So, a few weeks ago, I shared my experience in taking the second-class train from Bangkok to Hat Yai in Thailand.
As mentioned in the previous post, Hat Yai is probably more famous for Malaysian visitors since it’s only 4 hours by car from Penang. The city is also a good option for a transit city from Malaysia to more popular destinations in Thailand like Krabi or Phuket.
Songkhla Province can be an alternative destination if you’re planning to travel to Thailand for 3 weeks or more. Of course, it goes without saying if you are planning on taking a trip of three weeks or more its definitely worth brushing up on a little of the Thai language before your trip!
Keep calm, and I’m trying to catch up with the rest of my last Indochina trip stories even though it takes more than a year to finish everything at this point! And this time, I’m going to write about some things to do around Hat Yai and Songkhla province in general.
Obviously, the city isn’t as popular as Bangkok for travelers. But is Hat Yai worth visiting? And if it is, what are the best things to do in the city? Well, I’ll share my two cents here, so read on!
Is Hat Yai Worth Visiting?
Hat Yai is the biggest city in Songkhla Provine and the fourth biggest throughout Thailand. As I mentioned in my previous post, the city is also home to a higher proportion of Malay-Muslim and Chinese-Thai than other Thailand cities.
I’m not sure if it has something to do with it, but the first time I arrived in Hat Yai, I felt home already. The weather kinda reminds me of Bandung years ago without the pollution and all that. It was pretty easy to stroll around the city as well. From traditional markets to malls, it’s definitely an excellent place to enjoy the local life!
Although I initially planned to stay in Hat Yai for only 3 (three) days, I think I ended up extending my stay to 5 (five) days to the point that I had to change my room at my hotel on the weekend. I wasn’t even playing tourist in the city because I spent most of my time in my hotel room except for when I had to go out to eat.
While there are some nature spots that seem to be worth visiting not so far from the city, I didn’t get a chance to go to places like Ton Nga Chang Wildlife or Khuan Chedi. However, there’s a place in Hat Yai that made me go twice just because I liked the vibes there so much.
That might bring you to another question, what are the best places to go in Hat Yai when you travel on your own?
Best Things to Do in Hat Yai, Thailand
Apart from the homey vibes that I caught in Hat Yai, some places became the highlights of my stay in the city. On top of that, Hat Yai offers so many delicious foods that I wish I could go back soon just to eat them!
Although I’m not going to lie, there was also a place that I found rather disappointing. So, what are those?
1. Hat Yai Municipal Park.
This park is fantastic! This is the place in Hat Yai that I ended up visiting twice because I loved it so much.
It is pretty far from the city center since it’s located around 7 kilometers from my hotel, but I loved it so much that I came back just because I could.
When I stayed in Bangkok, I stopped by Lumpini Park and I was disappointed because the park was a bit boring. Like, sure, the park looks like it’s quite well-maintained, but the park wasn’t so lively, if that makes sense. Well, Hat Yai Municipal Park is the opposite of that!
Ideally, there should be a cable car that could take you from the entrance up to the hill where the temples are. However, when I went there the cable car was inoperative, but it doesn’t mean that I couldn’t travel to the mountain since some cars were available to take visitors up to the hill… I even got a bonus!
The car that took me to the mountain, the driver, Karn, took her dog to work at the time, so it made a super good impression on the whole Hat Yai Municipal Park!
The fee to get to the mountain is only 15 THB (around $0.5 USD) with a bonus of Happy the dog calling a shotgun, sitting happily.
Karn, the driver, gave me a piece of paper with her phone number written, and she told me that I could call her anytime I’m done so she would come to pick me up.
My Two Cents About Hat Yai Municipal Park
It’s a huge park, with a lot of Instagrammable spots if you aim for it. But other than that, the park is so full of lives!
Near the entrance, there is a lake surrounded by trees, and many people went there for a picnic with their beloved ones. By the look of it, some people were going there for a date while so many of them were with their family and kids.
I think that’s what makes it slightly different from Lumpini Park in Bangkok. The situation that makes me like this park better. And I loved the weather there too as opposed to Bangkok’s weather that was so hot when I went to Lumpini.
Up in the mountain, the sights were much better, but the weather was unbearably hot. Seriously though, don’t forget to apply your sunscreens since it’s the kind of heat that could burn your skin.
From there, you can see Hat Yai and Songkhla from above. And there are also a few temples that you visit up on the hill.
While the highlight is probably the shrine at the top of the hill, there are some other temples in its surrounding. Although unfortunately, they don’t look as well-maintained as the one at the top.
I went down to visit some other temples, and there was this temple that was quite dirty with dry leaves. Even sadder since a stray dog was sleeping there, and I had no treat or food to share at the time. Come to think of it, maybe dogs were really the highlight of my visit to Hat Yai Municipal Park. Hmm.
I’m not sure if the cable car will allow us to stop by some sites at the park. It seems like there are a few other sites around the mountain that we could visit. Still, I didn’t because I underestimated my cardio ability. LOL.
Unlike the Oudong temple in Cambodia where there were occasionally some sellers to offer you a drink or some snacks, the top of the mountain at Hat Yai Municipal Park was rather quiet.
Other than some kiosks not so far from the big shrine at the top of the hill, I barely met any other people around the Guan-yin temple. Not sure if it’s normal, but I feel like the park is more lively down around the entrance than up the hill.
2. Central Mosque of Songkhla Province.
Dubbed as the Taj Mahal of Thailand, I could see the resemblance from the design since it seems to have a significant influence from the Mughal empire. The gold dome kind of reminds me of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Brunei. However, if I have to be honest, the latter looks 100 times fancier.
Songkhla Central Mosque was built in 2001, delicately paved with marbles. Across the mosque, there’s a pool and gazebo where you could also take a look at its surrounding with the highway.
My Two Cents About Central Mosque of Songkhla Province
After visiting Cham Village in Vietnam, I was actually pretty excited to see the central mosque in Songkhla.
When I ordered a Grabbike to the central mosque, it’s around 10 kilometers from the city center. Quite far, but I managed only to get slightly disappointed by the fact that it’s located out of nowhere.
I mean, yes… It’s such a majestic building with a beautiful design. And the pond across the mosque also makes it look even prettier in the picture.
Situated on the main highway connecting Hat Yai and Songkhla City, you might want to think twice before going there. Especially if you take a Grabbike as I did at the time.
Yes, the mosque is basically a symbol of the region’s historic Muslim roots, which is great. But if you want to go there, make sure that you have a transportation settled to take you back to the city. That was my mistake when I went there.
I took Grabbike to get me there from Hat Yai city center, and I didn’t ask the driver to wait for me because I thought since Grab is available around Hat Yai and Songkhla, it would be easy for me to get a car or a bike to take me back to the hotel. Boy, was I wrong!
After I strolled around the mosque and the big pond, I tried to find a Grab car and bike but failed every time. And there wasn’t any restaurant or anything where I could go while waiting, and I hadn’t had my lunch at the time. So I was cranky, hangry, and whichever bad mood you could think of…
There are some public transportation parking outside like the one in the picture above, but all of them were there because they got chartered by some tourist groups. I was so desperate, I asked one of them if I could join them somewhere where it’s easier for me to get a Grab car or bike, I told them that I didn’t mind paying, but they refused since the driver told them not to accept my offer.
I was about losing it. But around 2 hours later, after I was just sitting around the pond doing nothing, I decided to walk a bit close to the junction closer to the highway. I tried to book a Grab car from the junction, and finally, I got one car to pick me up from there.
I wouldn’t say that I was disappointed that I went there in the first place because I’m glad I did. But if you ask me, I wouldn’t say that it’s a must-visit spot when you’re in Hat Yai or Songkhla given the location.
3. Explore Hat Yai’s Most Famous Street Foods.
Like probably everyone who has been to Thailand, food is one of the main reasons I love the country. And Hat Yai is like heaven for it!
From various street foods to ASEAN Night Bazaar, you’ll never run out of options when it comes to Thai food in Hat Yai. From the regular grilled chicken, pad thai, to one of the most legendary culinary in the city: Chen Loong Boat Noodle.
The latter is within walking distance from my hotel, and I tried it on the third day I was in Hat Yai only to eat it at least once a day for the rest of my stay in the city. Yes, it is that good!
They’ve been in the business for generations, and they have two different shops on the same street. When I went there the first time and arrived at their new shop, they said that there’s still plenty of space in their first shop, so they suggested that I go to their old shop just a block next to the new one.
All the menu is written in Thai, which I don’t understand. But the guy at the counter (I assumed he’s the son of the owner or something!) could speak English very well. He asked whether I wanted pork or beef and what kind of noodle I’d prefer. The small bowl of noodles cost 45 THB (around $1.5 USD), while the big one was 65 THB (around $2.07 USD)
Since it seems that the place is also popular for Malaysian tourists, the lady who asked what I wanted to drink even gave me options Kopitiam way… Teh O? Teh C? I was a bit relieved since I’m not sure how I would survive without it. LOL.
My Two Cents About Street Food in Hat Yai
Apart from the boat noodles, there are so many street food options that you can try around Hat Yai. And with the high percentage of Muslim populations, it’s even easier to find halal food around Hat Yai.
The lunch I had at Hat Yai Municipal Park canteen, the shop owner was a Muslim lady serving some fish soup with noodles that was super delicious… Combined with iced tea, it was quite the highlight of my trip to the municipal park!
There was also some stall that sold this food similar to po pia… It was okay, but Bandung-style lumpia basah tastes better than this kind of po pia if I got to be honest. I mean, sure I may be biased since I’m from Bandung, so I’d prefer the local taste… But hey!
I also bought some grilled chicken to be eaten with some cup noodles when I had to be stuck in my hotel room because of work… And don’t forget about Thai tea! There was this Thai tea stall closed to my hotel where I bought it every day when I was there, I was quite sad leaving it when I had to go to Penang after my stay in Thailand came to an end.
My Verdict About Hat Yai
Some cities are meant to be enjoyed as a wanderer, while some towns could make you feel at home right away. For me, Hat Yai is the latter.
It’s an excellent place to visit if you want to see things from the locals’ eyes. The information you could find on the internet about Hat Yai is not as polished as other places in Thailand, so while it may not be your first choice to party in Thailand, it’s definitely a place that makes you feel closer with the locals.
Since I prefer the latter, Hat Yai definitely has a special place in my heart. Not gonna lie, if I got a chance to just stay there for the sake of living, I would. The city looks homey to me. And the best thing to do in Hat Yai is to live life like a local.
So, is Hat Yai worth visiting? Yes, if you’re the same kind of traveler as I am. But maybe not if you want some nightclub scene like you heard about Bangkok.
Have you been to Hat Yai? What do you like about the city? Share your experience in the comment, and cheerio! 😉
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