Hatyai is a city in Thailand closest to Malaysia. It is reachable from Penang by car in 5 hours or so but it really doesn’t feel that long. It was a pleasant ride. Having more than enough days in Penang, I venture across the border to Thailand. We bought a return ticket with hotel included from just any random travel agency in Penang.
We were given two hotels to choose from to stay, the most recommended two in Hatyai. There’s only very little margin in between the two so we chose the one at the prime location, Lee Garden Plaza Hotel. You can booked you own hotel but you still need to book your ride through these agency. It is easy and fuss free, we depart literally the next day. A return ticket cost RM 90 and after comparing to the rate in Hatyai it is more or less the same, standard cost.
Hatyai is a city with a size of a pea but I love it. It is so easy to explore. It is a popular stop over for tourist going to Malaysia and Singapore to add Hatyai into the itinerary and within short 2-3 days you can cover the whole city and its main attractions.
My Thai language knowledge is only a handful and I slightly worry that I will have problem communicating and navigating but there is no problem at all. There is one single tourist map you can help yourself with or request from your accommodation and it has been handy.
Where to go in Hatyai
1. Explore Lee Garden Plaza, Centrepoint and Surround
If you don’t stay at Lee Garden Plaza, I suggest you stay somewhere close to it. Lee Garden Plaza is the centre of Hatyai and is the most convenient meeting point. We get dropped off and picked up at Lee Garden Plaza from and to Penang from this point. It is also located just at shopping centre surrounded by shopping stall and street vendors. There are more street vendor selling foods at night and the area is full of it.
Honestly, you don’t have to ever go far from Lee Garden Plaza if you want relax and just do some shopping. The staff at the travel agency told us that most people would just stay around Lee Garden Plaza and shop to their hearts content and 2 days will be adequate.
2. Kimyong Market
Kimyong Market is walking distance to Lee Garden Plaza and the most convenient to get to. It opens early in the morning and is a very vibrant market with lots of plump and colourful tropical fruits and one of my obsession – fresh coconut!
3. Asean Market
You need to catch tuktuk to get here and it is a massive- MASSIVE open plan market selling everything. On the upstair they have an interesting food court where I get a gigantic Thai tea drink.
4. Greenway Market
Shopaholic, rejoice! Greenway is another giant market selling clothing and other accessories. Greenway market is walking distance to Asean Market, both of them best reached by Tuktuk if you are travelling from Centrepoint.
5. Wat Hai Nai Yai
To be honest I don’t even know what that translates to but it’s a giant sleeping Buddha in the city.
6. Klong Hae Floating Market
More market! I love markets. But this is probably the worst one in Hatyai. It is definitely quieter than the rest of the market and it lacks authenticity. The ‘Floating’ market is a short strip of boat on a lake that parked alongside the edge, it feel so man-made. This market only opens in the evening after 4pm.
7. HatYai Municipal Park
Visit Several Temples leading up to Hatyai Cable Car. We decided to rent a car with driver to explore HatYai in one day. The driver brought us to Hat Yai Municipal Park that has so many stop over before we reach the top. There is Hatyai Cable but I think it wasn’t operating at the time but cable car is definitely not a popular activity there. There are at least 3 different temples from the base to the top of the hill. The Golden Buddha temple is located at the peak. It was a really pleasant place to visit and the view is lovely. Unfortunately the term ‘Hatyai Municipal Park’ is not recognisable to Local. It may be better to tell them that you want to visit the hill to see temples. This is a very popular tourist destination that surely all tuktuk drivers and private car rentals will take you to.
8. Magic Eye 3D Museum and Ice Dome
The two are located nearby and is a great place for family activity and kids. Magic Eye 3D Museum is suitable for all ages and guarantee hilarious photo-shooting moments.
Songkhla is a small Southern City of Thailand reachable from Hatyai by ferry. We stayed in the car while in the ferry crossing the water. It was only a short a short ferry cross. Songkhla is famous for the sleeping Golden Buddha, the mermaid statue, the beach and seafood.
6. Samila Beach
Legend has it that there was once a mermaid spotted in this beach hence the famous mermaid statue. Other than to take a glimpse of this landmark, Samila beach is a lovely beach to relax with some street vendors and small shops selling food and souvenirs by the beach.
7. Phra Maha Chedi Tripob Trimongkol
I wanted to come here but it is not on the way and is really far. Phra Maha Chedi Tripob Trimongkol is a temple that has unconventional design that looks like a big cone. Certainly worth visiting if you have more time.
8. Get a massage
Massage parlour is like sprinkles in the city centre, they are everywhere. For a more established massage centre, I’d recommend Thai Odyssey also located around Centre Point.
What to Eat in Hatyai
Thai food is one of my favourite cuisines. Thai food is full of fresh ingredients and herbs. They are tangy and spicy just like how I love my food. Below are some of the top things to eat in Hatyai:
1. 33 Buffet
33 Buffet restaurants are located at Lee Garden Plaza Hotel and it is one of the cheapest – best value for money buffet ever. For $5 you get a good quality buffet and plenty of selections. But that’s not the best part – it is located at observatory deck so you get to enjoy the city view with your dish. This sort of experience usually comes with a hefty bill, not this one!
2. Coconut Ice Cream
I can never get enough of Thai delicacies and desserts. This must be one of the best tasting coconut ice cream I’ve tried (maybe thanks to the hot weather too). It is sold just by the street-side vendor near Lee Garden Plaza and cost barely $1.
3. Mango and sticky Rice
Just side by side with the coconut ice cream there’s a lady selling fresh mango with sticky rice. Absolute must have in Thailand. The different between Mango and sticky Rice sold overseas and in Thailand. Oversea: Plenty of sticky rice, a few counted slices of mango. In Thailand: A whole mango, a smidgen of sticky rice.
4. Pad Thai
Pad Thai we had from one of the night street vendor around Lee Garden Plaza.
5. Thai Boat Noodle Soup
Thai Boat Noodle Soup is within short walking distance from Lee Garden Plaza. They serve noodle soup that is great for breakfast.
Address: 167 Sangchan Rd., Hat Yai 90110, Thailand
6. Chok Dee Dimsum
The most popular place for dimsum in Hatyai.
Address: 58 25, Soi Lamai Songkraw 1, Hat Yai, Hat Yai District, Songkhla 90110, Thailand
7. Kan Eng Restaurant
Still walking distance from Lee Garden Plaza, Kan Eng Restaurant serves one of if not the most authentic Thai food in Hatyai. Only opens for dinner.
Address: 55, Juti Uthit 3 Road, Tambon Hat Yai, Amphoe Hat Yai, Songkhla, 90110, 90110, Thailand
How to Get Around in Hat Yai
Getting around in Hatyai is easy. There are Tuktuk at every corner. Tuktuk in Thailand is different to tuktuk in Cambodia. While Tuktuk in Cambodia can only carry perhaps 4 passangers, Tuktuk in Thailand is like car and can fit upto 6-8, easily. You pay per person and not for the tuktuk. Tuktuk is the cheapest mode of transport.
2. Rent a Car
We visited just any random travel agent around the city centre and decided to use their service. It was $55 for an English-speaking driver and a 5 seater car for a day. We were picked up at around 9, went to Wat Hai Nai Yai, (if you like, most people usually proceed to 3D Museum and Ice Dome but we skipped it), Municipal Park, Songkhla, Samila Beach, Kloang Hae Floating market, and dropped in Greenway Market. From Greenway Market we walk to Asean Market and catch Tuktuk back to downtown. This way we see most of Hatyai in one day.
3. By foot
Most of the restaurant, Kimyong Market and shops are located in the city centre so you if you like to walk grab a map and you can explore the city centre by foot.
Hatyai is a shopping paradise and many tourists from neighbouring cities come here regularly to shop.
The best place to stay will be Lee Garden Hotel Plaza at rate: $60 a night.
If you have anything to add on Hat Yai and Songkhla I’d like to hear it! Till the next post.