If you read Part 1, Part 2 is where it gets interesting.
We were spending a two-day, one-night weekend in the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel in the heart of Hatyai town.
It was a clever idea to get this hotel as it was smack dab in the midst of all the activity of the town and surrounded on all sides by malls, shops, restaurants, Western cafes and roadside stalls.
With such a great location, it’s just minutes away from all the shopping and eating we could all indulge in. (Later I found out that these ladies wrangled this hotel at the last minute due to knowing one of the directors of this hotel, who was an ex-student of Han Chiang High School. Normally this hotel is fully booked and packed to the gills with Malaysians.)
In fact, it’s built right on top of a shopping mall. I had a good view of the town from the hotel lobby.
I decided to take a quick nap after we checked in although the ladies decided to succumb to the shopping bug downstairs. I think a bit of shut-eye would make me more alert as I knew we would be staying up late (at least I knew I’d be!).
Around 4.30pm, we were again in our tour bus, shuttled to the Hatyai Floating Market.
Now I know and you know that this is really a tourist gimmick. Trust the enterprising Thais to create a way to give tourists something to do and something to eat and something to see. After all, if you really think about it, Hatyai isn’t exactly Disneyland. Spend more than 2 days here and you’d be bored to tears. It’s great for a weekend but anything more is overkill.
It was a bit of a let down because the market vendors had lined up sampans along the embankment of a river and seated all the food business folks into these sampans. It wasn’t as if these sampans were cruising the river and you could stop one to get your food.
Ah well. Maybe it was just jaded old me.
In typical Thai style, the food was enticing and presented well. Even drinks were sold in cute clay Doraemon mugs you could take home! But like Cecilia noted, who knows if the unglazed clay mugs were washed? They could be dusty and dirty. True.
We decided to just browse around. The rest of the market showed just how creative and enterprising the Thai people really are.
One stall had items such as handbags and cowboy hats made from aluminium or beer cans.
This lady was deftly putting together a cowboy hat made with flattened pieces of aluminium beer cans.
I also chanced upon fresh tamarind fruits. Tamarind is high in Vitamin C and the fruit is encased in a brown shell which breaks easily. Unlike the tamarind used for cooking, fresh tamarind is sweet and sticky, much like a fresh date.
It was a warm afternoon with the last rays of the sun beating down on us. I decided to quickly walk across a bridge where I soon came upon a stall selling fried bugs and fried worms.
Now I’ve seen enough of this on TV and was eager to bite into one. I had to know what the texture of a fried bug would be.
A number of people gawked at the bugs on the trays, stopping to snap photos but none were buying.
I decided to buy a packet (it was only 20 Baht or RM2). I asked the seller if I could mix 2 types of bugs into my one order. He was too happy to do so. I chose fried worms (looked a bit like the worms you get in pet shops to feed birds) and fried grasshoppers. I figured at least the grasshoppers ate proper green stuff unlike cockroaches, which was also for sale but the cockroach was huge and I didn’t know if I could bite it in half!
To make the bugs more palatable, the seller sprinkled some seasoning with a squirt of soy sauce.
Everyone looked at me, even strangers who were milling about and snapping photos of the bugs. I just speared one with a toothpick and popped one into my mouth. The fried worm tasted like dried prawn or “hae bee” albeit with a softer texture. It wasn’t bad at all.
Next I tried the fried grasshopper, about an inch long. This offered a crunch and it was also rather tasty. No icky taste at all. This could be the start of my love affair with bugs!
As I was happily munching on my bug snacks, Noel and BL were watching me. It looks horrible if you’re not eating it – your imagination powers up your innate fears about worms and creepy crawlies. It’s like Fear Factor – voyeurs tend to be more emotional than the people who eat those taboo things.
I offered Noel and BL some and they sportingly took some, though Noel wanted to have some water ready before he swallowed his fried worm. I told him that it was not fair to swallow it – he had to chew it and taste it.
It was a novelty all right but it was something exciting and fun and it capped the day for me. It was far more exciting than any pseudo floating market.
More to come… shopping on my own in Hatyai’s night market and a late night surprise!