Let's go to the South!
Hi Everyone! Today Tummeng Travel will take you all to the Southern part of Thailand and this time Phatthalung and Hat Yai are on the list.
I have to admit that I have never been to these two places. I have only flown to Hat Yai once but it was just a layover before taking a bus to Satun.
Fortunately, I have been invited by The Tourism Authority of Thailand Southern Office to go to The Balloon Festival in Hat Yai and the popular Thale Noi in Phatthalung this time. I guess it is a good chance to explore these two places so I don't hesitate to say yes.
This trip I will be traveling in a group with other travel bloggers. Therefore, the travel information might not be as detailed as solo traveling. The transportation has been organized by Tourism Authority of Thailand as an example. Anyway, I am pretty sure that this review will be useful for some of you who are interested to go to Had Yai and Phatthalung but don't have that much information.
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This travel review is a sponsor review, all expenses are taken care by The Tourism Authority of Thailand Southern Office.
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What I have learnt from the Social studies in the subject of Our Country when I was a child is that Phatthalung is a province in the Sounthern part of Thailand that is not connected to the sea. In addition, the popular tourist attraction in Phatthalung is Thale Noi, the natural freshwater lake that is full of lotuses. I would say this is all I know about Phatthalung.
On the other hand, I know Hat Yai pretty well but I have never heard about the Balloon Festival at all. This Balloon Festival attracts me very much.
This trip is including the activities as follows.
- Hat Yai: Hat Yai Ice Dome, Tang Kuan Hill, and Balloon Festival
- Phatthalung: Million Lotuses in bloom at Thale Noi, Swimming buffalo, and Sunrise at Pak Pra
We take the earliest flight around 6.30 AM from Don Mueang International Airport to Hat Yai.
One main reason to take the early flight is ....................
This famous local breakfast.
Dim Sum Yum Cha .......................
We have the breakfast at Cook Chai Dimsum Cafe. This Dim Sum Cafe is famous and popular among the locals and tourists. All Dim Sum are freshly made. You can order them and the staff will have them steamed right away.
Before I come here I was recommended to try this famous Fried noodle with fish head by my brother in law who is the local here, and I have to say this is super yummy.
I definitely never miss this kind of recommendation ................
The first program of today after the breakfast is a tour on the tram to visit old town Songkhla. We get on the tram at Tammarong Museum where it used to be a house of General Prem Tinsulanonda.
And of course the tram comes with the tour guide who explains places we run through.
The tram runs on Nang Ngam Road and Nakorn Nai Road. There are numbers of Chino-Portugal architecture buildings and old Chinese houses along the way.
The tram ends at The City pillar shrine where it is a house of Chinese Language School and Chinese opera theater as well.
Moreover, there is a noodle stall right under the Chinese opera theater. In case you want to eat it here you have to lower your head before getting into this low ceiling noddle stall for the table..
Then we have left to other Landmarks of Songkhla. The first stop is the head of the Great Serpent "Nag" statue at Song Thale Park, Samila Beach.
There is a lot of fishing and cargo ships coming in and going out in this area. This is one of the reasons why they have built this statue which is for the ships to spot the location well. Another reason to have this statue built is that they would like to build it to symbolize the city as same as Merlion in Singapore.
Another statue at Samila Beach that symbolizes Songkhla would be this Mermaid statue. This mermaid is from Thai folklore named Phra Aphai Mani. I have seen a lot of people taking photos with this statue since I was a child to show that they have been here, they have been to Songkla.
Samila Beach is popular among the locals as a place for family to chill out together.
We have lunch after stopping at Samila Beach and are heading to Tang Kuan Hill. Tang Kuan Hill is famous for its beautiful viewpoint. From the viewpoint, you can see the panoramic city view of Songkhla as well as Mouse and Cat Islands.
We take the lift at Tang Kuan Hill Lift Station to the viewpoint at the top of the hill.
According to a local folk tale of Tang Kuan Hill, a cat, mouse, and dog were traveling on a Chinese ship, when they attempted to steal a magical crystal from a merchant. While trying to swimming ashore with the magical crystal, both the cat and the mouse drowned and became the two islands; the dog reached the beach, then died and become the hill Khao Tang Kuan. The crystal turned into the white sandy beach laying in the Northern part of Laem Son nowadays.
From the viewpoint, we walk to the other side of the peak to the Red Pavilion Or Sala Pra Vihan Daeng.
Red Pavilion Or Sala Pra Vihan Daeng was first built by King Rama IV but it was not completely done. When King Rama V visited Melayu Kingdom in 1889 and stopped over at Songkhla. His Majesty came to Tang Kuan Hill to pay homage to the sacred pagoda, Phra Chedi Luang and have ordered to complete this Red Pavilion. From the pavillion you can see the beautiful city view directly without any obstacle. Inside the pavilion is full of pillars with exact same space in between every two pillars as you can see from the photo above. If you see the pavilion from the front you can see through it to the back end of the pavilion as same as if you see from one side of the pavilion, you can see the other end as well. The pavilion is opened without any doors or windows. Furthermore, there is a stairway at the back of the pavilion that was built by King Rama V. This stairway can lead you to the peak of Tang Kuan Hill as well as the sacred pagoda Phra Chedi Luang. On the other hand, the hill track from the bottom of the hill is right in front of the pavilion.
Phra Chedi Luang
Phra Chedi Luang is one of the important ancient monuments in Tang Kuan Hill. There is no certain history when and why it was built. The ancient stupa Phra Chedi Luang was restored in 1886 under King Rama IV command. The restoration is managed by Phraya Wichian Khiri (Men), the Governor of Songkhla province at that time. As the important ancient monuments and the Royal Pagoda of Southern Thailand, Phra Chedi Luang has been well-maintained from time to time. Furthermore, King Rama IX gave the Lord Buddha relics for filling in the Pagoda in 1996. Phra Chedi Luang has become even more important since then.
There is another activity at the back of the pagoda which has become very popular, the love locks. The love locks have attracted many couples to come and 'lock' their love here.
It is pretty hot up here though.
I think it is a perfect timing to go to Hat Yai Ice Dome right after this Tang Kuan Hill excursion.
"Hat Yai Ice Dome" is built under the co-oporation between the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Nakhon Hatyai Municipality. There are two zones in this Hat Yai Ice Dome. The first zone exhibits ice sculptures in the building with a temperature of -15 degrees Celsius. The second one is the snow field in the building with a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius.
There are sweaters and gloves for rent upon arrival and in case you have brought a camera with you, don't forget to cover the lens well to avoid the dew or frost that can be formed on the lens.
Let's start with the first zone! This zone exhibits ice sculpture and ice structure. They are all nicely craved with color painting and beautiful lighting. There is even the ice slide where you can go and have fun.
The second zone is the snow field. It is pretty cold here since the room is at a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius so I decide not to stay long in here.
And this zone provides you with the snow buoy that you can use to slide down like this.
Some people also want to dare the cold by taking off their sweaters and gloves.
After visiting Hat Yai Ice Dome, we are here at Chira Nakhon Stadium for the Balloon Festival. The opening ceremony will be taken place here. Even though there is no balloon really flying out today, you are able to get a trial ride in a balloon for 5-meter high from the ground for fun and experience.
This very first Balloon Festival in Hat Yai attracts a lot of locals and tourists from nearby province especially the those family with children.
However, since the opening ceremony will be at 7 PM and we still have plenty of time to kill. I suggest the organizer to go to a place where I have been looking forward to going there for ages and I have promised myself that one day if I come to Songkhla I would go there to take photos. It is the Central Masjid of Songkhla.
As a photographer, once you are in Songkhla you never miss this Deenul Hat Yai Central Muslim Mosque or known as Central Masjid of Songkhla for any reason. And the perfect time to come here taking photos would be late afternoon to twilight. This place is extremely huge, well-designed, and totally beautiful. It is also compared as the Taj Mahal of Thailand.
We have arrived here when the sun starts to set and luckily that the buses and vans which are the obstacle for taking photos just left.
Therefore, we all are able to take so many photos until the night comes.
In addition, we are very lucky to have this clear sky with partly cloudy today.
Different lighting requires different camera modes and lens to be able to get stunning photos.
I wish I had more time here so I could go and shot this place from other angles.
We have been taking photos until the twilight comes.
We have come back to the Balloon festival and it is just the right time that the opening ceremony and shows get started.
We wake up around 5 AM the next morning to come and learn how to be on the balloon properly. We are very lucky to be able to go and ride on the balloon with the professional pilot from all over the world and one balloon can only accommodate 4-6 people.
The ride is about to start.
I envy those who get up on the balloon first because my turn is almost the last one. I am also getting more and more excited now.
There are balloons from Thailand, Taiwan, Holland, and many more joining this festival.
And yes, it is my turn now.This is the very first shot I got while I am on the balloon.
Hot air balloon moves with the direction of the winds.
From the balloon, you can see 360-degree panoramic view of Hat Yai City.
After around 40 minutes on the balloon tour we have landed on the rice field about 20-kilometer far from Downtown Hat Yai.
Once we landed we can see that there are many locals who live nearby come and see the balloon.
I was on the balloon with the Taiwanese professional balloon pilot who knows well that there will be a lot of children coming after landing. That's why he has prepared some candies for them.
We are now heading to Singhanakhon District to experience the local culture and their traditional way of living. Moreover, we are going to see the sugar making session as well as try the fresh sugar palm juice and their products.
We have arrived and have been welcomed warmly by Khun Udom Takra, Chief Executive of the SAO (Subdistrict Administrative Organization). Then he starts to explain the sugar palm, rice field, and bamboo way of living theory in this Sufficiency Economy Initiative Center, Ban Taksinathan. This center is built according to Suburban Housing Integration system.
The sugar palm can be used to create many products such palm fruit pie which they are well-known as OTOP (One Tambon One Product) as an example. I have got a chance to try it and I have to say that it is very tasty.
Khun Udom has very wide vision in city development. For instance, he has turned this empty rice field with sugar palm trees into the flower road trip which later become famous after being published in Tourism Authority of Thailand's book as the Dream Destinations 2.
You can see the difference of the field before and after the development from the last two photos above.
Then the program continues to the next destination at Wat Phra Ko Temple. We are here to pay homage to Luang Phu Tuad image and the water well where he used to wash his ropes.
After that we go to Klongdaen Floating Market or also known as "The 3 canals and 2 cities". Three canals include Ranot, Cha-Uad, and Pak Panang canal. These three canals are all connected here and it is a border of two cities; Klongdaen, Ranot District, Songkhla and Ramkaew, Hua Sai District, Nakhon Si Thammarat.
It is pretty crowded here, people are eating here or take away the food.
The products are mainly local food, ancient dessert, and souvenir.
There is even a local dance show which entertains people at the market well.
The dance is called "Nora" performed by local students.
We spend our time chilling out and trying new food here until it is dark before heading for dinner in Phatthalung and ending the second day program there.
On the 3rd day we wake up very early at 4.30 AM to go and see the very first sun light of the day at Pak Pra. This destination is well-known among the professional photographer as one of the best spot to capture the sunrise. These huge square dip nets make this place special and unique which reflect the local lives very well.
We are on the bridge right at the mouth of the river waiting for the moment of sunrise with huge square dip nets in the frame. On the other hand, you are able to rent the long tail boat from the locals or resort around this area to sail into the ocean for taking photos too.
Well, as you may know already the cloud always follow me everywhere such today as an instance so we can't see the sun at all.
However, I promise myself that I will be back here for sure and I hope I will have a chance to see and take photos of the beautiful sunrise with clear sky from here.
We go to Matcha Pla Won cave in the late morning which is not far from Khao Pu - Khao Ya National Park. Matcha Pla Won cave is a house of many beautiful stalagmites and stalactites and there is a stream inside the cave as well. However, there is no light inside the cave, therefore; please contact the officer before going into the cave for safety reason so at least you can get the flashlight.
And now we are on our way to Thale Noi, Phatthalung to stay overnight there.
We have stopped at "Pa Kee Dessert Cafe" first. Pa Kee Dessert Cafe serves many kinds of traditional Thai desserts at a reasonable price. It is opened from 11 AM to 5 PM. The highlight menu would be this Saku Daeng, it is very tasteful.
We have arrived at Thale Noi in the afternoon. After checking in into our accommodation, we walk to see the beauty of this famous freshwater lake of Phatthalung.
Apart from the beauty of million of lotuses in bloom in the lake, there are many kinds of birds found in this area as well.
The lake is also popular as a chilling out venue.
Then it is time to move on to our next destination.
The destination in the late afternoon of this 3rd day program is "Chalerm Pra Kiat 80 Punsa 5 December 2007 Road" or used to be called as Ban Sai Kling - Ban Hua Pah Road. This bridge is considered as the longest bridge over the lake in Thailand. It is built between Thale Noi, Phatthalung and Thale Luang, Songkhla.
This is one of the best spots to see the sun set.
We are lucky that there are not many cars running pass by. In other words, if you are here on the day that there is a lot of cars passing by please be careful when you are going out of the car to take photos.
We are here until the sun set but still not lucky enough to see the whole sun because it is cloudy again.
We have arrived at Sripakpra Resort for dinner and noticed that this is another place where you can see and take photos of the square dip nets.
Finally, we are lucky to have the clear sky at night so we all come out to take photos of the stars.
Early morning mission is to see million lotuses in bloom and swimming buffalo at Thale Noi.
We rent long tail boats to go to the bridge that we were there yesterday afternoon. It is pretty far and takes about 40 minutes.
On our way to the bridge we have seen people with local way of living in Thale Noi.
Once I see the sunrise beautifully like this, I think off Pak Pra viewpoint suddenly and think that it would be incredibly beautiful there.
We ask the driver to slow the boats down a bit in order to be able to take photos efficiently.
We are very lucky today to see this stunning sunrise moment without any clouds.
And all 4 boats now have parked steady to capture the moment.
While we are taking photos of the sunrise, we heard something spattered the water nearby and found out that it is a group of swimming buffaloes. They are all swimming and looking for under water grasses to eat.
Wow! it is quite a big group of buffaloes.
Actually, the water is not that deep around this area that is why buffaloes are able to walk in the water as well.
These buffaloes belong to someone who let them come and enjoy eating fresh grasses and drinking water here. They will be led back to their place in the late morning.
Apart from buffaloes, there are many kinds of birds here such as seagull, swallow, falcon and so on. The numbers of birds are depending on the season.
On our way back, it seems like this place has been decorated with pink color of million of lotuses in bloom. There are so many of them and this is just exact same as what people have said.
A few lotuses is in white.
We have spent around two hours in this Thale Noi and we have seen so many beautiful corners of it. In addition, we have spent only 450 THB per boat which can accommodate up to 6 people. However, I would recommend to have not more than 4 people in one boat because when you go for bird watching you will be in the area that water is not that deep and if there are too many people the boat can't lead you further in to see birds closely.
On our way back to Hat Yai, we stop for agro-tourism at "Uncle Than's Salacca garden".
It is a great place to stop over especially for those who look for something to buy back home for friends and family.
There is an interesting activity here too that engages the tourist to come back. The tourists are able to fertilize salacca and write their name and phone number. Once it starts to bear fruit, they can come back and take their own salacca.
The trip almost comes to an end and we finally get a chance to try the original of the famous Hat Yai fried chicken. This Hat Yai fried chicken is very famous throughout the country and there are many restaurants and food stalls that offer this famous fried chicken.
This time we have Hat Yai fried chicken at Kai Tod Decha & Sea food Hatyai, it is so good.
For those who look for a place that sell all famous local products and souvenirs such as cashew nuts, fruit compote, chocolate, and so on, it has to be this Kim Yong Market.
We fly back with Nok Air.
Last but not least, this trip has changed my perception about Songkhla, Hat Yai, and Phatthalung. I thought that these places are not interesting and there is nothing to see here but actually there are so many unseen and unknown places here. I guess I have to come back for more.
I would like to use this opportunity to thanks to:
The Tourism Authority of Thailand Southern Office and The Tourism Authority of Thailand Songkhla Office for inviting me to join this memorable trip.
Friends who accompany on this trip. You all are not only make this trip much more fun but also kindly exchange your travel experience and perspective.
And lastly thanks to all of you who read through this travel review and all my fans. Without you, Tummeng Travel would not be here and I promise that I will only provide you a good review through my point of view.