Located in the northern part of Songkhla province, Hat Yai is the commercial and transportation hub of southern Thailand. The city’s relative prosperity is reflected in the many high-rise hotels and commercial towers in the central district, which is the main area travelers are likely to visit. Though not a tourist destination per se – most travelers come through on their way to other parts of Thailand – Hat Yai does have a quite a bit to offer the traveler who stays a few days.
The central district has department stores, markets and shops that cater to both Thais and Malaysian visitors. The district is bordered to the west by the train station, to the east by the canal and north and south by Supasarnrangsan and Sripoovanart roads respectively. There is plenty of accommodation in Hat Yai, including dozens of options, from backpacker dorm rooms at Cathay House to five-star elegance at Centara Hotel.
Though not renowned as a culinary center, Hat Yai has a diverse eating scene. Standard noodle shops and hawker stands cater to the budget conscious, while excellent Chinese, Malaysian and Thai restaurants are around for those with a bit more cash to spend, and you’ll also find plenty of Western offerings too. For the late evening crowd, a variety nightspots are on offer, including expat-oriented pubs and night clubs plus karaoke bars popular with locals.
Kimyong, Yongdee and Suntisuk markets are the more traditional places Thais shop outside of the big department stores and all are within the easy walking distance of the central district hotels and guesthouses. Most of the more touristy sights are located outside of the central area, from the Sleeping Buddha at Wat Hat Yai Nai to the expansive Hat Yai Municipal Park and Kor Hong Mountain, with its spectacular vista of Hat Yai and its surrounds. With a little planning and negotiation for transportation, these sights offer more of an in-depth introduction to the local culture and traditions of not only Hat Yai but of the province as a whole.
For anyone traveling through southern Thailand, Hat Yai is a thriving city that is well worth a day or so of exploration.