Photo: Mambang Mosque.


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The low-key provincial capital of Satun nuzzles up close to Malaysia in Thailand’s far southwestern corner and draws few travellers despite its location near Ko Lipe, Ko Langkawi and other splendid Andaman Sea islands. Those who make it here will find some good eats and a few minor attractions.

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Part of the Malay state of Kedah until 1813, Satun wasn’t secured by Siam until a treaty was signed with the British Empire nearly 100 years later. Alongside King Rama V, former Governor Phraya Phuminart Phakdi is credited with negotiating the deal that ensured the province—and its now-lucrative islands—didn’t end up as part of Malaysia.

You made it! Welcome to Satun. Photo taken in or around Satun, Thailand by David Luekens.

You made it! Welcome to Satun. Photo: David Luekens

The broad golden domes of Mambang Mosque rise dramatically in the heart of Satun and highlight the prominence of Islam. A handful of Buddhist temples also mingle with Sino-European shophouses and humble Thai-style homes built on stilts above the narrow Mambang River. Set in a stately colonial-era mansion, the Satun National Museum explains the area’s harmonious diversity.

Some of Satun’s Malay-Thai Muslims and Thai or Chinese-Thai Buddhists have intermarried over the years, resulting in a distinct group known as Samsam. With many signs posted in Malay and Thai, Satun’s ethnically mixed population does not generally support the separatist movement that has fought Thai government forces in Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces since the early 2000s. At time of writing, Satun is just as safe as Trang or Krabi.

The broad, golden domes of Mambang Mosque. Photo taken in or around Satun, Thailand by David Luekens.

The broad, golden domes of Mambang Mosque. Photo: David Luekens

This mix of cultural roots is expressed in a good food scene that you can explore in hole-in-the-wall shops and bustling evening markets. Roti, satay, biryani rice, a wide array of curries and khao man gai (Thai-style Hainanese chicken rice) are all easy to find. Also, you haven’t had a chaa yen (Thai iced tea) until you’ve had one in Satun.

Some 20 kilometres west of town stretches Haad Sai Yao, a long beach capping the end of a peninsula with seafood restaurants affording a view to Ko Tarutao. Further south is Thammalung Pier and boatyard, one of the region’s largest—travellers heading to Malaysia can catch boats to Langkawi here. Near Thale Ban National Park in the province’s jungle-clad eastern reaches, the village of Wang Prajan hosts a little-known land border crossing.

It's a little bit sleepy. Photo taken in or around Satun, Thailand by David Luekens.

It's a little bit sleepy. Photo: David Luekens

The provincial capital has been largely left out of the tourism fun, with the islands of Ko Tarutao, Ko Bulon Lae and Ko Lipe all accessed from Pakbara Pier some 50 kilometres north. Satun does not have an airport and most travellers transiting to these islands usually do so in Hat Yai or Trang. The tax revenue from Lipe does seem to be having an impact, however, evidenced by a spiffy riverside promenade completed in 2015 near the Municipal Market.

Local businesses catering to foreign travellers, such as the excellent On’s Living Room, suffered a hit in 2016 when Thailand implemented stricter immigration rules barring in-and-out border runs and limiting the number of land border crossings allowed in a year. At research time, the only foreigners visiting Satun tended to be Malaysians on weekend jaunts and backpackers entering Thailand from Langkawi via the mainland rather than the more enticing Thai immigration checkpoint on the sands of Lipe.

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The city of Satun (or Amphoe Mueang Satun to be precise) is home to around 30,000 people in the far southern corner of the same-named province, only 15 kilometres shy of Malaysia. The narrow Mambang River runs through town, and mangrove forest covers much of the coastline. Thammalung Pier is 12 kilometres straight south of the city centre.

The Satun National Museum is a highlight of Satun. Photo taken in or around Satun, Thailand by David Luekens.

The Satun National Museum is a highlight of Satun. Photo: David Luekens

The main thoroughfare in the northern half of town is Satuntanee Road (Route 406), which runs straight south before diverging into Burivanich Road (also spelt Buriwanit) at Mambang Mosque and a clock tower; the National Museum and most accommodation are within easy walking distance of here. Confusingly, Burivanich becomes Sulakanukoon Road after a couple of blocks, which continues all the way down to Thammalung.

Route 406 continues north towards Hat Yai, with Route 416 cutting west to La-Ngu and Pakbara, and Route 4184 shooting east and then south to Thale Ban National Park and the Wang Prajan border crossing, located 42 kilometres from Satun town. Haad Sai Yao stretches at the end of Route 3022.

Food is another real highlight. Photo taken in or around Satun, Thailand by David Luekens.

Food is another real highlight. Photo: David Luekens

Several ATMs and banks are located near On’s Living Room and Sinkiat Thani Hotel on Burivanich. Rose Internet is found across the street from the clock tower and around the corner from Satun Tanee Hotel. The Thai immigration office is also located directly across from the clock tower at the northern end of Burivanich; it opens 08:30-16:30 on weekdays.

Satun Hospital (T: 074 723 500-1) is a 10-minute walk northeast of Mambang Mosque on Soi Hathakumsuksa, best accessed by Satuntanee Soi 10. The police station can be found on the east side of Satuntanee at Soi 12.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Satun.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Satun.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Satun.
 Read up on how to get to Satun, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Satun? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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