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Hat Yai Starts Here

Have you ever felt inspired to visit a place based on a single image? That was how it was for me with Hat Yai. It was several years ago, and my dear friend Nath had gone there.

“It’s the Songkhla Central Mosque,” he’d told me, when I asked where his fabulous selfie was taken, though he went on to explain that it was actually closer to Hat Yai city than to Songkhla Old Town. He’d mentioned that I should try to go and sunset, although looking back his picture wasn’t actually taken then.

The good news? As you can see in the main image to this article, following Nath’s advice paid off. The better news? No matter how many days in Hat Yai you decide to spend or what you end up doing there, this article will help you make the most of your time.

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Where to Stay in Hat Yai

I’ll be honest: On the whole, Hat Yai hotels leave something to be desired. There are a lot of them, but very few impressed me. I was lucky enough to happen upon The Habita Hat Yai, which was surprisingly stylish, in addition to having a great location and amazing service. Although there are obviously other options, this is probably my top recommendation in the city center.

And what if you plan to stay in Songkhla Old Town, as opposed to taking a day trip there as I recommend in this post? The good news is that there are much better hotels here, which makes sense—it’s an area that caters to tourists. Options include the boutique style Baan Tae Raek or the Montana Hotel, which is a much higher-end property than you might expect to find so far south.

What to Do in Hat Yai

Lean into local cultural diversity


I happened to arrive into Hat Yai the day before Chinese New Year, which meant that red lanterns were hanging everywhere, and qipao were for sale on seemingly every corner. Even if you aren’t so lucky, you can visit Wat Chue Chang temples to get a taste of Chinese culture. Wat Hat Yai Nai, with its reclining Buddha, is more typically Thai.

Eat fried chicken


Hat Yai also has a larger Muslim population, though you don’t necessarily need to go to a specific site in order to appreciate this. One of the most popular things to do in Hat Yai is eat, and whether you’re buying from a street stall (there’s a great one across from aforementioned Wat Hat Yai Nai) or go to the famous Gai Tod Decha restaurant, your stomach is the best conduit for appreciating Hat Yai’s Islamic side.

Take it all in from above


Hat Yai doesn’t have an amazing skyline, but it still does look nice from on high. Well, kind of. If we’re being honest, my favorite thing about ascending the viewpoint at Phra Phuttamongkol Maharat temple was its impressive standing Buddha, but of course seeing Hat Yai city from such a vantage point did allow me to put it all into context much better.

Watch sunset at Songkhla Central Mosque


No matter how many days in Hat Yai you decide to stay, you’ll definitely want to go to Songkhla Central Mosque. And, as Nath suggested, you absolutely need to go at sunset! Do note that since the mosque isn’t served by public transport, you will need to hire a driver for at least two hours, which is probably not going to be cheap. Ask your hotel to barter on your behalf!

Make a day trip to Songkhla


Speaking of Songkhla, the aforementioned Songkhla Old Town is definitely worth a visit, though how long you stay will depend on how deeply you explore. If you just want to explore the town or even go up Tang Kuan Hill for a nice view, a half day should be plenty of time. If, on the other hand, you visit nearby Koh Yo island, you might be better of staying the whole day.

Is Hat Yai Worth Visiting?

Given that I basically decided to go to Hat Yai because of a single picture, you might think that I ended up regretting my trip. In fact, the precise opposite was true. Among other things, coming to southern Thailand (but not to the islands) reminded me that there’s a lot of culture to enjoy here, apart from the “easy” adventures on offer in the idyllic Andaman

As I’ve tried to emphasize throughout this post, the key is to determine how many days in Hat Yai you need to spend. Another element that can ensure success? Integrating Hat Yai into your trip smartly. This can be in conjunction with island hopping (for example, you can come here via speedboat and van from Koh Lipe), or in combination with a trip to the controversial provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

Other FAQ About Visiting Hat Yai

Is Hat Yai worth a visit?

Hat Yai is definitely worth a visit if you have time in your trip to Thailand, and can also arrange things just right. I probably wouldn’t recommend coming here your first time in Thailand, however, or if you have a limited amount of time and lots of other places you want to see.

Why is Hat Yai famous?

Among tourists, Hat Yai is famous for many reasons, including its fusion of cultures (Thai, Chinese and Muslim) and culinary delights such as crispy fried chicken and the seafood served in its night markets. Among Thais, it’s famous as the largest and most important city in far southern Thailand.

Where should I stay in Hat Yai?

In terms of convenience, it’s best to stay in Hat Yai’s city center near its clock tower; as I mentioned earlier in this post, I like the boutique-style Habita Hat Yai hotel. However, some travelers may choose instead to stay in Songkhla Old Town, about 30 minutes away on the coast.

The Bottom Line

How many days in Hat Yai do you need? In spite of being one of Thailand’s largest cities, Hat Yai doesn’t require more than a few days of your time to explore. Generally speaking, you can see most city center attractions with one full day; you can use another to take a half- or full-day trip to Songkhla—a half-day for just the Old Town, or a full day if you want to explore nearby Koh Yo. Once you’re finished in Hat Yai, you can either head back to Bangkok, or continue exploring Southern Thailand, whether that entails Andaman island hopping or staying inland. Still stumped on what to do? Consider commissioning a custom Thailand itinerary!


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