Satun, population 22,000, is the gateway to Thailand's southern islands on the Andaman Sea. There are mountainous forests with more than eighty beautiful surrounding islands. The best-known islands are Ko Tarutao, Ko Adang, Ko Rawi, and Ko Lipe.
Satun is only a few kilometres from the Andaman coast but a whopping 940 km from Bangkok. Although a majority Muslim population town, Satun has largely escaped the strife that plagues some of the neighbouring provinces such as Narathiwat and Pattani. Satun is a safe and very friendly place to visit.
Satun covers an area of 2,478 sq km. Geographically, it features high hills. On the eastern side, there is a plain, mountainous forests, and water sources. The plain and mountains together with a basin lie in the middle near the coast. Along the coastal line is a plain and an occasionally-flooded mangrove forest where mangrove and Samae trees are mostly found.
The nearest airport is at Hat Yai, about 100 km. From there, take a minivan, bus, or taxi to Satun.
Bangkok—Hat Yai or Bangkok—Trang. Then take a bus from Hat Yai or Trang to Satun.
Express buses to Kangar, Malaysia leave hourly from Butterworth (RM10.40, 2 hours 15 min). Then, head to Kangar city bus terminal from express bus terminal and take Mara Liner's Kuala Perlis bound bus (RM1.50, 35 min) to the jetty. This kind of city-bound bus departure is infrequent and it is always good to plan ahead. The approximate departure times are 11:45, 13:15, 14:45, and 16:45.
The journey can only to be continued with longtail boat from Kuala Perlis's Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia (LKIM) jetty, which is about 200 m further from the Langkawi-bound jetty.
Upon reaching Satun Tammalang pier, take red songthaew to Satun (30 baht, 10 min). The songthaew is most probably available when ferry arrives. If you are stuck awaiting a songthaew, a motorcycle taxi is another option, although is more costly (60 baht).
To travel by car from Malaysia, first take the road from Kangar towards Padang Besar and take a left turn towards Wang Kelian, approximately 8 km, before reaching Padang Besar. Pass the border checkpoints of Wang Kelian on the Malaysian side and of Wan Pra Chan on the Thai side. You may want to stop at the morning market at the border area for some fresh fruit and vegetables. Drive past some scenic mountains on the way to Khuang Don and take a left turn towards Satun. On the way you will pass by the town of Chalung. The trip from the border check points takes about 90 minutes.
Kuala Perlis Fisherman's Boat - Kuala Perlis situated on peninsular Malaysia. Gateway to Langkawi, and Satun. No reservations are possible, just show up. Stay a night at Putra Brasmana Hotel and take a trip cruising the Perlis river to the pier. From there, take a longtail boat to Satun. The trip takes 45 minutes and the fare is 150 baht / RM15 one-way.
There is not much excitement in the predominantly Muslim town of Satun. Most visitors head for Tarutao National Park (a group of beautiful islands about 2 hours by ferry from the jetty of Tammalang). Tammalang is the southern gateway to Satun (by ferry from Langkawi or from Kuala Perlis).
From Tammalang, the ferry sails to the island of Ko Li Pe at 12:30 and takes about three hours. To Ko Tarutao departs at 10:00, arriving at 16:00 (varies, the ferry may turn up at 17:00 or 18:00). Check out island activities at the local tour agent at the Tammalang jetty. After booking your tour, you may want to head back to Satun to stay the night.
While in Satun, walk around to discover its quaint attractions and enjoy the local food. Local food includes spicy Thai food, Chinese-style fare, and Malaysian-influenced cooking of roti canai. There are a few pubs along the main town street. The only disco in town is about 3 km from the town centre. During a recent visit, there were about 4 customers and 2 sexy dancers for the whole night!
Wake up early and try to jog around the Monkey Park. It's just at the back of Phiman School and you will see a rocky mountain and a river besides it. You can circumnavigate this mountain by motorbike or by car as they have built concrete roads here and you will be amazed by the population of tamed monkeys here because they are used to the locals feeding them. Be sure to bring some fruits and snacks, but the monkeys now prefer chips to fruit. And be attentive to your belongings. These monkeys tend to steal them away. There are also little caves here around the base of the mountain that are worth taking pictures of. Also, you can climb up the mountain by the concrete stairways the government had built. There are also cottages here for free if you want to listen to the gush of flowing water in the river and watch the monkeys fool around. You can also go here in the afternoon before sunset around 16:00 as many locals go at this time.
The ferry trip to Tarutao National Park costs about 1,000 baht return. Scuba and snorkelling gear is available for rent at island dive shops. So just bring your suntan lotion and cash (better to change currency on the mainland for better rates).
Restaurants don't seem to have prominent signage or branding. As such it is difficult to label one better than another. Fortunately most of the food is good Thai food with a noticeable lack of Western franchises such as McDonald's or Starbucks. Don't be afraid to walk up to any place that looks as if it's serving food and just use sign language or simple English to order food. Most people are very receptive and will go out of their way to help you get something in your belly. Phonetically "Pad See Ewe" is fried noodles with various vegetable bits and perhaps some meat. Be adventurous, chew slowly, and watch out for bones.
You cannot go to Satun without eating at Kwong Look Chin Plaa, next to the Rain Tong Hotel and the fresh food market. It stands out from the surrounding buildings because of its bright red and yellow décor and it is immaculately clean. They specialise in seafood noodles and the most amazing chicken soup. They also have some rice dishes and extraordinarily delicious ice cream sundaes, which can be compared to Swensons but at a fraction of the price. You can sit outside next to a serene mangrove forest full of fauna. It's possible to see giant lizards, otters, turtles and sea eagles on most days. Recently, however, there has been at least one report that food quality has declined: seafood noodles contained old, rotten prawns.
Southern Thailand is predominantly Muslim which means that portion of the population abjures alcohol consumption. Alcohol is available in some restaurants and in most mini-marts. There are a few bars downtown and some other places with karaoke machines. Overall, it's not a hot spot for three day drunken clubbing binges.
For cool drinks and food: Port Satun at the fresh market and Rientong Pier. Free information,
- Ang Yee's Guesthouse and Art Cafe, 21-23 Tirasathat (Satun centre opposite the Kasikorn Bank), ☎ , e-mail: , email@example.com. Owned by an attentive Thai cliff-and-rock climbing enthusiast who is conversant in English. This two-storey budget guesthouse is a nice surprise. Fully air-conditioned rooms and fan rooms which are wide, well decorated and have a very Asian homey atmosphere. The comfort rooms and bathrooms are common and shared by guests, but it's clean and spacious. At the lobby is a mini-bar adorned with framed paintings on the wall and other memorabilia where they serve authentic Thai foods and selected beers and spirits. At the back is a serene oasis garden which can view the magnificent Wat Chanathip Chaloem Buddhist compound. For longer stays, they have a washing machine and offers discounted rates depending on duration of stay. Car and motorbike rentals. Free Wi-Fi. It's at the entrance to the Satun market. Ticket offices for ferries and services going to Ko Tarutao, Ko Lipe, and Langkawi are just a few steps away, along with food shops, convenience stores and boutiques.
- Bungalow My House (About 3 km N of Satun), ☎ . , Motel-like establishment. There are two rates on the wall in reception. One is written in Thai and is 350 baht and the other "VIP" option is written in English with a rate of 400 baht. The 400 baht room is clean, has air-con, a bath, TV, and the location is near food and mini-marts. No Wi-Fi. The staff is friendly but little English is spoken.
- Farmkhai (From the national museum (Satuntanee Rd, Soi 5) follow the road beside the mountain past a little village over a bridge, 300 m on the right), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thai-Swiss run eco-resort set in a natural environment. Bungalows. Cheaper rates for longer stays. 200-300 baht.
- Satunthani Hotel, ☎ . Budget hotel a few doors away from the local 7-Eleven. Within walking distance to lots of food stalls and awesome cheap places to eat. Non-air-con double rooms go for 270 baht and come with a fan, attached bathroom with cold shower, Western-style toilets, plus a sink and a TV. 270+ baht.