One of the few rice-growing areas in Southern Thailand, Phatthalung province has earned a steady income from the crop throughout its history. It is better known, though, as the place where nang talung (shadow pup petry) was first performed in Thailand – the name nang talung may even derive from Phatthalung. This popular form of theater, related to Indonesian shadow puppetry, is performed mainly in Phatthalung and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces.
Phatthalung town was established in the 19th century during the reign of Rama III . Today’s modern town is set out in a grid and is surrounded by limestone hills to the north and the fertile Thale Luang lake to the east.
Phatthalung lies between two attractive peaks: Khao Ok Talu (“punctured chest mountain”) to the northeast, and Khao Hua Taek (“broken head mountain”) to the northwest. According to local legend, these two mountains, “the mistress” and “the wife,” fought over Khao Muang (the male mountain), located to the north. It is said that they still nurse their battle scars from this confrontation. In fact, Khao Ok Talu has a naturally occurring tunnel in its peak (the punctured chest), while Khao Hua Taek has a dent in its peak (the broken head). In the latter are the Buddhist grottoes of Wat Tham Kuha Sawan. Inside the lower cave are statues of monks and the Buddha, while the upper cave has views of Khao Ok Talu and most of Phatthalung and the surrounding area.
Lush rice fields surround Phatthalung. At Lam Pam, a small fishing village 4 mile (6 km) east of Phatthalung, slow-flowing canals empty into the large Thale Luang inland sea. The breezy but peaceful area at Sansuk beach has a few restaurants serving good seafood. Boats can be hired to the nearby islands, Ko Si and Ko Ha.
One mile (2 km) before Lam Pam is Wat Wang, Phatthalung’s oldest temple, thought to have been founded at the same time as the town. Next to the chedi is a bot with faded murals depicting Buddhist and Ramakien themes.
The restored Governor’s Palace occupies a peaceful site nearby. Built in 1889, the palace comprises two individual buildings. The outer teak structure, nearer the road, functioned as living quarters for the governor’s family. The main building, beside the river, is built around a courtyard with a large tree