Category Archives: Thailand

I had to put up with a 13-hour bumpy train ride on KTM’s Senandung Langkawi from Malaysia to Thailand. It was almost impossible to sleep.


My Solo Hatyai Escapade

Barely even two weeks after coming back from Vietnam, I was at it again: flashpack travelling. This time without Catea.

As I’ve said a few times, Cat makes the GREATEST travel companion ever. We can always relate to certain things that don’t go quite the same with many other friends.

I took an overnight train at KL Sentral which departed at 9.20pm and was expected to arrive the next day at the Hatyai station at around 12 noon (Thai time).

Since this wasn’t the first time I had travelled to Hatyai using a train, I didn’t get too excited while in the train. I pretty much just slept my way through the journey and occasionally read a book.

Only managed to book the upper berth of the train as lower berths were all unavailable when I did my booking about a month before the departure.

Why was everyone so kiasu one?

The space of the upper berth was terribly small  for a tall guy like me and I couldn’t even sit up straight! Had to pretend to look comfortable for the camera:

Woke up the next morning at 7 or so to the noise of people chit-chatting. I didn’t get why everyone woke up so early!

Read a book and snapped a few pictures from the window at the upper berth. Problem with the window is that it was too small and way too low.

The pictures above were taken as the train passed through some paddy fields in Kedah. How beautiful to wake up to sceneries like these! How many times in a year do we get that, right?

After being confined in the small berth for about 12 hours its felt so great to find a myself a normal seat in the economy coach.

To be honest I didn’t really plan ahead on where to visit in Hatyai this time around as I just wanted it to be as relaxing and as spontaneous as possible.

But of course – since I failed to visit Wat Hat Yai Nai a year ago, naturally I just thought to give it a visit since I read that the wat houses the third largest reclining Buddha status in the world (also the largest in southern Thailand).

After dropping off my backpack at a guesthouse and having lunch, I managed to find myself a tuk-tuk motorcycle that offered to drive me to and fro Wat Hat Yai Nai, about ten minutes front Lee Gardens Plaza.

Tuk-tuk motorcycle cost me very reasonable 100 bath (RM10), which included waiting time.

Me with the phenomenal-looking reclining Buddha status at Wat Hat Yai Nai:

Felt a sense of serenity and bliss as I went round this beautiful Buddha statue admiring it. I was raised in a Buddhist family but have not been into the religion until a year ago.

And now as I understand my own religion better I could also relate to and appreciate it better.

I just feel that in an increasingly materialistic world, a good life is often defined by how much money one can make, whether one earns more than his friends, and how luxuriously one lives his life.

But that’s just superficial for me.

If we cannot live the seemingly “ideal” kind of life everyone chases after today without having to worry about losing the money or power we have, or being harmed in any way (e.g., in a robbery, etc) due to our wealth and power, then I’m sorry. That isn’t a great life to me.

I’m not saying money isn’t important. Of course it is, but clinging on to money and talking about money 24-7 just proves both obsessiveness and possessiveness.

We work hard for what we want but there is no need for stubbornness as far as the chase for money is concerned.

I believe the reality is fair and god will never fail those who work hard and truthfully.

Anyway it was a great feeling to be able to get some blessing from a monk at the wat but I didn’t like it when two ladies at the temple asked for RM100 to be donated in the name of the temple.

I ended up donating RM50 RELUCTANTLY and that excluded the cost of joss sticks.

It is my nature to donate every time I visit a temple, but to be approached for a fixed amount of donation is just ridiculous and a total annoyance!

Religion is supposed to be sacred but certain quarters just have to go overboard to commercialise it.

Anyway…

Over the course of two days in Hatyai I pretty much just explored from streets to streets, and visited a few temples.

Hatyai-Had-Yai-Backpacking

For the most part of my trip this time, I tried to avoid using transportation whenever possible because I’m a firm believer that you experience more when you rely less on transportation.

And that explains why I get very tanned every time I come back from travelling.

This time I found myself revisiting the Diana Complex Shopping Center after one year. It isn’t exactly the most happening shopping complex in Hatyai but I just missed it so much!

FYI I had my teeth realigned last year by a non-professional who operated his stall behind Diana Complex. I went back to realise it wasn’t there anymore!

This time around I opted to go to Diana Complex by foot. Despite being told it was far when asking for direction, it wasn’t actually that bad. And if I were to do it again now I would most likely still remember the route!

The McDonald’s behind Diana complex:

Don’t know why I took the picture but I was probably feeling the mood. :-P

After killing some time at Diana Complex I saw it was time to go to the Asean Trade market, situated about 20 minutes’ walking distance apart.

I knew about this market as Cat and I had gone there before and for two consecutive nights. Without asking much for direction this time I managed to find the location. Gosh my memory isn’t bad at all!

Bought a couple of shirts and short pants there since I brought only a few clothes to keep the backpack light. Then on the second day I actually ran out of clothes to wear hahaha!

Oklah that’s an excuse for shopping I know but who doesn’t like shopping, right?

Although slightly more expensive than in Vietnam, the clothes at the Asean market came with a lot of interesting designs. I got a pair of ragged-looking Converse shoes for only RM20.

Came evening, I had dinner at this stall at the Asean Trade market that served tomyam noodles:

Hatyai-Had-Yai-Backpacking

A bowl of great soup noodles only cost RM3.50, and the soup did not taste like they had poured in half a packet of MSG. It was very well-prepared and tasted authentic!

I opted out of the Tomyam variation due to heatiness in the body. Damn…

Having visited a few Indochina countries now, I find Thai people in general the friendliest and most sincere. It’s no wonder Thailand is dubbed the land of smiles!

Here are some great encounters that had me left Hatyai with really good memories.

During my two nights’ stay at the Hok Chin Hin Hotel (a clean, budget guest-house), I managed to chat with its wonderful  boss in her fifties, who, together with her family, are Thai-Chinese descendants.

She runs the guest house with her husband and they have two beautiful daughters who are about the same age as me. Occasionally I would see them helping away at the counter when their parents were busy.

One evening the good-luck string on my right hand (one I got from Wat Hat Yai Nai) came off during a bath. Unable to tie it back with just one hand, I sought the mother’s help to tie it back for me.

Immediately she took out a candle from the drawer, lit it up, and very skilfully tied a knot on the string and sealed it with the candle flame.

As she did so, she uttered something very motherly. I can’t remember what she had said, but for a moment I just felt a sense of closeness and familiarity, something that you don’t quite expect from someone you hardly know in a foreign land.

The string now remains tight and has not come off since.

And then one morning after having breakfast at a restaurant I felt like having a haircut.

I was trying to look for a salon that could provide a decent haircut at a reasonable price, but I knew looking for one one my own would be a risk since I was at a touristy spot.

Hatyai-Had-Yai-Backpacking

So after my breakfast, I approached this guy called Pom (orange shirt in picture above) – the son of the restaurant owners – to recommend me a good hair salon.  It was very kind of him to write me the name of a salon that he frequented.

Upon asking for direction, Pom said it was rather difficult to describe even though the salon was just nearby. He reckoned I wouldn’t be familiar with some of the streets.

As I wanted to explore and was reluctant to take a tuk-tuk, I asked for the name of the street where the salon was located and thought I could just ask around.

The next thing I knew, Pom went to the back of his shop, reached out for his helmet without much hesitation, and asked for the mom’s help to take over the cooking before offering to send me to the salon.

As I come from a family who runs a grocery store business, I understand the hassle of having to pause in the middle of a task to make way for something else. I told Pom that I didn’t want to trouble him and that I could go on my own. But he and his mom assured me it was fine.

So that was basically how I got to befriend this awesome then 22-year-old University student from the land of smiles.

The family-run restaurant called ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือเฉินหลง 成龙面条 serves delicious pork and beef noodles at very reasonable prices. According to Pom the restaurant has been in business since the 70’s!

Like myself, Pom and his family are of Teochew ancestry. At one point I was taken aback when Pom’s mom spoke Teochew with me. It’s actually kind of weird to think that our ancestors actually originated from the same region in China.

This was me after having a satisfactory haircut at the salon Pom recommended:

My fair felt super light after trimming. I had wanted to have a haircut in Vietnam as my hair felt thick and long then but I ended up having only managed to do it when in Hatyai.

On my last evening in Hatyai there was this Hatyai Festival going on with a slew of activities taking place along the Uthit 3 road in front of Lee Gardens.

Speaking of Lee Gardens – ever since the bombing incident that happened several months back at its hotel, tight security seemed to be in place with security guards having to check or scan the bags of visitors entering the buildings.

Lee Gardens is now no longer as happening as before with most stalls having ceased business after the bombing. Part of the plaza damaged by the bombing was under repair and renovation.

The weekly Idea Market held inside the plaza every weekend was also nowhere to be seen. Hope the market will return soon!

At the Hatyai Festival, the organiser brought in two elephants for some kind of performance and I was able to take a photo with one of them.

Remember the charcoal-grilled eggs Cat and I found in Vietnam (see this post)? Yours truly was able to find them in Hatyai also!

Me at the Hok Chin Hin hotel room before checking out:

Hatyai-Had-Yai-Backpacking

Was all smiles in the picture but I didn’t feel like going back at all. But nevermind I’ll definitely see you again Hatyai!


A Hatyai Escape: Getting My Teeth Realigned by Unlicensed Street “Dentist”

Yes, you read the title right.

So on my recent trip to Hatyai, Thailand with Crazy Catea, I got my teeth realigned by a street “dentist”. Or at least attempted to. As horrible and crazy as it may sound, I did it nevertheless! Anyway, more about it later since I want to talk about other highlights of our Hatyai escape first.

I wanted to dedicate a long post to the Asean Trade Market but only to realise I had forgotten to take pictures!! Tamade.

Anyway, I bought some cheap clothes from there and spent at least half the time bargaining with the hawkers. To my utmost horror Catea said I reminded her of her mom! WTH where got??

Conveniently located near the Hatyai bus station (it takes about 15 to 20 minutes on a tuk-tuk from the Lee’s Garden area to arrive), the Asean Trade Market is such a great place to shop for clothes and also second-hand stuff but I only got to know about the latter after coming back from Hatyai and reading about it online.

No wonder the sling bag I bought from there looks like someone had used it before. Nevertheless, it still looks great and cost me only RM12, so no regret very much.

On the second day in Hatyai, I woke up early (like I always do) to snap pictures of the things in our guesthouse out of boredom while waiting for my travel mate to wake up.

Look at this very old-school fan regulator and power point in our room:

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

The room looked dirty but wasn’t. It was just old but very comfortable.

It had an air-conditioner installed but we reckoned we could survive without it, and that pretty much summed up why we only paid RM30 instead of RM50 per night for our room.

It proved to be a great decision because the room was really comfortable and neither hot nor stuffy.

I left Catea a note because I was beginning to get bored and wanted to take a stroll down the streets outside our guesthouse. I was thinking maybe after I came back Catea would have been ready for the beginning of our second day…

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

So an hour later after returning to the guesthouse, the note was still there on the exact spot on the table, unread.

Cat was still sleeping!

-_-

Later that morning we passed and saw this CIMB ATM which gave me a funny feeling. What is our bank doing there haha!

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

It was Sunday and unfortunately most shops were closed, but when we passed by a soi (side-street) we saw dozens of people queuing up in front of this restaurant:

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Look at the crowds:

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Turned out this shop was selling salted vegetable soup with pork insides. We joined the crowds nevertheless.

Catea ordered only for herself because I already had my breakfast earlier while Catea was still sleeping. The dish looked like it could feed two persons – just look at the crazy amount of pork and pig offal served!

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Catea couldn’t finish the dish and didn’t like pig offal so I had to finish the dish for her. It made me slightly want to throw up afterwards as I am not a fan of pork.

The bill came up to RM16 including drink. It was one of the amazing dishes I had tried in Hatyai but slightly expensive.

After breakfast we visited the Hatyai City Municipality Park, where one can see from afar a statue of a standing Buddha of approximately 20 meters and another statue of Guan-yin made of jade.

I won’t delve too much into the Hatyai City Municipality Park. If you’re interested, you can read more on the Municipality Park here. All I can say is that I think the park is worth a visit.

Some pictures of us on our way to the hilltop of the Hatyai City Municipality Park:

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

After spending about four hours at the Hatyai City Municipality Park (it was crazy hot!), our tuk-tuk driver dropped us at the Diana Complex Shopping Center because he said there was a market nearby.

But at the shopping center we asked and asked and no one seemed to know anything about the market. :(

Saw this banner in Diana and I suggested to Catea to don this kind of hair. “During my wedding,” she said. I told her it must be in the exact letters: C-A-T-E-A.

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Bought a chocolate-dipped coned ice cream at Dairy Queen inside Diana because I thought its shape interestingly resembled that of a pile of shit.

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Eh it really did leh!

Just when we were about to leave, we accidentally stumbled upon a lousy-looking booth behind Diana and guess what they did?

ORTHODONTIC SERVICES! And at costs below those in a proper dental clinic because the people involved were most likely unlicensed or uncertified “orthodontists”.

So there was this guy and another person whom I suspected to be his wife who did dental braces and retainers at really cheap rates. They also made fashion braces for people who would wear them as an accessory. Just look at these colourful plastic pieces below:

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

I’m not sure how they did with these plastics, but I think one gets to choose the colours she want to be added onto the brackets on the braces and these “orthodontists” will get the braces done by using their unprofessional-looking but seemingly handy equipments!

We spent almost an hour just trying to get him to explain to us how it worked because I felt like doing it and was quite fearful something might happen to my teeth afterwards.

No one from the store could understand English and although Catea knew some Thai, still more profound sentences could be a challenge for her.

Good thing was that the guy was super helpful and uncalculative, so he called his friend up to be our translator.

I swear if he was a Malaysian he would have asked us to go home lor.

The translation process took us forever and I almost felt like giving up.

In the end we concluded that having braces put on might be a little troublesome for me as they would stay semi-permanently on my teeth. That also meant I would need to go back every now and then for the braces to be realigned.

And the best solution? To make a pair of retainers for my upper and lower teeth!

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

If you want to know how much they cost me, it was only RM100, which means RM50 for each one. I think the price was totally reasonable. Even if it may not work in the end, it was, after all, only RM100 and what mattered most to me was the experience and thrill.

Before working on the braces the guy got a mold of my teeth structure like what all other orthodontists would do. What really impressed me was that they probably had the lousiest equipments to run their service but somehow they were still able to pull things off like a pro.

Here is how my lower teeth mold looks:

Getting Teeth Realigned by Non-professionals in Hatyai

Yes I know my teeth are bad!

Unfortunately after that, he told us to come back after 4 hours, and thus I didn’t get to see him work on those retainers.

I managed to capture one photo (although we were told not to) of the guy working on one of my retainers and from here you may get an idea of the kinds of equipments they were using.

Hatyai Thailand Teeth Realigned

Four hours later…

.

.

.

Putting the braces on!

Hatyai Thailand Teeth Realigned

I know some of you may think they are useless, and I am thinking the same too. But like I said it was the experience that mattered to me and it was definitely an eye-opener for me!

Click on respective links to read the Part I and Part II of Cat and my Hatyai escape.