Hat Yai and the roads into Malaysia
For most travelers overland Hat Yai in south Thailand is their first or last stop. The city is located 59km from the Padang Besar border with Malaysia.
On this page I will tell you about 4 roads that lead to Malaysia
South Thailand has 8 international border crossings, 6 with north west Malaysia, 2 with north east Malaysia:
This page shows you were you will find exactly where these border crossings are and why you may want to explore them: the border crossings of Thailand and Malaysia.
Malaysia and Thai visa
Fro most travelers there is no need to apply for a Malaysian visa. You will be granted a 90 days entry stamp. Thailand is a different story. Overland crossings give you a 15 days ONLY entry stamp so if you are thinking of spending more time in the country, get a visa for 1 or 2 months organized in Kuala Lumpuer or Penang.
Should you fly to Thailand, you will be granted a 30 days visa stamp. The entry stamp for both countries are free.
What to see in the far south of Thailand
The far south of Thailand is ignore by many travelers and for good reasons. Other parts in Thailand are more interesting, even areas nearby as Krabi, Phuket and Ko Samui are more attractive. Additional there has been some violence by a small group of fundamentailistic Muslims that has given the far south a bad name.
Hat Yai is typically considered to be safe but further east, Yala, Pattani and Narrathiwat are considered not. I've been cycling in this area for 10 years and I have never been involved in any form of violence. In fact, I find Bangkok more dangerous. And think about cities like New York. No one will even doubt but visit.
Hat Yai town
Hat Yai is not the most exciting town in Thailand but it certainly is not boring either, The markets are certainly worth checking out for bargains and the night market in the town center is always filled with good food.
Hat Yai is also popular with Malaysian weekend guests who come here for shopping. Hence it's not surprising there are many good hotels in town. As I have been a regular in Hat yai, I can tell there's little need to book in advance, even in high season or weekends (when many Malaysdian come over, you will find easily a place to stay, decent guesthouses for B250-300 are all around the city center although the ones near the railway station are slightly grubbier).
Hat Yai is very good connected to the rest of Thailand and Malaysia.
There are flights to many Thai tourist destinations including Phuket and Bangkok. For every direction you will find buses too including (mini) buses to Butterworth, Krabi and Phuket.
The train is the easiest way to reach either Penang or Kota Bharu plus there are several trains to Surat Thani (Ko Samui) and Bangkok.
Hat Yai to Padang Besar
There are two ways to cycle to Padang Besar:
It's 59 mostly ugly km's to Padang Besar. You have to cycle on road #4 to Sadao, 47 kilometers on a very busy road.
In Sadao, you can bypass the town center (just before the climb up in town starts) by using the shortcut to Padang Besar which is 12 km away.
The border crossing at Padang Besar is just before entering the town center on your left. Remember this is not the same customs service as for the trains (which is at the railway station). Usually it's very straightforward and fast. There is a 3rd crossing, straight south of Sadao, for motorized vehicles only.
You can stay on the Thai site of Padang Besar. However, you're better off to continue to Kangar, a reasonable sized town with several hotels. Kangar is only 35 km from the border. The next logic stop after Kangar is Alor Setar although you might consider Jitra for going to Kuala Nerung and Lake Pedu. Alor Setar is another 42 from Kangar south.
The second route is much more scenic. Take the road out of Hat Yai in the direction of the airport. Take the junction to Khlong Ban Khong (about 9km from Hat yai). Follow this road until you find a junction to Khlang Ngae (left) and Sadao (right). Follow the direction to Khlang Ngae (don't follow Sadao) and Kuan Lang (road 4135).
Continue to Khlang Ngae. You will eventually arrive via road 4040 at road 4. Cycle in town until the railway crossing and before the crossing, go right with the railway on your left hand. Cycle from here to the end of the road, a T-junction and go right. There are roadsigns for Padang Besar but you don't really need them, it's all straight ahead.
This is a quiet and scenic route few travelers ever see and it is a few km shorter than the road via Sadao.
Hat Yai to Satun
Satun is located 90 km west of Hat Yai. Best way is to cycle out of Hat Yai is to use the Thanon Pet Kashem which crosses the river.
Continue on this road until you reach the junction with road 43 (the ongoing road from Phattalung to Patani). Cross the junction and follow road 4 until the junction at Ban Tha Chulang and go left. This is the ongoing road to Chalung and Satun. This is preferable over the main ongoing road which goes to Phattalung.
It's an easy ride, mostly flat and partly quite scenic with some karst mountains.
The nearest city near Hat Yai is Songkhla, a slow town at the Gulf of Thailand with some nice beaches and accommodation. Check my Songkhla page for more.
Songkhla is a nice sleepy town at the Gulf of Thailand. There's some nice beaches though nothing spectacular. It's only 30 km from Hat Yai. Should you consider cycling further to the east (Pattani, Yala), this might be a good overnight stop.
Hat Yai and the roads to Yala and Betong
This is a very rewarding journey. I've done it several times and despite the warnings, I have never had any troubles. It was as usual in Thailand, all smiles and happy faces. This page describes in detail what you can do:
Betong is a nice little border town in the far south of Thailand. The border is 9km away from the town center. There's plenty of cheap accommodation in town. Cycle into town center to the clock tower and turn left. There's a backpackers hostel. Turn right, you will find the Sri Betong Hotel which is expensive but almost next door there's the cheap depzartment of the hotel with rooms for B500.
Not far from the local market you will find some good food stalls.
Betong can be busy in the weekends when Malaysians cross the border to enjoy the Betong nightlife but at day time the town is quiet.
There's a couple of temples and Mosques in town but the main attraction is the old wall and especially the Piyamit tunnel complex.
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