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Lily's Mini Travel Guide | Satun, Thailand | Border crossings Malaysia - Thailand

Satun

Satun mangrove walk Satun is a small provincial capital in the far southwest corner of Thailand. It has a definite end-of-the-road feel to it. A dusty little town where nothing ever happens. On the surface.

8km further south is the port and jetty of Tammalang. It has ferries to Langkawi, Malaysia, but this is not the main gateway. Ferries to the very popular island of Koh Lipe depart from Pak Bara. So Satun sees very few tourists passing through. You may see some people who live in Malaysia on a visa run or having their yacht maintained at the wharf. And there’s a hand ful of Western men living here with their Thai wives.

Satun is part of the Malay-Islamic south of Thailand. It was an independent kingdom until it became part of the Kedah Sultanate, which in 1909 was divided up between Thailand and then British Malaysia, de facto establishing the international border of today. Satun has none of the troubles the other (southeastern) Thai provinces have. It is largely Muslim but with a strong Thai influence. People speak more Thai and Malay than English.

Transport

The ferry to Langkawi leaves from Tammalang, 8km south of town. The ferry to Koh Lipe leaves from Pak Bara, 60 km northeast of town. Pak Bara can be reached directly from Trang or Hat Yai, so most people bypass Satun city.

There are minivans from town to Hat Yai and Trang, and busses to Hat Yai, Trang, Krabi, Phuket and Bangkok.
Note that the bus to Phuket passes the airports of Trang and Krabi.

The nearest airports are in Hat Yai, Trang and Langkawi.

The nearest train station is Padang Basar, but Hat Yai and Trang are easier to reach.

For visiting villages in Satun province, use the songthaews. Songthaews are pick-up trucks with two benches in the back, running fixed routes. The main stop is in front of the 7-Eleven shop.

To get around town you can walk, take a tuk-tuk (which are mini-songthauws here) or a motorbike-taxi.

Satun border crossings

Border crossings from north west Malaysia to south west Thailand

There are many ways to get from Malaysia to Satun. None of them is perfect. Via Langkawi or Padang Besar are probably your best options. If you arrive by private yaught or informal cargo boat and miss immigration in Tammallang, do go to immigration in Satun town.

Please check ferry schedules before traveling. The Penang - Langkawi ferry still does not sail.
Confirmed to sail are Langkawi - Kuala Perlis, Langkawi - Kuala Kedah and Langkawi - Koh Lipe. The latter does not sail in the rainy season, from mid June until mid October. The Langkawi - Tammalang ferry sails once a day, timings depend on the tide.

  • From Kuala Perlis the most easy and reliable route is to take a ferry to Langkawi and then onwards to Tammalang. Kuala Perlis has a very limited bus service with Kangar, but it does have some busses to/from Penang.
    There is no longer a direct boat service from Kuala Perlis to Tammalang, though a ride on a small cargo vessel has been reported as recently as 2020. Find a cargo boat or a fisherman who is willing to take you either from the jetty behind the immigration office at the top of Jalan Besar, or in the fish market hall next to immigration. First arrange your boat, then arrange your exit stamp. The long story of such a boat trip...
  • Alternatively there is a ferry from Kuala Kedah to Langkawi. During the day Kuala Kedah has an hourly bus service with Alur Star, that in turn is well connected to Butterworth and other cities.
  • From Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth and many other towns in western Malaysia you can take a train to Padang Besar, the border. The Malaysian train is fast, frequent, comfortable and affordable (prices vary per type of train).
    Read more details on crossing the border in Padang Besar here. (1) Continue by train. You can cross the border "inside" the train station, but only in the hour preceeding the departure of a Hat Yai bound train. First step is to buy a Thai train ticket at a counter on the north end of the platform. Having Thai baht helps. Second step is to pick up a Thai immigration form. Just before the connecting train from Hat Yai arrives, everybody is sent out of the waiting room onto the platform. Once all the arrving passengers have been processed, you can walk up to the immigration booth and get your exit stamp and get on the train.
    From Padang Besar there are two daily shuttle trains to Hat Yai and one night train to Bangkok.
    (2) Continue via Hat Yai. If you don't continue your journey by train, e.g. because there is no connection, you can cross over a footbridge to the Malaysian road immigration checkpoint. Then walk 1km to the Thai checkpoint. Opposite immigration is a bus stop with a very infrequent service to Hat Yai. Alternatively walk another km into town to find a minivan to Hat Yai.
    (3) Continue via Wang Prachan. You can take a taxi directly from Padang Basar to Satun town. It's just 20 km to the Wang Prachan border, and then another 40 km to Satun. You need to find a driver/vehicle that is allowed to cross the border:
  • There is a small border crossing at Wang Kelian / Wang Prachan, on road R15 / 4184, but neither side has public transport. On the Thai side the road goes through the Tale Ban National Park, a beautiful and winding stretch.
    From the Thai side a car can be arranged at On's bar or at Baan Suan Tondin. From Satun, you can make it to Kuala Lumpur the same day, if you are dropped at Padang Basar railway station and arrange a KTMB train ticket beforehand.
  • From Kuala Lumpur or Butterworth you can take a bus to Hat Yai. Some hotels in Penang can arrange a minivan to Hat Yai.
  • From Hat Yai there are busses and minivans to Satun. The bus is infrequent and slower, the minivan is frequent and takes 2 hours.
  • Another crossing is at at Bukit Kayu Hitam / Sadao on highway 1 / 4. Again, no public transport, the nearest bus stop is in Changlun in Malaysia, 8 km away.
  • From Kuala Lumpur fly to Langkawi, take a taxi to the jetty and then a fast ferry to Tammalang (see above)
  • From Kuala Lumpur fly to Hat Yai, take a songthaew into town. At the bus station take a bus or minivan to Satun.


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Accommodation

The landmark hotel is the Sinkiat Thani in Buriwanich road, the main street that runs south from the clocktower. Cheaper options downtown are the Satun Thani and the Udom Suk hotel.

The Gleam There is some resort-style accommodation as well, a bit further from the city center. Still within walking distance are the Rose inn, on the north west side of town, which has simple cabins around an open field.

Our favorite is The Gleam® on the south east side of town, pretty bungalows in a beautiful garden, with a pool.

If you want to stay close to the Thale Ban NP or close to the Wang Prachan border, stay at Baan Suan Tondin. They have a lovely garden with coffee plants and provide meals.

Vegetarian restaurants in Satun

There loads of eateries around town. To name a few (all of these can make you something vegetarian, even if it isn’t on the menu):

Bang Fan and Negara are halal Thai/Malay restaurants near the mosque. Both do great rotis. Negara, Saridphoominart rd, is very popular and has an extensive menu.

Curry Real Thai curry places (but they also serve many other types of dishes) are Bangrak® in Sathiyuthihum rd, and the Thai restaurant at Satun Thani rd Soi 7. Both are semi-outdoor.

For a romantic dinner on the riverside, go to Dee Dee motel or 178® restaurant.

For Chinese go to Ko Ho Gruel, corner of Samunthaprasit and Satun Thani road.

The night market 100m north of the clocktower has a great pad thai place. Open every night.

Vegan lunch For lunch there are two ”jay” vegan buffet style places: one is Pajai® at Sarid phoominart rd opposite Phoominart pakdee alley, the other is at 47 Tirasathit alley.

Expats, beer and fusion food may be found at On's and Bobby's Pizza. Bobby will make you a real fresh pizza, so that’s the place to go if you fancy one. On's bar has a living room feel and she can give you travel advice if you need some.

Good iced coffee can be found in many of the stalls all over town. Lily's favorite is KanEang® between Salukanukoon-soi-5 and soi-9 on the road to Tammalang.

For a real capuchino or americano in an a/c room or outdoors go to STTC Café (on the road to Thammalang), 178 Café (down by the river), KinSan (on the eastern bypass road) or RNK (opposite the governer's residency).
For real drip-coffee Lily recommands Ban Roa® in Salukanukoon-soi-1.

Corner cafe The Corner Café is 25 km north of town, in Khan Kalong. A good place to stop for lunch on the way from/to Hat Yay or the waterfalls in the north of Satun province – if you have your own transport.

Things to do and see

Satun mosque Mumbang mosque in the city center, next to the clocktower. If you are lucky you may be allowed to climb the minaret for stunning views.

Satun national museum. Originally built in 1902 to accommodate the King on his first visit to the south.

There are some beautiful murals in various places over town. Try and spot them all :)

The boulevard along the river has seen better days, but it's still worth a walk. It goes from the center from the central market to the small fisherman colony at the foot of Khao Toj Yonh Kong.

Saturday night market in main street, mainly food and clothes, gets pleasantly busy.

Khao Toj Yonh Kong park, a small forested lime rock identical to the islands in the Andaman Sea. There is a shrine at the foot of its southern side – beware of monkeys.

Khao Toh Prayawang park, a big forested lime rock identical to the islands in the Andaman Sea. There is a walkway all around – beware of the monkeys.

Mangrove forest Mangrove walk. Go south on route 406, Sulakanukoon. Find soi 15 on your left. Walk it till the end, cross the bypass road and enter a narrow somewhat winding path. Very soon there’s a fork where you keep left. Cross a bridge and then you walk on a narrow embankment right in the middle of a mangrove forest. Watch the trees, the spooky roots and don’t miss the tiny crabs in the mud. When you reach the bigger river, pass along some fishing ponds keeping the river on your right.
You’ll reach a T junction. Either venture right between fields until you reach a bridge over the big river. Return or explore further on your own. Or turn left at the T and walk through a tiny hamlet. There's even a cool drinks stall. Just follow the tarmac / concrete road, and you'll end up at the bypass road.

Plantation walk. Here you can see rubber plantations that are still a major part of Satun economy. You also see how they are being replaced by oil palms, the new gold. Start at Khao Toj Yonh Kong, the big rock beyond the mosque. Go through the small fishing community, go over the bridge, continue for about 1km until the bypass road. Turn left until you reach the south side of town.

Chebilang, a fishing village with jetties and a big wharf.

Thale Ban National Park Thale Ban National Park, close to the Malaysian border. This is pristine jungle, but the facilities at the Visitor Center could be upgraded. There is a beautiful lake and a short jungle walk. Get a songthaew to junction 4184 and hitch a ride from there.

There are waterfalls, caves and a hot spring in the north of Satun province. Let us know if you visited any of those.

Map

Click the map to go to a customized google-map, showing walking tours, main sights and selected restaurants.
The walking routes allow lots of shortcuts.

On a small screen, tap the title to see key to map symbols. If you are signed in to google, you can use the map to navigate.




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® => Lily's recommendations

*last update July 2023*

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