In many ways, Hat Yai is a travel destination which personifies many of the qualities of Thai cuisine. Like a bowl of zesty Tom Yum Goong, there’s a strong sense of thrill that flows through many of its street markets and bazaars that continue well into the night.

The locals you’ll meet on your trip are warm and generous like the steaming plate of Pad Thai topped with plump shrimps. And like a cup of sweet Thai Iced Tea, the many attractions in the city will leave you with delightful memories you’d want to relive following your vacation.

Often regarded as the business centre in the southern region of Thailand, Hat Yai is an underrated gem.

Boasting pristine beaches like those in Phuket or Koh Samui; to buzzing shopping markets and glittering temples in Bangkok, Hat Yai is a city of invigorating sights, sounds and experiences waiting to be uncovered.

Travellers who have a penchant for adventure, consider themselves a bargain hunter, or simply enjoy the creature comforts of city life as much as the salty sea breeze would enjoy an escape to Hat Yai.

Given its location, bordering the Northern Malaysian states of Kedah and Perlis, the duration of your flight to Hat Yai will also be shorter than one that’s headed for Bangkok. So, you’ll spend less time in the confines of an aeroplane and more time exploring the best of what the city has to offer. Read on for our recommendations:

For shopaholics and bargain hunters

1. Kim Yong Market

A stall owner interacting with shoppers at her stall in Kim Yong Market in Hat Yai. A stall owner interacting with shoppers at her stall in Kim Yong Market in Hat Yai.

Stalls selling unique Thai snacks — such as crispy fried chicken skin —are common in Kim Yong Market, so make sure you grab a packet to keep yourself well-fuelled during your visit.

Early birds should head to Kim Yong Market — the largest day market in Hat Yai — located on Sang Aretit Road. It’s filled with vendors selling vegetables, meat and dried goods. Besides soaking in the sights and sounds of a buzzing market, treat yourself to hearty breakfast options like Thai-styled wanton mee served with slices of pork char-siew (barbeque pork), topped with crunchy bits of tasty fried pork lard. Other options include duck rice and other light bites from street vendors. You can also beat the heat by sampling the coconut ice cream topped with attap seeds, jelly, sticky rice and crunchy breadcrumbs. The market is also a great spot to return to on your last day especially if you are looking to pack local snacks home.

Address: Supasarnrangsan Rd, Hat Yai District.

Operating hours: Open daily from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

How to get there: The market is located 8-minutes away from Haadyai Train station. Just walk along Rotfai Road, turn the corner of Petchkasem Road and then turn right onto Supasarnrangsan Road. You’ll see the market on your left.

2. Khlong Hae Floating Market

A stall owner sitting on her boat waiting for patrons to come by. A stall owner sitting on her boat waiting for patrons to come by.

It’s common to see popular Malaysian dishes like Nasi Lemak Ayam — Coconut rice and fried chicken — being sold at the Khlong Hae Floating Market, a sign of the close ties the town shares with its neighbours to the south.

A close-up shot of food served in banana leave bowls. A close-up shot of food served in banana leave bowls.

The stall owners also do their bit for the environment by serving their food in biodegradable bowls made from repurposed banana leaves.

No visit to Thailand would be complete without heading to a floating market. But instead of having to eat in the tight confines of a small motorised Sampan (small wooden boat), visitors at Hat Yai’s Khlong Hae Floating Market will have the freedom to move about on land as the shops and food stalls are located on boats which are anchored down by the riverbank. The floating market is also known widely for its use of eco-friendly cutlery such as coconut shells and bamboo tubes to replace common cooking tools like bowls and other crockery. You can also look forward to routine performances from traditional Thai troupes and local bands which add to the lively atmosphere of the market.

Address: Khlong Hae Subdistrict, Hat Yai, accessible via Lopburi Ramesuan Frontage Road.

Operating hours: Friday – Sunday, 1:00pm to 9:00pm

How to get there: As transport options like the public bus or train are not available, taxis and private hire vehicles are an efficient and inexpensive way to get to the Floating Market. It should take you about 20 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to the floating market by car.

3. Greenway Night Market

Shoppers who love retro, pre-loved and vintage togs should head to the Greenway Night Market where a trove of old-school apparel can be found. The bustling shopping area is broken down into four zones — the plaza, the market, the green, and the food court zones. Explore the various zones and you’ll be sure to find some great bargain items if you keep your eyes peeled and put your best deal-making skills to the test. It’s also a great place to look for unique local crafts which can double as souvenirs for loved ones at home. Manicure services are also available if you and your travel buddies are looking to get primped. Be prepared to go cashless at this night market as you’ll be given cash cards which you can preload with a set amount.

Address: 1406/4 Kanchanawanit Road, Hat Yai District.

Operating hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm

How to get there: It should take you about 10 minutes to get from the Haadyai train station to the night market by cab.

Shoppers visiting a swimsuit stall at the Asean Night Bazaar. Shoppers visiting a swimsuit stall at the Asean Night Bazaar.

You’ll find some of the best deals across a wide selection of men’s and women’s fashion and accessories here at the ASEAN Night Bazaar.

4. Asean Night Bazaar

Another popular night market, especially among Muslim travellers, is Asean Night Bazaar, arguably one of Hat Yai’s busiest night markets spread over two floors. Shopaholics will find themselves spoilt for choice with a wide selection of new affordable clothes, shoes, and watches available from stalls on the ground floor. Beauty and personal care essentials like facial masks are also sold here, complete with samples for you to try before buying. Then, proceed upstairs to refuel with delectable Thai Muslim delights like a piping hot plate of Pad Thai, a sweet-savoury dish featuring rice noodles served with shrimps, chicken and tofu. Wash it down with chilled fruit juices or complete your meal on a sweet note with iced Thai milk tea.

Address: Thonon Chotevittayakul 5, Tambon Hat Yai, Hat Yai District.

Operating hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 3:00pm to 10:30pm. Thursday, 5:00pm to 10.30pm. Closed on Mondays.

How to get there: It should take you about 10 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to the night market by cab.

For intrepid nature lovers

5. Hat Yai Municipal Park

A shot of the Golden Buddha Statue on the mountain top at Hat Yai Municipal Park. A shot of the Golden Buddha Statue on the mountain top at Hat Yai Municipal Park.

Be sure to dress appropriately when you visit the Municipal Park — such as not wearing revealing clothing — as there are several shrines which are frequented by worshippers.

The Hat Yai Municipal Park is a huge green oasis which features several hilly outcrops to the northeast of Hat Yai. The gardens are also home to several breath-taking temples, complexes and even boasts a boating lake at the foot of the hill. Swan pedal boats are also available for couples and friends who’d like to see a different side of the park out on the calm waters. As you steal glances at the peaks from within the park, you’ll notice the towering and gleaming silhouette of Thailand’s tallest standing Golden Buddha statue. To get there, you can choose between making your way up the hill on foot or take a cable car ride which costs about 200 baht (S$8.89) for a return ticket. The scenic ride will allow you to look out on to the vast expanse of the park’s land and the rest of Hat Yai city below you. Be sure to check out the serene and impressive jade statue of Guan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy) and the Laughing Buddha. If you’re travelling with little ones in tow, take them on an adventure to uncover the stars of our universe at the Hat Yai Deepsky Observation for Science and Astronomy Centre situated within the park. There’s even an 80-seater theatre within the planetarium which screens documentaries which will impart important lessons about the wonders of space and our planet.

The entrance to the Hat Yai Deepsky Observation for Science and Astronomy Centre. The entrance to the Hat Yai Deepsky Observation for Science and Astronomy Centre.

Walk through the futuristic-looking entrance to this observatory and ponder the wonders of our galaxy. (Source: Facebook/Hatyai Observatory)

Hat Hai Municipal Park

Address: Kho Hong Subdistrict, Hat Yai District, Songkhla 90110.

Operating hours: Open daily from 6:00am to 9:00pm

Fees: Entry to the park and places of worship is free.

Hat Yai Deepsky Observation for Science and Astronomy Centre

Address: Located within the grounds of the park.

Operating hours: Open daily from 9:00am to 8:00pm

Fees: Entry to the Astronomy Centre costs 20 baht (S$0.89).

How to get there: It should take you about 20 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to the park by cab, along Route 407.

6. Thale Noi Waterbird Park

A Purple Swamphen standing on a lily in the Thale Noi Waterbird Park。 A Purple Swamphen standing on a lily in the Thale Noi Waterbird Park。

Omnivorous birds like this Purple Swamphen can often be seen resting on the lily petals on the waters in the Thale Noi Waterbird Park, waiting to feed on frogs, snails and even duck eggs.

Water buffalos often roam the grounds of the Thale Noi Waterbird Park to feed on the plants. Water buffalos often roam the grounds of the Thale Noi Waterbird Park to feed on the plants.

Despite their hefty weight, water buffalos’ large hooved feet help to keep them from sinking into the mud.

Another day trip destination worth exploring is the Thale Noi Waterbird Park, arguably one of the largest waterbird reserves in Thailand, home to more than 180 different species. Travellers should hire a longboat ride, which costs about 450 baht per hour (S$19.88). It will take you through the wetlands where wildlife like birds and even water buffalos reside. Keep a lookout as herons and storks, which are native to the Thale Noi area, routinely fly overhead. The pink waterlilies that seem to bloom by the thousands on the water also double as a scenic place to sneak in a selfie. As you travel out on the waters, you’ll also easily spot stilted fishing platforms which are used by local fishermen with traditional tools like wooden logs in hand, dipping them into the water to fish. It’s best to go to the park early in the day as the sun can be unbearable in the afternoon.

Address: Waterbird Park, Thale Noi, Khuan Khanun District, Phatthalung.

Operating hours: Open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

How to get there: It should take you about 2 hours to get from Haadyai train station to the park by cab via route 4.

7. Ton Nga Chang Waterfall

If you consider yourself to be an adventurous thrill-seeker, the Ton Nga Chang Waterfall, a seven-tier waterfall nestled within the verdant Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary should be on your to-do list. Take a hike up the waterfall and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of nature all around you, chancing upon tiny creeks and pockets of water teeming with wildlife like fishes and mudskippers. You can also pack an extra set of clothes if you’d like to take a dip in the lakes to refresh yourself after a hike. Do make sure you bring along insect repellant to avoid falling prey to the pesky mosquitoes and insects.

Address: 1527 Rural Road Songkhla 1013, Thung Tam Sao, Hat Yai District

Operating hours: Open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

How to get there: The taxi ride from Haadyai train station to the entrance to the Wildlife Sanctuary via route 4287 should take about 40 minutes.

Fees: Entry to the sanctuary costs 200 baht (S$8.89)

8. Samila Beach

The Golden Mermaid is of the most recognisable symbols of Samila Beach in Hat Yai. The Golden Mermaid is of the most recognisable symbols of Samila Beach in Hat Yai.

Some locals worship this iconic golden mermaid statue at Samila Beach in Hat Yai, draping the statue in yellow scarfs and flower garlands after their prayers have been answered even though officials have released an announcement banning such actions.

But if you’d rather dip your toes in the sand and taste the salty sea breeze, then Samila Beach — or Laem Samila — should be your go-to destination. The length of the eastern shoreline of the beach is lined with many shady pine trees and benches for you and your travel buddy to sit and watch the crashing waves. You can also opt for another interesting way to explore the waterfront — on horseback. For just 150 baht (S$6.63), you can hop on a horse as you are led by guides along the waterfront. Don’t forget to check out the Golden Mermaid Statue, the prime spot to snap a we-fie as a memento.

Address: At the roundabout at Ratchadamnoen Alley, Tambon Bo Yang, Mueang Songkhla District

How to get there:  It should take you about 45 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to the entrance to the Wildlife Sanctuary by cab via route 414.

For culture vultures and history buffs

9. Southern Folklore Museum

Intricate Ko Yo cotton fabric weaved by the method of textile production. Intricate Ko Yo cotton fabric weaved by the method of textile production.

Ko Yo is also famous for producing intricately hand-woven fabrics.

A man weaver at work making a Ko Yo clothing. A man weaver at work making a Ko Yo clothing.

These are created using traditional cloth producing weavers.

Located just half an hour away from Samila Beach, you’ll find Ko Yo, a small rustic island inhabited by several fishing communities. It is accessible by taxis via two bridges to the north and south of the island. The Southern Folklore Museum on the northern tip of the island remains one of the key attractions on the island. The museum is built to preserve the unique culture of the south with exhibits that house fabrics, pottery and other traditional arts. Stay on in the evenings on the island and catch the sunset while dining at any one of the coastal seafood restaurants which serve up a sour and spicy Tom Yum Goong, filled with shellfish and prawns caught just off the coast.

Address: 93 Soi 5 Rom Yen, Ko Yo, Mueang Songkhla District, Songkhla

Operating hours: Monday, Wednesday – Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm. Closed on Tuesdays.

How to get there: It should take you about 40 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to Museum via route 414 by cab.

Fees: Entry to the museum costs 100 baht (S$4.50)

10. Wat Hai Yai Nai

As a country, Thailand is filled with magnificent Buddhist temples dating back centuries, which can offer a sense of peace to visitors. Many of these temples include impressive statues that double as awe-inspiring attractions. In Hat Yai, travellers should head to the Wat Hai Yai Nai. Just walking into the temple grounds, you’re confronted by a massive pavilion featuring a 35-metre long reclining Buddha which was first crafted in the 1970s. A place to visit if you are looking for a peaceful attraction amid the bustling hive of activity that Hat Yai city can be, during the day. Also, don’t be surprised if you bump into an entourage of school children dressed in uniforms paying their respects in the afternoon when school ends, the temple is frequented by locals who regard it as one of the most revered places of worship in the country.

Address: At the intersection of Ban Bang Na Road and Phetkasem Soi 22 Road, Tambon Khuan Lang, Hat Yai District.

Operating hours: Open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Closed on public holidays.

How to get there:  It should take you about 10 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to the temple by cab via route 414.

11. Songkhla Old Town

Take a trip back in time when you head to Songkhla Old Town located in the Mueang Songkhla District, which is 30 to 45 minutes away from the heart of Hat Yai. Architecture lovers will note that the old town, which used to be the provincial capital of Southern Thailand, spots traces of the Chinese culture, blending it with the symbols of the Muslim community to create a quaint town with an old-world vibe.

The picturesque heritage district doubles as a trove of street art and unique attractions enough to keep you busy for a day trip. Be sure to check out the following:

Wide shot of the entrance to National Museum of Songkhla. Wide shot of the entrance to National Museum of Songkhla.

Architecture enthusiasts will note the National Museum of Songkhla (Above) spots traditional décor and design elements from Chinese buildings such as bright-red doors and ceramic tiles on a sloping roof.

Start your visit at the National Museum of Songkhla, a beautiful sprawling bungalow, which houses many unique artefacts that date as far back as the pre-historic period of the Stone Age. Right outside, you can hop on the Singora Tram Tour, a free 90-minute long tour that will take you on a ride around town. You also can hope off the tram to snap selfies at several street art murals around town. The tram will also take you to places like the Songkhla mosque, Thai temple, and a Chinese Shrine.

Street art adorning the old concrete walls of shophouses in Songkhla Old Town. Street art adorning the old concrete walls of shophouses in Songkhla Old Town.

Stop and pose for an artsy selfie against these concrete walls of shophouses dressed up with murals around Songkhla Old Town.

Address: Wichian Chom Road - Rong Mueang Alley Bo Yang, Mueang Songkhla District, Songkhla

Operating hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 9:00am to 4:00pm.

How to get there: It should take you about 45 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to the Museum via route 414 by cab.

Fees: Entry to the museum costs 100 baht (S$4.50)

Incense and joss sticks lit by worshippers left in the open in front of the City Pillar Shrine in Songkhla Old Town. Incense and joss sticks lit by worshippers left in the open in front of the City Pillar Shrine in Songkhla Old Town.

City Pillars in Thailand often include a shrine which is believed to house a city spirit deity which protects the locals.

The City Pillar Shrine — or Lak Muang — is more than just another colourful temple but is considered by many to be the heart of the Chinese community.It is also one of the oldest temples in Thailand, built during the 24th Buddhist Century in Songkhla. Here you’ll get to learn more about how the Chinese community made admirable contributions to the development of the city and how the natives helped Chinese migrants resettle into the town.

Address: Nang Ngam, Tambon Bo Yang, Mueang Songkhla District

Operating hours: Open daily.

How to get there: It should take you about 45 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to the shrine via route 414 by cab.

Fees: Free entry.

As you wander around town, keep your eyes peeled for a bright red barn-style Hub Ho Hin Building which used to house a rice mill and later an ice factory. Today the building has evolved into a small local performance space, home to notable arts and photo exhibitions.

Address: Hub Ho Hin (Red Rice Mill), 13 Nakhonnok St, Bo Yang, Mueang Songkhla District

Operating hours: Open daily from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

How to get there: It should take you about 45 minutes to get from Haadyai train station to the Red Rice Mill building via route 414 by cab.

Fees: Entry to the building is free but admission tickets to various exhibits may apply.

A curb-side photo of Hub Ho Hin Building in Songkhla old town. A curb-side photo of Hub Ho Hin Building in Songkhla old town.

Another nod to the Chinese community in Songkhla Old Town; the name of this arts building, Hub Ho Hin, may seem like a Thai word but is in fact a Chinese Hokkien dialect term meaning Unity Harmony Prosperity.

Bonus Travel Tips!

1.     To avoid falling prey to scams, only choose to ride when taxi driver uses the meter or after double-checking the price of the ride on Uber or Grab apps which double as a good price gauge.

2.     Hat Yai’s night markets are known to get quite busy and crowded so make sure you secure your personal belongings and keep them close to steer clear of becoming a target of pickpockets.

3.     While travelling around Hat Yai, it is always a good idea to pack along a packet of wet tissues, tissue paper or even a roll of toilet paper as you’d never know if these are in supply at public restrooms.

With a wide variety of experiences and places which appeal to various groups of globetrotters, Hat Yai has much to offer especially if you are a traveller who likes to design your own adventure. Besides leaving the city with delectable snacks and intricate souvenirs, you’ll be bringing with you a trove of exciting experiences and stories about the people, culture, places — and of course, its cuisine — to share with loved ones and friends. And you can rest assured that road congestion won’t be something you’ll talk about.

 

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Best time to visit

January, February, and June to September remain the best months to visit as the weather would be on your side. March to May are the hottest months while October to December are the wettest, both quarters would make it challenging to spend time outdoors.

Transport

While there is a main train station within the town — Haadyai Station — it usually offers services that connect Hat Yai with other provinces. Most locals and travellers find it most convenient to move in and around the city using taxi rides. If you prefer to enjoy the classic and uniquely Thai commuting experience, the Songthaew — the local version of the Tuk Tuk — and motorcycle taxi rides should fit the bill. Otherwise, ride-hailing apps, like Grab and Uber, are also available locally.

Currency

Thai Baht

Book now

Due to the short duration, Hat Yai is also an ideal location to fly to via budget airlines if you are hoping to stretch your dollar. Search for airfares and book your tickets here.