Yala, meaning fishnet, is the southernmost province of Thailand. It is a landlocked province. The town of Yala is not far from the Malaysian border. It is a tiny place with a population of 74,000 but is a modern commercial center. It is situated on the Pattani River. The province is known for its rubber plantations.
Yala is not a favored tourist spot and is visited mostly by seasoned travelers looking for places that are off the beaten track. The residents are mostly Buddhist of Thai and Chinese origins. There is also a strong Islamic presence.
The Kingdom of Thailand, previously called Siam, resisted all attempts at colonization by the Europeans. The Thai year is not determined by the Christian or Common Era. The Buddhist Era starts from the year of Buddha’s death. The Thai estimate is 543 BC. Thus, the Thai year corresponding to 2015 is 2558 BE. Tourists need to keep this in mind.
Places to visit in and around Yala are mostly of scenic or historical importance.
- Khuean Bang Lang (Bannang Sata) is a dam that is 85 m high with a 422 m-long crest. It is situated on the Pattani River, where a drive along the crest offers a panoramic view.
- Namtok Sukthalai is a waterfall that has five levels. There is a pool for swimming at each level.
- Tham Krachaeng is a unique mountain cave. A stream runs through the cave, and in the dry season, you can walk right through the cave to the other side of the mountain for an enthralling view of forests and mountains.
- Bala-Hala Rainforest is a rainforest where you can experience the rare plants and wildlife before all the rainforests disappear. The birds are a very special attraction.
- Betong Hot Springs is a place where at the hottest points, an egg will cook in seven minutes. There are hot showers available, which are said to alleviate muscle pain and skin irritation.
- Wat Khuha Phimuk (Wa Na Tham) is the most revered religious site in Thailand. The name literally translates to “temple in front of a cave.” The cave contains an ancient statue of a reclining Buddha. Guarding the entrance to the cave is the Chao Khao statue, which is thought to have been sculpted in BE 2484 (remember to deduct 543 years to convert to BCE). Beyond the giant is a large chamber with an opening in the roof to let in sunlight. The Buddha sculpted in BE 1300 is 81 feet and 1 inch from head to toe.
- The Piyamit Tunnel was built by hand in 2519 BE. It took three months to build. It was the base of the Malaya Communist Division. It winds into the mountain for about one kilometer and is about 60 feet wide. Rebels used it as an air-raid shelter and food-storage area. Today it is a tourist center with an exhibition on the history of the tunnel. The exhibition also highlights the ways of life of the forest people.
- The City Pillar Shrine is made of Chaiyapruek wood. The top of the pillar is a four-faced Brahma with a flame. A festival to celebrate the pillar is held annually from May 25 to May 31.
- Phra Mahathat Chedi Phra Phutthathammaprakat is a chedi, a Thai version of the “stupa,” a Buddhist commemorative monument, that was built to commemorate the 69th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand. It was built in the Sivijaya style and covered in gold color. The chedi is 39.9 m high.
- The Bell Tower is well lit at night; and from September to March, large numbers of swifts (birds) come to rest there. The swifts fly in to escape the Siberian winter and have become a symbol of Betong.
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