Hat Yai (also spelt Haad Yai) is one of the most active and diverse destinations of the Thai-Malay peninsular region. With more than 150,000 residents living in its central municipality and a greater urban reach rapidly approaching 800,000, it’s hard to believe that Hat Yai didn’t even exist over a century ago.
Initially established as a small junction on the Thai-Malay rail route, Hat Yai lies 50 kilometers north of the Thai-Malaysian border and 26 kilometers southwest of Songkhla City, the provincial capital. People often mistake Hat Yai as Songkhla’s capital; Unlike the norm elsewhere in Thailand, where the provincial capital is the largest city of the province (Hat Yai and Pattaya being the only exceptions to this norm), more than 60 percent of Songkhla province’s population is concentrated around Hat Yai.
As the largest metropolitan area of southern Thailand, Hat Yai serves as a significant commercial and business center, drawing travelers and tourists in pursuit of leisure and business on a year-round basis.
A majority of Hat Yai’s inhabitants are of ethnic Chinese or Islamic background, with most of the city’s million visitors per year venturing from neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. While ‘hat yai’ sounds and is spelt like the Thai words ‘big beach’, there is no beach or seafront in Hat Yai as it is located 30 kilometers inland. The name is actually derived from a large tropical ‘ma haad’ tree (Artocarpus Lakoocha).
As a shopping and entertainment haven, Hat Yai offers a long list of things to see and do, whether for the solo traveler or the entire family, boredom is hard to come by in this cosmopolitan city.
Whether on a shoestring budget or looking for more luxurious lodging, Hat Yai has an abundant selection of hotels and guesthouses. Most accommodations are situated around Hat Yai’s bustling downtown, with easy access to the cities select dining and shopping venues.
For mid to upper range options, pre-booking, either online or with a local travel agent, will certainly get you better deals than dealing direct with hotels. During the week, you should be able to find the room you want but keep in mind that on weekends and Singaporean and Malaysian holidays, vacancy in downtown is no guarantee.
For more information see Hat Yai hotels
Hat Yai offers fun for everyone. With two 9-hole courses (Hat Yai Country club and Koh Hong Golf Club), an 18-hole golf course (Hat Yai Resort & Golf Club), shooting ranges, paintball parks, a 15 meter water slide (Bhasawang Big Splash), Thai Boxing stadium, and local bull fights organized on a weekend basis, it might prove a task deciding what to do. For specific details on schedules and events, contact TAT’s Hat Yai office at 074 243 747.
Without doubt Hat Yai is a shopper’s dream. In fact, there’s no better place to go shopping anywhere south of Bangkok. There are at least four large shopping malls including: Lee Garden Plaza, Odean Shopping Mall, Diana Shopping Mall, and Central Department Store, as well as Tesco Lotus and Carefour superstores. Together with various street-side vendors and stalls found in the two main markets – Si Kimyong and Sunthisuk, there’s not much you won’t be able to find! For local handicrafts and souvenirs as well as daily featured cultural shows, be sure to visit the Southern Cultural Village in Hat Yai Municipal Park 6 kms from the city center on Kanchanavanit road.
No matter what hour of day or night you’ll find an eclectic selection of food to delight all taste buds in Hat Yai. Local cuisine, usually found in roadside stalls, markets and shophouses is comprised of Muslim, Chinese and Thai foods with some Malay influences. There is also a wide range of regional and western fare available including hotel buffets, top quality seafood, shark fin, sushi platters, steak houses, and street side made to order grills. Of course, you’ll find all your favorite fast food delights such as KFC and MacDonalds, and then some in the shopping centers. You certainly won’t go hungry in Hat Yai!
Together with shopping, the main attraction of Hat Yai is its nightlife. Ever popular among weekenders from Singapore and Malaysia, as well as Thai and Western visitor, most people should have no problem finding kicks to suit their late night tastes in Hat Yai. With heaps of live music venues, beer gardens, karaoke, cafés, bars, pubs, discos, and local style dance clubs, Hat Yai caters to all.
Getting to Hat Yai
Hat Yai is accessible via road, rail and air.
10 kilometers south of the city center is Hat Yai International Airport (HDY), which connects Hat Yai with Phuket and Bangkok on several daily flights via Thai Airways, Thai Air Asia and Nok Air, as well as a daily Singapore flight by Tiger Airways.
Air-conditioned buses leave Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal daily and take about 13 hours. For the most current departure schedules, contact 02 435 1199-200 in Bangkok or 074 232789 in Hat Yai. Or check http://www.transport.co.th . Chartered tour buses to and from Singapore and Malaysia are booked regularly. Domestic buses and minivans also connect Hat Yai with Songkhla, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Chumporn, Surathani, Krabi, Trang, Yala and Patani.
Several trains originating from Bangkok and Malaysia service Hat Yai daily. Check http://www.railway.co.th/ for latest train schedules.
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