Set at the southern foothill of the park, the Kuan Yin Shrine is a tourist magnet and attracts locals as well as visitors literally by the busloads.
The white jade Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and her two statuesque attendants, Lung Nu the Dragon Maiden (Jade Girl) and Shang Sai the Celestial Youth (Golden Boy) welcome all to pay tribute to her as well as purchase a few trinkets from the nearby souvenir stalls. It is a nice view from her perch on the Kor Hong Mountain but the place heaves with visitors seeking mercy and luck. Nearby is a colourful statue of the rather fierce looking God of Business, Kwan Kung. There is also a large Laughing Buddha nearby, reachable through the open jaws of a rather large golden cement Dragonhead, complete with large lolling golden dragon tongue. The area may not feel as spiritual as it may have been intended to be but it's certainly colourful. Just try to stifle the temptation to mimic the dragon if you take a selfie.
Hat Yai Cable Car (admission 200 baht) is a fairly recent addition to the Hat Yai Municipal Park and has its base station located at the picturesque look-out point of the rather amazing Phra Buddha Mongkol Maharaj (Standing Buddha). The cable car 'ride' itself is not great value, however it does take you to a higher elevation and stops at Thao Maha Phrom (the great Brahman Shrine), where the Four-Faced Brahma is – and that alone is not-to-be-missed. Plans are afoot to lengthen the cable car ride to other parts of the park.
Phra Buddha Mongkol Maharaj has dibs on being the tallest standing Buddha in southern Thailand. At 19.9 metres tall and weighting 200 tons, he is indeed an imposing figure as he overlooks the Hat Yai metropolis. Built to mark the occasion of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday in 1999, the monument also houses photographic dioramas of the construction process every step of the way. Realistic wax likenesses of the king and other noble Buddhists are casually seated in the foyer as if pondering time. It is well worth the effort to see.
The Four-Faced Brahma Shrine (admission 200 baht) is a sight to behold as he stands sentry on his patch of the Kor Hong Mountain. Miniature elephants surround him as he faces simultaneously north, east, south and west. Below him is a huge Erawan (three-headed elephant) trumpeting enthusiastically towards Hat Yai city. Smallish elephant statues may be purchased and donated to the shrine for good luck, so needless to say there are elephant statues in all shapes and sizes strewn everywhere. The view of surrounding Hat Yai and beyond is immense but can barely compete with the wow-moment of the shrine itself, as well as the rapid-fire explosions of firecrackers devotees set off here.
The park itself is located six kilometres outside of central Hat Yai and once you have arrived there is a winding road to the top that would be much easier traversed via tuk tuk. The park is part of Kor Hong Mountain and views from the top are absolutely stunning, but it's a steep hill and a very long walk. Make prior arrangements for return transportation because getting dropped off there is much easier than finding a ride back to town. There is no entrance fee, but you might want to bring along a few extra baht for a snack or must-have souvenir.
By Vanessa Workman
Last updated on 26th February, 2014.