Hat Yai travel guide
Hat Yai is a city located in Southern Thailand that’s brimming with huge night markets, breathtaking scenery, and hip cafes – all at cheaper prices than the bustling city of Bangkok. What’s more – it’s only an hour and a half flight away from Bangkok!
For those looking to pamper yourself on a budget, here’s what you can get up to in Hat Yai.
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 zoo, and 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 horses here are well taken care of and have ample shade and grass to graze on. I chose a white horse, and with just ฿150, 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 before bidding it goodbye, and we spent the rest of our time enjoying the beach. Beachside stalls are available for light refreshments, with options like fizzy drinks and coconut juice.
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 are friendly – especially when you’ve got some food. Carrot sticks and milk-filled bottles are available for only ฿25. For ฿20, 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 very own
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 any more tricks up its sleeve, 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.
You can also go for a ride on the carousel for ฿20 per round
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. Roadside stalls have breakfast options such wanton mee and duck rice, but we approached 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. Instead of the usual meat chunks, you’ll get a whole chicken thigh for just ฿10. 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, but if you’d prefer something colder to beat the heat, go for the Coconut Ice Cream (฿40). 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
Located just half an hour away from Samila Beach, Ko Yo Island 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.
The Tom Yum Goong (฿200) 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.
At ฿380, the Grilled Sea Mussels Served with Hot & Spicy Dip is a must-have for seafood lovers. I’m not a big fan of mussels, but the ones here were sweet and did not have a “fishy” taste – I ended up eating half of the serving. We also got the Seafood Fried Rice (฿160) to go along with our meal, which came with a hearty serving of prawns, squid, and crab meat.
The jetty that connects to the restaurant
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
Opening hours: Daily: 10.30AM-9.30AM
Telephone: +66 74 450 235
5. Hike up Hat Yai’s most iconic waterfall – Ton Nga Chang
If you have 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.
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.
Note: Bring along some insect repellant to avoid falling prey to insects. We also recommend hiring a driver as it’s quite out of the way from the city.
Admission fee:฿200 per person (~USD6.50)
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. This market is divided into 26 zones, with each selling a range of apparel, bags, shoes and even manicure services.
There were many stalls selling all sorts of snacks, like takoyaki, pad thai, and even egg waffle ice cream. But what really caught our eye was the Shrimp Fried In Egg Batter (฿60). Fresh shrimp were placed on a sizzling pan, and egg batter was poured over it and fried till crispy.
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 area for some Instagram-worthy photo ops.
Address: 1406/3 Kanjanavanich Road, Hat Yai 90110, Thailand
7. Shop for cheap clothes at Asean Night Bazaar
Upon entering Asean Night Bazaar, we were greeted by aisles of stores and beckoning sellers. But the ripped jeans stood out the most – with prices starting from ฿399 – quite the steal!
This is heaven on earth for beauty addicts too. There are cosmetic shops all around selling beauty essentials, which even come with samples for swatching.
Facial masks here are only ฿20
No night market is complete without some food. At just ฿45, 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, 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
Hat Yai’s Container Coffee House is 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, you have to try their signature Two-toned Milk Toast. 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.
The flavours go well together and are not too overwhelming. You can even ask for extra sauce for no charge!
If you’re a fan of over-the-top milkshakes, the Japanese Melon Freakshake (฿169) 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.
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) 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.
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 ฿20 for a plate of Dim Sum at Chokdee Tae Dim Sum
Chokdee Tae Dim Sum is known for serving dim sum at just ฿20 a tray, so it was no surprise that it had gathered a crowd when we headed over early in the morning. Once our table number was allocated, a metal tray was given to us. Fresh dim sum is displayed on a counter and all you have to do is start piling them up on your tray!
Bak kut teh is a speciality here too, so we ordered the large portion for ฿350. The broth was rich with flavour, 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 flavour. Free pathongko (dough fritters) is served on the side as well!
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 per pax! Most of us come back from a mookata session smelling like meat, but Rim Rua’s open-air concept prevents that from happening.
Customer service is excellent too – aside from the mookata pot, we got a separate grill for our meat to prevent overcrowding
Besides raw meat, there’s a variety of seafood available, ranging from mud crabs, river prawns, squid, mussels, cockles and salmon.
The restaurant is open till 12AM too, so if you’re struck with late-night hunger pangs, here’s where to head down for a hearty supper during your time in Hat Yai.
Address: 569 Supasarnrangsan Road, Tambon Hat Yai, Amphoe Hat Yai, Chang Wat Songkhla 90110, Thailand
Opening hours: Daily: 4PM-12AM
Telephone: +66 89 655 6181
Visit Hat Yai for your next mini vacation
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 full of adventures that remain unfounded by tourists and Thai locals alike.
This article was originally written by Natalie Lim for TheSmartLocal.com in collaboration with Scoot.