Yala (ยะลา) is a town in Deep Southern Thailand.
Yala is the southernmost province of Thailand. It has an area of 4,521 square kilometres. It is the only landlocked province in the south. Yala is a border province with an interesting history, culture, and beautiful scenery. The province has a unique mixture of cultural heritage of several groups: Thai, Chinese, and Muslim. 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 a part of Pattani, a colony of the Sukhothai Kingdom. In 1767 (2310 BE) when Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese, the 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 1808 (2351 BE), the king had Pattani partitioned into 7 smaller colonies, namely Mueang Pattani, Mueang Sai Buri, Mueang Nong Chik, Mueang Yaring, Mueang Ra Ngae, Mueang Raman, and Mueang Yala. Yala had changed its rulers many times before Monthon was abolished in 1933 (2476 BE) and finally became one of the provinces of Thailand.
Yala is 1,084 km south of Bangkok by road. One can take Hwy 4 (Phetkasem Rd) from Bangkok to Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Chumphon, then onto Hwy 41 through Thung Song, Phatthalung, Hat Yai, Pattani, and Yala.
There are no direct flights 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. See Airways [dead link].
Yala is 1,055 km 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 12:25, 14:45, and 15:50. For more information visit  [formerly dead link].
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 Yala bus terminal daily. The distance is ~1,089 km and normally takes 14 hours.
- 24 seats VIP bus (พิเศษ, piset) costs 1,215 baht, departs from Bangkok at 17:30. On the reverse, the departure is at 14:00.
- 32 seats Class 1 B bus (ม1พ) costs 914 baht, departs from Bangkok at 19:00 and Yala at 15:30.
- 40 seats Class 1 C bus (ม1ข) costs 783 baht, departs from Bangkok at 17:00 and Yala at 16:30.
- 47 seats Class 2 bus (ม2) costs 609 baht, departs from Bangkok at 14:00 and 18:00, Yala at 12:30 and 14:30.
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 – 17:30.
- Standard 1 Bus – 10:30 and 17:00.
For further information, call the Southern Bus Terminal at tel: +66 2 4351119-200.
Thai Doen Rot Co.,Ltd (tel: +66 2 4357424) operates a daily bus service from Bangkok to Betong. The bus leaves the Southern Bus Terminal at 16:00.
To/from Sungai Kolok
Mini bus for 120 baht or by train for 20 baht. The travel takes about 2 hours. The train may be slower.
The city is somewhat walkable, depending on how far you're going (from the train station to the city pillar shrine is a bit long, but doable). There aren't a lot of taxis, even of the motorcycle variety, but you may find some at the train station.
The big circle on the map with streets radiating out from it is not a downtown area, but a park in the suburbs that hosts the city pillar shrine (see See below).
- City Pillar Shrine (ศาลหลักเมือง). This shrine houses the City Pillar made of Chaiyapruk wood. It is 50 centimetres tall, bottom circumference is 43 inches, top circumference is 36 inches with the four-faced Brahma and a flame on top. The City Pillar Ceremony (งานสมโภชเจ้าพ่อหลักเมืองยะลา) ceremony is held annually in May on the grounds of the Yala Municipal Office, in which the model City Pillar is paraded. The ceremony features stalls displaying goods for sale and exhibition, as well as government products, and folk entertainment, such as Manora Dance, Nung Talung, and Hulu Li Ke.
- ASEAN Java Songbird Contest (งานมหกรรมแข่งขันนกเขาชวาเสียงอาเซียน): Yala is one of the southern provinces that favor Java Songbirds. It is widely believed that Java Songbirds are good-luck charms that bring good luck to their owners, especially if the birds possess certain characteristics. The Yala Municipality Authority and Java Songbird Owner Association annually stage the ASEAN Java Songbird Contest on the first weekend of March. The first contest, held in B.E. 2529, was popular and led to an annual event held on the grounds of Suan Khwan Mueang.
- Yala Product and Cultural Revival Festival (งานเทศกาลฟื้นฟูประเพณีและของดีเมืองยะลา): The festival is held annually on the first weekend of August on the grounds of the Yala Municipal Office. Folk cultures from the various groups in the border provinces of the south, mainly Chinese-Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslim, perform at the festival. The festival also hosts contests for Chi La Dance, Best Dressed Banong, Si Bu-nga Siri (a special kind of potpourri), Rong-ngeng Dance and Annacit Singing (in both Malay and Thai languages). Various schools in the area also present folk performances, while an exhibition of Yala's best produce is also displayed.
- Yala Central Mosque (มัสยิดกลางจังหวัดยะลา): is the main mosque of the province in Western architectural style intertwined with the unique mosque frame. The front has about 30 wide steps leading to the upper terrace.
- Sanam Chang Phueak Park (สวนสาธารณะสนามช้างเผือก): Used as the ground to give the king a white elephant (chang phueak) named "Phra Sawet Sura Khachathan". The park has a pavilion in the middle of a large pond and various sculpture of animals.
- Suan Khwan Mueang (สวนขวัญเมือง): Its vast area of 207 rai has a separate sports ground and a 69 rai pond, landscaped with sandy beach and sea pines.
- Wat Khuhaphimuk or Wat Na Tham (พระพุทธไสยาสน์วัดคูหาภิมุขหรือวัดหน้าถ้ำ): One of the three most-revered places of the south. A figure of a giant, made in B.E. 2484 and named by the villagers as “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.
- Tham Mae Nang Montho (ถ้ำแม่นางมณโฑ): Inside the cave are large connecting chambers that are mostly dark. The highlight of this place is at the end of the cave with a large stalagmite resembling the shape of a meditating lady, hence the name of the cave.
- Tham Sin (ถ้ำศิลป์): 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.
- Bang Lang Dam (เขื่อนบางลาง): This dam is the first multi-purpose dam in the south, on the Pattani River. It is 85 metres high with a crest of 422 metres long, and a capacity of 1,420 million cubic metres.
- Tham Krachaeng (ถ้ำกระแชง): A cave at Ban Ka Sot, Tambon Bannang Sata, about 50 kilometres from Amphoe Mueang Yala.
- Namtok Sukthalai or Namtok Kue Long (น้ำตกสุขทาลัยหรือน้ำตกกือลอง): It consists of five levels. The princess mother named it “Namtok Sukthalai”.
- Namtok Than To (น้ำตกธารโต): A large waterfall with cascading water running through seven levels with pools for swimming. The surrounding forest is lush with many interesting species including Si Yala (Saraca thaipingensis Cantley ex Prain) with yellow blooms in February.
- Namtok La-ong Rung (Rainbow Waterfall) (น้ำตกละอองรุ้ง): A slippery trek that leads along the stream from the waterfall. During the rainy season, the waterfall has the effect of the rainbow, hence the name.
- Sakai Village (หมู่บ้านซาไก): The Sakai are an ancient nomadic tribe which existed on hunting and gathering, expert in herbal plants and using darts for hunting. Recently the Department of Social Work has developed the village by segregating the Sakai in one area and introduced rubber planting as their occupation.
- Namtok Bu Ke Pilo or Namtok Tawan Ratsami (น้ำตกบูเก๊ะปิโลหรือน้ำตกตะวันรัศมี): About 19 km (12 mi) from Mueang District, the entrance to the waterfall is about 500 m (1,600 ft) from the village. When sunlight shines onto the water, the underwater rocks turn yellow.
- Betong (เบตง): A Malay word meaning 'bamboo'. This district is at the southernmost point of Thailand. 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".
- Phra Mahathat Chedi Phra Phutthathammaprakat (พระมหาธาตุเจดีย์พระพุทธธรรมประกาศ): This chedi is built in the modern Sivijaya-style, covered in a gold color. It is 39.9 m (131 ft) high, built to commemorate the 69th birthday of the queen.
- Suan Sut Sayam (Betong Municipality Park) (สวนสุดสยาม): Overlooks the city, consisting of ornamental plants and a flowering plants garden, aviary, health garden, sports ground, swimming pool, and playground.
- The Largest Mail Box in Thailand (ตู้ไปรษณีย์ใหญ่ที่สุดในประเทศไทย): Built in B.E. 2467, before World War II, as a communication post for the townspeople, with a radio installed on top of the box and a mail slot below it. A new and larger box was built (9 m (30 ft) high), and is at the City Convention Hall (Sala Prachakhom).
- Swifts (นกนางแอ่น): At dusk, the swifts fly around the city centre and come to rest on houses, buildings and electricity lines—especially on the Bell Tower that is well lit at night. The birds have become one of Betong's symbols.
- Betong Hot Spring (บ่อน้ำร้อนเบตง): At Ban Charo Parai Village, Tambon Tano Mae Ro, about 5 km (3.1 mi) before the Betong city centre.
- Namtok Inthason (น้ำตกอินทสร): About 15 km (9.3 mi) from Betong city centre and about 2 km (1.2 mi) from the hot spring.
- Piyamit Tunnel (อุโมงค์ปิยะมิตร): The tunnel was built in three months in B.E. 2519 and winds through the mountain for about 1 km (0.62 mi)—it is about 50 ft (15 m) wide with several entrances. It was used as the air-raid shelter and food storage area.
- Bala-Hala Forest (ป่าบาลา-ฮาลา), or Suan Pa Phra Namaphithai Phak Tai, Section Two (สวนป่าพระนาภิไธยภาคใต้ ส่วนที่ 2): A lush rain forest with many rare plants and wildlife—especially birds. Also the home of the Sakai tribe, this forest occupies a large area at the boundary of Yala and Narathiwat.
- Namtok Chaloem Phra Kiat Ro Kao (น้ำตกเฉลิมพระเกียรติ ร.9): In Ai Yoe Weng Sub-district, the waterfall is more than 30 m (98 ft) high and is surrounded by lush forest.
Because of the recent bombings your cell phone's SIM card will be disabled on the way down here. You will still have data access. Go to Telewiz to register your SIM in Yala. (+66 73 228900-2) you'll need to show your passport and fingerprints.
- Shogun oranges (ส้มโชกุน): Yala's leading economic crop. They are similar to green sweet oranges, but have softer flesh.
- Kluai Hin (กล้วยหิน): A kind of banana, similar to kluay nam wa. When boiled or glazed, it has a nutty taste.
- Betong Noodles (หมี่เบตง): Egg noodles.
- Betong Soy Sauce (ซีอิ๊วเบตง): A special method is used to make the sauce from soybeans.
There are street stalls and small restaurants all over Yala. Like the rest of Thailand you are never far away from food. Yala is not used to Westerners or tourists so just smile a lot and point at the food you want. Many people understand rudimentary English so say the kind of meat you want and go from there.
There are a few watering holes, but keep in mind this is a Muslim area and you may offend someone with your drinking. Alcohol is available and drunk in considerable quantities by the local non-Muslims, but getting inebriated and making a ruckus is not advisable. Prices here are very reasonable.
- Chang Lee Hotel, 318 Siroros Rd, ☏ . This place is one of the tallest buildings in Yala. It's 15 stories with the top two floors in ruins occupied only by bats. Chang Lee Hotel is not for the faint of heart or squeamish. It's been many years since it's glory days. Rooms have air-con and a TV with only Thai channels. 460 baht.
- Park View Hotel, 2-18 Jongrak 3 Rd, ☏ . This place is bustling compared to My House or Chang Lee. The rooms are simple but tidier than the Chang Lee, although with a very loud air conditioning. You must pay a 205 baht deposit for the minibar when you check in; however, you receive all of it back when you check out if you've not used the minibar. Wi-Fi can be had in the lobby for free. They have a cafe and restaurant as well as a discotheque in the area. 395 baht.
- Yala My House, ☏ . This place looks worlds better than Chang Lee and it's cheaper. You can choose a karaoke girl off of the wall when you come in for 200 baht, but that's standard around these parts. If you don't want one no problem. There's a 2 hour Thai massage across the street for 240 baht and several discotheques and karaoke bars. All seem to be thinly veiled fronts for prostitution. 340 baht.
- Yala Rama Hotel, 21 Sri Bumrung Rd, ☏ . Very centrally located, appears to be the most reputable hotel in town according to locals. 350 baht.
If you need a SIM card for your phone, you can get an AIS card and register it on the spot at the bigger of the two cell phone shops across the street from the train station. 7-Elevens in town sell TrueMove SIMs, but only if you have some form of Thai-issued identification (no foreign passports).
In 2004, long-simmering resentment in the southernmost Muslim-majority provinces burst into violence in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces. Some rebel groups have threatened foreigners, and three foreigners were killed in bombings in Hat Yai (in neighbouring Songkhla Province) in Sep 2006, but while targets have included hotels, karaoke lounges and shopping malls, Westerners have not been singled out for attacks. If you are polite, respectful and smile a lot you don't have much to worry about. Do not dress in overly revealing clothing. There are soldiers all over the town, but they are there to keep you safe and keep the peace.