Yala, often heralded as the cleanest town in Thailand, is laid out in an orderly fashion with a grid pattern of streets and treelined boulevards. It’s a prosperous and rather staid place, at its most lively during the annual cooing competition of the ASEAN Barred Ground Dove Festival, which attracts entrants from all over Southeast Asia. Yala’s mosque is the largest in Thailand.
For many people, the main reason to visit Yala is Wat Khuha Phimuk, called Wat Na Tham locally, located 5 miles (8 km) outside the town. It is one of the most sacred and important archaeological sites in South Thailand. A cave next to the temple contains an 82-ft-long (25-m) reclining Buddha. The statue, which allegedly once had the head of the Hindu god Vishnu, dates from the 8th century, the beginning of the Srivijaya period.
Among the priceless icons from that era found here are votive stupas from Northeast India and 9th-century bronze standing Buddha images in the style of South India.
The small museum hall, at the foot of the naga staircase leading up to the temple cave, displays a range of Srivijayan artifacts found in the area.