Off The Beaten Path Street Photography: From Hat Yai with Love


It doesn't happen often and certainly not in Thailand but we discovered a city with almost no tourists – Western tourists that is – and we just loved it. There's not much to do except for some cheesy attractions so we just indulged in great food at the food courts and explored the streets for some good old street photography. Five days went by like a breeze.

 Street photography in Hat Yai.

Hat Yai is the fourth largest city of Thailand and is located in the South. Like I said, we didn't see Western tourists until a couple arrived in our hotel the last day but Hat Yai, also known as the city that wants to be the next Bangkok, is super popular with Malaysian and Singaporean tourists who'll visit during holidays and weekends.

 Street photo, Thailand.

Because of that, it feels like the city is far off the beaten path when it actually isn't so we surely recommend it for a visit when you're traveling from Thailand to Malaysia or vice versa. We took a cheap flight from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur and it costed almost the same as if we would've used public transport to cross the border...

 Girl riding bike.
 Street photography after dark.

Street Photography in Asia

I love street photography but somehow I often don't like to shoot in large Asian cities. It's difficult to explain why but I guess it just doesn't fit my style of photography. I have very clear and simple style of communicating with the viewer and in overcrowded cities with lots of buildings, people and narrow streets it's more difficult to shoot when that's your style.

 Motorbike smoking.
 Motorbike smoking.

Shooting photos in the streets of Hat Yai

I really enjoy street photography in small cities or even villages. Sleepy towns in America have always been one of my favorite locations to shoot and in a way Hat Yai gave me the same feeling. The locals aren't used to seeing “white” faces often and we could feel the curious stares when walking through the back alleys. They weren't uncomfortable looks though, like it was the case in India and always accompanied by a welcoming smile or “Hello, welcome...!” It's that feeling of being welcomed that makes me take out my camera more than in a large city where everybody is more to themselves.

 Selling fish.
 After dark scene, Thailand.

Even after dark it was nice to roam the streets for some nice shots. I love to shoot right before sunset but also after dark and Hat Yai gave me some awesome photographs. I think you can really feel the vibe of the city through these pictures.

 Gregory Credwson style?

Street photography in a mall

Somehow, when we're in a city, we always end up in the mall. We're not shoppers at all but we like the movies, food, refreshments and air conditioning in tropical climates so it seems to be the perfect place to satisfy all those needs and while we're there, I love to take some pictures. Some people won't call it street photography but hey, I've talked about that before. What should I call it then? Mall photography?

 Mall, Hat Yai.

We both really liked Hat Yai and could've easily stayed longer than five days because we had a great time. The food was awesome, we caught up on some movies and of course, the streets are a superb location for street photography. Don't forget to visit when you're in the South of Thailand!

How to get there

From Malaysia

We went the other way from Hat Yai to Malaysia but there are cheap flights between Hat Yai and Kuala Lumpur International Airport every day. Make sure to check Air Asia as they usually have the best offers.

Trains and buses are also an option both ways but we found a flight that was lonely slightly cheaper than a border crossing bus or train.

From Trang or Krabi

Mini vans go every day between Krabi or Trang and Hat Yai. We paid 220 baht for one ticket from Trang and it took around 2.5 hours. We found the minivans in Thailand pretty decent especially when picking the official (government?) ones at bus terminals. At Trang bus terminal you don't have to worry about scams. We got sent straight to the official minivans. 

Where to stay

We stayed at Chamnan Residence for €15 ($17.5) / night

A basic but clean hotel with spacious rooms and friendly staff. Overall a nice place to stay for a few days. It's close to Greenway Food Court and the city centre and mall (movies!) is also within walkable distance.


Joris Hermans is a portrait, documentary and travel photographer based in Belgium. For the last ten years he has been combining personal and freelance work and won several awards among which the Nikon Press Photo Award in 2017. In 2018 he set off on a journey around the world with his girlfriend documenting everything on The World Ahead Of Us...

Instagram: @hermans.joris