Hat Yai Travel Guide
Often the last stop for travellers headed to Malaysia (or the first in Thailand for those coming from Malaysia), Hat Yai is treated by many as a transport hub. If you stop and linger for a while, though, you’ll find that this city has some of the best shopping in the country, and its temples are interesting enough to warrant an extended look.
While many attractions in Hat Yai are centred around shopping due its proximity to the Malaysian border, there are a number of worthwhile cultural attractions in the city centre or within a short drive of it.
Wat Hat Yai Nai is the one which stands out the most, as it is home to the third largest Reclining Buddha statue in the world. At 35 metres long, 15 metres tall, and 10 metres wide, you’ll struggle to get this monument to fit in your camera frame if you don’t have a DLSR with a fancy extendable lens.
The rest of the temple grounds is typical for a Thai wat, so if the crowds around the Big Buddha bother you, a short stroll away will take you to more peaceful surrounds.
Phra Maha Chedi Tripob Trimongkol is another noteworthy Buddhist place of worship in the Hat Yai area. On its grounds, you will find a wat which has been constructed completely of stainless steel, a design which stands, in contrast, to the usual brass/hammered gold leaf style typically seen in Thai temples.
Check out the view from the upper levels if you are an avid photographer, and be sure to drop by again after dark, as the entire structure is lit up brilliantly at night.
Before heading over the border to Malaysia, be sure to take a day trip to nearby Songkhla. Located only 45 minutes to the northeast, it is home to a pair of cultural attractions worth seeing. Start by exploring Songkhla Old Town, which is home to numerous streets containing colourful wooden homes and shophouses which make for a better look than the shapeless concrete which defines most Thai provincial towns.
If you can, stick around for the Walking Street in the evening, as it is home to a variety of food and artisan stalls which show off some of the best cuisine and locally made goods you’ll find in the Thai South.
When you have finished taking pictures and eating your way through Songkhla’s Old Town, take an hour to explore the exhibits of the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Natural History Museum before heading back to Hat Yai.
Opened on Princess Maha’s 50th birthday, this institution shows off artifacts which define the ecology and geology of Southern Thailand. Be on the lookout for their prized specimen, the taxidermied remains of a Laotian Giant Flying Squirrel, and be sure to also check out its marine species exhibit, as it contains extensive samples of coral, molluscs, and crustaceans.
If the heat of Hat Yai becomes a bit too much for you to bear, head out of town to relax beside the flowing waters of Namtok Ton Nga Chang. Boasting seven tiers, this waterfall is a popular place for locals looking for a spot to take a dip on a particularly hot day.
The 3rd tier is most popular, but if you want to climb to the highest waterfall, allow yourself several hours to get to the top, swim, and get back.
If there is a part of you that digs cheesy tourist attractions, make space in your schedule to visit the Magic Museum while you are in Hat Yai. Throughout, you find encounter paintings on the walls and floors which are designed to create optical illusions which will wow young and old people alike.
While it is a pricey attraction to visit, photography is allowed, making it a great place to kill time while waiting for Hat Yai’s night market to start up.
As alluded to earlier, Hat Yai is known for being a major shopping destination, as it sells certain goods which are pricier or are hard to find in Malaysia. CentralFestival Hatyai is the fanciest mall in the city, as it offers more than just tons of shops – with a massive food court, ice skating rink, bowling alley, an IMAX theatre, and more, it is an entertaining attraction in its own right.
Encounter the goods of other nations in Southeast Asia by exploring the ASEAN Trade Bazaar. With everything from various dishes from across the region to an entire area dedicated to phone accessories, you’ll find what you need, whether it is the bag you’ve been needing for some time or that perfect souvenir for your parents.
Take a break from your hectic touring by spending some time relaxing in Hat Yai Municipal Park. Decorated with flower beds, a Standing Buddha, and numerous food stalls, if you need to unwind, stop by this beautifully designed public green space.