It was few months back when some of us were talking about Hatyai. The next second, we were at KL Sentral waiting for the departure of ETS to the border town of Perlis.
“Hatayi”. An autocorrect from Android had endowed the city with a brand new name; at least that was how we called there upon from that point onward.
With luggage of our own, we descended to the train platform and found our seats at coach B. It was not that cold at the beginning but the temperature declined as time goes by, where my pre-warned sweat coats bring-along was effectively put in used. Jie was sitting next to me and the rest across the aisle. Somehow, Farid with his Hawaii shirt, was holding a book. That was a hard night sleep, as the seat’s adjust-ability was limited or, perhaps anticipations for the journey were too high.
We arrived at Padang Besar near to 5am. Everyone, on half-awaken mode followed the crowds to the lobby. We waited at a deserted counter area until one hour later, in which a random uncle shouted that the gate was opened. We walked through a long road until we checked in at Malaysia Immigration counter. The following was a walk of doubt as there was no one on the path between Malaysia and Thailand. Eerily dark.
Finally, we reached at a building with Thai languages and were pretty assured that that was Thailand Immigration. The experiences at the place was an awe (censored content jeng jeng). We declined a minivan offer at the gate and walked for another 10 minutes to the train station. A swarm of local middle-age aunties who were doing exercise at 6am (which sounds totally normal hmm) approached us and led us to a minivan spot. Eventually, we decided to take the vehicle to Hatyai instead of waiting for the train for time saving.
One hour later, we dropped off at Hatyai city center where our accommodation is strategically located. Six of us got 3 rooms at third and forth floor respectively. Based on Chinese custom, we knocked heavily on hotel room door before entered a room for the first time. It turned up to be pretty awful when you knocked on the wrong room (fast and furiously) and a confused lady with a robe opening up the door, watching at you. Wow, oops, I mean, sorry.
In a mission to search for breakfast, we crossed the road to Kim Yong Market. Bought a travel simcard which offers unlimited data for 7 days with 299TB. 7-Eleven was having Pokemon promotion with super attractive merchandises but we never understand how it worked. The corridor outside of Kim Yong market was lined up with hawkers selling fruits and local delicacies. Pairing up with tempting light effect, the locals never stop trying offer their goods to us.
After a long expedition, we stopped by a restaurant named “Sumatra” for breakfast. Their roti canai was the taste we can’t stop recalling for the rest of the journey.
Next, we stopped by Odean mall. The price range in the department store is very similar to Malaysia. We went up and up and came down with the lift, back to the street to continue our adventures. Not forgetting the Coffee which Zarin said looks good out of thirst.
We then reached at Lee Garden Plaza where many local food stalls appeared to be delicious. That was the moment when we realized how tough to look for a dustbin in Hatyai. We hung out at the classy-designed basement food court of Lee Garden Plaza, and exploring several floors atop for photos and air-cond.
Apparently everybody was too exhausted from the train trip earlier, we stopped by Salma for drinks before going back to hotel for a siesta.
Being a person who can’t sleep during noon time, I grabbed BEAST for a walk at Kim Yong Market. Ahh, good times wandering around at hive of activity and unknown back alley for photos. It was sunset time where golden light casts on the quaint little town concrete structure, complemented with locals who was bustling with life. At a strange place, even the smallest details looks beautiful. Only then I realized it was 6pm and time to gather up with the rest.
It was pretty dark at that hour as Thailand is one hour later than Malaysia time. We walked to Pink Lady area for another round of food hunts before hitching a Tuk Tuk and paid 120 TB to ASEAN Night Market. Fun part: Tuk Tuk uncle was actually trying to offer us to go Sexy Chu later. Erm, maybe next time.
The food center at second floor serves different kind of foods. We had a sumptuous meal with tomyam, fried eggs with mussels, takoyaki, cao tea, grilled chicken with super affordable prices. Next, we shopped at the market below for negotiation-friendly stuffs and went back to city with loaded hands.
The roadside of Lee Garden Plaza looked entirely different at night compared to daytime. There was plenty of supper choices for people to satisfy the crave of foods at late night. We had another round of contented food hunt and finally went back to hotel after a contented day.
Next morning, we woke up in the lively pulses of Hatyai city. In the tenure to search for Hamid Restaurant, we walked for a long turn before realizing the shop’s operation hour was few hours away. Eventually, we settled down at Salma again for simple breakfast.
Jie managed to got us an Gangster Aunty tuk tuk female driver for that day’s itinerary. We hopped onto the tiny back-seat of the modified vehicle, all ready for the adventures ahead. Selfies, video, chatter all along the country road, we waved to stranger and whistled at the locals. I guess travelling with these acquaintances never get bored.
Soon, we had arrived at Chang Puak Camp, a place with elephants shows and related events. Huge rain poured and gone, we decided not to ride the mammals and went for archery. Later, we bought a basket of Banana to feed on elephant. It seems pretty overwhelmed with the bananas and tourists, literally kissed on Farid at some point. Other side, Yus tried on feeding the elephants with too much fears. To wrap up Chang Puak Camp, certain thing at the photo booth grabbed our attentions.
We then proceeded with a never-ending road trip to our next stop, Hatyai Municipal Bird Park. Going through hills and woods, rural and city, we doubt if Gangster Aunty was trying to sell us at random black markets. Zarin and Adam sat at the end side of the vehicle, turned from exhilaration to exhaustion after consuming too much dusts. Ended up, Gangster Aunty actually thought that we were going to “Zoo”, in facts the original spot was just ten minutes away from Chang Puak Camp. We make an U-turn and hit the roads again, and finally, arrived at Municipal Park after more than one hour of Tuk Tuk ride.
It was weekend where myriad of people flooded into Minicipal Park, mostly school trip students and tourists. We didn’t manage to take the shutter bus up the hill because the gate keeper said that there were ‘almost ten thousands people’ on top now. We walked in the park leisurely, eating fruits. Shortly, we reunited with Gangster Aunty for next stop.
Finally, we arrived at Khlong Hae, one among the most exotic floating markets I had ever visited. There is a bridge, and then there is a river. Neatly, variety of boat parked by with mostly local foods and beverages to be sold. We had lots of good times walking around, picking up the best foods. We even met a common friend from Malaysia out of the blue. We chilled at a spot under the bridge for almost few hours, watching the stream and human relying on each other to make ends’ meet, as though time will never slip away and nothing will ever be changed (except our growing tummy). We bought plenty of souvenirs at the land market and bidding adieu to Zarin new friend, Pop before we left the mesmerizing place.
Back to the city, Gangster Aunty dropped us at Greenway Night Market. After a long day, we are so going to miss Gangster Aunty’s super impatient driving skill and never-ending adjustment of her hair throughout the ride. We turned around at Greenway, split and met up very soon, concluding that ASEAN Night Market is way better.
Within walking distance, we reached at ASEAN Night Market and had our dinner at second floor again. Last minute shopping with Jie before wrapping out another great day at Hatyai.
From the hotel, it was raining outside. We walked to Lee Garden Plaza area. That night was all about talking, waiting and reminiscing.
Next morning, everyone was busy packing up. First agenda was to gather up at lobby having five-star breakfast; Maggi Cup at a strange city. We visited Kim Yong market again for a morning stroll and walked all the way to Hatyai Railway station, plenty of interesting stuffs along the way. Zarin, Adam and Farid hit the street again for last round, while Yus, Jie and myself stayed at Railway station. We boarded our train to Padang Besar around 2pm, almost not in time for ETS due to driver having good times sipping coffee.
Immigration at the train station was smooth, officers were helpful enough to prioritize the passengers in rush. With loaded heart, we hopped onto the train to KL and viewed the yellow paddy field flying back. We watched like few Jackie Chan movies, playing UNO, eating packed meal and reached at KL Sentral around 10pm, to culminate a great trip altogether.
To me, Hatyai is a quaint city with unique cultures. Never expect the locals are able to speak fluent Malay and Hokkien, friendly enough even though there might be languages barrier. We can’t find dustbin at most of the time, sometime you will see rodents scrambling around. At the city center, you can get everything within the reach. There are many markets around Hatyai, tourist can easily get around with Tuk Tuk and buy really affordable items all around. Building was beautiful. Most importantly, everybody from Malaysia get one hour extra when entering the border 😉
Nevertheless, it was the people who traveled along make this a great trip. Ain’t gonna say mushy stuff, but I am really glad to went on vacation with the Geng.
Strangest place with most familiar encounter. Until we meet again, our Hatayi.