Satun, Satun Province, Thailand

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A sleepy, little town that carries the same name as the province, Satun is not a heavily touristic area.  For most travelers, they would not even know where it is on the map. For me, the first time I heard of the region, I was thinking Saturn, the planet with the rings.  Well, it might as well be like Saturn because running into other travelers is about as frequent as close encounters of the third kind.  The far southern region of Thailand does not get the glitz and glamour like its cousins slightly to the north--Phuket, Krabi, and Ko Samui.

It is a shame that most travelers spend most of their time in overly crowded, exorbitantly over-priced guesthouses on some polluted island to satisfy their inner pleasures.  It is probably good for them because for the few and the determined individuals, the true treasures of the people is revealed if you dig a little deeper.  Cracking a smile and getting the locals to talk to you are about as hard as cracking open a walnut.  But with persistence and patience, you are able to break them apart and find a wonderful surprise.  Communicating is probably the toughest challenge.  English is very seldom spoken, so it is imperative that one learns the basics of Thai language—toilet, rice, water, pork, chicken, fish, coffee, yes, no, hello, thank you, and the numbers.  Otherwise, you might be doing three acts of pantomime just to get your point across.

The population is mostly Muslims of the Malay descent with minority of Thais and Chinese.  When the British left Malaysia, they haphazardly drew the border and left the people somewhat divided.  And just like Malaysia, walking along the streets you will find mosques and temples, but ostensibly, no Hindu temples were to be found.  The people generally are very peaceful and get along with each other.  I never felt uncomfortable or fearful when prying the streets of the town.  They just stare at you like the latest attraction at the zoo.  They are probably thinking, “What the heck are you doing here?  The islands and the beaches are that way, buddy.”

Many travelers have been wary of this region because of the many terrorist activities of the past.  But fear not, Dear Reader, this place is perfectly safe; unlike the other two heavily Muslim area to the east of here.  They still get sporadic flare-ups.  The people tend to be a little more conservative, so if you dare to venture, take precaution.

Every day, I am learning more Thai words to add to my little pocket book for reference.  I thought Korean was tough, but Thai is in another realm.  There are many sounds that I have trouble pronouncing (just like Korean and English).  When I strolled through the morning market for the first time, they kept yelling out “E-pune! E-pune!” and I had no idea what they were talking about.  I thought they were saying “pretty” because that is a similar sound in Korean.  I was flattered, but I did not think I was pretty. Well, after inquiring with my guesthouse owner, he said that it means Japanese.  Now, I stroll through the market and tell them, “Kao-lee, Kao-lee,” which means Korean.  I have to straighten out these people, you know.

Until next time,