Go for a stroll
Published/Last edited or updated: 27th April, 2017
Songkhla’s picturesque heritage district blends food, street art and lake views with beautifully restored 19th-century architecture. Of the many old towns that we’ve visited in Thailand, this is one of the best.
A stroll down Nang Ngam Road takes you past Chinese shrines, venerable wooden homes and Sino-European rowhouses punctuated by lanterns, louvred shutters and bricks emerging from the crumbling mortar surfaces. Nearby Wat Matchimawat displays a mix of Thai and Chinese artistic elements, while Asasul Mosque has been a centre of Muslim life in the Phatthalung Road vicinity since the mid-19th century.
Many houses double as street kitchens expressing the area’s Southern Chinese heritage through plates of roasted duck, khao man gai (chicken rice) and steamed buns. Younger folks have opened art galleries, vintage clothing shops and cafes. If you’re looking to stay in the old town, Baan Nai Nakhon wrapped up Songkhla’s classy Chinese-Thai ambiance in a brilliant boutique hotel.
Over on Nakhon Nok, Blue Smile Cafe proves that funky works of art, craft beer and Western food can fit into an Asian heritage district. At nearby Baan Nakhon Nai Museum (not to be confused with the similarly named hotel), the mosaic tile floors and antique mother-of-pearl furnishings are on display at a former merchant’s home backed by a relaxing courtyard.
From here you can exit on to Nakhon Nai Road and stroll north to the Red Rice Mill, another heritage structure now filled with historical displays detailing how Songkhla’s heritage is closely related to Phuket, Penang, Melaka and others. Wander to the back for a view of Songkhla Lake and Sathing Phra before settling into the on-site coffee shop. If you prefer a lake breeze with your Southern Thai brew, backtrack to atmospheric Cafe Der See.
Talented artists gathered in recent years to tag the old town with dozens of murals ranging from ghostly to quirky and evocative. Adorning a large white building across from the northern end of Nakhon Nai, one of our favourites features Southern Thai “joker” heads popping out of strolling suits in a hilarious take on the cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album.
Once you’ve made your way to the old town’s northern end, you could stop by the pier just south of the post office and pay 500 baht for an hour-long lake cruise by longtail boat. Otherwise you could venture into the sprawling fresh market area before continuing north to the National Museum.
While Songkhla’s old town is a lot of fun to walk around, the streets are narrow so do watch out for cars and motorbikes when taking photos. Expect a full day of exploring if you want to check out the old town at a leisurely pace and also hit the National Museum, perhaps ending the day with a trip up Khao Tang Kuan for sunset.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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