Hat Yai / Thailand
(also: Had Yai, Haatyai, Hatyai)
Thailand's southern Traffic Hub
Hat Yai is the fourth largest city in Thailand and a turntable for the traffic in Thailand's deep south. The Bangkok railway line splits up here to Butterworth/Penang in one direction and to Kota Baru in the other direction. All the roads from Malaysia northwards cross Had Yai, and when heading to the neighbouring provincial capitals as Satun, Songkhla and Trang, Had Yai is the traffic hub. In the past there was also a train connection to Songkhla, but it was closed in 1978. By the way, Hat Yai ows it's existence to the railway connection. Before it was linked to Bangkok in 1922, the place had only four inhabitants. From then on, due to the new railway, Hat Yai experienced a rapid growth, particularly after the second World War.
Hat Yai, Central Railway Station
Hat Yai railway station. 28 trains stop here daily, many of the come or go to Malaysia. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Hat Yai is the southern center in Thailand for business. It's also a destination for mostly Asian tourists from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries. Many come here for shopping and as sex tourists. Pretty weired guys among them.
Hat Yai's spellings
The spelling at the railway station. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Since there is no clear translation for Thai script into Western/Latin script, there are some alternatives to spell the city's name. Most common is 'Hat Yai', but 'Had Yai' is used sometimes as well; 'Haat Yai' or 'Hatyai' appear here and there as well. Although Had Yai is considerably bigger than Songkhla, Songkhla is the province capital. Songkhla is an old Thai town of a long historical importance at the eastern shore of the Thai/Malay Peninsula.
Shopping malls and high built buildings - unusually for Thailand's cities and towns. In the verymost places the buildings are not high. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Why to go?
Hat Yai is one of the places in Thailand I avoid to go when possible. It's crowded, busy and in general quite a bad place. I made some unpleasant experiences with local people here becoming aggressive without provocation. Particularly after sunset, when nightlife awakes, it becomes a dirty place with criminal activities awakening. Additionally rats appear in the streets, leaving the sewerage and looking for food as it is to see in many southern cities, particularly in Malaysia (e.g. Penang) and Indonesia.
Reasons to go here are the fact that one get's supplies who are hard to get elsewhere in the south of Thailand. Needing medical care like a reliable dentist, new spectacles, a camera or computer equipment, Had Yai is the place of the choice. It's also not far from the Malaysian border as Padang Besar and therefore a base for a Thai visa run.
Terrorism and Criminality
R remarkable is the great amount of security forces everywhere. From private guards in front of the shopping malls and the gold shops via police presence up to army stationed in many places it gives a sad impression. Particularly in the railway station and the quarters around are many soldiers deployed. That's because of the closeness to the three notorious 'riot' provinces Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani. The 'Pattani United Liberation Organization', the 'Barisan Revolusi Nasional' (BRN) and other groups target on Hat Yai's airport, hotels and other places. The last big incident was on March 31st 2012, when a car bomb exploded at a big hotel, killing five people and injuring hundreds. But there is a high amount of 'common' criminality as well. Though, for tourists it's still a safe place when not getting involved in illegal activities themselves.
Soldiers of the Thai Army
Special forces of the Thai army. Anyhow Thai soldiers and policemen always appear relaxed and friendly and do help a traveller if possible. Image by Asienreisender, 2012