Thale Noi means the small sea and indeed, travelling by long-tail boat on this vast freshwater lagoon gives you the feeling that you are on an amazingly calm sea. The Lake is located in the Phatthalung province of southern Thailand, covers an area of 28 square kilometres, and forms the northernmost portion of the Great Songkhla Lake. The wetland area was declared a Ramsar site, which recognizes its international importance under the criteria of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands for containing representative, rare or unique wetland types or for their importance in conserving biological diversity.
When to go?
The lotuses and water lilies are in full bloom from January to March/April and this time of the year corresponds with the largest number of migrating birds. I visited the place exactly on the first day of April and the scenery was amazing with a minimal number of tourists. In general, November is the wettest month of the year and July is the driest.
How to get there?
The easiest way is to fly from Bangkok to Hat Yai, Nakhon Si Thammarat or Trang and arrange a further trip from one of these. The southern railway connects Phatthalung with Hat Yai and Nakhon Si Thammarat, but you can easily get mini-buses or buses too.
Where to stay?
As long as you are planning to take a sunrise boat trip, you should stay overnight somewhere around the lake. I recommend Chuanchom Resort. It’s basically just opposite the area where the boatmen hang out in the morning. The room is simple but perfectly fine for a short stay. I paid around 700 THB for one night.
How long to stay?
One day is enough to explore the area. After the sunrise trip, you may want to check out Thale Noi Viewpoint Tower and then make a stop in Phatthalung, before heading further.
Sunrise boat trip
Boat trips can be arranged around the big parking, opposite the road next to Chuanchom Resort. Just go there in the morning and speak directly with the boatmen. I highly recommend starting around sunrise time, as it’s purely magical to see how the wetlands spring to life. The prices vary depending on the duration of the trip. The 1-hour trip will cost about 550 THB while the longer one, which is over 2 hours, will cost about 900 THB or more. I took the longer one and totally loved it. It was even more than 2 hours as the boatman didn’t have a watch and I didn’t control the time either. After a while, he just asked me what time it is and then we turned back. Perfect cooperation 🙂 Long-tail boats can carry up to 7 people.
Thale Noi is an important habitat for various wildlife, particularly waterfowl. January to April is the time of the year with the largest number of migrating birds and the sunrise hours are best for observation. Besides that, you will certainly spot water buffaloes. Local fishermen can be spotted too, checking their fish traps and nets but also unknowingly posing for photos. The long-tail boat glides across the water strewn with lotus flowers like a carpet. And when there are no plants on the surface, it acts as a mirror, reflecting incredible formations of clouds.
There are many photo spots when the boatman switches off the engine so you can take in all that view in silence.
Other interesting places
Chaloem Phrakiat Bridge
Spanning 5.5 kilometres, it is the longest bridge in Thailand. There are some rest stops so you can pull over and take your photos if you are driving. When you enter the bridge from the Gulf of Thailand side, you may spot giant square-shaped nets which are mounted on a wooden frame named ‘yo‘ in Thai. The nets are dipped into the water and then raised to catch the fish which can then be sold at local markets. The very picturesque Twin House is located more or less about halfway along the bridge, on its left side.
Thale Noi Viewpoint Tower
Walk up the stairs to admire the panorama of Thale Noi Lake.
There are no must-see places in town, however, some are worth the visit if you have time to spare.
Phatthalung Museum is a former residence of the Governor of Phatthalung. Beautiful, Thai-style houses are now accessible to the public. When it comes to temples, I would recommend visiting Wat Khuha Sawan, with a cave full of Buddha statues and Wat Khao Chiak with 800+ steps uphill and beautiful panoramic views as a reward. To finish the day, Saen Suk Lampam Beach is a good spot for enjoying lakeside views, especially during sunset.