DISCOVERING HAT YAI, THAILAND : CROSSING BORDERS, FLOATING MARKET & MORE

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.

Crepes, anyone?

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!

I therefore conclude, not everything floats at Klonghae Floating Market, haha!

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.

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30 thoughts on “DISCOVERING HAT YAI, THAILAND : CROSSING BORDERS, FLOATING MARKET & MORE

  1. sensory overload naman. i really like all your photos. kakainggit naman ang daming photo ops at mukhang mura lang ano?

    now sa food tayo medjo magkaiba. i love seaweed salad, pero baka ibang seaweed salad ang pinaguusapan natin dito. anyway, i’d go for the bugs right away. i can be quite advnturous with food nowadays.

    we have checked gjuided tours from us inclusive of airfare to thailand, very expensive. for the price makakapagbalikan ka na sa ibang european coutnries.

    1. with your extensive list of countries you’ve explored by foot, via cruise and whatnot, thailand should be included next, haha! but for an ordinary guy like me who haven’t been to any part of europe, i’ll choose to go there than any asian city (except tokyo perhaps, hehe).

      thanks for the nice words on the photos; i’ll take that as a compliment. 🙂

  2. the pictures at the floating market are very vibrant!
    you’re right Doc Gelo, Had Yai really looked very familiar the first time I visited it. Parang Binondo and Divisoria sa atin.
    it was also just recently when I dared try durian. a local friend here in Penang owns an orchard and we were invited to try out their durian, mangosteen, rambutan, among others. Took me the third try to appreciate durian a little. madami pala kasing klase ang durian. the first time I tried was the bitter type, one bite lang ayoko na. was offered again to try one, this time it’s the bitter sweet type. medyo matamis na nga sya pero nalalasahan ko pa din ang pait so di ko pa din masyado type. the third time, I was offered the sweet type. it was sweet, creamy, with a custard-like flavor. I finally appreciated it!
    IHave you tried na po ba another local fruit in Penang, the cempedak? If you like sweet things po, you might like it. It’s best served when its chilled.

    1. thank you, reena for frequenting my blog; really appreciate it.
      baka one of these weekends we might bump into each other, daya ikaw kilala mo kami, kami we don’t know you yet, haha! 🙂

      i and my wife have still to gather guts (which may not happen until durian season ends, haha!) to eat or even try to taste durian. ako sana gusto kong dalin sila ni gabby sa balik pulau to buy durian where it’s best, pero ayaw pa nya kumain ng durian.. di pa ready! haha…

      glad to know you’ve been to hat yai too. lapit lang sa penang, ano?
      you may like my kota bharu, kelantan series too (see my right side bar here), thanks!

      see you when i see you in penang! thanks, ms. reena! 🙂

  3. wow. wow. wow.

    somehow parang Pinas din. in one of the boats, i even spotted turon (kung turon nga yon. smoky tasted food are okay for me.

    this is just grand.

  4. grabe doc natuwa ako sa photos mo as if andyan din ako. at sobrang ginutom ako pero may food ako dyan na hindi ko i-try. i like what you’ve said na “not everything floats…”

    1. hahaha! i was too foolish to think that everything is sold from boats if it’s floating market.
      may karinderia at tyangge din naman pala, hahaha… 🙂

  5. parang pinas lang…doc gelo, your photos have improved exponentially since you first bought ‘amanda’… tama ba yung name or was it the violin?

    anyways, my mother hoards those thai sampaloc whenever she goes to thailand. she eats them as if parang mani, nakaka addict daw kainin. I have tried the silk worm – that fat looking worm when I was in thailand. parang cornik lang…. 🙂

    being the adventurous eater that I am, i ask for tiny samples from vendors to taste their offering. mostly naman they will oblige me a couple of bites before i decide what to buy. but im a bit cautious when it comes to cold beverages. kc you don’t know kung clean yung water na ginamit so i stay clear with that…

    my apologies doc gelo, i haven’t been commenting much of your blog. my work load has been neck deep 2 months in the running na… i even have time to blog na nga e… anyways its nice that you are enjoying your time with your parents along with ms tina and gabby. iba talaga ang mga adventures pag kasama ang pamilya. 🙂

    1. hi ingrid! i felt that you’re indeed busy.
      anyway, alfonso is my dlsr and amanda is my violin, which i know, have suffered neglect.
      like you, i have too many things to do and learning violin for now has to take a back seat 😦
      i mark myself as FDA in violin (failure due to absences) hahaha! i have been not attending since 3 weeks ago and would probably find time to continue it in the future. 😦

      nakakatuwa ka naman, nagso-sorry ka pa for not commenting much on my blog. no obligations anyway, right, but i am honestly grateful for people like you who find time sharing the same passion in blogging and in so many other things. my family and i should really share coffee table with you when we get back home, haha!

      wow, you have tried silk worm? napalunok ako ng laway when i was reading your comment. brave girl! 🙂
      parang cornik lang ‘ka mo? haha! chichacorn ba ito adobo o garlic flavor? 🙂

      thank you for complimenting my photography (if i can call it that way). pero tamad pa din ako mag aral ng seryoso, and for the record, i have an aversion to learn photoshop, because i believe (as of the moment) that photos aren’t real if they’re doctored already. yun lang po. :p

  6. first….I envy you! hahaha I love Thai food I should go and visit Thailand too! I don’t think we have similar floating market in the Philippines kasi ang dumi ng ilog natin e hehehe maybe in one of our provinces dapat magkaroon ng ganyan sa atin, mas malinis tubig dun compared sa Manila…..I don’t think I can eat those exotic food na worms eeewww LOL…..I love all your photos grabe nainggit talaga ako sa’yo…lanzones is my favorite! natakam tuloy ako kakainis ka….and the sampaloc we can buy sampaloc here which is actually product of Thailand, matamis nga talaga, gusto ko rin yun…hay nabusog ako sa post mo na to doc diet pa naman ako ngayon hahaha

    1. sards, musta na ang yakiniku sa washington ba ito? nasaan ka ba when you tweeted it on twitter? haha!

      unlike you, i am not partial to thai food, ang spicy kasi ng karamihan (i’ll elaborate on my next post).
      gusto ko lang food nila pag sweet (and a littly spicy -nyek, spicy din pala! –ang gulo ano?!)

      swerte nyo may nabibili dyan ng thai sampaloc, ang tamis! ang sarap! sana di sya mahal dyan, i’m sure, imported na e.

      diet ka? wala pa sa glossary ko iyon e. haha! 😀

  7. Wala bang naliligaw na langaw d’yan? I’m curious because when I was in Bangkok, I did not observe any at the food stalls I visited, including the ones at the floating market. Maybe I was not paying much attention or the flies were on vacation somewhere else the time I was there.

  8. Often times it is really difficult to enjoy and take pictures at the same time. I often times opted not to take photos but by the end of the day I regret not taking them to remember the moment.

    Those fruits looks good. I havent had lansones or rambutan in the longest time. You should see my elation when I saw an atis at a chinatown in Toronto and that was 6 years ago. As for durian, its not my favorite in the world but I can tolerate it. Hubby tasted it the first time and said that it tasted like a funky rotten fruit. I dont think he ordered that Durian shake ever again.

    Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading them as well. Hope you could travel more often. 🙂

    1. and thank you to valued readers like you who spend time viewing my posts.
      really appreciate it! your comments never fail to make my day.
      thank you so much!

  9. docgelo, imagine mo na lang kung may floating market dito sa manila….baka may ibang kasamang naflofloat! he he!

    Yung tuktuk nyo ang laki, compared to those in Bangkok.

    I love their floating market….so alive! parang ang sarap tumambay! In Bangkok, we experienced actually riding a banca and going around the river, looking at store after store.

    ang ganda!

    1. it may not appear as touristy but it’s one of the famous spots that’s always recommended by tuktuk drivers to go to. the local scenes were so fascinating!

  10. hi, doc. wonderful fotos you got there, so very captivating in their vibrant colors. i’m going on a singapore-malaysia -thailand trip with my friends for all of 6 days, and since bangkok is just sooo far away and our time is awfully short, i think we’ll just have to settle for the nearest place to malaysia, hat yai. I know we won’t find too many interesting things or places there but i just hope that our short stay will at least be memorable in some ways. Anything else about hat yai that sounds promising or intriguing? How about ancient temples,are there any? thanks for the reply! and keep posting excellent fotos of ur travels. I bookmarked this post so i could always go back and look at all the pictures.

    1. if you’re going to hat yai, check out hat yai municipal park which we failed to do so due to lack of time 😦
      i missed out going to the smiling buddha there; find it so picturesque when i was googling spots for our itinerary.

      drop by penang, check out temples here : thai and burmese buddhist temples in burma road, snake temple and the biggest in southeast asia–kek lo si temple. we’ve been there a couple of times; you may want to view my old blog entries about these places of worship. penang’s so culturally rich! not to forget, a gastronomic paradise for some!

      incidentally, we’re catching a flight to singapore tomorrow (30th august)… till then! thanks for the visit here. you are so welcome to browse my previous entries and frequent here if you wish! 🙂

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