Sungai Kolok (สุไหงโกลก) is a border town in Narathiwat, Thailand, just north of the Malaysian border. The town on the Malaysian side of the border is Rantau Panjang which is in the state of Kelantan.
Sungai Kolok is popular among Malaysians for its shopping and infamous entertainment delights. Tourism however has taken a knocking since 2005 as several bombs, blamed on southern Thai Muslim separatists, have rocked the town.
Sungai Kolok is the railhead on the east coast branch of the State Railways of Thailand's southern line. There are two departures daily to Bangkok, at 11:30 (rapid) and 14:20 (express), both stopping at Yala, Hat Yai, Surat Thani and many other towns en route. The 11:30 train arrives in Bangkok at 08:45, and the 14:20 arrives at 10:30, both the following morning. Although there is a rail link across the Golok River to Rantau Panjang (in Kelantan, Malaysia), there are no cross-border passenger train services.
- 1 Sungai Kolok railway station (สถานีรถไฟสุไหงโก-ลก).
Head to Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Ko Samui and other destinations by direct air-con buses from Wongwiwat Rd bus terminal. Minivans depart to Hat Yai (280 baht) every hour 08:00-16:00, 4 hour trip, Narathiwat, Pattani. Numerous travel agents around the bus stations will all sell tickets for the same minivans at the same price. At peak times two or three minivans may set off on the hour, but if one is only half full it will wait for more people. Buses and vans run only during the daytime - if you come through at 6 or 7pm, the bus station will be completely closed up and you'll have to stay in town.
To/from Bangkok: Air-con buses by The Transport Co. Ltd (บริษัท ขนส่ง จำกัด (บขส.), bor-kor-sor) run between Bangkok southern bus terminal (สายใต้, sai-tai) and Sungai Kolok bus terminal daily. The distance is ~1,227 km and normally takes 15 hours.
- 24 seat VIP bus (พิเศษ, pi set) costs 1,365 baht, departs from Bangkok at 17:15. To Bangkok, departure is at 11:30.
- 40 seat Class 1 C bus (ม1ข) costs 880 baht, departs from Bangkok at 18:00 and Sungai Kolok at 15:30.
- 47 seat Class 2 bus (ม2) costs 706 baht, departs from Bangkok at 21;00 and Sungai Kolok at 08:00.
Malaysian-registered cars must get Thai insurance coverage, which can be purchased at a counter at Thai border immigration. Make a customs declaration for your car by showing the insurance purchase and car registration. You will be given a white-coloured form. Give that to Customs after you get your passport stamped. Do stop and submit the form or you will get into trouble when trying to leave Thailand with your car.
The "Harmony Bridge" across the Golok River connects Sungai Kolok with the Malaysian town of Rantau Panjang. The Thai border checkpoint is about 1 km from the railway station; a motorcycle taxi should cost 20 baht. The Malaysian immigration checkpoint is just across the bridge and can be easily walked. Once in Malaysia, you can either catch a bus or taxi to Kota Bharu or Pasir Mas where you can catch trains to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. See the Rantau Panjang article for more details.
Take a motorcycle taxi. The fare to the border is 20 baht.
There is not much to see here except the morning market and the girls during the night (at the karaoke bars).
Watching smuggling on the river opposite Rantau Panjang makes for a pleasant diversion.
The "entertainment" district is in the neighborhood surrounding the Marina Hotel, a couple blocks south of the main road near the border. The main karaoke bar strip is on the same block as Marina, while the night club strip is in a pedestrian alleyway behind the hotel.
Traditional massage around 270 baht per two hour session. There is ancient Thai massage at Hotel Genting, Hotel Marina, and Hotel Tara. Once you enter, the supervisor will ring the bell, then the masseuses will line up sitting in a showroom with their numbers. Choose the masseuse you prefer. The supervisor will then show you to a room. Once inside, change into loose massage trousers. The masseuse will come with a bucket of water to wash your feet.
You can also call for a massage in your hotel room for an extra 30 baht or so.
Opposite the Police station is a lane where stalls are set up for the night selling seafood and others. The corner shop serves only seafood and beer. They have fresh oysters from Surat Thani.
Next to Merlin Hotel (same road as Marina Hotel) is a food court setting with a few hawkers selling fried rice, and noodles (soup mee or wantan mee). A few shops away from Merlin Hotel, you can find Bak Kut Teh (a Malaysian dish of pork cooked with herbs).
Chicken rice is found near the Venice Palace Hotel.
Beer is widely available in most restaurants, karaoke joints, bars and even in massage parlours. Heineken is 130 baht per big bottle.
If you can find it, there is a coffee shop selling Western-style coffee at 24-26 Chenmarka Rd. Tel. +66 73 612963. It's next to Chaidee Stores, a textile shop.
Almost everyone accepts Malaysian ringgit as well as baht (a few may even quote you prices in ringgit), often at reasonable or even downright good exchange rates, though of course it's worth checking the conversion if you're spending a lot or pinching pennies.
- Asia Hotel. Basic cheap hotel with ceiling fan, bathroom in the room, and old-fashioned tube TV, no air conditioning or hot water. A bit run-down - toilet seat may be missing, sink may drain directly onto shower/bathroom floor, etc. - but spacious, the beds are freshly made, and towel and soap bar are included. Rooms with or without windows are available. Staff very friendly. 300 baht/40 ringgit.
- Balun Hotel.
- Grand Garden Hotel, 66 Soi 3 Prachawiwat Rd.
- Marina Hotel, 173 Charoenkit Rd, Soi 3. 15-story fortress of vice, with an in-house massage joint and two raucous nightclubs. There’s a ballroom where diners are treated to a middle-aged crooner in Tammy Faye makeup butchering love songs. The Marina Hotel in 2005 was the site of the insurgency's first-ever car bomb. It destroyed the ballroom and claimed five lives. The hotel has been bombed at least four times, most recently in 2011 when four Malaysian tourists were killed. 1,000 baht.
- 1 Merlin Hotel, 40 Chareonkit Rd. 600 baht.
- 2 Genting Hotel, 250 Asia 18 Rd. 700 baht.
- 3 Taksin Hotel. 380 baht.
- 4 Hawaii Hotel. 300 baht.
- 5 Tara Regent Hotel, 45 Charoenkhet Rd, Soi 3. Probably the best value for this price range, clean and spacious rooms. 600 baht.
- Thailiang Hotel, 40 Charoenkit Rd (150 m from the train station), ☏ . Check-out: 12:00. Normal hotel with bathroom attached. Big window, TV, fan and some furniture. 350 baht.
The insurgency in the southern provinces of Thailand is ongoing, and attacks on trains and border posts have occurred. Check for any safety recommendations from respective governments before going to the southern provinces.