When planning our trip from Bangkok to Malaysia, we began searching for a city to stop in to break up the long journey. The only real city with accommodations and transportation centers was Hat Yai. Hat Yai is a small town in Southern Thailand near the Malaysian border.
With a quick look at hotels and train and bus schedules, we decided to stay there for one night. After our trip was booked I began doing more research to find out what we could do in Hat Yai. To say I didn’t find much is an understatement; I didn’t find anything! Hat Yai is the biggest “city” in southern Thailand, but really it is just a small town for mainly Malaysian tourists to go shopping.
Besides shopping, the only other reoccurring theme in my research was the news about terror attacks in the city. Unlike the terror attacks in the news today, these attacks are mainly limited to the southern region of Thailand and are between the government and separatist groups, although there have been many civilian causalities. So, with this information I was a little uncomfortable with our choice of stopping in Hat Yai.
When we arrived in Hat Yai, it was nothing like I imagined it to be. It was a very small, quiet town with no signs of hostility. We left the train station on foot and after walking through almost the entire town, we checked into the New Season Square Hotel. On the short walk from the train station to the hotel I could feel a difference in culture. Although we were still in Thailand, it sure didn’t seem the same as any other part of Thailand I had been to before. It felt like we had already crossed the Malaysian border.
Later that night the cultural change was even more evident when we were having dinner. All of the food on the menus was not the same kind of spicy Thai dishes you normally find. Majority of the dishes were Malaysian. We had chicken rice, pork bone soup and fried noodles. Although the food was tasty, there was very little spice in anything we ordered.
After the meal, we wandered the streets looking for something to do, but came up empty handed. There were a few streets with a couple of vendors, but not enough to keep us entertained for long. Finally, we decided to try and check out the view of the city from Lee Garden Plaza, one of the tallest buildings in the city. We were able to get up to the top floor, but there were no look out points.
On our way back down we found a nice, clean looking Thai massage place in the building. Since we were out of options with things to do for the evening, we booked a 90 minute Thai massage. Never having a Thai-style massage before, I was a little nervous I was going to get beat up. Although I left with a couple of bruises, the Thai massage was actually very relaxing and a fantastic way to end the evening.