Hat Yai - The cheaper version of Bangkok
When my colleagues told me that I was going to Hat Yai, a city located in Southern Thailand, my immediate reaction was “Hat - what?” Little did I know that Hat Yai was a town brimming with huge night markets, breathtaking scenery and hip cafes - ALL of them with cheaper prices than Bangkok.
What’s more, it’s only an hour and a half away from Singapore, with Scoot flight prices starting at $46 (one-way)! For those looking to pamper yourself on a budget, Hat Yai’s the way to go. Here’s why:
Things to do during the day
1. Watch the sunset on the back of a horse at Samila Beach
The last time that I rode a horse was an embarrassing pony ride at the Singapore Zoo - whilst everyone was watching, my pony decided to stop. And pee.
I was apprehensive of having to ride a horse again, but all that fear melted away when we arrived at Samila Beach. The people in-charge of the horses took care of them well, giving the horses ample shade and grass to graze.
I chose a white horse, and with just 150 baht (~$6.20), I was led around the beach by a “cowboy” guide - who also lent me his hat for me to look the part.
A view Bangkok couldn’t offer
We then had the opportunity to take some photos with the horse for 50 baht (~$2.05) before bidding it goodbye, and we spent the rest of our time enjoying the beach. Beachside stalls are available for light refreshments, with options such as Fanta, coconut juice or Coca-Cola.
Address: Samila Beach, Songklha, Thailand
2. Make friends with sheep and explore a medieval castle at Pruksa Theme Park
Pruksa Theme Park is home to sheep, goats, birds and rabbits - and as an animal lover, this was a dream come true. The sheep here were friendly and came up for pats - especially when you’ve got some food. Carrot sticks and milk-filled bottles are available for only 25 baht (~$1).
For 20 baht (~$0.80), you can also get sunflower seeds for the birds. Unlike zoos, you’re able to walk into the bird enclosure and interact with them.
Let them come to you and keep your hands to yourself. They’re easily startled and do not like to be touched!
There’s a white carriage at the front of its entrance, which reminded us of Cinderella’s
Within the park, you can spot the white brick walls and conical roofs of Le Chateau, which looks like a medieval castle right out of a storybook. And just when you think Pruksa Theme Park doesn’t have anymore tricks up its sleeves, wait till night falls. The entire place lights up, providing a romantic ambience for couples.
And to our surprise, an inactive carousel that we saw during the day transformed into a whimsical sight by night, and I decided to let my inner child go for a ride.
One round lasts about 10 minutes and costs 20 baht (~S$0.80)
Address: Prachayindee Road, Tambon Hat Yai, Amphoe Hat Yai, Chang Wat Songkhla 90110, Thailand
Telephone: +66 81 805 1516
3. Explore over 100 food stalls at Kim Yong Market
If you’re an early riser, Kim Yong Market’s the way to go. It’s the biggest day market in Hat Yai, and it opens at 6AM! The streets are filled with vendors selling vegetables, meat and dried goods, just like wet markets in Singapore.
Roadside stalls have breakfast options such wanton mee and duck rice too, but for something truly unique, approach the street vendors for some light bites.
We chanced upon a chicken satay stall in the middle of a junction, where a lady was skewering, marinating and grilling the satays all by herself. Despite the sweltering heat, she maintained her smile and served us our skewers, which didn’t disappoint.
Instead of the usual meat chunks, you’ll get a whole chicken thigh for just 10 baht (~$0.40). Marinated with a honey glaze, each bite was sweet and juicy with an addictive charred flavour that didn’t have a bitter burnt taste.
We also got the local Bazhang for 25 baht (~$1). Instead of the usual meat filling, each dumpling revealed a treasure trove of ginkgo nuts and a whole salted egg yolk that complemented the sweet glutinous rice perfectly.
Fresh coconut juice is sold here for 20 baht (~$0.80), but if you’d prefer something colder to beat the heat, go for the Coconut Ice Cream (40 baht, ~$1.65). Served in a coconut husk with flesh, the ice cream comes topped with attap seeds, jelly, sticky rice and crunchy bread crumbs.
Before you leave, make sure to check out the sheltered market alleys, which sell a variety of Thai tidbits. If you’re looking to get some snacks to bring back home, this is the place to go.
Address: Sang Aretit Road, Hat Yai, Thailand
4. Escape the hustle of the city at Ko Yo Island
Whatever digital advancement that has impacted the world doesn’t seem to have touched the lives of the people living in Ko Yo Island.
Located just half an hour away from Samila Beach, Ko Yo is a small island inhabited by fishermen. We got here via a car ferry service, where we had to drive our cars onboard a ship and be transported over.
Besides the chill vibes here, the island is also known for its seafood restaurants where customers get to dine by the coast. As recommended by our driver, we settled for Sirada Restaurant.
While waiting for our dishes to arrive, we explored the jetty that was connected to the restaurant. The planks here are little worn down, so be careful of your steps!
Our food arrived within just 15 minutes of us ordering
The Tom Yum Goong 200 baht (~$8.20) came in a hot pot with a generous serving of about 10 prawns. The prawns easily peeled off from their shells, and were juicy and succulent. It brought sweetness to the broth, and the spiciness of the soup did not overwhelm its other components.
At 380 baht (~$15.60), the Grilled Sea Mussels Served with Hot & Spicy Dip was the most expensive. But compared to the sky-high prices for seafood in Singapore, this remained a good deal. I’m not a fan of mussels, but the ones here were sweet and did not have a “fishy” taste - I ended up eating half of the serving.
The Deep Fried Homemade Shrimp Donuts (~$7.40) were fried to a crispy golden brown, while the filling had bits of shrimp meat and fish paste. This went well with the sweet chinese plum sauce that came with the dish.
For carbs, we went for the Seafood Fried Rice (160baht, ~$6.60). The portion was enough to feed the four of us, and came with a hearty serving of prawns, sotong and crab meat. The rice also had a wok-hei taste to it, and was very savoury.
Besides enjoying the sea breeze while eating, the prices are undoubtedly reasonable, making it a great place for a day trip out of the city.
Address: 8/2, Songkhla - Ra Note Road, Ko Yo 90100, Thailand
Telephone: +66 74 450 235
5. Hike up Hat Yai’s most iconic waterfall - Ton Nga Chang
If you’ve a thirst for adventure, you’ll have a ball hiking up Ton Nga Chang Waterfall, located within Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary. This natural landmark is quite the sight too - the way it splits into two makes it resemble an elephant’s tusks.
Bring along a waterproof phone casing or GoPro to capture the waterfall up close.
Even if you’re not sporty, the hike up the waterfall is relatively easy, and you can trust the words of someone whose hobby is to nua all day err’day.
A fallen log lies in the middle of the waterfall, where one can climb onto to reach the middle of the stream.
We even stumbled upon tiny creeks and steep slopes while trekking. And though some of us made it up in slippers, do wear proper shoes for extra safety.
Besides taking in the view, visitors can also take a refreshing dip into the cold waters for a nice retreat from the heat. We could tell that this was a secret hideout for locals too. Apart from us, there weren’t any other tourists - just a group of local teens who maneuvered the waters like pros.
Note: Bring along some insect repellant to avoid falling prey to insects. We also recommend hiring a driver package from your hotel as it’s quite out of the way from the city.
Admission fee: 200 baht ($8.20)
Address: Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary, Amphoe Hat Yai, Thailand
Telephone: +66 81 093 2207
My favourite thing about Hat Yai was that almost everything was a 15-minute drive away from the central area.
6. Feast at Greenway Night Market, Hat Yai’s largest food venue in town
When I heard that Greenway Night Market was just 10 minutes away from town, I knew we had to check it out. Peppered with bright lights and Thai music, this market is divided into 26 zones, with each selling a range of apparel, bags, shoes and even manicure services - all from a range of $3 to $15!
No need to struggle with counting baht here, as the market operates via a cash card system. There’s a booth at the entrance where you can purchase a card from, then top it up to get whatever your heart desires.
There were many stalls selling all sorts of snacks, like takoyaki, pad thai, and even egg waffle ice cream. But what really caught our eyes was was the Shrimp Fried In Egg Batter 60 baht (~$2.50). Fresh shrimp were placed on a sizzling pan, and egg batter was poured over it and fried till crispy.
The result tasted similar to our local o-jian (oyster omelette), but crispier and fluffier inside.
Moving forward, our food hunt brought us to What Koa Cheese by TTT. At just 49 baht (~$2), you’ll get a cup of fries mixed with your choice of seasoning: pizza, BBQ, paprika, nori or cheese. The fries are then topped with a generous amount of hot, melty cheese.
And that’s not all. The food station is a 2-storey market, where ample seats are provided on the second level for people to dine in. There’s even a balcony area, where one could picnic under the stars.
There’s even an installation of fairy lights at the balcony for some IG-worthy photo ops.
Desserts such as Coconut Jelly (20baht, ~$0.80) are also available, which refreshed our palettes from all the carbo-loading. It’s even served in an adorable bamboo tub, which can be washed and reused as a stationery holder!
Address: 1406/3 Kanjanavanich Road, Hat Yai 90110, Thailand
7. Shop for cheap clothes at Asean Night Bazaar
Most of us are acquainted with Singapore’s Bugis street, where all sorts of cheap apparel can be found. The Asean Night Bazaar is exactly that, but BIGGER.
Upon entering, we were greeted by aisles of stores and beckoning sellers. But the ripped jeans stood out the most - with prices starting from 399 baht (~$16.50), they were a steal compared to prices in Singapore!
Facial masks here are only 20 baht (~$0.80).
For beauty addicts, this is heaven - there are cosmetic shops all around selling beauty essentials, which even come with samples for swatching.
At just 45 baht (~$1.85), treat yo’self to an Ice Cream Banana Choco Crepe - an indulgent soft crepe topped with a full banana, whipped cream, rich chocolate ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
For something more savoury, try Thailand’s version of lok lok. Meat sticks are piled at the side of a bubbling Thai chili sauce, where you can take your pick and dip. Each skewer goes for only 10 baht (~$0.40), so we recommend getting a few to try.
Some of us may dread at the thought of perspiring, especially in a humid and crowded night market. However, Hat Yai’s temperature dips to 22° to 25° at night, so you’ll be walking in an “air-conditioned” environment.
Address: Thonon Chotevittayakul 5, Tambon Hat Yai, Amphoe Hat Yai, Chang Wat Songkhla 90110, Thailand
8. Try the two-toned milk toast at Container Coffee House
In Singapore we have our Punggol Containers, but in Hat Yai, we have the Container Coffee House - a standalone industrial-themed cafe, shaped like a cargo container.
The cafe holds an alfresco dining area on level 2, but we say head right into the cafe, where you’ll be greeted by see-through industrial pipes filled with coffee beans!
Bangkok’s After You Cafe may hold the famous honey toast, but at Container Coffee House, there’s the Two-toned Milk Toast (~$4.50). You’ll get crispy buttered toast served with not one but two sauces - matcha and Thai milk tea - and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. We initially thought the two sauces wouldn’t go well together, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that they did without being too overpowering.
We got some extra sauce for no charge too - you’ll just have to ask politely!
If you’re a fan of over-the-top milkshakes, the Japanese Melon Freakshake (169 baht, ~S$6.95) will send you into a frenzy - the good kind. This melon milkshake came topped with whipped cream, chocolate wafers, Twix chocolate bars, rainbow sprinkles, Smarties and chocolate syrup. We had to share this to avoid getting a sugar rush!
Of course, we couldn’t leave without getting some Thai milk tea. The Milk Tea Ice Cubes (95 baht, ~$3.90) are frozen overnight, and served with milk and syrup - ensuring we won’t be left with a diluted cup of tea-tasting water at the end of our meals.
Address: 145 Soi Tawan, T. 3, Klong Hong, Amphoe Hat Yai
Telephone: +66 95 954 4424
9. Visit Korea’s very first bingsoo shop that has an outlet in Hat Yai
As one of the first bingoo cafes that started in Korea, Sulbing Korean Dessert Cafe is the place to go for some authentic bingsoo to cool down after a day of shopping.
The Tiramisu Sulbing (330 baht, $13.60) came with shaved ice and was topped with cocoa powder, chocolate shavings and coffee flavoured tiramisu. The tiramisu itself melted in our mouths, and each bite of shaved ice was like taking a sip of mocha. We even found cheesecake cubes inside!
Surprisingly, the real winner wasn’t the bingsoo. The Cheese Ttokpokki Pizza truly won us over with its cheesy crust, which broke to reveal piping hot ttokpokki (Korean rice cakes) stewed in a spicy tomato sauce.
Each of us were scrambling for the soft and chewy rice cakes, and the tartness of the sauce cut the richness of the cheese perfectly.
The verdict: Come to Sulbing Korean Dessert Cafe not for its bingsoo, but the pizza!
Address: Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel, Floor G, Prachathipat Road, Hatyai Songkhla 90110
Street Food Spots
10. Pay only 80 cents for a plate of Dim Sum at Chok Dee Tae Dim Sum
At 9:30AM, Chok Dee Tae Dim Sum, which is known for serving 20 baht (~$0.80) dim sum, was already gathering a crowd. Once our table number was allocated, a metal tray was given to us. Over here, fresh dim sum is displayed on a counter, and all you have to do is start piling them up on your tray!
When done, simply pass your tray to the chefs and head on to your table. Bak Kut Teh is a specialty here too, so we ordered the large portion for 350 baht (~$14.40). We could barely contain our excitement when the food arrived - the fragrance of the Bak Kut Teh’s broth filled our noses, while the dim sum glistened with moisture.
Most of us are familiar with salted egg lava by now, but we hardly ever eat the yolk in its purest form. When bitten, it crumbles and coats the minced meat, giving a savoury burst of flavor that the lava form cannot replace.
And of course, the Bak Kut Teh. The broth was rich with flavor, and the pork ribs were pull-apart tender. There were other ingredients such as beancurd skin and pig intestines as well, which added to the flavor. Free you tiao is served on the side too!
A normal dim sum meal in Singapore for 4 pax could easily set you back $50, but our total bill only amounted to $32, which included bak kut teh AND drinks.
Address: 58/25 Lamai Songkrew Road, Hat Yai 90110, Thailand
Telephone: +66 81 372 6181
11. Indulge in a $12 Mookata buffet at Rim Rua Kratha Ron Restaurant
We were on the way back to our hotel when we passed by Rim Rua Kratha Ron Restaurant, a free flow buffet for only 289 baht (~$11.90) per pax! Most of us come back from a mookata sesh smelling like meat, but Rim Rua’s open-air concept prevents that from happening.
Besides raw meat, there’s a variety of seafood available, ranging from mud crabs, river prawns, sotong, mussels, cockles and salmon.
Customer service is excellent too - aside from the mookata pot, we got a separate grill for our meat to prevent overcrowding!
Rim Rua Mookata was a great end to our trip. Afterall, mookata does originate from Thailand, and there were even free-flow drinks and ice cream provided. We left the place with our hearts - and stomachs - full.
Address: 569 Supasarnrangsan Road, Tambon Hat Yai, Amphoe Hat Yai, Chang Wat Songkhla 90110, Thailand
Telephone: +66 89 655 6181
Scoot to Hat Yai this 2018
Some of us probably have the ability to navigate Bangkok’s Chatuchak blindfolded now, so to switch up your game, get on a flight to Hat Yai instead. Whether it’s the food, activities or humongous night markets, it’s a city of adventures that remains unfounded by tourists.
And that’s not all - with Scoot, flight tickets to Hat Yai start from as low as $46! That’s even less than a brunch meal, sometimes.
The short one and a half hours flight ensured that I did not become restless either, which is a great bonus when you’re talking about someone that attention span is equivalent to a goldfish. On the contrary, seats on the plane were plush, and I had enough leg space to comfortably fall asleep.
The flight may be short, but for those who get the munchies, don’t scrimp on in-flight meals - make the most out of your holidays! Out of the many options available, we chose these preorder combos (that are exclusively available online and come with more items than the buy-on-board ones):
- Light Meal Combo: a light meal, snack and a drink
- Premium Meal Combo: a deluxe meal, 2 sides and a drink
Light Meal Combo: Teriyaki Chicken Wrap with Shimeiji Mushroom
For our Light Meal Combo, we chose the Teriyaki Chicken Wrap with Shimeiji Mushrooms. The warm tortilla wrap encased a generous filling of chicken, lettuce and mushrooms, which were sweet and tender to the bite.
Premium Meal Combo: Signature Nasi Goreng with Chicken Satay
As for the Premium Meal Combo, we chose the Signature Nasi Goreng with Chicken Satay. The rice served was fragrant, and the peanut sauce served on side added an extra crunch to the juicy sticks of satay.
Read here to find out more about the other meals available.
When it comes to a budget vacation, most of us still swear by crossing the border or going to BKK. But with Scoot offering such affordable flights to Hat Yai 10 times weekly, don’t hesitate on getting those tickets ASAP - it’ll be a whole new experience while livin’ like a king!
This post was brought to you by Scoot.