Yala is the southernmost province of Thailand, with an area of 4,521 square kilometres. It is the only landlocked province in the south. Today Yala is the border province with many interesting facets: history, culture, and beautiful scenery. The province has a unique mixture of the cultural heritage of several groups--Thai, Chinese, and Islam. 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 part of Pattani, a colony of the Sukhothai Kingdom. In B.E. 2310 when Ayutthaya fell to the Burman, 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.
Many go to Yala to visit Wat Khuha Phimuk, locally known as 'Wat Na Tham', one of the most sacred and important archeological sites in Southern Thailand. A cave on the temple grounds houses a 25-m long reclining Buddha image of Phra Phut Sai Yad, which allegedly had the head of the Hindu god Vishnu. The image dates back to the 8 th century, the beginning of the Srivijaya Empire of Sumatra (7 th -13 th centuries) which was particularly strong in the peninsula area. Among the priceless artifacts found here are Buddha images and other religious artifacts that originated from India during that time period. A small museum at the foot of the naga staircase leading up to the temple cave displays a collection of Srivijayan artifacts found in the area.
Betong is the southernmost town of Thailand, sitting high in the hills only 5 km from the Malaysian border and 140 km from the provincial capital. Besides being home to a Bala-Hala rainforest and rare hornbills, it is the venue for hosting the Betong Chicken Festival, a tasty, local specialty where chicken is flavored with a special soy sauce. Wat Phuttha Tiwat contains a 40-m high stupa (non-Thai chedi) that was built in the late 1980s with a modified Srivijayan design.
The winding road from Yala to Betong climbs through remote mountain forests, which was formerly the base of the active Communist Party of Malaya seeking refuge in Thailand through the 1940s until 1989 when a settlement was reached. Their former underground guerilla camp, the Piya Mitr Tunnel System, has now been converted into a museum. Around 180 Communists once lived undetected in the 1 km stretch of tunnels that is 10 meters below the ground surface. Most of the former revolutionaries settled in the area and now serve as tour guides leading the way through the network of dark, curving tunnels and providing demonstrations of jungle survival skills.
The highlight of Bang Lang National Park is the 7-tiered Than Tho Waterfall surrounded by mountains, offering a very panoramic, picture-perfect postcard view.
The towering, red structure on the corner of Sukayang Road is actually Thailand 's largest mailbox created in 1924 with a height of 320 cm.
City Pillar Shrine is located on Phiphitphakdi Road, in front of the City Hall. His Majesty the King graciously gave the top of the pillar to Yala on 18 May 1962. This shrine houses the City Pillar made of Chaiyapruk wood. It is 50 centimetres tall, has a bottom circumference of 43 inches and top circumference of 36 inches, and a four-faced Bhrama image and a flame on top. The surrounding area is a well tended park. An annual festival is held during 25-31 May to celebrate the City Pillar.
Yala Central Mosque is the main mosque of the province, was completed in 1984 displaying western architectural style intertwined with the unique mosque frame. The front has about 30 wide steps leading to the upper terrace. The roof is square-shaped with a dome in the middle.
Sanam Chang Phueak Park is located on Phiphitphakdi Road in an 80-rai plot of land. It was used as the ground to give the King a white elephant (chang phueak) named "Phra Sawet Sura Khachathan" on 9 March 1968. The Park has a pavilion in the middle of a large pond and various sculptures of animals. The ground of the Park is also used for other provincial activities.
Suan Khwan Mueang is located on Thetsaban 1 Road, about 300 metres from the City Pillar Shrine. Its vast area of 207 rai has a separate sports ground and a 69-rai pond, landscaped with sandy beach and sea pines to remedy the landlocked problem of the province. Furthermore, a singing bird contest (Nok Kao Java) is often held at this park since it is the largest and the best ground for such a contest in the south.