10 Things Every Traveller Must Do In Hat Yai and Songkhla

10 Things Every Traveller Must Do In Hat Yai and Songkhla

Hat Yai and the neighbouring Songkhla are two destinations in Thailand both unique in their own ways. Here are 10 things every traveller must do when in the area.

For travellers who seek out adventures on the highways of Malaysia, continuing up north to Hat Yai and Songkhla is an exciting proposition. Located just 60km across the border in Thailand, the two cities have plenty to offer for intrepid roadtrippers. For everyone else, Hat Yai is a short 90-minute flight from Singapore.

1. Learn the story of Songkhla’s golden mermaid

Just as the statue of The Little Mermaid is one of Copenhagen’s iconic sights, the mermaid on Samila Beach is a symbol of Songkhla. Commissioned in 1966, the statue is a tribute to the epic Phra Aphai Mani written by royal poet Sunthorn Phu. As the story goes, a mermaid once sat on a beach, combing her hair beneath the starry night sky. A passing fisherman scared her away, and she left her comb behind. Struck by her beauty, the fisherman waited for her to return, but she never did.

2. Trek up Khao Tang Kuan (Tang Kuan Hill)

In the distance behind the mermaid, you’ll see Mouse Island and Cat Island. Both islands get their names from a local legend. Once upon a time, a mouse, a cat and a dog tried to steal a magical crystal from a merchant on a sampan. While the mouse and the cat drowned as they swam ashore, the dog made it back to land before it, too, died. The mouse and the cat became the two islands, and the dog became Khao Tang Kuan. Whether or not you believe in old folktales, this hill is a stunning vantage point to look out over Songkhla Lake and the Gulf of Thailand. Hundreds of monkeys gather around the foot of the hill and watching them go crazy when someone tries to feed them is a sight to behold. At the summit, you can visit a royal pavilion and an ancient stupa.

3. Birdwatch at Khu Khut Waterfowl Park

Over 200 species of bird call the area around Songkhla home, and you’ll have the opportunity to see most of them at Khu Khut Waterfowl Park. Established as a wildlife refuge in 1976, the 91,000 acre park is located about 50km north of Songkhla. The best time to visit is from December to March when a boat service is available to take you to the best spots.

4. Hop over to Ko Yo Island

Ko Yo Island sits at the eastern end of Songkhla Lake and is connected to the mainland on either side by Thailand’s longest concrete bridge. Ko Yo has many claims to fame, from its signature hand-woven fabrics, to its local snacks, tranquil fish farms and its exceptionally sweet fruits including a special variety of jackfruit. Waterfront restaurants like Khun Jit Sea View provide the perfect place to take a break for a meal.

5. Sharpen your marksmanship at Songkhla Sports Shooting Club

National Servicemen might not be particularly amused at the thought of firing off a few rounds just for fun, but a session at Songkhla Sports Shooting Club is a significantly different experience from a reservist stint. Their heavily modified and impeccably maintained guns look like they came straight out of a first-person shooter. Prices for 15 bullets range from B890 ($35) for a .22 rifle to B1,500 ($60) for a .357 revolver, and you get to keep your target as a souvenir at the end of it.

6. Savour the local seafood

With its location at the confluence of a lake and the sea, this part of Thailand has a reputation for its distinctly delicious seafood. At Chongkhao Seafoods, popular dishes include steamed squid with lime juice, garlic and chilli, grilled mackerel, baked prawns with vermicelli noodles and the restaurant’s signature spicy salad.

7. Snap the perfect profile picture at the Magic Eye 3D Museum

Magic Eye museums are all the rage these days, and Hat Yai is up to date with their popularity. The local Magic Eye 3D Museum features two floors of photo opportunities from the hilarious to the horrifying. Each visitor gets a ticket to an entertaining magic show as well.

8. Rock out at Hat Yai’s live music bars

Whatever day you find yourself in Hat Yai’s bustling city centre, you can count on enjoying some live entertainment at two lively pubs. The bizzarely-named Post Laser Disc Pub & Restaurant has been grooving since 1982, and the resident Post Band takes just one night off each month. Down the road, The Pubb has two live performances going on at the same time – the band inside plays everything from Adele to Led Zeppelin with a bit of Teresa Teng in between, and a guitarist performs a one man show of country, blues and classic rock on a small stage outside. As a bonus, this part of town is famous for its night market and food stalls so you can end your day with some fried giant river prawns and mango sticky rice.

9. Take in a Muay Thai fight

Even though Muay Thai is now popular globally, there’s nothing quite like the pomp and pageantry of the bouts that take place in Thailand itself. Muay Thai fights are held every Wednesday evening at Songkhla Navy Base and every Friday at Hat Yai Muay Thai Stadium. Tickets are available from B120 ($5).

10. Soothe your aching muscles with a Thai massage

Massage parlours are dotted all around downtown Hat Yai, and you can expect plenty of invitations as you as you walk along any street. A one hour, full body massage shouldn’t cost you more than $10 here. If you’d like to ease into your massage without the roadside chaos, head straight to the second floor of Sakura Grand View Hotel.


Tigerair flies between Singapore and Hat Yai daily from around $137 return (including taxes, but excluding baggage and seat selection fees).

During my visit, I stayed at Centara Hotel Hat Yai where rooms are available from B1,680 ($67).

This trip was made possible by Tigerair and Tourism Authority of Thailand (Singapore Office).

About Author

Kurt Ganapathy

Book your flights first and worry about everything else later - that's Kurt's travel philosophy. An advocate of the scenic route, he believes that the best way to see a country is by road or rail, whether it's taking a bus around Fiji or climbing into the mountains of Northern Vietnam. If you ever need to find him on his adventures, just head to wherever the bars are.


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