Suggested Itineraries For Visitors To Hat Yai
Personally, I am not the kind of traveller that likes to follow other people's advice because I am me and other people aren't me. I don't ask other people what to eat for breakfast because they have their tastes and I have mine. They might love rice porridge, whereas I hate it. It's the same with travel and everything else. I know from experience that the things I like to do and see while I am travelling are quite different to that of most other people.
I therefore don't usually follow itineraries, and neither do I have lists of 'must-see' attractions. The other danger with these 'bucket lists' is that even though you may have had a good time, you feel disappointed because you didn't visit every place on the list. You don't have to see and do everything to have a good time. It's better to take your time and see more at fewer places.
You can watch bulls fighting in Hat Yai if it appeals to you
I'm not keen on things in Thailand that are labelled as tourist attractions because they are normally clichés, and also because foreigners are charged a lot more than Thais due to the practice of dual pricing. There will be a price for foreigners written in English, and alongside there will be a Thai price (which is often one-tenth of the foreigner price) written using Thai script and Thai numerals in order to hide it from foreign tourists who can't read Thai. I can read Thai and this practice really annoys me.
Gim Yong market is very popular with visitors to Hat Yai
Another consideration when visiting Hat Yai is whether you want to see Modern Thailand, Traditional Thailand, or Natural Thailand. Hat Yai has all of these things, but you need to go to different places to see them.
Visitors from Western countries normally want to see Traditional Thailand, such as the traditional market areas. However, when friends from Malaysia visited and I started to show them around these areas they weren't interested because it was too similar to home.
On this page, and throughout the rest of this site, I will give you some ideas and leave it up to you to decide what is best for you.
Tour Or Independent Travel?
Thailand has been trying to clamp down on what is referred to as 'Zero Dollar Tourism'. Tourists, predominantly from mainland China, are offered very cheap all-inclusive tours to Thailand, but on the tour they are taken everywhere by the tour operator and only allowed to spend their money in certain establishments.
The establishments they are taken to are expensive and they are owned by, or have connections with, the tour operators. This is how the tour operators get their money back.
Malaysian tour bus outside Nora Plaza
This kind of tourism is not good for tourists or for Thailand, which is why it is called zero dollar tourism. Very little tourism money finds its way into the Thai economy and tourists pay high prices to visit a limited selection of shops and restaurants.
A similar thing happens in Malaysia with the all-inclusive tours to Hat Yai priced at 300 Ringgits, or so. It's a cheap price for transport, accommodation and tours but tourists will be taken to shops that are designed purely for tourists.
There are several of these in Hat Yai. They have large car parks for tour buses and only tourists shop at these places, not locals.
These tours are cheap and convenient, but I would actually recommend travelling independently so that you can choose your own itinerary. This way, you will be able to see some interesting things in Hat Yai and avoid the tourist traps.
I've met backpackers who arrived in Hat Yai and wanted to leave straight away. However, they couldn't because their onward transport didn't leave until the next day. Some seemed horrified at the prospect of spending a whole night in the town.
Enjoying a massage at Preuksa Spa
I was talking to one backpacker girl who had this kind of attitude and she asked where I lived. "Hat Yai," I told her. She looked aghast and with a confused look on her face asked me, "Why?" I have my reasons, and it's really not that bad a place, but we are all different.
If such a fate befalls you, and you find yourself in a position where you have to spend the night in dreaded Hat Yai, what are you going to do?
If you feel tired there are a plethora of cheap massage shops in Hat Yai. This is a major reason why so many Malaysian and Singaporean tourists visit the city. You can get a massage for Bt200 at some places. If you want more comfort and better service you could visit a spa. Spas are more expensive, but still very cheap compared to the developed world.
Preuksa Spa is one of my favourites. The experience is good, but it's cheaper than most other spas. Toy, the girl who runs it, is a friend of mine. If you go, tell her I made the suggestion!
Depending on the time of year of your visit, you might want to find out if there are any events taking place that you would be interesting in seeing.
The traditional markets, such as Gim Yong and Suntisuk, are well known to Thais who visit Hat Yai from other parts of Thailand. They are quite fun to look around, and you might even find a bargain. Be aware that a lot of the stuff on sale at these places isn't strictly legal. You won't have any problems in Thailand, but something you buy at Suntisuk may get the airport customs people excited when you return home.
For your evening meal you have lots of options. You can get Western food, Western fast food, Thai food, Chinese food, and there are lots of places where you can find Japanese food because of the Japanese food craze that has swept Thailand in recent years. If you want Thai street food take a wander along Supasarnrangsan Road. You can check out my food pages for more suggestions.
In the morning before you leave you might want to try one of the many Dim Sum restaurants in Hat Yai. It's difficult to make any recommendations because everyone has their own favourites, including me. Chok Dee Dim Sum is very popular with visitors from Bangkok and Malaysia, but I think it is vastly overrated and I prefer the Dim Sum at other places.
One Night And One Day
After my suggestions for just one night, you now have an additional day. What can you do?
The reclining Buddha in Hat Yai Nai is well known and attracts a lot of visitors. It's one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Thailand. Originally it was in the open, but then a building was built over it.
Chinese New Year in Hat Yai
After the initial reaction regarding its size, there isn't much to do. If you go around to the back of the building, there is a door that leads to a room underground. Inside are lots of interesting artefacts and the remains of people are interred within the walls. I find this room a lot more interesting than the main attraction outside.
The Buddhist temples in Hat Yai are nothing special and I can't think of any 'must-see' temples, as there are in other parts of Thailand. One temple that is interesting (but is still being built as I write) is the Burmese temple at Klong Hair floating market.
There is quite a big community of Mon construction workers in Hat Yai and they have donated money to build this temple. It is a scaled-down replica of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon. When it is finished it should be quite spectacular.
Mahapanya Vidayalai is now a Buddhist university, but it used to be Tawon temple. A lot of work has been done there in recent years and it's a nice place to walk around. If you enjoy photography, it is quite photogenic, and if you don't you can just relax and feed the fish. The pond there has thousands of large Koi carp.
If you are Muslim, you may wish to visit the Songkhla Province Central Mosque, which is located on the new road between Hat Yai and Songkhla. It is a large edifice and can be seen easily from any high vantage point in central Hat Yai.
If you are in town between Thursday and Sunday, you could consider going to Klong Hai Floating Market. Yes, it is a tourist trap, and yes, it's a lot smaller than the floating markets near Bangkok but for first time visitors it is quite a good experience. I became quite cynical after several visits, but when I took my parents they quite enjoyed it.
Another alternative is Baan Pru floating market. It's quite different to Klong Hair and if you have children there are a lot more activities for kids.
If you want some peace, quiet and fresh air, the Municipal Park is very pleasant and there are some attractive temples on the hill behind the park. If you visit while the lantern festival is taking place, this makes evening visits to the park very enjoyable.
With another day available to you, you can choose to look around Hat Yai some more. There is plenty to do in a weekend, especially if you enjoy shopping. Alternatively, you could go somewhere else outside of Hat Yai.
Colourful boats in the Muslim fishing village of Kao Seng
Songkhla is very close by and there are hundreds of buses and minivans going between Hat Yai and Songkhla all day. Songkhla has a beach and seafood restaurants. You can visit the aquarium, visit the zoo, or feed the monkeys on Tang Kuan Hill.
If you have time, consider stopping at Kao Seng Muslim fishing village and taking photographs of the brightly coloured fishing boats.
Khaochaison Floating Market, Phattalung province (now closed, unfortunately)
The floating market at Klong Hair is very touristy and not that attractive. Unfortunately, the floating market at Khao Chaison in Phattalung province has now closed. There wasn't a lot there, but the setting was really pretty.
In the Hat Yai area I actually prefer the floating market at Baan Pru to the one at Klong Hair.
More Than A Weekend
With several days available to you, you have several options. Hat Yai is southern Thailand's main transport hub and there are buses and minivans leaving the city for everywhere. In addition there are trains and planes, but most flights go to Bangkok. Nok Air and Air Asia do a direct flight to Chiang Mai from Hat Yai and you could be in the northern capital in 2.5 hours if that appealed to you.
Thale Noi wetlands reserve in Phattalung province
A little further away than Phattalung lies the province and main town of Nakhon Sri Thammarat. Nakhon is one of the most ancient cities in Thailand, and at one time in history it was one of the most important.
There's not a huge amount there, but it's very different to Hat Yai. There aren't many tourists, and only a few foreigners live there. It is home to one of the most important Buddhist temples in southern Thailand - Wat Phra Mahathat, and the Nakhon Si Thammarat National Museum is also good. When I visited the museum there were no other visitors and the staff switched lights on and off as I walked around.
Nakhon Si Thammarat is quite a large province and elsewhere in the province you can visit mountainous areas, waterfalls, caves, national parks, and beaches. Khanom Beach, which I have visited once, is very quiet and you can walk along miles of coastline without seeing another person.
If you like attractive beaches and islands, there are lots just a few hours away from Hat Yai. The beaches on the Andaman coast are more attractive, but if you want deserted beaches go to the Gulf coast. The islands off the coast of Satun are relatively unspoilt and can be reached by ferry from Pakbara pier. Minivans from Hat Yai will be able to take you to Pakbara.
Buddha images at Wat Phrathat; one of the holiest places in all of Thailand
Trang main town is only a two hour drive away, and the unspoilt beaches and islands of Trang provinces can be reached from Hat Yai in 2.5 hours.
The well known tourist resort of Krabi is about five hours away and getting to Phuket takes around 7.5 hours. If you wanted to go somewhere quieter and less tacky than Phuket, you could get off your bus at Khok Kloi and then take a local north-bound bus to Khaolak.
The situation in the deep south with the three troubled provinces (Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani) still isn't good and travelling to that region isn't recommended. You might be fine and have a great trip, but if you are unlucky you could run into some big problems. A lot of the violence is indiscriminate and even if the insurgents have nothing against you personally, all it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It's a real shame because I've heard some good things about the region. Yala main town is supposed to be the cleanest town in Thailand and the Betong area with its mountains and lakes is supposed to look like northern Thailand, which I love.
I have always wanted to take a trip down there, but so far I have never been. If I was still a single man I might consider it, but as I now have dependents it would be foolish to take unnecessary risks.
The information above was off the top of my head. I've done all these things myself (some things several times) and continue to do them when I host visitors from abroad and elsewhere in Thailand.
If you want some more ideas or suggestions, write to me giving me some clues as to what it is you want, and I will expand this page.
Get The Best Deal On Your Hat Yai Hotel Room
Listed opposite are some of my personal recommendations for hotels in Hat Yai based on budget. I have lived permanently in Hat Yai since 2003 and my recommendations are based on a lot of local knowledge.
Each link will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand
- Buri Sriphu Hotel
- Centara Hotel Hat Yai
- Crystal Hotel
- The Habita
- Hansa JB Hotel
- Hatyai Signature Hotel
- La Pause
- New Season Square Hotel
- S Hadyai Hotel
Near Central Festival