Despite not attracting a huge amount of Western visitors, Hat Yai has a good mixture of cultural, natural and modern attractions to suit all tastes. With a lush park inside of town and a stunning waterfall nearby, it’s easy to escape the city if things begin to feel a bit hectic. One of the world’s largest reclining Buddhas can also be marvelled at here, and the shopping opportunities are enough to keep anyone busy.
Just six kilometres from the city centre along Hat Yai-Songkhla is Hat Yai Municipal Park, offering a burst of tranquillity among the hustle and bustle. There is an aviary and pond amid food stalls and many beautiful flowering plants. There is also a jade statue of the Chinese Goddess Guan-Yin near the Boy Scout camp at the southern foothill, and a Brahman shire and a statue of King Rama V on the hilltop near the aviary.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Hat Yai is Wat Hat Yai Nai. This temple, near Khlong U Taphao Bridge on Phetkasen Road, is home to what is believed to be the world’s third-largest reclining Buddha. At 10 metres wide and 15 metres tall, Phra Phuttha Hattha Mongkhon is a huge draw for both Thai and foreign visitors.
Around 26kms outside of the city is the beautiful Ton Nga Chang Waterfall. Located in the Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary, the cascade has seven levels; but those who don’t want to climb too far will be relieved to know that the third tier is by far the most beautiful. Here, the flow of water separates into two streams, resembling an elephant’s tusks (Nga Chang). Minibuses can be arranged from the market (Talat Sot Thet Sa Ban Hat Yai) or tuk-tuks can be hired for a few hours for around 300-400 baht. More adventurous tourists can also go on treks to reach this tranquil spot.
No trip to Thailand would be complete without experiencing a traditional Thai massage. Hat Yai is known as one of the best places in the country for this authentic (but sometimes not entirely relaxing) treat. Hat Yai Central Hotel and the Garden Home Hotel are both popular, offering a good range of options in a soothing setting. Beauty treatments and oil massages are also available for those who don’t feel like being ragged around too much.
Contemporary shopping options in Hat Yai are plentiful, including Lee Garden Plaza which is packed with fast food restaurants, clothes, electronics and souvenir shops, as well as a cinema and karaoke booths. There is also the Odean Shopping Mall and the Diana Shopping Mall, the latter of which has a bowling alley.
Kim Yong Market is a bustling hive of colour, smells and sounds. Confectionary, electric appliances, fruit and veg plus household goods are in ample supply here, and it’s worth a look even if you’re not buying. The market is found in town on Supasarn Rungsan Road.
Suntisook Market on Nipat Utid also offers much of the same, while ASEAN Market (Ppoet Tai), near the bus station, has an amazing selection of second-hand vintage and designer clothing, plus food stalls in the evening. Green Way Market, on the main road to Songkhla, is similar.