Plastic surgery still drawing Indonesians to Hat Yai

Plastic surgery still drawing Indonesians to Hat Yai

Travellers heading to Thailand queue for immigration clearance at a border checkpoint in Hat Yai district of Songkhla. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan).
Travellers heading to Thailand queue for immigration clearance at a border checkpoint in Hat Yai district of Songkhla. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan).

SONGKHLA - Despite the decision by airlines to end direct flights between Indonesia and Hat Yai, the city remains a popular destination for well-off Indonesians - and particularly those seeking cosmetic surgery.

Most of the Indonesian visitors come from Medan in North Sumatra, Tanjung Pinang in the Riau Islands near Singapore, or Jakarta, according to Witthaya Saelim, founder of the Songkhla association of professional tour guides.

“These Indonesian visitors are mostly well-to-do people who spend 4,000 to 5,000 baht per day each while here. They like to come here on a long holiday or during a school break, travel as a group or family and prefer to buy package tours,” said Mr Witthaya

Many also come to Hat Yai for plastic surgery such as nose and eye jobs, breast augmentation and sex change operations, he said.

“Plastic surgery offered in Hat Yai district of Songkhla is very popular with Indonesian patients, although they mainly go to Malaysia’s Penang for other types of medical treatment,” he said.

The amulets on sale at popular temples in Songkhla were among the most sought after souvenirs, he said.

Unfortunately, direct flights between Indonesia and Hat Yai were discontinued a couple of years ago and these visitors now have to transit through Malaysia and sometimes Singapore, and then usually by bus to Hat Yai 

The main factor leading to Indonesian airlines cancelling direct flights was the huge loss incurred through the low number of passengers on the return flights, he said.

That was because Indonesians liked to travel on to other provinces in Thailand, and then fly back home from there instead of returning to Hat Yai first. At the same time, few Thais travelled to Indonesia from Hat Yai.

Even so, the discontinuation of direct flights had resulted in the number of Indonesian visitors to Hat Yai falling by only 5-8%, he said. There were currently 20,000 to 30,000 Indonesian nationals visiting Hat Yai each year.


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