The Kingdom’s picturesque deep South holds a reputation as a volatile region. Along with adjacent Narathiwat and Yala, Pattani has long been seeking to preserve its identity, and an insurgency has in recent decades occasionally turned violent. Part of its own sultanate or kingdom from the 2nd century until the early 20th, Pattani was long a tributary region of Siam but also had centuries of self-rule.
Today’s Pattani feels quiet and peaceful, with a local economy largely tied to fishing and agricul- ture. A local dialect of Malay is spoken widely, and 88% of the population identify as Muslim. Yet Thai-Chinese and Thai Buddhist communities live side by side with Muslim ones. Diverse monuments, places of worship and eateries also coexist peace- fully. Despite seemingly ubiquitous military check- points, the town and surrounding province not only feel safe to visit but are a rewarding destination in their own right. Identified as the least visited prov- ince by the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports, with only 20,000 annual tourists or so, almost all of them Thai, Pattani is nevertheless a welcoming place full of colour and life.
For centuries it has largely been doing its own thing. Pattani doesn’t like to heed directives from Bangkok or Malaysia or Islamic groups in the Mid- dle East. It is its own entity, with a long and proud history, which makes for a fascinating visit.