Yala is the southernmost province of Thailand, with an area of 4,521 square kilometres. It is the only landlocked province in the south. Today Yala is the border province with many interesting facets: history, culture, and beautiful scenery. The province has a unique mixture of the cultural heritage of several groups--Thai, Chinese, and Islam. The city centre has systematic town planning and is one of the educational centres of the south as well.
The word "Yala" was derived from the local word "yalo" meaning "fish net". Yala used to be part of Pattani, a colony of the Sukhothai Kingdom. In B.E. 2310 when Ayutthaya fell to the Burman, southern colonies became independent. During the reign of King Rama I of the Rattanakosin Dynasty, the King sent his brother, Khrom Phra Ratchawangbowon Maha Surasihanat to take Pattani.
In B.E. 2351, the King had Pattani separated into 7 smaller colonies, namely Mueang Pattani, MueangSai Buri, MueangNong Chik, MueangYaring, MueangRa Ngae, MueangRaman, and MueangYala. Yala had changed its rulers many times before Monthon was abolished in B.E. 2476 and finally became one of the provinces (Changwat) of Thailand
Many go to Yala to visit Wat Khuha Phimuk, locally known as 'Wat Na Tham', one of the most sacred and important archeological sites in Southern Thailand. A cave on the temple grounds houses a 25-m long reclining Buddha image of Phra Phut Sai Yad, which allegedly had the head of the Hindu god Vishnu. The image dates back to the 8 th century, the beginning of the Srivijaya Empire of Sumatra (7 th -13 th centuries) which was particularly strong in the peninsula area. Among the priceless artifacts found here are Buddha images and other religious artifacts that originated from India during that time period. A small museum at the foot of the naga staircase leading up to the temple cave displays a collection of Srivijayan artifacts found in the area.
Betong is the southernmost town of Thailand, sitting high in the hills only 5 km from the Malaysian border and 140 km from the provincial capital. Besides being home to a Bala-Hala rainforest and rare hornbills, it is the venue for hosting the Betong Chicken Festival, a tasty, local specialty where chicken is flavored with a special soy sauce. Wat Phuttha Tiwat contains a 40-m high stupa (non-Thai chedi) that was built in the late 1980s with a modified Srivijayan design.
The winding road from Yala to Betong climbs through remote mountain forests, which was formerly the base of the active Communist Party of Malaya seeking refuge in Thailand through the 1940s until 1989 when a settlement was reached. Their former underground guerilla camp, the Piya Mitr Tunnel System, has now been converted into a museum. Around 180 Communists once lived undetected in the 1 km stretch of tunnels that is 10 meters below the ground surface. Most of the former revolutionaries settled in the area and now serve as tour guides leading the way through the network of dark, curving tunnels and providing demonstrations of jungle survival skills.
The highlight of Bang Lang National Park is the 7-tiered Than Tho Waterfall surrounded by mountains, offering a very panoramic, picture-perfect postcard view.
The towering, red structure on the corner of Sukayang Road is actually Thailand 's largest mailbox created in 1924 with a height of 320 cm.
City Pillar Shrine is located on Phiphitphakdi Road, in front of the City Hall. His Majesty the King graciously gave the top of the pillar to Yala on 18 May 1962. This shrine houses the City Pillar made of Chaiyapruk wood. It is 50 centimetres tall, has a bottom circumference of 43 inches and top circumference of 36 inches, and a four-faced Bhrama image and a flame on top. The surrounding area is a well tended park. An annual festival is held during 25-31 May to celebrate the City Pillar.
Yala Central Mosque is the main mosque of the province, was completed in 1984 displaying western architectural style intertwined with the unique mosque frame. The front has about 30 wide steps leading to the upper terrace. The roof is square-shaped with a dome in the middle.
Sanam Chang Phueak Park is located on Phiphitphakdi Road in an 80-rai plot of land. It was used as the ground to give the King a white elephant (chang phueak) named "Phra Sawet Sura Khachathan" on 9 March 1968. The Park has a pavilion in the middle of a large pond and various sculptures of animals. The ground of the Park is also used for other provincial activities.
Suan Khwan Mueang is located on Thetsaban 1 Road, about 300 metres from the City Pillar Shrine. Its vast area of 207 rai has a separate sports ground and a 69-rai pond, landscaped with sandy beach and sea pines to remedy the landlocked problem of the province. Furthermore, a singing bird contest (Nok Kao Java) is often held at this park since it is the largest and the best ground for such a contest in the south.
Reclining Buddha Image at Wat Khu Ha Phi Muk or Wat Na Tham is one of the three most revered places of the south, along with Phra Borom Mathat at Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phra Borom Mathat Chaiya at Surat Thani, signifying the importance of Buddhism in the area since the Srivijaya Period. This temple is located in Tambon Na Tham, about eight kms. from the city centre, on the road to Amphoe Yaha. A stream runs through the ground of the temple. A figure of a giant, made in 1941 and named by the villagers "Chao Khao", protects the entrance of the cave that houses the reclining Buddha. Inside the cave is a large chamber that has been converted into a religious area, with an opening in the roof of the cave that lets in the sunlight. The reclining Buddha has been estimated to have been made in 757, around the Srivijaya Period, and is 81 feet and one inches long. It is believed that the sculpture was originally in the Sleeping Narai posture, but later modified into the Hinayana reclining Buddha.
Tham Mae Nang Montho is a cave on the Yala-Yaha highway, about six kms. from the city centre. The cave can be reached with a guide who can be contacted at the foothill. One has to trek through scrub and a marble quarry for about 15 minutes to the cave entrance. Inside the cave are large, connecting chambers that are mostly dark. A torch is highly recommended. The highlight of this place is at the end of the cave where a large stalagmite resembling the shape of a meditating lady, hence the name of the cave, is located.
Tham Sin is another cave that can be reached via the same route as Tham Khu Ha Phi Muk, for one km. further, then turn left for another km. passing the Ban Tham Sin School. On the left is a small trek leading to a hill next to the road. The cave is 28 metres high above the ground with steps leading to the entrance. This is a very small and dark cave with ancient mural of different postures of the Lord Buddha and a painting of three women standing together on the cave wall that has deteriorated with time. The mural was assumed to be of late Srivijaya Period, around the 14 th - 15 th centuries. A torch or a lamp is highly recommended to view the mural and the cave itself.
Bang Lang Dam is located at Ban Banglang, Tambon Bacho, on Highway 410, about 50 kms. from Amphoe MueangYala, then left for twelve kms. This d was the first multi-purpose dam in the South, on Pattani River. It is 85 metres high with a crest of 422 metres long, and a reservoir capacity of 1,420 million cubic metres. His Majesty the King presided over the opening ceremony on 27 September 1981. An overlook upstream of the dam, around the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand office, affords a panoramic view of the dam and the surrounding hills. For lodging reservations, please call 0-7329-9237-8 and for boating in the reservoir please call 0-7328-1063-66, extension 2291.
Tham Krachaeng is a cave located at Ban Ka Sod, Tambon Bannang Sata, about 50 kms. from Amphoe Mueang Yala on Highway 410. Pass the entrance to Banglang Dam, then turn left onto a dirt road for 1.5 kms. The scenery is that of the mountains, the stream, and the cave, with the stream running through. During the dry season, one can walk along the stream through this cave to the other side and into an open area surrounded by mountains and lush forest.
Sukthalai Waterfall or Nam Tok Kue Long is in the compound of the Southern Self-Development Community, on Khao Pok Yo which has a transmission station. The waterfall is on the Yala-Betong road, about 40 kms. from Amphoe Mueang, then turn left for another eight kms. It was discovered in 1964 and consist of five levels. The Princess Mother named it "Nam Tok Sukthalai". One can swim in the small pool found on several levels.
Namtok Than To is situated in Tambon Tham Talu, on the Yala-Betong Road (Highway 410), turn right at the 47-48-km marker and continue for about one km. It is a large waterfall with cascading water running through seven levels, with pools at each level suitable for swimming. The surrounding forest is lush with many interesting species, including Si Yala (Saraca thaipingensis Cantley ex Prain) with yellow blooms in February.
La Ong Rung Waterfall (Rainbow Waterfall) is situated on the boundary between Amphoe Than To and Amphoe Betong, about 90 kms. on the Yala-Betong Road from Amphoe Muang. Turn right onto a dirt road at about 40 kms. before reaching Amphoe Betong, and go for another 100 metres. The slippery trek that runs along the stream from the waterfall calls for precaution. During the rainy season, the waterfall produces the effect of a rainbow, hence the name.
Sakai Village at Moo 3, Tambon Ban Rae, is about 80 kms. on the road to Betong. The Sakai, an ancient nomad tribe whose existence was based on hunting and gathering, were experts on herbal plants and used darts for hunting. Their dwellings were originally made of bamboo, with thatch roof. Recently, the Department of Social Work has developed the village by segregating the Sakai in one area and introduced rubber planting for their occupation. The Department also asked the Princess Mother to name the group with the family name of "Si Than To". At present, there are a few of the Sakai left at this village since the rest of the group have moved to other areas.
Namtok Bu Ke Pilo, or Namtok Tawan Ratsami, is about 19 kms. from Amphoe Muang. Take the Yala-Kota Baru Road, then turn into Kota Baru through to Tambon Tha Ruea for about two kms. and turn into the village for another two kms. The entrance to the waterfall is about 500 metres from the village. This waterfall is different from other waterfalls in that when sunlight shines onto the water, the color of the underwater rocks all turn a beautiful yellow.
The word "Betong" is Malay meaning "bamboo". This district is at the southernmost point of Thailand, about 140 kms. from Amphoe MuangYala, on Highway 410. The road between Amphoe Than To and Amphoe Betong winds on the hillside, affording a scenery of the lake, forest, and rubber plantations. The Betong city centre is surrounded by mountains, resulting in a cool climate and high rainfall with frequent fog in the morning. It is therefore dubbed "The City in the Fog with Beautiful Flowers". Betong is a large, developed district. Malaysian tourists often visit the area because of its proximity. The food is outstanding and has a lot of tourists attractions.
Travelling to Betong : from Amphoe Muang, one can take the van or taxi that operates hourly from across the Yala Railway Station. From Hat Yai there is an air-conditioned van to Yala and Betong with services operated 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.. For more information, please call 0-7323-0905, 0-7323-3917-8.
Phra Mahathat Chedi Phra Phutthathammaprakat is located on a hilltop in Betong city centre, on the ground of Wat Phuttathiwat, on Ratanakit Road. This chedi was built in the modern Sivijaya style and covered in the color of gold. Measuring 39.9 metres high, it was built to commemorate the 69th birthday anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen. From the chedi, one can see all of the temple ground and part of Betong city centre.
Suan Sut Sayam (Betong Municipality Park) occupies an area of about 120 square kms. on a hill in the middle of Betong city centre. Overlooking the city, it consists of ornamental plants and flowering plants garden, an aviary, a herbal garden, a sports ground, a swimming pool, and a playground, making it very suitable for recreation and exercising. If one travels on Sukyang Road for seven kms. from the Park, one will reach the southernmost point of Thailand. From here, there is a road connection into Malaysia.
The Largest Mail Box in Thailand used to be located at the Bell Tower intersection of Betong. It was built in 1924 as the communication post for the townspeople, with a radio placed on top of the box, and the mail slot below it. At present, a new box and larger box (nine metres tall) has been built and is located at the City Convention Hall (Sala Prachakhom). The new mail box attracts a large number of tourists who come here to take photographs.
The Swift At dusk, a large flock of swift birds would fly about the city centre and come to rest at houses, on buildings and on electricity lines, especially on the Bell Tower that is well-lit at night. They have become one of Betong's symbols, although they are only present during the cool season. The birds migrate south to flee from the cold weather of Siberia once a year, usually from September through March.
Betong Hot Spring is situated at Ban Cha Ro Parai Village, Tambon Tano Mae Ro. About five kms. before reaching the Betong city centre, turn right from Highway 410 and continue for another eight kms. into the village. At the hottest spot, eggs are cooked in seven minutes. A hot spring shower is also available. It is believed that hot spring water can cure muscle pain and minor skin irritation.
Inthason Waterfall is about 15 kms. from Betong city centre, or about two kms. further from the Hot Spring. It is a small waterfall with lush forest and pools for swimming and relaxing.
Piyamit Tunnel at Ban Piyamit 1, Tambon Tano Mae Ro. Take the same route as the Hot Spring for four more kms. This area is the village of the Thai Development Participants and was once the base of Malaya Communist Division 2. The tunnel was built in three months in 1976. Winding through the mountain for about one km., it is about 50-60 feet wide and has multiple entrances. It was used as a shelter during air raids and as a food storage area. At present, there is an exhibition about its history including the way of life in the forest. It is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Bala-Hala Forest or Suan Pa Phra Namaphithai Phak Tai, Section Two is a lush rainforest with many rare plants and wildlife, especially birds. It is also the habitat of the Sakai. This forest occupies a large area at the boundary of Yala and Narathiwat. It is the headstream of the Banglang Dam. Tourists can take boat trips to enjoy the scenery from the 445th Division of the Border Patrol Police, Thanon Sukkhayang, Amphoe Betong.
Namtok Chaloem Phra Kiat Ro Kao is in Tambon Ai Yoe Weng. Turn right from Highway 410, between Amphoe Than To and Amphoe Betong at the 32-33 km. marker, onto the dirt road for three kms. The waterfall is more than 30 metres high and is surrounded by lush forest.
ASEAN Java Songbird Contest Yala is one of the southern provinces that favors Java Songbirds. It is widely believed that Java Songbirds are good luck charms that bring good luck to their owners, especially birds with prescribed characteristics. The Yala Municipality Authority and the Java Songbird Owner Association annually stage the ASEAN Java Songbird Contest on the first weekend of March. The first contest was held in 1986 and was very successful, leading to the annual event held in the grounds of Suan Khwan Mueang.
The City Pillar Ceremony is held annually in May on the ground of the Yala Municipality Office features a model of the actual City Pillar being paraded around town. Stalls displaying goods for sale, exhibition, Government products, folk entertainment, such as Manora Dance, Nung Talung, and Hulu Li Ke, are also on hand.
Yala Product and Cultural Revival Festival is held annually on the first weekend of August, on the grounds of the Yala Municipality Office. Folk cultures from the various groups in the border provinces of the south, mainly Chinese-Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslim, are performed. There are also contests for Chi La Dance, Best Dressed Banong, Si Bu-nga Siri (a special kind of potpourri), Rong-ngeng Dance, Annacit Singing contest in Malay and Thai languages, plus folk performances from various schools in the area. Exhibition of Yala's best produce is not to be missed.
Hotels and accommodation
- An An : 32-40 Phiphitphakdi Road Amphoe Muang [0 7321 2216] : 90-140 baht
- Betong City Plaza : 1 Thamwithi Amphoe Betong [0 7323 0441-3] : 300-800 baht
- Betong Hotel : 13/6 Saritdet Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 1231] : 120-250 baht
- Betong Merlin : 33 Chayachawarit Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 0222-40] : 875-3,600 baht
- Cathay Betong : 17-21 Chantarothai Amphoe Betong [0 7323 0996-9] : 590-640 baht
- Chang Lee : 318 Sirorot Road, Amphoe Muang [0 7324 4597, 0 7324 4601] : 680-900 baht
- Cola : 15 Khotchaseni 1 Road, Amphoe Muang [0 7321 2208] : 170-230 baht
- Faanrung : 113/1-2 Chantharotai Amphoe Betong [0 7323 1403] : 120-220 baht
- FourTuna : 50-58 Phakdidamrong Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 1180] : 500-600 baht
- Grand View : 30-34 Grand villa Road Amphoe Betong [0 7324 5510-6] : 690-750 baht
- Hua An : 352/1 Sirorot Road Amphoe Muang [0 7321 2771] : 130-160 baht
- Jacky Chan : 226 Sukkhayang Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 0710] : 250-350 baht
- Metro : 7/1-3 Rattakit Road Amphoe Muang [0 7321 2175] : 110-150 baht
- Metro : 8/2 Chantharotai Road Soi 1 Amphoe Betong [0 7323 0741] : 250-350 baht
- My House Hotel : 27 Rattanakit Amphoe Betong [0 7323 0525-6] : 300-500 baht
- Night Resort : Sukkhayang Road Amphoe Betong [0 7324 5620-4] : 800-2,500 baht
- Panfa : 348-350 Sirorot, Amphoe Muang [0 7321 2658, 0 7321 3273] : 120 baht
- Park View : 2-18 Chongrak Road 3, Amphoe Muang [0 7324 4331-4, 0 7324 4760-4] : 380-520 baht
- Penhouse Resort : 68/1 Rattanasathian Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 1501-2] : 580-720 baht
- River Inn Resort : 42/21 Kunung Chanong Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 4175-6] : 500 baht
- San g fa : 90 Rattanasathian Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 1195] : 130-250 baht
- Sometime Resort : 42/20 Kunung Chanong Road Amphoe Betong [0 7324 5611-2] : 500-800 baht
- Sri Betong : 2-4 Thamwithi Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 1560] : 200-400 baht
- Sri Chareon : 29 Chirachinda Road Amphoe Betong [0 7323 0537] :: :: 120-200 baht
- Sri Yala : 16-22 Chaicharun Amphoe Muang [0 7321 2299, 0 7321 2045, 0 7321 2342] : 180-320 baht
- Thai Hotel : 25 Rattanakit Amphoe Betong [0 7323 1036] : 200-350 baht
- Thepviman :: 31-37 Si Bamrung, Amphoe Muang [0 7321 2400, 0 7321 2796] : 150-380 baht
- Yala Changlee Hotel : 318 Siroros Rd, Muang [(66 73) 244-600]
- Yala Grand Palace : 82-84 Chaloemchai Road, Amphoe Muang [0 7321 5711-2] : 350-490 baht
- Yala My House : 109 Rat Khamnueng Amphoe Muang [0 7321 3870, 0 7321 3147] : 280-350 baht
- Yala Rama : 21 Si Bamrung Amphoe Muang [0 7321 2185, 0 7321 2563] : 265-780 baht
- Amphoe Muang
- Takiang : 71 Piti Rd., Tel: 0-7321-6103 (Thai)
- Tara Seafood : 35-39 Pipit Pakdi Rd., Tel: 0-7321-2356 (seafood)
- Krua Ban Khun Phor : 82 Mahapad, Tel: 0-7324-4813 (Thai)
- Kampan : 99/20 Moo 1, Phetkasem Rd., Tel: 0-7325-3282 (Thai)
- Fong Beer : 70 Po Huay Uthit Rd., Tel: 0-7321-4179, 0-7324-4144 (Thai)
- Mandarin : 7 Chongrak Rd., Sadeng, Tel: 0-7321-4690 (Chinese)
- Yala Canton : 46-48 Kochasani Rd., Tel: 0-7324-4611, 0-7321-2576 (suki, Chinese)
- Lailae : 252/6 Pipit Pakdi Rd., Tel: 0-7321-2434 (Islamic)
- Amphoe Betong : Betong is famous for their Betong Chicken, a tasty, local specialty where chicken is flavored with a special soy sauce.
- Tai Zihi : 1 Tesachinda Rd., Tel: 0-7323-0459 (Chinese)
- Bua Luang : 398 Sukyang Rd., Tel: 0-7323-0046 (Thai)
- Suki Betong Coca : 21 Chaya Chawalit Rd., Tel: 0-7323-1826
- Asae : 17 Sukyang Rd. (Islamic)
- Ta Yern : 253 Sukyang Rd., Tel: 0-7323-0461 (Chinese)
- Baiyoke : 227 Sukyang Rd., Tel: 0-7323-0763 (Thai)
- New Zihi : 180-2 Sukyang Rd., Tel: 0-7323-1344 (Chinese)
How to get there
* By car
Yala is 1,084 kilometres south of Bangkok by road. One can take Highway 4 (Thanon Phetkasem) from Bangkok to Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Chumphon, then onto Highway 41 through Thung Song, Phatthalung, Hat Yai, Pattani, and Yala.
* By bus
Air-conditioned bus services are run daily between Bangkok and Yala from the Southern Bus Terminal. Departure times from Bangkok are as follows:
VIP Bus : 5.30 p.m.Standard 1 Bus : 10.30 a.m. and 5 p.m.For further information please call the Southern Bus Terminal at tel: 0 2435 1119-200.
Thai Doen Rot Co.,Ltd (tel: 0 2435 7424): operates a daily bus service from Bangkok to Betong. The bus leaves the Southern Bus Terminal at 4 p.m.
* By train
Yala is 1,055 kilometres from Bangkok by rail. The State Railway Authority of Thailand operates daily rapid and express train services from Bangkok to Yala. Trains leaves the Bangkok Railway Station at 0.25 p.m., 2.45 p.m. and 3.50 p.m. For more information please call Travelling Service Unit, Bangkok Railway Station at tel: 1690, 0 2223 7010 and 0 2223 7020 or visit www.srt.or.th.
* By plane
There is no direct flight to Yala but Thai Airways International offers flights from Bangkok to Hat Yai. From Hat Yai one can either take the train, bus, taxi, or air-conditioned van to Yala. Please call Thai Airways at 1566, 0 2280 0060, 0 2628 2000 for more information.