Young Pioneer Tours

Hat Yai – Vibrant Heart of Southern Thailand

by Andy Khong

Hat Yai (pronounced “Hard-Yaai”) is a city located in the southern part of Thailand and is the largest city in the Songkhla Province. It is a vibrant and dynamic urban centre known for its rich history, diverse culture, and a mix of traditional and modern influences. This southern gem is under the radar and has been left untouched; although most of the tourists here are from Malaysia and Singapore. The prices of most goods in Hat Yai is cheaper than in Bangkok; it is also a gastronomic haven as you pay like half (50%), and sometimes down to one-third (33%) the prices you are likely to pay for in Bangkok.

History and Founding

Hat Yai’s history dates back to the early 20th century when it was a small village. The city’s growth began when the Southern Railway was extended to the area in the early 20th century. The railway played a crucial role in connecting Hat Yai to other parts of Thailand and neighbouring countries, making it an important transportation hub. The city’s name, Hat Yai, is derived from the Thai word “หาดใหญ่” which means “big beach“, reflecting its location near the sea.

Geography and Location

Hat Yai is situated in the southern region of Thailand, not far from the border with Malaysia. It is part of the Songkhla Province and is located approximately 946 kilometres (588 miles) south of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. The city’s proximity to Malaysia has made it a popular transit point for travellers crossing the border.

Hat Yai Vibrant Heart of Southern Thailand
Hat Yai Street Stalls at night.

Economy and Industries

Hat Yai’s economy is diverse, with several industries contributing to its growth. The city serves as a major trade and commerce centre in southern Thailand. Key economic activities include retail, wholesale, hospitality, and tourism. The bustling Kim Yong Market is famous for its variety of goods, including local products and souvenirs. Agriculture is also significant, with rubber, palm oil, and fruit farming playing a substantial role in the regional economy.

Projected Future

The future of Hat Yai is likely to be influenced by its strategic location in the southern region of Thailand, as well as its role as a key transportation hub connecting southern Thailand with Malaysia. The city will likely continue to grow as trade and tourism in the region expand. Improved infrastructure and transportation connections, both within Thailand and across borders, will be essential for the city’s development.


Hat Yai is a popular tourist destination, especially for visitors from Malaysia and Singapore. Tourists are drawn to the city’s vibrant street markets, delicious street food, and a wide range of shopping opportunities. Some of the notable attractions in Hat Yai include:

  • Kim Yong Market: A bustling market known for its wide variety of goods, including clothing, electronics, fresh produce, and local products.
Hat Yai Vibrant Heart of Southern Thailand
Kim Yong Market.
  • Phra Maha Chedi Tripob Trimongkol: A beautiful Buddhist temple known for its stunning architecture and serene atmosphere.
Hat Yai Vibrant Heart of Southern Thailand
Phra Maha Chedi Tripob Trimongkol.
  • Hat Yai Municipal Park: A large park with a scenic lake, botanical garden, and a cable car ride that offers panoramic views of the city.
Hat Yai Vibrant Heart of Southern Thailand
Hat Yai Municipal Park.
  • ASEAN Night Bazaar, and Greenway Night Market: Both places provide a distinct shopping and dining experience, and they are popular among tourists looking for local products, international items, and eco-friendly goods in Hat Yai.
  • Ton Nga Chang: Hat Yai’s seven-stories-high waterfall in the dense jungle.
Hat Yai Vibrant Heart of Southern Thailand
Ton Nga Chang.

Seedy Nightlife

While Hat Yai is known for its tourism and cultural attractions, it has gained a reputation for its seedy nightlife, which attracts visitors primarily from Malaysia and Singapore. This aspect of the city is less well-known to tourists from other countries and is often characterized by a number of bars, nightclubs, and entertainment venues that cater to a more adult-oriented clientele. While it’s an aspect of Hat Yai’s nightlife, this is just one facet of the city, and there are many other wholesome and family-friendly activities to enjoy as well.

[Note: most of the nightlife have started relocating 57 kilometres (36 miles) south to the city of Dannok (ด่านนอก, pronounced “Daa-Nohk”), near the Thai-Malaysia border].

Hat Yai Vibrant Heart of Southern Thailand
ASEAN Night Bazaar, Hat Yai.
Hat Yai Vibrant Heart of Southern Thailand
Greenway Night Market, Hat Yai.

15 Places to visit In Hat Yai

Hat Yai is a city with a rich history, diverse economy, and a unique blend of cultural influences. It continues to be a major transportation hub in southern Thailand and a popular destination for tourists from neighbouring countries. While the city has a reputation for its seedy nightlife, it offers a wide range of attractions and experiences for all types of travellers, making it an interesting and multifaceted destination in the region.

You might also be interested in untouched Indonesian islands which are Free Trade Zones (FTZ):

Batam – Indonesian Paradise near Singapore.

Bintan – A Glimpse into Paradise.

Karimun – Indonesia’s Untouched Beauty.

YPT’s Tours to South-East Asia click here.

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