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Hat Yai | Things To Do - Page 4

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Tiger at Songkhla zoo

Tiger at Songkhla zoo

 

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I live in Southeast Asia and have booked hundreds of hotels in this region. I have spent many hours researching hotel prices to get the best deal and I always end up booking through Agoda. Their rates are far lower compared to other companies or booking directly with hotels. Give them a try!

Activities And Things To Do In Hat Yai - Page 4

Hat Yai Activity Listings

This page (4 of 5) contains some more ideas and suggestions for activities and things to do in and around Hat Yai.

Songkhla

The cat and mouse statue at Samila Beach, Songkhla - Click for larger image

My monkey feeding another monkey - Click for larger image

Thai: สงขลา

Comments: Nowhere is easier to get to from Hat Yai than Songkhla and a visit there can be a refreshing change as the two towns are a real contrast. The more I visit Songkhla, the more it grows on me. There is a beach and even though it is not beautiful compared to Koh Phi Phi or Koh Similan standards it is still a beach. It is a very conservative town and the home town of one Thailand's favourite ex-Prime Ministers. It is kept remarkably clean and development has been shunned.

Songkhla residents are happy to travel to Hat Yai for supermarkets and cinemas but don't really want them on their own doorstep. Neither do they want thousands of prostitutes and sex tourists although there is a very small bar area (the Dark Side) to cater for the farangs living in town. Preservation orders have ensured that a lot of the old buildings are still intact.

There are lots of temples to wander around, a typical Thai fresh market and a small museum. The hill near Samila beach has great views of the city and can be reached by cable car. This is also where Songkhla resident monkeys live, and watching their antics can be great fun but remember that they are wild animals. There are hundreds of naughty simians and they have their own playground next to the cable car station.

Vendors sell bananas and peanuts to feed them with and they are actually quite well behaved (the monkeys, not the vendors). These monkeys are so well fed that there is no need to get aggressive about food and they are actually quite fussy. Some won't bother taking the bananas offered to them but will look for the people who are giving out peanuts, which they prefer.

Getting to Songkhla from Hat Yai is easy. Go to the clock tower near Hat Yai Plaza on Phetkasem (Map 1) and either take a minivan for about Bt25 or jump on a public bus for Bt18. Buses, large and small, go between the two towns all the time up until the early evening.

If you want to stay overnight there are plenty of hotels. The BP Samila is a nice place and well located near the beach. Rooms with a sea view are Bt1,250.

The Royal Crown is a decent place in town which has a great restaurant and bakery attached. It's a lot cheaper than the BP Samila at Bt490 a night. The address is 38 Saingam Road, Songkhla, 90000 and the telephone numbers are +66 (0)74 312174, 311918, 321025-6, 321028-9. In addition to these two hotels there are lots more and they never seem very busy.

I have started a separate page for Songkhla which I intend expanding later as time permits.

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Songkhla Aquarium

Songkhla Aquarium - Click for larger image

Thai: สงขลาอะควาเรียม

Latitude: N 07° 13' 31.3" (N 07° 13.522')

Longitude: E 100° 34' 39.9" (E 100° 34.665')

Google Maps: Street Map or Satellite View

Comments: A trip to Songkhla town makes a great break from busy, dirty, noisy Hat Yai and there are some nice attractions once you get there.

The aquarium is a fairly new attraction and although it isn't the fanciest aquarium in the world, it's worth a visit. As you enter there are some small tanks, but the main attraction is a large tank with a walk-through tunnel.

As you walk through the tunnel, a variety of large sea animals swim just a few inches above your head. There are some pretty big rays, leopard sharks, turtles, and other unidentified fish.

 

Go-karting at Songkhla Aquarium

Go-karting at Songkhla Aquarium

 

Once you get through the tunnel, there is a viewing area where you can watch all the underwater life through a large wall of perspex. At around 2pm a scuba diver enters the tank to feed the animals.

The aquarium is very popular with schools from all over the south of Thailand, and every time I've been there have been large groups of schoolchildren present. Thai kids are pleasant enough but they tend to get overexcited and the noise can be deafening. Feeding a few to the sharks is one way of shutting them up.

 

Off-roading at Songkhla Aquarium

Off-roading at Songkhla Aquarium

 

The aquarium advertises itself as 'not just an aquarium'. There is a fish spa where you can sit with your feet in a tank of water as small fish nibble away at them.

Behind the aquarium is a go-kart track, and there is also an offroad ATV course. Six laps on the go-kart track will cost you Bt600. For the same price, you can ride an ATV quad-bike around the 1km course three times. There are large quad-bikes for adults and small ones for kids.

The aquarium operates a dual-pricing system, as do many attractions in Thailand. Thai adults are charged Bt150 and Thai kids Bt80, while foreign adults and kids are charged Bt300 and Bt200 respectively. If you speak Thai, you may be able to get the local price.

If you plan on visiting regularly it might work out cheaper to buy a membership card. These cost Bt499 per person or Bt999 per family and you get 50% discounts on the attractions for a year. To extend membership, it costs Bt399 per person or Bt899 per family.

The aquarium is a little way from the centre of town. If you go to Songkhla by public transport there are plenty of tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis. Thais use the same word 'aquarium' so they will understand where you want to go.

Dual pricing at Songkhla Aquarium - Click for larger image
Fish spa at Songkhla Aquarium - Click for larger image
Feeding time at Songkhla Aquarium - Click for larger image

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Songkhla Baby Home

Songkhla Baby Home - Click for larger image

Songkhla Home For Children - Click for larger image

Thai: บ้านเด็กสงขลา

Latitude: N 07° 08' 28.8" (N 07° 08.480')

Longitude: E 100° 33' 55.1" (E 100° 33.920')

Google Maps: Street Map or Satellite View

Comments: This shouldn't be treated as a tourist attraction. However, it can be a very rewarding experience visiting the children.

The sign outside said that visitors were welcome so, after having passed the home several times, I decided to visit. It was a moving experience and a few months later I visited again ... and then again.

The home looks after orphaned children from the 14 southern Thai provinces and also from Bangkok. They range in age from new-born infants to teenagers but the majority are aged 0-3 years. The total number of children varies from week to week of course, as children arrive and leave, but the total is normally over 100 (on my most recent visit on the last day of 2010 there were 250 children at the home).

The circumstances under which you can meet the children seem to vary. On my first visit I was told I could wander around the grounds and I didn't have to sign anything. On my second visit I was accompanied by my then Thai girlfriend and she had to fill in an official visitors form.

As is the case when visiting children anywhere, be conscious of your actions and always try to involve a member of staff.

On my second visit we were told we couldn't go inside any of the buildings but could just say hello from outside. However, a very kind nurse working at the home acted as our guide and took us inside. On my last visit I saw a sign that gave the official visiting times as 09:00 - 11:00 and 14:30 - 16:00.

The kids are fantastic. Many Thai people don't have the easiest of lives even when they have the support of their families but these children have nothing. The home provides them with the basics of life. They have shelter, clothes and food, but not a lot more.

Don't expect to see sad and pathetic children. Seeing them playing so happily on my first visit was quite overwhelming. They just get on with life. After meeting these kids, the only people who seem sad and pathetic are those who have a lot already but are greedy for more and let money control their lives.

The very young babies just do what very young babies do. It is the three and four year-olds that really get to you. These are the ones who just want love, affection and the protection of an adult. As I sat down on the steps to talk to them, I had two little girls sit on my lap. One of them took my hand and folded my arm around her waist. The poor little mite just wanted a hug.

Some of the older children are a bit more reserved and a little wary of strangers, which is hardly surprising after the start in life they have had. They are given some basic education at the home and some children go to a school outside.

The home is very well supported by the local community. An important aspect of the Thai belief system is merit making and I can't think of a better way to make merit than to help these children. Some people only 'make merit' by participating in high-profile, very visible merit-making ceremonies at temples but a low key visit to the home is, in my opinion, much more in line with the true meaning of merit making.

What can you give? The easiest option is money, and a donation box is situated at the front office. With a majority of young babies at the home, people give items suitable for them e.g. disposable nappies (diapers), baby food and powdered milk.

A lot of chocolate and sweet snacks are also given but the kids seem to overdose on sweet stuff. The nurse we met said that what the children really need more of are clothes and shoes. Thais, being Thais, think first of food and everything else is secondary. What is the first thing a Thai asks you? "Have you eaten yet?" It's a cultural thing.

In the past I have donated money, clothes, shoes, also some books and coloured pens. The books were for writing practice (English and Thai) and join-the-dots. I hope they kept some of the older children amused for a while.

A visit to the home isn't for everyone but for many it will be very rewarding. It's not easy though for over-sensitive people. Walking away from children who have so little when all they want to do is hug you is difficult, to say the least.

Foreigners do adopt children from the home. There are photos on display of some foreign parents with their adopted Thai children. However, I have no idea about the process. The home can help with providing information though if this is something you would like to find out more about.

The home is located on the road going to Ko Yo (from Songkhla) before the bridge and before the Songkhla Hospital. From Hat Yai take a minivan or bus to Songkhla and tell the driver, the conductor or another passenger that you want to go to Ko Yo ("Goh Yor"). After you get off at the large intersection, take a sawng-thaew towards Ko Yo and keep an eye out for the home on the left.

The sign saying "Visitors Welcome" disappeared some time ago. I'm not sure if this was a deliberate act to prevent the place from becoming a tourist attraction.

More recently, they seem to have changed the name of the institution to "Songkhla Home For Children". This is a more accurate description as a lot of the kids there are no longer babies.

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Songkhla Zoo

Tiger at Songkhla zoo - Click for larger image

Thai: สวนสัตว์สงขลา

Latitude: N 07° 08' 31.1" (N 07° 08.519')

Longitude: E 100° 36' 14.7" (E 100° 36.245')

Google Maps: Street Map or Satellite View

Telephone: +66 (0)74 336268

Comments: I first visited Songkhla zoo in 2004 and have been many times since. The zoo has changed over the years and this is a May 2018 update after my most recent visit.

It's possible to use public transport to get to the zoo, but not very easy. If you are in Hat Yai as a tourist and don't have a car, I would recommend renting a car or hiring a driver.

The zoo is in a great natural location, high up on a hill with scenic views overlooking Songkhla. There are some very steep inclines which make walking quite difficult and this is another reason to have a car.

The entrance fee is low - Bt100 for adults, Bt20 for children and free for very young children. There is a Bt50 charge for your car. However, this is not an inclusive charge and there are more things to pay for inside.

From Monday to Friday visitors use their own cars to go around the zoo. On weekends and public holidays visitors park their cars and board shuttle buses to get around. The cost for the shuttle bus is Bt25 for adults and Bt15 for children. The shuttle buses run frequently and once you have a ticket you can hop on and off at will.

There are various shows and Thais love nothing more than to watch parrots riding miniature bicycles or seals clapping their fins. These shows cost extra. The seal and penguin show is Bt20 for adults and Bt10 for children.

Food with which to feed the animals is sold at various points around the zoo. It's expensive (Bt20 per tray) but this is one method the zoo uses to help with the cost of keeping the animals, which is also very expensive. For example, each elephant eats 70kg of bananas and 30kg of sugar cane every day.

When I first went to Songkhla zoo there were lots of animals and very few people. However, over the years this situation has gradually been reversed. The addition of a water park in the zoo grounds resulted in a lot more people visiting.

Every time I visit it seems that there are fewer animals. When I visited in May 2018 there was one solitary giraffe, two zebra, two sorry-looking lions, one lonely orang-utan, and many of the enclosures looked empty.

Despite this it is still a pleasant place to visit and when the frenetic pace of Hat Yai gets too much a trip to Songkhla zoo makes for a nice escape.

One interesting aspect is the very thin line between the zoo animals and local wildlife. There are some gibbons, which are zoo animals, but in the same area there are also lots of long-tailed macaques which are local wildlife.

The zoo has a reptile house with fearsome snakes behind glass, but I can guarantee that there will be equally fearsome snakes living naturally in the zoo.

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Songkhla Zoo Waterpark

Songkhla Zoo Waterpark - Click for larger image

Songkhla Zoo Waterpark - Click for larger image

Thai: สวนน้ำสงขลา

Latitude: N 07° 08' 31.1" (N 07° 08.519')

Longitude: E 100° 36' 14.7" (E 100° 36.245')

Google Maps: Street Map or Satellite View

Comments: Some time in 2011 a waterpark opened inside Songkhla zoo and it is a very popular attraction. Before the waterpark there were very few visitors or cars inside the zoo. Now there are lots and it seems that the majority of people are there for the waterpark.

To get to the waterpark you must first pay to enter the zoo. I was expecting an additional charge to play in the water (and also a 'special' price for foreigners), but there isn't. The price of admission to the zoo includes admission to the waterpark.

This isn't me being cynical; it's just 10 years' of living in Thailand and encountering dual pricing policies (one price for Thais and a much higher price for foreigners) wherever I go. In an attempt to hide this unsavoury fact from foreigners, pricing information is usually written using Thai letters and numbers. Thais don't seem to realise that a few foreigners can read Thai.

You can rent swimming caps and swimming costumes. To rent a cap costs Bt10. To rent boys' swimming trunks along with a cap costs Bt20. For men the cost is Bt30. The prices are the same for girls' and women's swimming costumes and caps.

Personally, I would prefer to wear my own swimming costume rather than a rented suit that has been worn by lots of other people. It's up to you.

Shoes aren't allowed inside and there is a shoe storage facility, for which you need to pay a small charge.

I haven't been yet, although my wife is putting pressure on me to take our daughter. Someone told me that there is a lot of chlorine in the water. My wife thinks that with so many small kids playing there will also be a lot of urine in the water. Perhaps this is why they use a lot of chlorine? I don't know.

If you've been and have any comments, let me know.

The park opens at 10:30 and closes at 17:30.

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Spa Treatments

Sittara Spa, Hat Yai - Click for larger image

Comments: One of the biggest reasons for Malaysians and Singaporeans visiting Hat Yai - apart from shopping - is to receive some pampering. Whether this takes the form of massages, facials, manicures, etc., the Thais are well geared up to give visitors what they want.

Hat Yai is full of cheap massage shops but, as is always the way in life, "You pays your money and you takes your choice." The service at some of the cheaper places is awful.

Considering that a two hour massage only costs Bt200 at some of these places, what can you expect? However, if you want a really memorable experience it is necessary to pay some more money and go to a proper spa. By Thai standards the prices for these places are high but they are cheap by international standards.

You will enter a peaceful realm where it is possible to completely relax in comfortable surroundings while a properly trained therapist works on your body. However, don't entertain any thoughts of massaging the massage girl while she massages you at these places. If you want that kind of a tactile experience, stick to the cheap hotels and massage shops.

There are a number of places around. The most centrally located (and probably the most expensive) is the spa located inside the Novotel hotel but some of the others may require a tuk-tuk ride if you don't feel up to walking.

Here's a word of warning though. Anyone who takes a customer to one of these spas gets a commission. Thais always seem to be very helpful when it comes to helping visitors get what they want but it isn't necessarily out of the goodness of their hearts. The going rate is about 20%.

Therefore, if you pay Bt1,000 for a treatment, the person who took you there (a tuk-tuk driver or your hotel bellboy) will get Bt200. If you make your own way, the spa doesn't have to pay any commission. Because of this - and provided your haggling skills are sufficient - you may be able to negotiate a discount.

  • Preuksa Spa: 210/7 Niphatuthit 2 Road near the old Lee Gardens hotel (not Lee Gardens Plaza). Telephone + 66 (0)81 189 0443; + 66 (0)83 192 9493; (Map 3) For more information and photos see Preuksa Spa
  • Garabuning Spa: 50/6 Sripoowanat Road near Diana department store. Telephone + 66 (0)74 354140 (Map 4)
  • Sittara Spa: 78 Rajyindee Road Soi 7 near the Acoustic Pub. Telephone + 66 (0)74 238594 (Map 2)
  • Som Spa: 163 Niphat Uthit 3 Road near the Hat Yai Central hotel. Telephone + 66 (0)74 238261; Mobile +66 (0)81 959 2795 (Map 3)
  • Tita Beauty and Spa: 99 Klongrien Road near the Bangkok Hat Yai hospital. Telephone + 66 (0)74 464188; Mobile +66 (0)86 692 4994 or +66 (0)81 459 4856 (Map 2)
All of these spas offer a range of treatments as well as the use of saunas and steam rooms, etc. Treatments and massages are priced separately but multi-treatment packages are also available which lower the prices considerably.

If you were looking for C-Spa, it closed some time during 2007. It was a big place but expensive and not very well located. As such, it became one of the first victims when the economy turned sour in 2007.

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Tennis

Tennis courts at Jiranakorn Stadium, Hat Yai - Click for larger image

Thai: เลนเทนนิสหาดใหญ่

Address: Niphat Songkhrao 1 Road
Map: Map 1

Latitude: N 07° 01' 12.2" (N 07° 01.204')

Longitude: E 100° 28' 11.0" (E 100° 28.183')

Google Maps: Street Map or Satellite View

Comments: There are nine tennis courts at the Jiranakorn Stadium. I don't know how much the hire of a court costs but this is Thailand so it won't be expensive. Not surprisingly, the courts are deserted during the daytime.

Energetic outdoor activities in hot and humid southern Thailand are really only feasible in the morning or evening. There is floodlighting so it is possible to play after dark.

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Ten Pin Bowling

Ten pin bowling, Hat Yai - Click for larger image

Thai: เลนโบว์ลิ่งหาดใหญ่

Address: Central Festival
Map: Map 4

Comments: When I first arrived in Hat Yai at the end of 2003 there were ten pin bowling lanes in the basement of Diana Department store. At some stage they disappeared and I never got around to updating the information here.

However, ten pin bowling returned to Hat Yai when Central Festival was opened in December 2013. This is where you need to go if you feel a sudden urge for strikes and spares.

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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

Images of Thailand