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 scenery like this? 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 Thai baht (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.
Over the course of two days in Hatyai I pretty much just explored from streets to streets, and visited a few temples.
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:
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.
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:
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!