There’s something special about Hatyai, something that sets it apart from other large cities like Bangkok, Thailand’s capital. Many have tried to put a finger on what exactly it is (including myself), but it’s truly something that cannot be explained, only felt.
Perhaps it’s the way modern buildings and traditional markets sit side-by-side so comfortably. Maybe it’s the experience of riding a tuk-tuk (Thai taxi) through the city while the wind whips through your hair. It could even simply be the ridiculously delicious cuisine, whether hawker-style or fine dining, that Thailand has become famed for. At any rate, vacationers to Hatyai can expect a great time even on a shoestring budget. With that said, here are 8 activities you can’t miss when in Hatyai.
1. Shop 'til you drop at the CentralFestival Hatyai
It’s no secret that Hatyai is a shopper’s paradise. For those who prefer an air-conditioned environment to escape the heat, the CentralFestival is a perfect choice. As Southern Thailand’s largest and newest mall, it houses more than 250 international and local brands, as well as a cineplex, bowling alley, and ice rink. 5 organized floors ensure that you’ll have no shortage of shops to browse in comfort. The many restaurants also provide a nice alternative if you’re dying for a taste of home. There’s even a shuttle service to and from selected hotels so you can save on transportation!
Address: 1518, 1518/1, 1518/2 Kanchanavinich Rd., Songkhla, 90110 Hat Yai, Thailand
Website: CentralFestival Hatyai
2. Try out your bargaining skills at the ASEAN Trade Bazaar
Bargain hunters should definitely check out this bazaar, happily located within walking distance from the CentralFestival. A covered night market teeming with shops on the ground floor and food stalls above, a trip to this place is a kaleidoscopic experience. The sights, sounds, and smells can overwhelm the senses, so keep tabs on your belongings and group members. As it’s a bazaar, expect to negotiate prices for everything from clothes to shoes to electrical goods - there are lots of savings and outrageously cheap gems to be found! When you’re finally satisfied with your purchases, head upstairs for some much-needed air, and enjoy a cold drink and maybe a plate of Pad Thai as you watch the crowd below.
ASEAN Trade Bazaar
Address: 44, 46 Chotwittayakul 5 Rd., Hat Yai 90110, Thailand
3. Visit the Khlong Hae Floating Market
You may have heard of the floating markets Thailand is famous for - you’ll get the chance to go to one in Hatyai! Located just a tuk-tuk ride away from the city center, the Khlong Hae Market features vendors selling a wide variety of delicious food, cooked right on their boats! They’ll pass you your freshly made order via long-handled baskets, which you can then fill with money. Be sure to try as many dishes as you can; the surrounding area is also a hotspot for cheap knick-knacks and souvenirs to take home.
Khlong Hae Floating Market
Address: Khlong Hae, Hat Yai District, Songkhla 90110, Thailand
4. Catch glorious views from the Hat Yai Municipal Park
You wouldn’t typically visit a park while on vacation, but this one warrants a trip just for its giant Buddhas and spectacular hilltop vistas. An expansive place encompassing a lake, an observatory, cable cars and four different deities, prepare for a good walk with sunblock and umbrellas to stave off the sun. The park is a good choice for families and lone travelers alike - picnics under the trees by the lake are especially scenic. You’ll need to rent either a tuk-tuk, car or motorbike to get to the top, where the golden Standing Buddha resides in its complex, looking out in all its majesty at Southern Thailand.
Hat Yai Municipal Park
Address: Kanchanawanit Road, Hat Yai, Thailand
Website: Hat Yai Municipal Park
5. Get the massage of a lifetime at Thai Odyssey
The name of this renowned massage chain evokes a journey - which is exactly what a session in Thai Odyssey’s impossibly relaxing rooms entails. You’ll be brought on a journey of smells and touch, where scent, music and the deft hands of your masseuse combine to bring both body and mind into a state of peace. Using traditional, all-natural ingredients and techniques, you can’t get a more authentic, or higher quality massage experience in Hatyai.
Address: No. 152-154–156, Red Planet Hotel, Niphat Uthit 2 Road, Hat Yai, Songkhla, 90110 Thailand
Website: Thai Odyssey
6. Visit one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world
This hugely impressive Phra Phuttha Hattha Mongkhon has the distinction of being the third largest of its kind worldwide. The Buddha regards all devotees who come to give offerings and burn incense with a wry, knowing smile, while cupping his right ear to show that he does listen to the prayers of the faithful. You’ll marvel at the sheer size of him, as well as the stunning beauty of the complex in which he resides. Housed in the Wat Hat Yai Nai, a temple which is a feast for the eyes by itself, this is not a place to be missed even if you’re not a believer.
Wat Hat Yai Nai
Address: 6/1 Soi Sakornmongkol, Tambon Khuan Lang, Amphoe Hat Yai, Chang Wat Songkhla 90110, Thailand
7. Hike up the magnificent Namtok Ton Nga Chang (Elephant Tusk Falls)
So named for its branching streams that create the impression of ‘elephant tusks’ out of rushing water, these falls are a gorgeous sight to behold. A whopping seven stories high, you’ll be able to climb all the way to the top for some truly amazing views - but make sure you’re in good shape and possess good-quality sports shoes for the hike! For those who simply want an escape from the heat, fret not as the pools on the lower levels (1 to 3) are reachable with not too much effort, and provide a nice picnic spot besides.
Namtok Ton Nga Chang
Address: Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary, Amphoe Hat Yai, Hat Yai, Thailand
8. Have lots of fun snapping photos at the Magic Eye 3D Museum
“What’s so magical about this place?” you may ask. This museum doesn’t really cater to the bunny-from-a-hat kind of “magic” that we’re used to, but it does capitalize on optical illusions. In fact, the entire place is full of hand-painted murals that appear three-dimensional only at a specific angle. Ingenious and wonderfully convincing when done right, one has to marvel at the mastery of the original artists who thought up a wide range of themes, from the pyramids to icebergs, and brought them to life on every inch of space available. While this may sound quite kitschy, be assured that you’ll have a hilarious experience, especially when in a group - kids will love this place.
Magic Eye 3D Museum
Address: 1408 Kanjanavanich Rd., Hatyai Songkhla 90110, Thailand
Website: Magic Eye 3D Museum
Never a dull moment
With this formidable list of things to do and places to visit, you’ll have a great time exploring the vibrant city that is Hatyai. Happy travels!
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