and asks me where I am from (in Malay language!). He wasn't even surprised when I replied in Malay, guess he thought I am Malaysian or whatever :shifty: Then he tells me to ride with the bike into the mosque compound and take more photos to which I happily obliged.

    So here is another shot

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    Spent another 20-30 minutes chatting with these friendly guys before leaving town.

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    All these years I never had a chance to visit oldest Mosque in Thailand: Kru Se

    Construction of the mosque started around 1583, but was never completed because of power struggle between the sultan of Pattani and his brother. It features a mixture of Middle Eastern and European architectural styles.

    However, in more recent history mosque was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
    April 28th 2004, during Thaksin Shinawatra's premiership and in a period of insurgency by Islamic nationalists in the southernmost provinces, 32 suspected gunmen took shelter in the mosque. That particular day more than 100 militants carried out terrorist attacks against 10 police outposts across Pattani, Yala and Songkhla provinces. After a 7 hour stand-off with Thai military personnel, soldiers attacked and killed all 32 gunmen hiding inside. The attack was made in contradiction of orders from the Minister of Defence to end the confrontation peacefully, and has been the subject of an international inquiry, which concluded the military used excessive force.

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    Topped up at nearby gas station and on my way to Yala.

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  6. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Welcome to Yala. No joke over here, army is everywhere! Heavy armed police and soldiers, lots of APC, Humvees, barbed wires and lookout towers. One wrong or sudden move and you are history.

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    Officially, Mueang Yala is the cleanest city in entire country. Beautiful and wide streets, no vehicles parked or driven / ridden on pedestrian pathways, no food stalls wherever you feel like erecting them. This was the case in 1995 when I first visited the town and it is the case right now 20 years later. And yet this is an epicenter of war zone, with severely affected economy but local government is able to keep city in pristine condition nevertheless.

    Here pictured nearby main city roundabout and some government buildings.

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    Did I say food is amazing here?
    Check out this stuff....stopped for a quick snack.

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    Just outside of Yala, hwy 408

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    Friendly checkpoint policeman

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    Never ending checkpoints towards Betong

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    Last edited: May 11, 2016
  7. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    The route 4106 up the mountain towards Betong is mini version of MHS. Fantastic road, I thoroughly enjoyed my ride.
    Forgive me for not stopping too often to take photos, I was too busy enjoying sweepers and tight corners :lol:

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    Few accidents along the way too...stopped here to check what is going on.

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  8. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Arrived to Betong, Thailand's southernmost district and just a few kilometers from Malaysian border. Predominantly Chinese population, most of them descendants of members of MCP (Malay Communist Party) army who exiled into Thailand in 70's and 80's.

    You can find more about this here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Insurgency_War

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    Settled in Modern Thai Hotel, right in the city center. Very good accommodation indeed, CCTV cameras everywhere, bike parked right in front of the main entrance. But you never know here, as recent as recent as July 25th 2014 bomb planted by insurgents killed 3 and wounded dozens of people.

    Aftermath pic

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    Tunnel connecting two parts of the city

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    Believe it or not, this is largest mailbox / letterbox in the world

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    Betong clocktower early evening

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    Same place few hours later. It is just before Chinese New Year, city in anticipation of hordes of Malaysian tourists.

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  9. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Following morning moved towards famous Piyamit Tunnels, communist hideout during insurgency days.

    Excavated by Malay communists in 1976 to avoid bombardment, this network of tunnels stretches for over a kilometre and is in a lush jungle setting. It is about 5-6 feet wide and there are nine entrance-exit paths. The tunnel complex includes bedrooms, storerooms and a well like structure that was used to ferry goods to the surface. There is also a very interesting museum on site tracing the struggle the communists fought and ultimately lost.

    Beautiful road leading towards top of the hill, hardly any vehicles around.

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    Ride up this hill and gets you right before the tunnel entrance

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    This lady was my guide at Piyamit Tunnel. Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia she fled the country to Southern Thailand to fight for communist cause. She is Thai citizen now ever since peace accord was signed back in 1987. She showed me how to design land mines lol...Also, she said I should try eating Hornbill Bird (eeewww!!), apparently that was main part of their diet during those days. Also monkeys, elephants and even scorpions! (Where is the vomit icon when I need one) Anyway, friendly lady, very happy to answer all my questions I asked for permission to take pic of her and she was more than happy to pose. Never expected her to perform military salute though :smile1: guess she was hardcore fighter back in a day.

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  10. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    The tunnels are much wider and higher compared to those I've seen in Cu Chi, Vietnam.

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    Inside the mini museum

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  11. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Satun. Not part of the same ride trip, this was done on GSA. Bunch of Malaysian friends were coming to Thailand so I decided to snoop around Satun and meet them at the border.

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    As I was riding noticed something colorful in forest by the road side. Turned back and this is what I saw. Nobody around, not a living soul...

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    My destination was Pak Bara. Very strange beach, I guess this is protection against future tsunami?

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    Overnight at Bara Resort, Pak Bara Beach

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    Interesting outdoor decorations

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    Across the street is what I have been told best seafood restaurant in town

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    Early dinner in anticipation of glorious sunset

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    And here it is

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    Pak Bara is a sleepy fishing village with predominantly muslim community. It is the main ferry point to to Koh Lipe and Koh Tarutao.
    Here pictured fishing boat graveyard

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    Following day went to ferry terminal just to take a look

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    Another 70km and reached Wang Kelian border checkpoint between Malaysia and Thailand.

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    Met with my Malaysian pals and we blasted off to Ranong.

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    This concludes my Deep South report. Hope it encourages you to ride down and see for yourself.

    Ride safe and all the best.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2016

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