The commercial and transport capital of Southern Thailand, Hat Yai wins no prizes for beauty. It has grown affluent due to its strategic railroad junction, its cut price products, and a constant flow of Malaysian tourists who converge on the city on weekends to enjoy its dining, shopping, and nightlife. Malay, English, Yawi, Hokkien, Mandarin, and the clipped syllables of Southern Thai dialect can be heard around the cosmopolitan downtown area. Be aware that some parlors here advertising “ancient massage” will probably offer more than a quick rubdown. Hat Yai’s cultural attractions are few, so most visitors spend daylight hours shopping in Thailand’s third-largest city. Electrical goods at the Kim Yong market, durians and apples from street vendors, and Bangkok-made leather goods and fashions in the department stores are a few of Hat Yai’s popular buys. Bullfighting takes place in the city on the first Saturday of every month at different locations. Bulls are pitted against each other, and the winner is the animal that forces its opponent to retreat. The furious betting is often as much of a spec tacle as the fight itself.
Wat Hat Yai Nai, 1 mile (2 km) west of the city center, has the third-largest reclining Buddha image in the world, measuring 115 ft (35 m) long and 49 ft (15 m) high. You can walk inside the image, entering via a small shrine room. Herbal saunas and massages are offered in the temple grounds.
Ton Nga Chang (“elephant tusk”) waterfall, 15 miles (24 km) west of Hat Yai, takes its name from the two streams of water that tumble over the seven tiers of falls. They are best seen in the cool season, starting in November