Songkhla in southern Thailand is something of a revelation. Boasting serenity and cornucopia like no other, the southern province is home to street art that rivals the creativity of Singapore or Penang, waterscapes in its kaleidoscopic forms, and proximity to the cradle of curries. With all these hidden gems, Songkhla could keep a multi-generation holiday crew riveted for a whole weekend, maybe even more. Here’s what to do, from Friday to Sunday, when your large family is ready to hit the road.
Friday Afternoon and Evening: Cross to Ranot’s Friday Floating Market via the Songkhla Lake Car Ferry and follow Nakhon Si Thammarat’s (“Nakhon”) curry trail
Before it exhales into the Gulf of Thailand, the Songkhla Lake transports vehicles on a ferry from town to Singhanakorn, a sleepy district on the way to Ranot, where there are hardly any tourists. The nearer floating market to the Old Town is Klong Lae, but proximity to popular Hat Yai has its challenges: floods of tourists hungry for boat noodles have left no room in the boats for locals, who have had to settle for instant noodles.
You won’t find that kind of market gentrification in Ranot’s Floating Market. Here locals flock the market on Friday, starting at 4 pm. Look out for a particularly tasty stall underneath the bridge: two women sell honeycomb and layer cakes glimmering in earth tones. They grow the flavoring pandan themselves (but that’s just the Songkhla standard). It’ll leave the grandparents feeling nostalgic for a time when food had no artificial additives, while younger generations’ eyes will pop when the pandan’s aroma invades their nostrils.
From Ranot, you don’t have to go deep into Nakhon to taste rich, earthy curries. A pit stop, Krua Jai Baan in southern Nakhon, delights even the locals. You might be eating in a six-seater hut, equipped with boxes of tissues to serve you during your sweaty feast of coconut milk soups, red curries, and a umami-centric koong pad sataw (sataw stir-fried with shrimps). Huddled together under the hut, the family meal is as cozy as it gets.
Come into the Old Town at sundown, where you can appreciate the street art. Mature tastes will find fun in details such as in the mural of a woman eating kao yum, an herbal salad, while offering it to a man who reciprocates with a traditional Chinese medicine jar. Audiences who are neurodivergent or have neurodivergent family members will feel particularly seen by a piece of a bright character blossoming amid blooming flowers. “Dedicated to those with autism,” it’s lovingly signed.
Check into Baan Nai Nakhon, a boutique hotel decked out with vintage furniture carefully chosen by its well-traveled owner. If you’re booked elsewhere, you can always grab a meal at Baan Nai Nakhon.