Is Hat Yai more than just a place to buy cheap chocolates and to change trains. Cheryl, a mother of four, says apparently so. This guide was also updated in March 2008 by Jim Clarke.
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
That Hatyai is the transit spot for the South. This is true. While earning a living in Hatyai most teachers vacation to the Andaman Islands. I’ve lived here for over six years and still like the place. Recently Tesco-Lotus, Big-C and the downtown shopping plazas have added a degree of western comfort with air con shopping and western food restaurants. This leaves teachers with a choice of how western or how Thai they would like their lives to be.
Jim Clarke has very kindly offered to update the Hat Yai guide as of March 2008. Jim says the Lonely Planet Guide provides fairly scant information, it reads pretty much as if the author hopped off the train & walked around the block for a half hour. It is somewhat outdated too.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
I will have to agree with the Songkla posting “Be around either May or October time and the pickings are pretty good. Most jobs are snapped up in this town so be precise in your timing if coming here for work. Songkhla is considered the education capital of the South, and it certainly has a large amount of schools, universities, and colleges very keen to employ foreign teachers. A good EFL teachers salary doesn’t really top more than 30k and averages out to 25k per month on a full-time salary. Otherwise the hourly rate is between 250-300 baht per hour for part-time work.”
Jim - Quite good in general, there are several companies that regularly need teachers. Some employ teachers who then work in Thai schools, and others employ teachers to work “in house”. Wages are generally 30,000 and up, which provides quite a comfortable lifestyle here. The best times to look for work are of course in the major school holidays of October, and March to May, but it is usually possible to find some kind of teaching work at other times too.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
It’s 950km from Bangkok. About 15 hours journey by bus.
It’s 45 minutes from Songkla 55 on public transport.
It’s 3 hours to Penang. 5 hours on public transport
It’s about 7 hours from KL.
It’s 4 hours from Krabi. 6 hours on public transport
It’s 5 hours from Koh Samui.
It will take you about 6 hours on public transport to the Lanta Island.
Jim - Well it’s fairly civilised here anyway, it’s 933km from Bangkok, which means an overnight bus or train, or you can fly with one of the budget airlines quite cheaply which takes 1hr 20min.
Is there any entertainment or do you invite friends round for Scrabble?
The Post, The Pub, Swan, Corazon are some popular downtown haunts. Try looking at http://South-Thai.com for more things to do in the Area.
Jim - There is plenty of entertainment, bars with live bands, two multi-screen cinemas, 10 pin bowling, lots of shopping, golf, and more, (karaoke anyone?).
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Ranges from 2,500 baht for a single room plus bathroom with fan to 6,000 baht for a room with a stunning view and aircon. Houses are unfurnished but a two bed townhouse I live in costs 5,500 baht.
Jim - There are lots of new apartment blocks going up all the time. On average a newly built, furnished one room apartment with balcony, cable TV, and aircon would be around 4,500Bt. and 1000Bt. cheaper with fan only. A townhouse would be around 5,000 but they are generally unfurnished.
Shopping malls, department stores?
Lots. And electronics are cheap. No longer do teachers have to settle for cold water showers. Hot water heaters are cheap, the transient teacher population always has a supply of second hand fridges for sale.
Jim - HatYai is something of a cheap shopping mecca, without the ultra expensive malls found in Bangkok. Lots of small shops & indoor market style areas selling anything and everything you can imagine, plus several large malls, as well as the usual Central, Robinson, and Tops. There is a Carrefour, Tesco Lotus, and Big C.
Internet cafes? (snail-speed Hotmail default page or fatties playing Ragnarok?)
Avoid near the train station. Just go a little bit out of town and there they are. I use one on Sai 3 in a video rental shop for 10 Baht for 40 minutes. Many schools will allow internet access if the teachers don’t abuse it. Connections time out regularly so write and send quickly!
Jim - Yes lots, several very large ones. All are high to very high speed (or so I am told, I have my own computer at home so don’t personally use them).
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Downtown no one will take notice of you. Get a little bit out of town and you’re a celebrity. There is crime. Western teachers have been pick pocketed, murdered, stabbed, shot, manhandled and drugged. Mostly it depends on the company you keep. On the other side, many teachers have families with small children here and love it. Read the South-Thai message board at http://South-Thai.com for true life stories.
Jim - Apart from the ones who live here, a lot of farangs stay a day or two in HatYai on their way to and from Malaysia on border or visa runs, so you won’t stand out very much. The chances of a good beating? Around zero I’d say.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
Hatyai has everything. Many of the taxi (tuk-tuk) drivers will try take advantage of people that don’t speak Thai. Most teachers buy their own motorcycles after a few months of living here but public transport is a great way to learn some Thai!
Jim - Loads of tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis on the streets, as well as songthaews on set routes around town, you can get anywhere in town for 10 to 20 Baht, and buses and minibuses for places a bit out of town or further afield.
Main advantages of living there?
Hatyai is a nice size town. It is big enough to have the western perks and yet lacks that Bangkok traffic.
Jim - Cheap lifestyle and no traffic jams, plus the proximity of all the beautiful beaches and islands of the South, easy to get to even just for long weekends. I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right decision when I first arrived from Bangkok, but it soon grows on you. It’s a good place to live and work.
And what are the downsides?
It is real work. What a bummer. It isn’t a holiday. When you come here you actually have to WORK before vacation time comes and you can get away.
Jim - Aside from the usual places like KFC, Macdonalds, Sizzler, and various pizza joints, there is not a great range of western style restaurants and food available compared to Bangkok or other major tourist destinations.
Any local attractions?
Samila Beach can be done in a day trip. The Andaman Island for 3 day weekends or longer. Check out http://South-Thai.com for more info on what to do!
Jim - Nothing special, a waterfall, the nearby lake and its island of Ko-Yo is quite scenic with its museum and seafood restaurants on the water, and it is pleasant to sit & eat seafood at the nearby beaches of Songkhla on a weekend afternoon.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
The Swan Restaurant or Post Laser Disk are where the teachers go. The teachers are getting a little more relaxed and do not stab each other in the back as much as in previous years as the contracts with the Thai owned schools are getting a bit more updated. Ignore the old stories about Hatyai. Conditions are improving for the teachers and I hope to see the teachers continue to talk to one another and insist on decent working conditions and contracts.
Jim - Most of the expat community frequent bars grouped close to each other in the town center such as The Swan, Brown Sugar, The Post Laser, all of which sell western and Thai food, as well as The West Side, The Pubb, Deep Wonder, Corezone, Blue Kiss, The Brass Monkey, and Kiss channel, to mention a few. Then there are several other nitelife areas around town with groups of bars and nitespots.
There were one or two tragic, but thankfully very isolated bombing incidents here a few years ago, but nothing since. HatYai is generally very peaceful, and if it were not for the reports in The Bangkok Post etc. people would hardly even be aware of any problems, which take place a lot further South than here.