The Queer, The Exotic & The Melancholy

I wrote this when I was in Phuket about 3 weeks ago when I was on holiday. We were at Patong, the most popular tourist beach area in Phuket. It’s akin to Batu Feringghi but with lots more flavour.

We’d stayed at the southern and quieter stretch of Patong but from our hotel, it was only a 10-minute walk to the infamous Bang La Road. During the day, this stretch of road is harmless but after 9pm, the road becomes a throbbing night life full of people and gawkers. I wrote this piece as a means to figure out the conundrum that is Phuket, Thailand.

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Hatyai With Dancing Ladies, Almost Final

After such a wonderful foot massage the night before, I woke up with more energy than the day before! While today would be the day we would leave Hatyai, we had planned for more shopping.

Everyone knows this Hatyai market!
Everyone knows this Hatyai market!

But first, we needed to fill our tummies. The hotel provided free breakfast but the breakfast spread at Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel was nothing to blog about. It was just food to keep one’s tummy from growling. The spread wasn’t extensive and it was hard getting a spoon or even a fork! The guests of the hotel swamped the breakfast area so it was like a free-for-all.

Beautiful Thai crockery
Beautiful Thai crockery

We’d planned to go to the Sunday market to buy edibles. Hatyai is famous for many edibles – fish maw, cashew nuts, dried scallops, dried oysters, Koh Kae brand of flavoured peanuts, seaweed snacks and more. Even the not-so-edible stuff is famous such as Zebra brand stainless steel pots, steamers and such. And then there are the leather and non-leather bags, purses, pouches in addition to clothes and shoes.

Fruits too are aplenty but my Thai aunt told me to be wary of such fruits. Thais, whether knowingly or not, use additives and preservatives to ensure their fruits last longer and look better. At one time, no one bought longans from Thailand because the longan farmers oversprayed their fruit with chemicals! I don’t know if it is ignorance but it is better to be safe.

One of those common sweet snacks you can find is the dodol or durian sweets. They’re chewy and sweet. Great as gifts but really, how many can you eat in one sitting? I’d rather have the real thing!

Pandan flavour and natural flavour durian dodol
Pandan flavour and natural flavour durian dodol

Anyway, Cecilia had popped into a crockery shop to check the price of a steamer she wanted to buy. Saw this cute little pug! I wonder if he is for sale!

Saw this cute pug in a shop selling stainless steelware
Saw this cute pug in a shop selling stainless steelware

The market is the must-go place in Hatyai. It’s typically like our markets in Malaysia except that this one has both food, clothes, bags and shoes. It’s the kind of place you want to go and poke about just because it is so damn interesting. Thai markets are treasure troves. Like I said, most stuff are cheap and kitschy and full of bling. Quality-wise you’d be better off buying elsewhere BUT if you are eyeing food, they do have good things on offer. Why is it that Thais produce better foodstuffs than us? Food like glutionous rice, agar agar powder, even fresh mee and kueh tiaw! I mean you don’t have to look far to know that Thai rice is absolutely fragrant and delicious, even on its own.

This is dried fish maw
This is dried fish maw

Dried seafood is apparently THE thing to buy in this market and its surrounding shops (which do such brisk business that even if you run out of Thai currency, they’d happily take your Malaysian Ringgit). One particular shop directly opposite the market looks like a jewellery store, all painted in yellow with bright yellow lights. But it sells dried seafood like fish maw, scallops and oysters. And it is BUSY!

Everything seems bigger here - look at these dried mushrooms!
Everything seems bigger here - look at these dried mushrooms!

So yes, Hatyai is a tempting little town with lots to buy. For Penangites, it’s a weekend escape for the whole family. Food is perceived to be cheaper and far more delicious, especially Thai tom yam and those “muu” or pork dishes. Hatyai doesn’t make a dent in your pocket and it’s not so far away that you cannot feel at home. Plus the enterprising Thais speak Mandarin and Hokkien fluently these days, apart from Teochew so you won’t even have to learn Thai.

What more can you ask for, in a weekend getaway for shopping-mad Malaysians?

All the edibles you can buy in this Hatyai market
All the edibles you can buy in this Hatyai market