Phatthalung is an ancient city in southern Thailand. It is a land of mountains. In town is Khao Ok Thalu, which is clearly visible from afar. Phatthalung is regarded as the birthplace of the shadow play and the Nora dance. From ancient times to the present, Phatthalung has been closely linked to Songkhla Province, particularly in terms of geography, history and migratory settlements through many ages. During the Srivijaya period (13 th -14 th Buddhist century), the Phatthalung community received Indian cultural influence in the way of Mahayana Buddhism.

In the reign of King Ramathibodi I (U Thong) of Ayutthaya, Phatthalung became one of twelve royal cities. Later, during the reign of King Rama I in the Rattanakosin period, the king had the Ministry of Defense oversee Phatthalung, upgraded it to secondary city status and moved it to the mouth of Pam River.

When there was an administration reform in the reign of King Rama V, Phatthalung prefecture came under Nakhon Si Thammarat prefecture until 1924, when King Rama VI relocated the city to Tambon Khuha Sawan, where it has been ever since. Upon the abolition of the prefecture system in 1933, Phatthalung became a province outright. Phatthalung city is situated on the west bank of Songkhla Lake, about 846 kilometres from Bangkok. It has an area of 3,424.473 square kilometers.

:: Attractions

Phatthalung lies between 2 mountain peaks, Khao Ok Talu (Punctured Chest Mountain) to the northeast and Khao Hua Taek (Cracked Skull Mountain) to the northwest. Local legend says these 2 mountains, the 'mistress' and 'wife', fought over the male Khao Muang (City Mountain), with both incurring injuries. The 250-m Khao Ok Talu has a naturally formed tunnel near its peak, the 'punctured chest', while Khao Hua Taek has a dented peak (cracked skull).

Located on Khao Hua Taek, the Ayutthaya-style Wat Tham (cave) Kuha Sawan became the province's first royal temple and contains many Buddhist grottoes. Numerous statues of monks and Buddha images are housed inside the lower cave, while the upper cave has a great view of Khao Ok Talu and the surrounding areas. The front of the cave contains inscriptions written by various members of the royal family.

Phra Phut Nirokuntarai Chaiyawat Chaturathit, or commonly known as 'Phra Si Muem Muang', is the holiest Buddha image in Southern Thailand and the principal image associated with Phatthalung. The gold-cast image is housed in the Chaturamuk Pavilion, in the foreground area between the provincial hall and the provincial court.

Contrary to its name, Thale Noi (Small Lake) Waterfowl Park is the largest wetland bird reserve in Thailand that serves as a resting and feeding ground, for thousands of exotic migratory birds flying from China and Siberia to Sumatra and Australia.

Though it has a swamp-like appearance, it is actually a freshwater lake with a maximum depth of 1.5 meters. The best way to explore the 30 sq km park is by long-tailed boats, though a viewing platform in the middle of the lake is ideal for bird-watching, especially at dawn. The 150 plus migratory bird species visit the park during the months of January and April, swelling the population to as high as 100,000. The population starts to shrink in May and only a small number of native species are left from October to December.

The restored Governor's Palace occupies a peaceful site in the small fishing community of Lam Pam, slightly east of the city. Built in 1889, the palace is comprised of 2 individual buildings. Closer to the road, the outer teak building served as the living quarters for the governor's family. The main building is built around a courtyard with a large tree and is situated by the river.

:: City Attractions part 1

Wat Tham Khuha Sawan is at the foot of Khao Khuha Sawan near Phatthalung market. A left-hand road at Khao Hua Taek takes visitors to the temple. The temple was built in the Ayutthaya period and was later upgraded to be the first royal temple in the province. Inside the cave is a large reclining Buddha image and another in a sitting posture. The cave walls and entrance are full of the initials of many kings and royal family members.

Phra Phutthanirokhantarai Chaiwat Chaturathit, or as it is called, "Phra Si Mum Mueang" is a Buddha image of southern Thailand, and is a sacred relic of Phatthalung. It is housed in a square pavilion in an area between the provincial hall and the provincial court. This bronze image, in the meditation posture, was given to the province by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1968.

Khao Ok Thalu can be accessed from Wat Khuha Sawan by taking Highway No. 4047. Khao Ok Thalu rises majestically east of the train station. This mountain is a symbol of the province. It is about 250 metres high. Stairs lead up to the summit where visitors can get a panoramic view of the province. The name of the mountain derives from a hole near the top that allows people to see through it.

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