A short drive from downtown is the Hat Yai municipal park. Located high above the city, spanned across two peaks, the municipal park includes plenty of flora and fauna – just watch out for random wild monkeys! There are a variety of food kiosks and a ‘fancy’ hill side restaurant (that serves french fries – a rarity!).
With plenty of ponds and walk ways, places to pray and worship and even a nightly lantern festival to attract locals and tourists, the park is quite impressive in its variety.
On one peak is the Elephant ‘temple’ also referred to as the Brama Statue. Elephants have deep meaning in Buddhist religion, and practically speaking, they have also helped in the construction of local farm lands, towns and cities. Elephants are still used for construction work downtown.
Locals also have them as pets. There was one living just down the street from me – a darling pet elephant I got to know quite well. He lived on the sidewalk and was walked around for grazing every day. He had no yard, but seemed pretty happy and well fed. More about him later.
At the very least elephants are considered to be good luck. People bring statues to add to the incredible collection. There must have been thousands. All shapes sizes and qualities. From plastic to gold.
You can also find plastic streamers and lei type necklaces, candles, coins, little goddesses, incense, photos and lots of sparkling glass.
There are specific bells to chime depending on which type of luck you are looking for. Health, love, wealth, family and happiness are general North American interpretations. You could ding them all, if you wanted.
My hosts directed me to the one they felt I needed help with the most, and ding I did. More than once!
You can also see the impressive golden Buddha statue on the other mount from this location.
I was lucky that my hosts had a car, many ‘tuk-tuks’ (Thai taxis) won’t come to this location no matter what you pay – their rickety little engines and broken down transmissions simply can’t handle the hills.
Thankfully, when I returned later, I had no problem driving my motorbike up the windy, narrow route.
We hopped in the tiny car and drove to the next hill top to witness below the ‘Phra Buddha Mongkol Maharaj’, or ‘standing golden buddha’ as I like to call it.
It is here Buddhists will present lotus flowers to the golden statue, and spend time reflecting in the ‘flow of the white stairs’. Apparently walking around them is likened to flowing along the waters at Buddhas feet. So you are to take your shoes off and have a walk on the cool white stone.
You need only to have your eyes open a crack to experience a Buddha related epiphany during your quiet stroll. Bright red signs stand out against the white painted wood and stone, offering messages of hope and encouragement in both Thai and English.
The smell of light incense floats around you, and the delicate jingle of multiple bells ring from every direction. Add this to the impressive vista, and you are exactly where Buddha wants you!
The view from the monument encompasses the entirety of Hat Yai, which looks very different from this altitude. No crazy smells, mass of motorbikes, thick pollution or heavy, hot wet air.
No visible banana leaf huts, or cattle tied to city trees. From here, this could be anywhere.
The sky sets into a deep royal blue, contrasting dramatically with the bright yellow gold of the monument.
I wander for a bit discretely snapping photographs. I always feel like I am doing something wrong if I am photographing near a sacred space – not that it stops me! I just don’t use a flash, and try not to be disruptively obvious about it.
We sat for a bit enjoying the sunset on our plastic woven mat while eating delicious Thai fruits.
I would later discover these to be my favourites, after a few horror show experiences – ever try ‘durian’? ACK! Rambutan is the prickly looking fella, and the other is a rose apple.
Additional photos in the slideshow.