3 things you must do in Hat Yai, Thailand

Hat Yai, a city in Thailand's far south near the Malaysian border, is a very popular weekend getaway destination for many Malaysians in the north (Kedah, Perlis, Penang and Perak). Those who stay in Kuala Lumpur can also easily visit Hatyai with the convenience of KTM's Electric Train Service (ETS) traveling at a speed of 140 km per hour taking a mere five hours thirty minutes to arrive at Malaysia-Thai border Padang Besar. Additionally, travelers can take direct flights (i.e. AirAsia) from Kuala Lumpur.

I haven't been to Hat Yai for more than twenty years. In my most recent travel to Hat Yai for Hat Yai International Marathon in May 2017, I was pleasantly surprised by how much Hat Yai has progressed and become a truly sprawling lively commercial hub and shopping destination.

Of course, there are many points of interest in Hat Yai and around Hat Yai for you to visit. For example, you can visit Khlong Hae Floating Market where vendors sell local foods and handicrafts from traditional boats docked in a canal. You may also visit the 35-meter long reclining Buddha at Wat Hat Yai Nai. You can also travel a bit out of city center to Hat Yai Hill green area with a standing Buddha statue and a cable car. 

Three things you must do in Hat Yai, Thailand

For this article, I'm going to focus on only 3 things that you must do in Hat Yai, Thailand. You shall not leave Hat Yai without doing all the three. 😉

1. Eat your heart out with delicious Thai street food 

Thai food is world famous. If you really want to experience local Thai culture and meet friendly Thai in their daily lives, please sit at roadside stalls and eat the delicious Thai street food. You are not only doing yourself a great favor with the awesome experience as a traveler, you are also helping the Thai locals and small vendors to put food on their family tables. 

As with any part of Thailand, you can see Thai street food served either on road side or coffee shops and cafes in Hat Yai, with most concentration in downtown area.

Every time I visit Thailand, I put on weight. It's no different with my most recent visit to Hat Yai. Since I had ITB band injury and I knew I wasn't in top condition for the full marathon, I decided to truly enjoy myself with a relaxing mind and holiday mood. Hence, I ate and ate and ate many dishes and varieties of local Thai street food. I even consumed my food with local Thai Chang beer. haha!

Aroy mak mak! Delicious yummy Thai street food!
I only have this to describe my eating experience in Hat Yai, "Yummylicious!!! Burp!!!! So so full! " 😊

Where to find

I would encourage you to forget about diet when in Hat Yai. Just go and eat your heart out with all the delicious Thai food!

Two highly recommended areas to explore below. Remember - eat your heart out!

1. Le Gardens Plaza area (landmark: "McDonald's")

This is the central point of downtown Hat Yai. At night time, Le Gardens Plaza area is turned into walking street with food vendors selling delicious Thai street food. Even at the food court of Le Gardens Plaza, you will find some nice Thai food like green papaya salad, chicken rice, etc. Marketplace by Tops Central Hat Yai, which is across the street from Le Gardens Plaza also sells some local Thai food. I had my minced pork with basil rice and Thai ice cream there. And yes, you could buy Thai beer there too. :)

Next to Le Gardens Plaza / McDonald's. Food stalls in the evening with all tourists, mainly from Malaysia and Singapore.
Another shot of all the food! See McDonald's sign? Very easy to find!
Eat your heart out!

2. Hat Yai morning market 

Walking along Thanon Niphathutit 3 Road towards Duangchan Road from Le Gardens Plaza, you wil find the morning market in Hat Yai. Besides fresh fruits, vegetables, etc, you can find many food stalls and coffee shops selling all sorts of local Thai food. You can simply buy something, eat while you walk to enjoy the morning market in Hat Yai. You get to see how locals do their daily morning marketing too. There is a T junction in the middle of the morning market at Thanon Niphathutis 3 Road. Make sure you turn right into the T junction as you will discover even more food to eat!

Morning market with hive of activities
fresh fruits at the morning market Hat Yai
See the t-junction? Turn right. You will explore more Thai street food. And if you want to go to Kim Yong Market, you can enter into the building on the left.
supporting Thai street food vendor!

grilled fish, prawns, chicken, etc
Yum yum!! Served with Thai rice!

2. Total relaxation with foot and body massage

Food massage in Hat Yai is cheaper than in Bangkok. For a one-hour foot massage session, it costs only 200 Thai Baht. In Bangkok, it will be either 250-300 Thai Baht.  And if in Kuala Lumpur, it easily costs you 40-60 Malaysia Ringgit. 

I had two traditional Thai foot massage sessions at two different massage parlor for variety. Both sessions were superb and relaxing! Very traditional Thai massage method which was to my liking! It was truly enjoyable!

After a long day walking and shopping, it's good for you to be pampered! :)

relaxing Thai foot massage

Where to find?

2 recommended areas for your total relaxation:

1. Across from Le Gardens Plaza (landmark: "McDonald's")

You will not miss it! It's just right outside McDonald's and same row as where the food and street vendors are at night. It's just across the street. Three massage centers in a row for you to choose from!

2. Across from Tops Central Hat Yai (landmark: Central / Marketplace)

If you find the massage parlors across from Le Gardens Plaza are packed with patrons, you can walk a bit further down passing by the entrance to Marketplace by Tops Central. Then you will see a few more massage parlors there. 

Don't worry - it's all traditional Thai massage. No hanky panky!

McDonald's signage - the clear landmark

Three massage parlors in a row
Another side with more massage parlors

3. Shop til you drop 

There are many shopping malls and street vendors in Hat Yai city center. I usually shy away from major shopping malls and I prefer to visit street vendors or shops with some interesting local handicrafts or specially made tee shirts or souvenirs.

If you are a shopaholic and prefer to do your shopping in an air-conditioned shopping malls, Le Garden Plaza and the Central are the two largest shopping malls in city center. Alternatively, you can shop at the newest larger mall CentralFestival Hat Yai which is a short distance away by tut-tut or their free shuttle service.

Where to find?

Two highly recommended areas for your shopping in downtown city hall:

1. Le Garden Plaza / Central area

It's the highest concentration of everything in Hatyai. Besides the shopping malls, you can also shop at the shops and street vendors along the stretch.

Turned into Walking Street with more street vendors

Central departmental store

2. Kim Yong Market

If you manage to walk to the morning market, then you can easily find Kim Yong Market at Sang Aretit Road. It's on the left side of the morning market. From the outside, you might not see anything interesting. But please walk inside and explore. You will see many vendors in small little units selling all sorts of dried food, nuts (cashew nuts, peanuts, etc), dried anchovies and squids, souvenirs, shirts, dates, fruits and more. 

Most of their prices are standard but of course you can still bargain. Whenever I shop at such places, I love to go to where locals go. Hence, I would like to suggest that you become a bit observant to decide which stall units you shall buy from.

One end of Kim Yong market connecting with the morning market Hat Ya.

In summary

Hat Yai might not be the most preferred travel destination to visit compared to Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, etc, but it certainly has its own charm especially for Malaysians in northern states to keep going back.

Written by Vincent Khor on Aug 10, 2017


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