I don’t normally like to travel far during Songkran because the roads are dangerous with drunk drivers. But, I decided to make an exception this year because of what happened last week in Hat Yai. On Saturday afternoon, a car bomb went off in the basement parking lot of Lee Gardens Plaza. This came an hour after a motorcycle bombing in Yala. At least 15 people were killed in these combined attacks and hundreds of people injured. Hat Yai in Songkhla Province doesn’t usually get caught up in the ongoing insurgency in the deep south of Thailand. Since 2004, there has only been five major attacks in the city. As a consequence of this attack, it was reported that up to 50% of hotel bookings for Songkran were cancelled. So, I decided I would fly down to Hat Yai for their Midnight Songkran event in order to give morale support. This takes place this year from 11-13 April.
GETTING THERE: There are various ways you can get to Hat Yai from Bangkok. An express train takes nearly 14 hours and cost about 535 Baht. A bus is about the same price and also about the same duration. The quickest way is by air which is only 90 minutes. Most domestic airlines fly this route. But, you are looking at about 3,000 Baht one way.
WHERE TO STAY: There are plenty of hotels that you can stay in around Hat Yai (see here). I decided to go for Tune Hotel which is an international brand budget hotel. It has an interesting concept but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The prices are kept low as there are no frills. You get the basics for a cheap price. Some reviews say the big bed, large shower head and soft pillows are all 5 star. But, if you want more you need to pay extra. For example, the air-con, towels and WiFi are not free. Not sure how that will work out for me but I will let you know later.
You can see my post on the Hat Yai Midnight Songkran over at Thai Travel Blogs. I will spend some of my time with that. But I will also be exploring the local markets and any tourist attractions that I can find. I haven’t been to Songkhla for several years and as I spent most of the time outside of Hat Yai I am looking forward to exploring the city. You can follow me live on Twitter @RichardBarrow next week.
According to the latest reports, Hat Yai might not be as empty as first thought. Malaysians are starting to flood back into the city. I just checked the Agoda page for Tune Hotel and I can see it is already fully booked! Good job I booked in advance. Let’s hope they didn’t double book me last week when it was empty. I might not be able to find another hotel.