Do you like Chinese food? How about lots and lots of Chinese people? How about shopping? And more shopping? Maybe some western food? Lots of knock-offs like this:
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then Hat Yai is worth a visit!
Solo, Jeab and I recently took a weekend trip to Hat Yai. The city is one of the largest in Thailand (3rd, I think, after Bangkok and Chiang Mai) and is about 4-5 hours south of Surat. It has a Surat-like feel to it, in that everything is conveniently located in the center of town, but if you have your own transportation, or if you like to walk, you can venture down hundreds of little side roads and who knows what you’ll discover. The town is even less organized than Surat, with roads running every which way. But the center of town is usually where people end up. There is an older Central department store (complete with Sizzler), lots of hotels, lots of Chinese restaurants, and thousands of stalls selling all kinds of stuff. It’s a very busy place, usually getting the most active at night. There are huge crowds of Chinese tourists, as well visitors from Malaysia, so you’ll hear all kinds of languages being spoken. Nearly everything outside the department stores is knock-offs and pretty cheap. Solo cleaned up on toys.
Just a few minutes drive away from downtown is Central Festival Hat Yai, which just opened in mid-December. It is the largest shopping mall in the South, a distinction the Central Plaza in Surat had until recently. It’s a big place, complete with ice skating rink, bowling alleys, toys r’ us, movie theater, and lots of other fun stuff. Right down the street from Central Festival is yet another market, this one only open at night. This place has stuff that’s even cheaper than the main market downtown. Also, there is a 3-D museum (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152069582359660.1073741849.276059974659&type=3) at this market. We’re saving that one for our next visit, along with the Hat Yai Ice Dome.
Overall, Hat Yai reminded me a lot of Hong Kong, although a lot smaller and with things much more centrally located. And, like HK, it takes a while to get there. But once you’re in Hat Yai there is lots to do!