About 20-30 minutes away from Hat Yai is Songkhla, a coastal city with a zoo/water park, an aquarium, and a nice beach too.
The zoo/water park is classic Thai. Lots of stuff, very casual, very inexpensive (150 baht entry fee covers both the zoo and the water park) and very friendly. The whole thing is built on a mountain top, providing a slightly cooler environment and some great views. The water park was pretty old and the water slides were neither real slides nor did they have any water in them. They were basically carved out of cement, angled in weird ways, and looked really dangerous. They were also raised so that you would shoot out 2-3 feet above the water with great speed, rather than directly into the water, as with most water slides. Of course, you have to try something like that but the slides were bone dry. I’m not sure if that was intentional or they had just forgotten to turn on the water or enough people had gotten damaged that they figured it might be better to close them. The water park still had a great lazy river and was a nice reprieve from the zoo.
The most interesting part of the zoo is that you can feed pretty much any animal. Solo fed giraffes, zebras, elephants, hippos, ostriches, birds and deer. The door to the anaconda cage was wide open so I’m sure it found something to eat as well.
Solo wanted to feed the tigers but the way to do it was to tie a juicy piece of raw mystery meat onto a very long bamboo pole and then extend that towards the tiger. It required a bit more strength than he had, especially when the tiger leaped 5 feet into the air, got hold of the meat and started pulling on it. It was kind of like playing tug of war with a tiger. It was so fun I did it twice!
Sadly, none of the photos from the aquarium turned out well. It’s worth the visit, though, just to see a diver goad a nurse shark and then two giant sea turtles into slow dancing with him. http://www.songkhlaaquarium.com/eng/. Only in Thailand!