Narathiwat (นราธิวาส) is a city in Narathiwat Province on the Southern Gulf Coast of Thailand.
The city of Narathiwat has a population of about 40,000 and is the provincial capital. The province encompasses an area of 4,475 square kilometres. It is on the eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula. The north borders Pattani and the Gulf of Thailand, the west borders Yala, the east borders the Gulf of Thailand, and the south borders Kelantan, Malaysia. Most of the area consists of tropical rainforest and forested mountains. Narathiwat's climate is tropical, with only 2 seasons: summer and rainy. The wettest period is Nov-Dec.
The majority of the population is Muslim, with the Yawi dialect predominantly used in verbal communication. Yawi is a divergent dialect of Malay which still uses the original Arabic-based Yawi alphabet when written.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has a well-supplied office (gantong theaw) on Narathiwat-Takbai Rd, just outside town. Get there by motorcycle taxi. Staff is quite helpful, speak English and can support you with maps and brochures on what to do and see in the southern provinces.
Originally, Ban Bang Nara or Manalo was just a village on the bank of the Bang Nara River next to the sea. In the reign of King Rama I, Ban Bang Nara was under the administration of Sai Buri (present-day Kedah, Malaysia). It later became a precinct and came under the responsibility of Rangae in Pattani province. In 1906, during the reign of King Rama V, Ban Bang Nara grew into a large community, with highly active land- and sea trade routes touching the town. The provincial government offices were shifted from Rangae to Ban Manalo. In 1915, King Rama VI visited Bang Nara and renamed the city Narathiwat, meaning "home of wise people".
Narathiwat Airport (NAW), about 15 km north of the city near the Chulabhorn military installation, is served by AirAsia with flights to and from Bangkok (DMK).
The nearest station is Tanyongmat, about 20 km from Narathiwat. However, better connections are likely to be had at Sungai Kolok. Several trains run daily.
The unrest in southern Thailand has affected the railways, trains have been targeted and services can be cancelled. Trains running to Sungai Kolok had armed guards from Hat Yai, other than that, service is usually normal.
To/from Bangkok: Air-con buses by The Transport Co. Ltd (บริษัท ขนส่ง จำกัด (บขส.), bor-kor-sor) run between Bangkok's southern bus terminal (สายใต้, sai-tai) and Narathiwat bus terminal daily. The distance is ~1,161 km and normally takes 14 hours. 24 seat VIP buses (พิเศษ, piset) cost 1,295 baht and depart from Bangkok at 17:15. On the return, departure is at 12:30. 47 seat Class 2 buses (ม2) cost 669 baht and depart Bangkok at 15:30 and Narathiwat at 12:45.
Scheduled minivan services ply the routes between Sungai-Kolok/Hat Yai/Yala/Pattani and the Narathiwat bus terminal on the outskirts of town, roughly 500 m past the Provincial Hospital on the left hand side of the road to Ranggae. Ticket prices are 80 baht for Sungai-Kolok and 170 baht to Hat Yai.
Take motorcycle taxis around the city area for about 10-20 baht. Alternatively, a bicycle can be rented at a rate of 50 baht/day to explore the city area. Motorcycle rentals are not readily available in town.
Songthaews ply the scenic route to Taba (Tak Bai) and take passengers from monument square to either Ratchanivet Palace or near Ao Manao National Park.
A new air conditioned bus line connects the bus terminal with the beach at Hat Narathat. The fare is 9 baht.
- Ao Manao/Khao Tanyong National Park. Beautiful beach with a few large rocks, ideal for picnicking, bathing, and beach combing with only a few visitors. A true 4 star beach!
- Hat Narathat (หาดนราทัศน์).
- Masjid Klang (มัสยิดกลาง) (at the south end of Pichitbamrung Rd). Known as the central mosque.
- Masjid Jangwat (มัสยิดจังหวัด) (at the north end of Pichitbamrung Rd). Known as the provincial mosque.
- Masjid Wadi Al-Husein (Talo Mano) (มัสยิดวาดินฮูเช็น). Known locally as Masjid Saam Roi Phi (มัสยิดสองร้อยปี) or "300-year-old mosque".
- Wat Khao Kong (วัดเขากง).
- Bang Nara Riverside Festival (along the riverside promenade). Every Sa, around 18:00. Local atmosphere with lots of teens, live music, and food stalls lining the river.
- Narathiwat Fair. Annually, around mid-Sep.
Miniature Korlae boats, colourful head caps, and head scarves.
Restaurants are plentiful. Most serve local Malay-style dishes. There are a couple of Chinese restaurants and food stalls. Around the market, especially in the late afternoon, you can find khao yam (Malay: nasi krapau) vendors. Narathiwat is famous for its fish crackers (Malay: krupuk ikan) and budu, a fermented fish sauce that can be served salty or sweet. Ask around to find a nice place to eat.
Unlike most other Thai towns, there are no bars and clubs. There are some karaoke places. The predominantly Muslim population does not drink, but alcohol can be bought at most hotels, grocery stores, and 7-Elevens. To drink in public would be disrespectful.
- Ocean Blue Mansion, ☏ , . A fairly new budget hotel, on the banks of Bang Nara River quite close to its mouth. Lift, cable TV, refrigerator, queen beds, hot showers, and air conditioning. Great views of the river and also of Khao Tanyong in the distance. Free covered parking, boat dock available on request. 350-450 baht.
- Pacific Hotel, 41/1-2 Worakakhampipith Rd (between the two main roads of downtown, a block southeast of the Tower Clock), ☏ , fax: . Clean and simple rooms, (with hot showers & TV). Friendly and helpful staff. Small restaurant. Comfort-wise it is just below the Tanyong Hotel, but much less expensive. 300 baht (fan) to 400 baht (air-con).
- Tanyong Hotel, 16/1 Sopapisai Rd (towards the beach (though still a 45-minute walk away) on Walakam Pipid Rd, close to the riverside promenade), ☏ , fax: . 23 comfortable standard air-con rooms, 24-hour restaurant, snooker club, massage and disco. 650-1,200 baht.
In 2004, long-simmering resentment in the southern-most Muslim-majority provinces burst into widespread violence in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala Provinces. The main target of bomb attacks are where people congregate: public markets, hotels, entertainment venues, and shopping areas. Tourists were not targetted however some were killed as by-standers to a bombing attack, which led to foreign governments warning their citizens about travelling to these provinces. The violence was at its worst beterrn 2004-2015 and has now almost ceased. Despite still being under a state of emergency, as of 2022 these provinces are no longer a danger zone and tourists need take no special precautions travelling here. Soldiers will be seen at roadblocks, on trains and other important sites, but they will not cause you any trouble.