Thailand to many tourists and travelers frequently means Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai and only few have heard of Hat Yai. This is otherwise to many Malaysians and even Singaporeans; Hat Yai to them is a famous weekend getaway spot.
“Hat Yai (Thai: หาดใหญ่, pronounced [hàːt jàj], also Haad Yai or Had Yai) is a city in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border. Hat Yai is the largest city of Soongkhla Province, the largest metropolitan area in Southern, and third largest metropolitan area of the country. It is often mistaken as being the capital of the province, but Songkhla is the capital and the center of administration and culture, while Hat Yai is the business center. The two cities are considered as twin cities due to their close connection, and accordingly, Hat Yai and Songkhla form the Greater Hatyai-Songkhla Metropolitan Area.” (sourced from Wiki)
With our luggages and backpacks in tow, we left Penang Sentral bus station (5-minute-bus-ride from our place in Butterworth) via KKKL double decker bus bound for Hat Yai, the city nearest to the Northern Malaysian and Southern Thailand border; it’s our first time to experience crossing country borders by land!
Unlike seasoned travelers who take efforts in planning and learning the ins and outs of their itineraries, I only had little knowledge about Hat Yai from 2 senior colleagues who have been there already and from googling some details of must-visit-sites thus, I marveled like a kid when we reached the Malaysian exit border in exactly 2 hours; I didn’t expect it would be that fast! (FYI, trip to Kuala Lumpur from Butterworth, Penang takes around 6 hours by bus, 9 hours by night train that departs 11PM usually, and our trip to Northeastern Malaysian town known as Kota Bharu in the state of Kelantan which is also near the Thailand border took us for 5 1/2 hours).
We left at 1:45 PM in Butterworth, Penang with bus tickets that were bought a week in advance at regular rate of RM 35 each (USD 11.76 or PhP 497) one-way, and found ourselves at the bus stopping station near the border a couple of hours after, we’re asked to submit our passports to the bus captain for embarkation and other immigration procedures, and we’re advised to eat and exchange ringgit to baht at the said station too.
Malaysia’s Char Koay Teow meets Thailand’s Baht. I don’t know with you, but I like CKT’s smokey taste.
First-timers to reached Northern Malaysia and crossed the border to Thailand by land…
Exiting Malaysia and entering Thailand went seamless. We needed to get in the bus again after leaving Malaysia and be at the Thailand border for our passports to be stamped. It only took us less than an hour to do the process. Nonetheless, the arrival cards were already filled out by our bus driver so it really lessens the hassles. In less than 4 hours after leaving Penang Sentral, we finally went off the bus at its main office in the heart of Hat Yai where I bought return tickets for us at RM30 per pax; a little cheaper because the vehicle that would take us back to Penang isn’t an 18-seater double decker bus but a 12-seater fully airconditioned van.
After asking directions to get to our hotel, we hopped into tuktuk (bigger than those we saw in Bangkok back in 2004 during our honeymoon; yes, Gabby’s Bangkok-made!), paid 100 baht (B20 per pax or RM2 or PhP28 each).
The main thoroughfares in Hat Yai reminded me of streets back home like Mabini in Malate, Ongpin, Binondo and Divisoria in Manila. It really looked so familiar!
I made a reservation for 3D2N for 2 deluxe rooms in New Seasons Hotel after reading its good reviews at tripadvisor.com. There’s nothing much to rave about, in fact, I even complained to their front desk just before checking out (which will be included on my next post) about a miscommunication (yes, it’s a huge problem every time you travel to a country where the use of English language is a rarity) with our breakfast meals. At least our rooms were pretty clean and decent for an affordable rate. Not bad, actually but it’s nothing special either. I am just thankful I have chosen a hotel where rooms provided firm queen-sized beds with white linens and fluffy pillows—those to me are very essential. And yes, I wasn’t surprise to see packs of durex in the minibar alongside Lays potato chips and nuts, haha! (check out last photo in the set below); we were in Thailand, remember? *no offense meant*
The same tuktuk driver who brought us to New Seasons Hotel offered us a tour at the Floating Market immediately after checking in, which was actually included in my must-visit-list. He quoted us B500 (RM50 or PhP700) for the 5 of us, in roughly 3 hours with little shopping and some bites. Everything sounded OK to me, since we can maximize the day.
These are the scenes at Klonghae Floating Market at past 5 in the afternoon when we arrived there last Saturday, 30 July 2011.
Fruits in this tropical country are abundant! It was so like the Philippines!
It’s durian season in Penang and Hat Yai; do you eat durian? I don’t. I mean, I haven’t tried.
What about rambutan and lanzones, do you like? …Lanzones only for me.
Thank God for the sweetest Tamarind on the planet! I’d say if there’s one thing in Hat Yai that is worth revisiting, it’s their sampaloc! ang tamis-kakaiba!
Oh my, they’re selling pork barbecue in Hat Yai ! yum, yum! *wala ito sa Penang!*
Walking several steps more towards the bridge that will take you to that famous Hat Yai tourist spot…
My first glance at Klonghae Floating Market…
Back in 2004 when we headed for Bangkok, Tina and I didn’t get a chance to experience their Floating Market located hours away from the city; luckily we had a chance to go to its counterpart in Hat Yai.
I wished we had the same Floating Market in Pinas (Do we have like one that I am not aware of?).
I appreciate the efforts of Hat Yai authorities in keeping the tourism spirit alive at Klonghae Floating Market, so does the opportunity to provide livelihood to the vendors and peddlers.
Honestly, I was more excited to click my cam for extraordinary captures rather than to do some shopping and eat, haha!
The energy from the atmosphere was so high! There’s a burst of colors everywhere! This sight never appears on a daily basis!
Whenever you decide to sample and buy something, just point and ask for whatever you want, then the goods will be placed in a basket with long handle, and with an outstretched hand, you have to place your payment in the basket and get your goodies. et voila! Transaction is done!
Business must be good!
And almost all people from all walks of life visit and enjoy the vibrant mood at the Klonghae Floating Market.
Almost all sorts of flavors and textures are available in this part of Hat Yai…
I should have remained in my comfort zone and avoided becoming adventurous when it comes to food. It may appear so attractive to the senses but it’s actually otherwise. Case in point –this seaweed salad which almost made me throw up!
The bad and the beautiful —Although I never liked the taste of this seaweed salad, we all loved the crunchiness and all of this “KFC” chicken fillet; just right to save the day! yum, yum, yum!
And from these choices…
we sampled some…
Noticed those fried quail eggs –sunny side up pa, ang husay! :) The hotdogs were nice, but the sauce was too spicy for our palates!
Do you fancy corn on the cob?
Tell me, what’s the difference of yellow and purplish corns?
I have a sweet tooth hence, I gave my thumbs up for this Thai salad…Delightfully good at 20 baht (RM 2 or PhP 28).
And perhaps, it will take me to be casted first in Fear Factor and be paid big bucks before anyone can force me to eat exotic… and you?
Not all kids will find merriment in Kloghae Floating Market but Gabby…
When dusk falls, this area becomes more lively!
Grilled prawns were really tempting!
It was almost 9PM when we decided to end our first day in Hat Yai…
We were on our way back to our tuktuk when these soda bottles caught my eyes, they’re too cute for words for non-diabetics!
Then, we arrived in our hotels with few souvenirs…
Four colorfully handmade and sturdy Thai rectangular pillows, all-for B200 (RM 20 or PhP 280) and the sweetest sampaloc on planet Earth for B50 (RM 5 or PhP 70) per pack. We also bought lanzones (not in photo).
And one thing I like in most Thai hotels (Tina and I had the same bottled water in Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok back in our honeymoon in 2004) is their usual provision of complimentary agua in beautiful bottled packaging…
I brought all bottles at home and reused for our water plants.
All in all, it was what I’d surmise as one fascinating day!
We retired to bed early and got ready for more sun exposure on our second day…up next! :)
PS : Malaysia and Philippines share similar timezones while Hat Yai, Thailand is one hour ahead of those 2 countries.