During the recent Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays, several of my family members organized a trip to Hat Yai for the whole family (err… actually, it was me who asked Mom to plan for the trip). As we had planned to leave for Hat Yai from Sitiawan on the 2nd day of CNY, Sze and I left KL for Sitiawan after lunch on the 1st day of CNY itself. Although it is a tradition for the Chinese to visit the wife’s family on only the 2nd day of the new year, people are more flexible and practical in this 21st century.
After dinner and a night’s stay in Sitiawan, we left for Hai Yai at 6.30am. There were 10 of us and we went in 3 cars. Upon reaching the border checkpoint, the Thai immigration counters were already pretty crowded. There were long queues but fortunately, some of the lines were moving along quite fast.
We finally arrived in Hat Yai at about 12 noon local time. It was Sze’s first time here and his first impression of the city was that Hat Yai, being less developed yet feeling somewhat familiar, resembled KL 2 decades back.
Hat Yai city.
We checked-in to the Siam Center Hotel and had lunch in a coffee shop at the corner of the same hotel block.
The Siam Center Hotel.
The coffeeshop around the corner.
After a quick meal, Dad and (my sis) Fiona’s boyfriend went for a golf appointment with a few Thai friends while the rest of us headed to our 1st shopping destination – the Old Market.
On the way to the Old Market in a tuk-tuk.
It was very hot and stuffy in there but then again, shopping is a girl’s favorite pastime! So, all the 5 ladies in the group were buying things like nobody’s business while the 3 guys just tagged along for sight seeing. I bought 2 pairs of shoes soon after we arrived and helped Fiona with her shoe shopping after that.
Shoe shopping inside the Old Market.
That night, we had dinner with Fiona’s new Thai business partner. After that, we went for a walk, wondering where to shop again. On our way to the shopping malls, we saw some lion and dragon dances on the street. Sze had never seen lion dances on poles before and we were both very impressed as the performers jumped very high and very far too. During our short time there, the lion fell off the poles at least 3-4 times while attempting those very difficult jumps and it would then restart its jump sequence all over again!
Lion dance video.
Following the lion dance, the same troupe performed a dragon dance. That was also quite interesting, with the dragon climbing up a very tall pole, a little boy on another equally high “rocking” pole that falls to the ground and fireworks from the dragon’s mouth.
Dragon dance video.
After the performances, we walked along a night market on a very busy street where Naomi and I got ourselves a couple of wire keychains. Mine had the letter “Z” attached to a wire butterfly while Naomi’s 2 keychains had her boyfriend’s and her name written on them. We went back to our hotel after that.
Keychain with the letter "Z".
The keychain lady.
The next morning, we had a buffet breakfast at the hotel. The buffet spread was quite limited in choice but we still ate heartily. Right after our meal, we went to the Odean shopping mall. We bought quite a number of sundry goods as they were a lot cheaper there compared to Malaysia (tip for the ladies: Whisper sanitary pads were much cheaper in Hat Yai than in KL).
After leaving all our shopping bags back in our hotel rooms, we went for lunch. Both my sisters and Mom were skipping lunch and had already gone to the Central department store for more shopping. The rest of us proceeded to a nearby restaurant just opposite Central.
The South Thai Bird's Nest restaurant.
The entrance to Central department store.
After our meal, we joined the 3 ladies at Central and I managed to grab myself a good pair of Levi’s jeans. Later on, Sze and I continued to walk around the city on our own. That’s when we came across Boots! So far, I’ve only seen Boots stores in Thailand, apart from England.
That evening, we had dinner at a local Thai restaurant. This place had previously been patronized by the royal princess but it still remained as humble as ever. However, they serve very authentic Thai food where some of the dishes were quite spicy while some others were sweet… There was only 1 word to describe the food – DELICIOUS!
The humble restaurant serving authentic Thai food.
After dinner, we took a walk downtown and saw the lion and dragon dances again. They continued to impress us and I decided to give them an ang pow this time as they were very deserving performers. We went back to the hotel after that.
At 6am the following morning, we checked out and went for a very early breakfast. However, the hotel’s breakfast trays were not ready yet. After waiting for about 15 minutes with no air-conditioning in the building (since the middle of last night), we had a quick breakfast and left for Malaysia immediately after that to beat the expected “back to KL” traffic rush.
Bon voyage sign at the Thai immigration checkpoint.
We had enjoyed visiting Hat Yai and look forward to having more trips in the next few months. More pictures from our Hat Yai trip can be viewed in the Photo Gallery.