This border town is located 66 km from Narathiwat and by virtue of its rail link is a much busier crossing point to Malaysia than Ban Taba which lies directly south of Narathiwat.
A typical border town, Sungai Kolok has more than its fair share of hotels, many of them short-time joints catering mainly to Malay men who skip over the border or a bit of action in the town's many karaoke bars and coffee houses. The restaurant scene is also pretty basic (though tasty) with noodle shops, roti stalls and typical shopfronts the staple.
The town itself has little to recommend it (unless you're after a bit of action yourself) although it is the closest town to the very interesting Pa Phru To Daeng peat swamp. Most travellers tend to move on through either south to Malaysia or to other destinations in the south such as Hat Yai, Narathiwat and Yala, but if you have the time, the couple of hour diversion to Pa Phru To Daeng peat swamp is well worth it. Sungai Kook can also be used as a base for visiting Hala Bala National Park on the Malay border.
Aside from the swamp, Sungai Kolok's main asset is as a transportation hub with the train station by the centre of town and convenient mini-bus and songtheaw transport to destinations throughout the region.
Sungai Kolok has suffered a series of bombings, arson attacks and killings as a result of the ongoing trouble in Thailand's far south and while none of these attacks have specifically targeted westerners, you should exercise care, particularly in the outlying districts. Expect to see a heightened military presence with humvees and soldiers fully kitted out both in town and in the surrounding area.
The TAT has a small office near the Thai immigration office, with some brochures and maps of Narathiwat province. All the major Thai banks have branch offices in Sungai Kolok and most offer exchange facilities. There is also a non-affiliated exchange kiosk near the train station -- we'd suggest you use a bank rather than the kiosk. The main police station is opposite the Thai Farmers Bank on Charoenkhet Rd, and the Tourist Police are by the Tourist Information Office by the border crossing. The municipal hospital is just north of the railway tracks off the Narathiwat Rd but if you are seriously ill, you would be better off to try and reach Hat Yai.
If you're crossing the border here, coming from Malaysia, after clearing immigration either take a motorbike taxi (20B) or just follow the main road into town -- it's about a ten minute walk to the start of town and the train station.
By Stuart McDonald.