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Exploring tourism in Thailand’s South Provinces

Thailand’s Southern region provinces of Yala, Pattani and Songkhla offer many hidden gems often missing from mainstream travel itineraries.



The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Newsroom recently went on a discovery tour of Thailand’s Southern region provinces of Yala, Pattani and Songkhla that discovered many hidden gems often missing from mainstream travel itineraries.

After landing in Hat Yai, the TAT Newsroom headed south before stopping at the scenic Bang Lang Dam on the Pattani River to take in the view. It provided a glimpse of things to come as Yala province offers some of the most pristine ecotourism experiences to be found in Thailand.

From there, the drive south continued to Betong, the crown jewel of Yala that still retains its quaint small-town vibe. (Read full story at: Betong, Yala offers delights unseen in Thailand for 30 years)

There is much to do both in and around Betong, and it can easily be divided into out-of-town excursions and those which are either in and around the city centre or nearby. Depending on where one stays, the Betong Clock Tower is a great place to meet and start a half-day walking tour.

The self-proclaimed world’s largest Post Box, conveniently located at the Clock Tower intersection, once was the social meeting place and had a radio with loudspeakers perched atop the box with a slot for mail below it.

Not more than a couple of hundred metres up the road is the Betong Mongkollit Tunnel, Thailand’s first and longest tunnel when it was completed in 1999. Just above it is the Betong Museum, which offers a colourful history of the town and its importance to the region.

All of this sightseeing is sure to make any tourist on walkabout mighty hungry. It doesn’t hurt that Betong is a gastronomic hub that basks in the colourful intersection of three outstanding culinary traditions that include tasty Southern Thai cuisine, plus delicious Chinese and Muslim food.

However, its signature dish, Betong Chicken – the Hainanese style chicken rice variation that the town is famous for, is the perfect quick meal on the go. It has to be said that Betong is crazy about its chickens and after one bite it is easy to understand why. The city even erected towering statues and colourful street art celebrating its love for all things Betong chicken.

Other attractions within a short drive from town include Wat Phutthathiwas (Wat Betong), Winter Flower Garden, the Betong Hot Springs, and the former communist stronghold located at the Piyamit Tunnel.

Excursions to the Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary and Iyerweng Sea of Mist (and its new Skywalk opening in June 2020) are a must but require longer travel time from Betong. Both require early starts and probably are best explored on two separate days. Because of both attraction’s remoteness, booking an excursion through local tour operators is also advisable.

Exploring Thailand’s South in Yala Pattani and Songkhla

After a couple of days in and around Betong, the group headed north to Pattani, Thailand’s most misunderstood province after years of unrest. There certainly are more checkpoints on the road heading into Pattani city centre, but it is currently enjoying its most peaceful patch in a long time.

And the timing is perfect, as there are new things to see and do. The Pattani Skywalk, or Pattani Adventure Park, is a new landmark for tourists and an interesting option to take in the sunset.

Exploring Thailand’s South in Yala Pattani and Songkhla

From the Skywalk, visitors can see Pattani Bay and Tachi Cape and take in a panoramic view of Pattani city. While the Kru Se Mosque is one the province’s most famous historical and religious sites. Next door is the Chao Mae Lim Ko Nieo Shrine, which stands along Anohru Road in downtown Pattani. The statue was carved from mango wood centuries ago and adjacent to the Shrine is an interesting museum by the same name. After soaking up this fascinating bit of local history, the evening concluded with a visit to the magnificent Pattani Grand Mosque in time to catch the faithful after evening prayer.

Exploring Thailand’s South in Yala Pattani and Songkhla

Next stop was Songkhla, a very popular beach town on the Gulf of Thailand that is a favourite with Thai travellers and Malaysian travellers. Having said that it remains an underrated destination for international travellers, and it offers a valid alternative to the hustle and bustle of much busier beach resorts on the Andaman Sea.

The magic of this classic old town (Singora) still enthrals visitors, especially the area around the old Red Mill. From there, colourful Sino-Portuguese style of houses dot the road, and there is street art on some older walls with these murals being highly Instagramable and very popular with selfie taking visitors.

Amid the many spots for photography are quaint old shops that are in operation to this day, and tucked among them are cute coffee shops, themed restaurants, and trendy boutiques. The Songkhla Museum documents the city’s former glory as the commercial trading centre of Southern Thailand contrasting the old with the current hip café culture. Last but not least, Samila Beach remains a favourite sights for local and international visitors alike.

While travelling these provinces, international visitors might want to pinch themselves because it does feel like a discovery tour when you see so few tourists. Soon, it will hopefully be much easier to visit and discover Yala, Pattani and Songkhla when the new Betong International Airport opens in June 2020. This could open another age of discovery with more visitors poised to experience the charms of these provinces.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Newsroom. The TAT Newsroom does not assume any liability for the materials, information and opinions provided on, or available through, this web page. Details provided regarding travel in Yala, Pattani and Songkhla provinces are based on the best available information when the trip took place in April 2019.

The post Exploring Thailand’s South in Yala, Pattani and Songkhla appeared first on TAT Newsroom.

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Can border reopening revive tourism in South-East Asia?

In Thailand, where pre-pandemic tourism accounted for 11-12% of GDP, the country lost an estimated $50bn last year as Covid-19 restrictions led to an 82% fall in arrival numbers.



Ko Samed deserted pier

After 18 months of travel restrictions, a number of countries in South-east Asia have begun opening their borders to foreign visitors to stoke recovery in their respective tourism industries.

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Thailand to lift quarantine for vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries from November



Thailand to lift quarantine for vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries from November

Bangkok, 12 October, 2021

Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in a nationally televised broadcast last night announced that Thailand planned to allow fully vaccinated foreign visitors to enter Thailand by air with no quarantine requirements from 1 November.

In the initial phase, Thailand will allow fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk countries, including China, Germany, Singapore, the UK and USA. The list will be expanded from 1 December, and further enhanced to a very extensive list from 1 January.

Under the plan, fully vaccinated foreign visitors from the approved countries will need to show that they are COVID-free at their time of travel with an RT-PCR test undertaken before they leave their home country, and do a test in Thailand, after which they will be free to move around Thailand in the same way that any Thai citizen can do, the Prime Minister said.

Visitors from countries not on the list, will, of course, still be much welcomed, but with quarantine and other requirements.

In addition, the Prime Minister said consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues under appropriate health precautions would be allowed from 1 December.

Below is the full speech by the Prime Minister.

National Address of the Prime Minister of Thailand


Monday 11 October, 2021

My fellow citizens, brothers and sisters:

In the last one-and-half years, we have lived with some of the greatest peacetime challenges our country has ever faced in its history, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and one that has left nobody untouched and no country in the world undamaged.

It has been one of the most painful experiences in my life, too: to make decisions that balance the saving of lives with the saving of livelihoods – a choice that is not always clearly separate, and where we may save lives, but commit those lives to the unbearable pain of trying to survive with little or no income; or where we may save livelihoods but commit one’s family, friends and neighbours to loss of life and the loss of their breadwinner.

In facing this terrible choice, it was my decision that we could not allow a slow, wait-and-see approach to confronting the pandemic and let it claim the lives of so many of our countrymen and women, as we, ultimately, saw happen in so many other countries.

As a result, I acted decisively on the advice of many of our outstanding public health experts to make our country one of the first in the world to move quickly with lockdowns and tight regulations.

With the collaboration of all sectors of society, and with everyone joining hands to face this crisis together, we have been among the most successful countries in the world in saving lives. 

But it has come at very great sacrifices of lost livelihoods, lost savings, and destroyed businesses – what we have all given up so that our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, friends and neighbours may live for today.

The threat of a large scale, lethal spread of the virus in Thailand is now diminishing, even though the risk of resurgence is always there, and even though there are still serious constraints on our hospital and medical staff capacities. 

The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations.

Today, I would like to announce the first small but important step in decisively beginning the process of trying to restore our livelihoods.

During the last weeks some of Thailand’s most important tourist source countries have begun to ease their travel restrictions on their citizens – countries like the UK, that now allow convenient travel to our country, as well as countries like Singapore and Australia that have started to ease travel restrictions on their citizens visiting other countries.

With these developments, we must act quickly but still cautiously, and not miss the opportunity to entice some of the year-end and New Year holiday season travellers during the next few months to support the many millions of people who earn a living from our tourism, travel and entertainment sectors as well as the many other related sectors.

I have, therefore, instructed the CCSA and the Ministry of Public Health to urgently consider within this week to allow, as of 1 November, international visitors to enter Thailand without any requirement for quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and arrive by air from low-risk countries.

All that visitors will need do is to show that they are COVID-free at their time of travel with an RT-PCR test undertaken before they leave their home country, and do a test in Thailand, after which they will be free to move around Thailand in the same way that any Thai citizen can do.

Initially, we will begin with at least 10 countries on our low-risk, no-quarantine list, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China, and the United States of America, and enlarge that list by 1 December, and, by 1 January move to a very extensive list.

Visitors from countries not on the list, will, of course, still be much welcomed, but with quarantine and other requirements.

By 1 December, we will also consider allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues under appropriate health precautions to support the revitalisation of the tourism and leisure sectors, especially as we approach the New Year period.

I know this decision comes with some risk.  It is almost certain that we will see a temporary rise in serious cases as we relax these restrictions.  We will have to track the situation very carefully, and see how to contain and live with that situation because I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure, and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost new year holiday period. 

But if, in the months ahead, we see an unexpected emergence of a highly dangerous new variant of the virus, then, of course, we must also act accordingly and proportionately when we see the threat.  We know that this virus has surprised the world several times, and we must be ready for it to do so again. 

In mid-June of this year, I had set a 120-day goal for quarantine-free entry into Thailand and to accelerate our vaccinations.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the extraordinary achievements of our public health workers, other officials and all citizens for their response to my appeal in June.

After we adopted the 120-day goal, extraordinary efforts were made to increase our supply of vaccines and compete with many other countries to get deliveries.  And they were very successful.  Our vaccine deliveries jumped threefold, from around 4 million doses in May to almost 12 million in July… then to almost 14 million in August, and will now run at over 20 million a month until the end of the year, totalling over 170 million doses, far ahead of the goals I had set.

Similarly, our public health staff worked tirelessly to accelerate vaccinations to support our 120-day goal, and the public gave great cooperation to register for vaccinations despite the inconveniences that may have been caused in scheduling.  As a result, our daily vaccinations, which were running at around 80,000 doses a day in May, shot up immediately.  One month after our goal-setting, our public health team tripled the number of shots being administering a day, and they kept increasing that number until Thailand rose to be among the fastest ten countries in the world for administering shots!  Currently, they have frequently been administering more than 700,000 shots a day, and sometimes even exceeding one million shots a day.

Shortly after my address to the nation in mid-June setting our goal for quarantine-free entry into Thailand in 120 days, the world was struck by the highly infectious Delta variant.  Worldwide cases spiked up and peaked in August, just as they did in Thailand, and few thought that it would be possible to achieve any quarantine-free entry into Thailand this year.

The fact that we can begin quarantine-free entry in November, and despite many countries still trying to contain Delta variant infections with restrictions on the travel of their citizens is a great tribute to the unity of purpose and determined response to my appeal by the public health services, by many other government departments, by the private sector, and by the cooperation given by citizens in all matters.

Our nation has performed an extraordinary feat in the last months that we can all be very proud about everyone’s enormous contributions to those achievements.  These achievements, coupled with the gradual relaxation of other countries’ travel restrictions, now enables us to begin the process of quarantine-free entry into Thailand.

Thank you.

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