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.
Satun Central Mosque or Mambang Mosque (มัสยิดกลางจังหวัดสตูลหรือมัสยิดมำบัง) The mosque has modern style architecture. Its white building is decorated with glazed tiles, marble, and glass.
Satun National Museum – Kuden Mansion / Istana Tengku Kudin of Kedah (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติสตูล – คฤหาสน์กูเด็น) During 1997–2000, the Fine Arts Department rebuilt the Kuden Mansion into a Western two-storey brick building. Its Thai-styled hip-roof is covered with Spanish terra cotta roof tiles. The top of the pediment is adorned with a star-shaped vent in accordance with Islamic architecture.
Khao To Phaya Wang Public Park (สวนสาธารณะเขาโต๊ะพญาวัง)
Wat Chanathip Chaloem (วัดชนาธิปเฉลิม) The first Buddhist temple in the town of Satun. It is a Thai-styled two-storey building. The first storey is a brick building used as a preaching hall. The second storey is a wooden building for religious practice by Buddhist monks.
Laem Tanyong Po and Hat Sai Yao (แหลมตันหยงโปและหาดทรายยาว) A cape jutting into the Andaman Sea where there is a fishing village. Its long sandy beach is fringed with coconut trees and fisher's houses.
Tarutao National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติตะรุเตา) The first marine national park of Thailand. The area was declared a national park on 19 April 1974, and an ASEAN Heritage Park and Reserve by UNESCO in 1982.
- Ko Tarutao (เกาะตะรุเตา) The largest island of the park, covering an area of 152 km2. Mountains with moist evergreen forest predominate, with interesting species of plants and wildlife. There is a mangrove forest. There are many bays, both small and large, with beautiful beaches. Attractions on Ko Tarutao:
- Ao Phante Melaka (อ่าวพันเตมะละกา) A bay with a clean long white beach. The headquarters of Tarutao National Park is here.
- Ao Chak (อ่าวจาก) This small bay is next to Ao Phante Melaka.
- Ao Mo Lae (อ่าวเมาะและ) A bay with a clean white sandy beach.
- Ao Son (อ่าวสน) This curve-shaped bay has sandy beaches which are interspersed with rocky beaches. It is also an egg-laying ground for sea turtles.
- Ao Talo Wao (อ่าวตะโละวาว) A historical area where there was once a reformatory. The site has replicas of the original buildings.
- Ao Talo Udang (อ่าวตะโละอุดัง) A bay to the south of the island, 8 km from Ko Langkawi. The park's Ranger Station To To 2 (Talo Udang) is here. In the past, it was where political prisoners from the Bowondet and Nai Sip rebels were detained.
- Namtok Ludu (น้ำตกลูดู) A small beautiful waterfall, around 3 km from Ao Son. There is a nature trail from Ao Son to Namtok Ludu.
- Tham Chorakhe (ถ้ำจระเข้) A cave 300 m in depth. Inside, are stalactites and stalagmites.
- Pha To Bu Viewpoint (จุดชมวิวผาโต๊ะบู) A cliff 60 m above sea level. The viewpoint is behind park headquarters, overlooking the beaches of Ao Phante Melaka, Ko Bulon, Ko Klang, Ko Khai, Ko Adang, Ko Rawi, and Muko Phetra.
Ko Khai (เกาะไข่) An island to the west of Ko Tarutao. This small island is between Ko Tarutao and Ko Adang. The famous feature of Ko Khai is its natural stone arch, the symbol of the Tarutao National Park. Coral reefs are found in the sea around Ko Khai.
Muko Adang – Rawi (หมู่เกาะอาดัง – ราวี) Islands 40 km to the southwest of Ko Tarutao, or 60 km from the town of Satun.
Ko Adang (เกาะอาดัง) The island has an area of around 30 km2, with many beaches of fine sand. It is surrounded by small islands, and is popular for diving.
Ko Rawi (เกาะราวี) This island has an area of about 29 km2.
Ko Lipeh or Ko Lipe (เกาะสิเป๊ะหรือเกาะหลีเป๊ะ) There is a community of Moken (Chao Le or Andaman Sea Gypsies) here. Most families earn a living by fishing. Most importantly, the villagers will build boats from Rakam wood and perform a ceremony to float the boat, according to their belief in the prediction of their fishing. Ko Lipe is becoming a major tourist destination with many bungalow complexes on the two main beaches, Pattaya and Sunrise.
Ko Hin Ngam (เกาะหินงาม) A small island to the southwest of Ko Adang. On the beach, there are smooth black stones in different shapes and with beautiful patterns.
Ko Yang or Ko Kata (เกาะยางหรือเกาะกาต๊ะ)
Ko Chabang (เกาะจาบัง) A small island. Deep down around the submerged rocks is the habitat of soft corals, sea anemones, and schools of colourful fish.
Muko Dong (หมู่เกาะดง) Islands on the farthest outer ring of Muko Adang – Rawi, around one hour from Ko Adang. There are coral reefs in both shallow and deep sea. Around Ko Dong are 4 – 5 satellite islands. One of them is Ko Hin Son, which prominently looks like superimposed rocks.
Tham Lot Puyu (ถ้ำลอดปูยู) Khlong Tha Chin or Tha Chin Canal flows through the cave. Mangrove forests flank the canal throughout its course. Inside the cave, there are stalactites and stalagmites.
Thale Ban National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติทะเลบัน) Most of the area are a complex of mountains and dense woods. Wild animals found here include serow, elephant, tapir, common wild pig, monkey, gibbon, and Khiat Wak, or Ma Nam (giant Asiatic toad or Malayan giant toad). Attractions in the Thale Ban National Park:
- Bueng Thale Ban (บึงทะเลบัน) A freshwater lake in the middle of a valley flanked by the Chin and the Wang Pra Ranges.
- Namtok Ya Roi (น้ำตกยาโรย) Waterfall originating from a source in the Hua Kraming Forest.
- Namtok Ton Plio (น้ำตกโตนปลิว) Waterfall originating from Mount Chin. This large and beautiful multi-tiered waterfall flows from a high cliff.
- Thai – Malaysian Border Zone or Wang Prachan Checkpoint (เขตชายแดนไทย – มาเลเซียหรือด่านวังประจัน). It is just 2 km from the park's headquarters. Located here is the Thale Ban National Park Ranger Station.
- Namtok Thara Sawan Forest Park (วนอุทยานน้ำตกธาราสวรรค์) The area was declared a forest park by the Royal Forest Department on 23 July 1996. Regular rain causes an abundant evergreen forest here.
- Namtok Panan (น้ำตกปาหนัน) In Tambon Thung Nui, 39 km from the town of Satun. The waterfall originates from Mount Kaming. The surrounding nature is still intact. It has water flowing all year round. A power generating dam of a medium scale has been built in the waterfall area.
- La-ngu Local Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์พื้นบ้านละงู) The museum building has 2 storeys. On the ground floor, there are local handicrafts and sweets for sale. A museum on the upper floor displays brassware, earthenware, silverware, etc., which are the private collection of Mr. Chaiwat Saikun.
Muko Phetra National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติหมู่เกาะเภตรา) Most of the areas are high and steep mountains with valley plains and beaches. The national park has forests, mountains, wildlife, and colourful coral reefs. It is composed of large and small main islands. Attractions in the Muko Phetra National Park:
- Ao Nun (อ่าวนุ่น) A bay where the park headquarters is located.
- Hat Rawai (หาดราไว) The beach is fringed with lines of pine trees.
- Ko Lidi Lek (เกาะลิดีเล็ก) The Ranger Station is here. A white sandy beach lies on the island. A mangrove forest grows at the island's side where various aquatic animals inhabit.
- Ko Bulon (เกาะบุโหลน) There are scattered spots for snorkelling and scuba diving, such as Ko Ayam and Ko Hin Khao. At night, hermit crabs and ghost crabs can be seen on the beach.
- Namtok Wang Sai Thong (น้ำตกวังสายทอง) The beauty of this waterfall is the limestone in the shape of multi-petalled lotus flowers settling on the bottom of the pools at each of its tiers.
- Namtok Than Plio (น้ำตกธารปลิว) It originates from Mount Lung Khroe in the provincial areas of Satun and Trang. This two-tiered waterfall has a pool 40 m wide and 50 m long at its base. The surrounding area is shady with various plants.
International Kite Festival Held every year around February at the Satun Airport, around 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from the town of Satun.
Tarutao – Adang Fishing Club Fair Held every year around March.
Satun Marine Tourism Festival Held around December to mark the start of the marine tourism season in Satun.
Boat Floating Tradition Observed by Chao Le or sea dwellers at Ko Lipe in Satun around the middle of the sixth and eleventh lunar months of every year. It is intended to dispel bad luck, as well as to call on spirits for bountiful fishing.
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 Lipe 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 four customers and two dancers 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. Remember to bring some fruits and snacks, but the monkeys now prefer snacks, And be attentive to your belongings and the monkeys are prone to snatch them. There are also little caves around the base of the mountain that are worth photographing, Also, you can climb up the mountain by the concrete stairways. 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 playing. 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.
- @On's The kitchen, 36 Buriwanich, ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: Onmarch13@hotmail.com. Best place for Western food in Satun. Also a guesthouse.
- Kru Bareh (In the marketplace in the La-ngu District). A Muslim breakfast restaurant, sells great fish curry with roti, mataba, rice with Muslim curry, and hot tea.
- 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 chicken soup. They also have some rice dishes and 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.
- 1 Ti Baan Restaurant (Ti Baan), 79 Tirasathid Rd. Piman., ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 11:00-14:30 and 18:00-22:00. Thai and French restaurant and bar. 100 baht.
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 and 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: email@example.com. Thai-Swiss run eco-resort set in a natural environment. Bungalows. Cheaper rates for longer stays. 200-300 baht.
- Satunthani Hotel (A few doors away from the local 7-Eleven), ☎ . Budget hotel 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.
- Udomsuk Hotel (Near Sathunthani, continue south then left and it is not far, on the first junction). Clean, towels, cover sheet, not too hard bed, squat toilet, friendly owner. Free WiFi. On Google Maps http://goo.gl/maps/cNsJ7. Fan room with bath, 200 baht (Jan 2015).
- Ko Lipe — the boat for Ko Lipe leaves at 12:30 From Tammalang pier and costs 650 baht for a one-way ticket, 1,200 baht for two one-way tickets.
- Langkawi — this Malaysian island can be reached by ferry