When I showed some excitements about my trip to Hat Yai, people were confused. My colleague said, “There’s nothing much in Hat Yai, right? Wotcha gonna do there?” I replied diplomatically with the list of places I got from ….. Google. Hihihi.
When I finally got there, I kinda know why Hat Yai is not very appealing to some people. Even on my second day, I got pretty desperate with this city already. It was funny because I’m a kind of traveler who really thinks Thailand has done a really great job with their tourism; I even suggest people to put Thailand as their first trip destination! But Hat Yai is different. Hat Yai turns out not as polished as Bangkok. It is THE forgotten city of Thailand.
Transportation and Language Barrier
I dunno how is it if you reach Hat Yai by anything other than bus. I went there by bus from Kuala Lumpur. The moment I passed the border, I was quite confused. The bus driver from Malaysia said all of the passengers need to take a minivan to the city centre; he took us to the outer part of the border and he talked to some people whom I supposed as the people managing the minivan. After that we needed to wait almost an hour just to get to the van in which only us, the passengers from the bus, inside. So actually, if we needed to have some quota filled to have the van going, we actually had already had! We wasted time waiting at the side of the street with four suns shining brightly upon us. It wasn’t cool at all. 😀
There are several public transportation vehicles can be used to go around Hat Yai. The most popular one is of course Tuktuk. Must I say, Tuktuk is probably the safest and greatest option of transportation in Hat Yai, especially for travelers (who unfortunately can only speak English and not understand any word in Thai unless it’s Sawadeekrup and Kahpunkrup – sorry if its mispelled, kindly let me know through the comment, I’ll revise it). This comes with a note ‘only applicable for Tuktuk taken from Lee Garden Plaza’. I tried to set a deal with a Tuktuk in front of Big C Mall and failed miserably not only because the drivers can’t speak English but also because they shot me in the head with a price offer that blows me to Namibia straight away. :'(
With the Tuktuk from Lee Garden Plaza, you can easily point at the destination you want to go based on the picture available on the Tuktuk’s body. And the drivers there can speak understandable English. 😀
Songtaew is another option of transportation. It’s like the bigger version of Tuktuk and you can hop on one and have it shared with other people. I took Songtaew from the side of the street by waving my hand. I asked the driver if he goes to the Municipality Park and even showed him the map and the picture of the destination. After two or three vain effort of asking because none of the driver actually know where (the hell) is this Municipality Park no matter how famous it is, and most of them can’t speak English, there was finally one driver who seemed to be quite confident about it. So I hopped on and checked on where he was going through my map. When my map showed a straight line and the driver took a left turn, I was still giggling and thinking “Maybe he takes another route to get there.”. But when he drove further, I kinda felt that it was headed to the wrong direction. That was not going to the Municipality Park, Sister! -_____-
I hopped off and tried to find other transportation. And after what felt like two centuries, I finally got a ….. TAXI!
Taxi driver knows more English. The fare I got was a flat one so he didn’t turn on the meter. The taxi condition was good like Jakarta’s taxi and the driver can wait at the destination to take me back to the other destination. No biggie at all.
Note: If somehow you can find motorcycle rental and you can ride it, kindly do it. In Hat Yai, turns out depending on Google Maps might be a better choice than depending on the Songtaew driver. LOL.
Another note: Try to find a map with every destination you want to head to written in Thai or ask someone from your hotel to write it in Thai. Most of the driver doesn’t understand English nor they know the destination’s name in English. So better to show them the writing in Thai.
There are several destinations in Hat Yai for travelers to enjoy. I visited The Municipality Park where Hat Yai Cable Car and Standing Buddha as well as Kuan Yin Goddess Statue lies. The view is quite awesome and turns out there is a Snow Dome also but I didn’t manage to visit.
Several night markets attract many travelers and as people say, what’s coming to Thailand without shopping? 😛 There are Asean Trade Market as well as Greenway Night Market. I went to Greenway and it was actually quite awesome if only most of the dress they sell not fit for a size 0-2 girls ONLY. HELLOW, I GOT BOOBS AND BOTTOM TO FIT IN!
The area near Lee Garden Plaza is also an attraction for shopping purposes especially when the day is about to over and the night comes.
Most famous one of course is the Khlong Hae Floating Market. When I saw the picture, I thought it was a big market with more than 100 boats docked. Turns out, it was not. Hihihi. There was only around 30 something boats. But it was fun indeed to come and taste several foods there. The sushi was so yummy and cute-looking too! 😀
On the last day, I secured a deal with a Tuktuk driver for a little tour to Songkhla Beach and Phra Mala Chedi Tripob Trimongkol. We had a misunderstanding (of course) because he brought us to the Municipality Park (again!). Felt so bad. It was quite far. He checked my map again and upon seeing my little note, he asked, “Wat Hat Yai Nai?”. I didn’t plan to go to that temple but whatever, let’s go there. Go to the place you know, Dear Tuktuk Driver! So we changed route, going to Songkhla Beach first (believe me, it’s far!) then go to Wat Hat Yai Nai. In Songkhla Beach there is The Mermaid statue, posing gracefully, never finishes taking care of her hair no matter how busy the fans are getting close and taking picture with her. Wat Hat Yai Nai was in a sad state. It was not really been taken care of and looks really slipshod. Some of the roof were missing and there were many spider web in the Reclining Buddha’s body and face. 🙁
Though I believe that every place is unique and has some amazing attractions, after my trip to Hat Yai, I can’t stop but thinking; that taking care of a tourism of a country is indeed not an easy task. You may have missed one spot. Thailand may have been great in taking care of Bangkok, Pattaya, Krabi, Phi Phi Island, Phuket and other famous touristy places in the country, but at this time, Hat Yai might have not been in their priority. Hopefully, what I thought as The Forgotten City of Thailand may be a notable one someday.