Saturday, January 23, 2016

[Travel/ Food Guide] Itinerary to Hatyai, Thailand (合艾,泰国).

Hatyai, one of the most southern cities of Thailand, is an hour drive from the Malaysia-Thailand border and it takes approximately 2 hours to drive to the Danok Checkpoint, northern Kedah from Penang. It makes a great short getaway for families especially for those living in northern Malaysia and that includes Penangites. However, there are a few things that one should take note before departure (stay tuned for our Peugeot car review coming up soon):
  1. No Visa is required for Malaysians but make sure you have a valid passport (for at least 30 days).
  2. Danok Checkpoint opens from 6 am to 12 am, daily.
  3. Go as early as possible especially on peak hours (public holidays, we queued under the hot sun for 2 hours just to clear the immigration). Sandwich RM 2 in between the passport as "admin fees" to the officer (at Thailand).
  4. If you are driving, make sure you have the grant ready and to fill in a white form (available for collection at the checkpoint). Park your car first of course.
  5. Follow the queue of the general public to get your passport validated, proceed to the queue and get your grant as well as form endorsed. Note: you need to queue twice.
  6. Slowly drive through the checkpoint and allow the officer to see your endorsed white form. You should wind down all your windows and prepare all validated passports just in case they wish to check.
This travel guide is brought to you by CS Euro (Peugeot Northern Region Dealer) and PTS Travel & Tours; in collaboration with Kerson Media. 

About PTS Travel & Tours:

Established for more than 10 years with a head office at Bagan Ajam, Butterworth; PTS Travel & Tours specializes in providing tourism services to both locals and foreigners. Their main focus will be outbound tours to Singapore and Thailand but there are available services and tour packages for those who opt to stay within the country as well.

All itinerary can be customized, if you need some bench-marking; a 2D1N Hatyai Trip from Penang bound for Hatyai will require a minimum of 12 person (18-seater van with 12 seats only/ ample space available for luggage) at RM 400 nett/ person. The package comes with tour guide (including Thailand) and accommodation will be at a 3-star hotel. Subject to availability and season. A promise made by PTS Travel & Tours is that, their customers would not be brought to Souvenir places unnecessarily; unless expressed otherwise by the customers.

PTS Travel & Tours is one of the main sponsors for the Hatyai Trip, if you wish to plan out something similar like this with them, they can be contacted at:

Address: No. 6669, Jalan Bagan Ajam, 13000, Butterworth, Penang.
Business Hours: 9 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: 604- 323 2111

1) Greenway Night Market (金威市场)
Address: 1406/3 Kanjanavanich Road, 90110, Hatyai, Thailand.
Business Hours: Every Wednesday to Sunday from 5 pm to 10 pm. 

Grilled Squid and Octopus (116 Baht)

Pad Thai (35 Baht)

Steamed Duck Noodles (60 Baht)

Yong Tau Fu (40 Baht)

Som Tam (30 Baht)

A conglomeration of what we had that evening

There are plenty of things to explore at Greenway Night Market, not only food and beverage but street fashion, cafes, phone casings and even pets! The area is big enough that you would want to spare at least a couple hours to explore. If food is your sole interest area, there is a long stroll of food stalls selling different types of eye-catchy Thai street food, all priced at unbelievably wallet-friendly price tags. We particularly enjoyed their Mango Sticky Rice (50 Baht), probably the species of Mangoes are different here as compared to Thai; the Mango was sweet and most juicy with minimum amount of coarse fibers. The glutinous rice on the other hand, was expertly cooked with chewy texture... but not overly so; drenched over thick but salty Coconut Cream. Som Tam/ Mango Salad was amazing, not only it packed a flavorful punch but the crunchy element was so strong that one would need to chew for at least a few seconds before swallowing, maybe a tad too spicy for some though. 

Pad Thai was great but a little greasy to our liking. If you are not too fond of Fish Paste, give the Yong Tau Fu a skip and indulge in some other delicacies. Grilled Squid was the spotlight dish of the evening, everyone loves the delightful burnt aroma of Squid, with the appetizing and tangy hot and sour chili dip. Just be sure to arm yourself with an empty stomach and plenty of cash. 

Old School Barber Shop

Petite Thai Sweet Treats

Various types of Skewers

Condiments for Soup Dishes

A 3D Museum right next to Greenway Night Market

Hatyai's Chicken Rice

Shoes for sale

Pets for sale

Frames for sale

2) Central Festival
Address: 180-181, Niphatutit 3 Road, Hatyai Central, 90110, Hatyai, Thailand.
Business Hours: 11 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.

Free 2 Hours of Wifi for Tourists 

Central Festival is the largest shopping mall in Southern Thailand and has more than 250 international brands as well as 60 large and small cafes/ restaurants. The mall is easily accessible via any public transportation or Tuk-Tuk. If you in dire need to connect to Internet, head to the Information Counter at the concierge (Ground Floor/ Center Atrium). Show your passport and fill in a very simple card to enroll in their Tourist Privilege Program. You will be given a slip containing password which gives you 2-hour complimentary internet access.

Hokkaido Milk Soft Serve (55 Baht)

Matcha Green Tea Soft Cake (65 Baht)

Well if you happen to be in Hatyai without any purpose (leisure tour perhaps) and you want to beat the heat and head straight in the mall... good news for you. There are plenty of worth-trying Japanese food on the 5th and 6th floor of the mall. You can even get Japanese Ramen for as low as 80 Baht.

If you do not have ample tummy space left (which we can understand), head straight to this humble kiosk at Ground Floor of the mall. The catchy signage caught our attention- Hokkaido Milk. We never hesitated to try but how could one miss the original flavor? We were in great joy after having tasted a spoonful of the Hokkaido Milk Soft Serve. The milky-vanilla flavor was so bold that it lingers in the palate even a few swallows of the saliva. Sweetness was its acceptable range and for 55 Baht per serving, we were more than satisfied. It was so good that we would beg for another serving. Another variant of theirs- Matcha Soft Cake was mediocre, the vegetal flavor stands out but probably a little too artificial to our liking; more like an ordinary-conventional Matcha Cake. We had a bottle of their original Hokkaido Milk (50 Baht) either and it was fresh and most creamy. A note-worthy place to look out for. 

Dairy Queen Matcha Red Bean Soft Serve (35 Baht)

I-Max Cinema with E-Ticketing Service (you can even swipe your credit card there, just like refilling petrol)

3) Burapha Bird's Nest (东方燕窝)
Address: 20-22-24, Sanehanusorn Road, 90110, Hatyai, Thailand. (right next to Odean and opposite to Central Plaza)
Business Hours: 11 am to 12 am. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +66 074 232 415

Shark's Fin Soup (500 Baht)

Fish Maw/ Sea Asparagus/ Dried Shitake Mushrooms (1000 Baht)

Bird's Nest (100 Baht)

Many could not resist the temptations of enjoying a good bowl Shark's Fin or Bird's Nest; the latter one maybe more well-received though. We had the basic Bird's Nest, the taste did not disappoint (pure Rock Sugar Syrup?) but the texture was weird and suspicious, as though Gelatin has been mixed. The Ginkgo Seeds were well-cooked though, not slouchy and possessed the quintessential bite. For something more substantial, we had a Seafood Platter which consists of Sea Asparagus, Mushrooms and Fish Maw, drenched in a lightly-seasoned gravy. Not particularly overwhelming if you must know, the flavors did not calibrate, as though we were having individual dish. I shall not comment on the Shark's Fin.

4) Kim Yong Wet Market
Address: Supasarn Rungsan Road, 90110, Hatyai, Thailand (near to Golden Crown Plaza Hotel).
Business Hours: 6 am to Noon. Opens Daily.

Sweet Petite Pineapples

Fresh local produce

Plenty of local snacks and delicacies

If you need to grab some souvenirs as in Dried Cuttlefish, Cashew Nuts, Pistachio etc, Kim Yong Market is the choice second to none. You can find good bargains here as long as you are willing to explore, dwell in those small alleys and you will uncover more hidden gems with lower price tags. For bench-marking purposes, we bought 1 kg of Cashew Nuts for 350 Baht (not a good price but the quality is good) and 1 kg of Dried Cuttlefish (edible) at 750 Baht.

You may also find a lot of dried goods such as Fish Maw, Abalones, Salted Fish, Dried Mushrooms etc. One of the perfect places to stock up your Chinese New Year goods.

5) Wanida Seafood Restaurant
Address: Mueang Songkhla District, Hatyai, Thailand. 
Business Hours: 9 am to 9 pm. Opens Daily.

Local Oysters (50 Baht/ each)

Spicy Horseshoe Crab Salad (330 Baht)

Tom Yum Goong (380 Baht)

Keng Som/ Fish Curry (380 Baht)

Half an hour drive away from Hatyai city center would be Samila Beach at Songkhla district. At Samila Beach, you will be spoilt for choices when it comes to fresh Seafood, best of all... competitively priced. We had our lunch at Wanida Seafood Restaurant, a halal restaurant that sits at a corner of a stretch of Seafood restaurants.

Their local Oysters seem to be quite large in size and some of us were quite skeptical in trying. I had one, it was fresh, plumpy and most juicy but it comes with a hint of fish stench; the local way of eating Oysters would be to serve them with a squeeze of Lime Juice. Horseshoe Crabs can still be found in Penang, though not as common as it used to be; we had ours with unripe Mangoes- a Som Tam-inspired dish. We do not feast on the Horseshoe Crab's meat but its roe instead. Extra condiments such as Deep Fried Anchovies, toasted Cashew Nuts, julienned Onions were also added. The dish was appetizing but the Horseshoe Crab Roe's texture was most interesting- rubbery, saline with a mellow seafood sweetness. It was unique but extremely high in cholesterol and should not be finished entirely by one diner. Tom Yum Goong on the other hand, was a huge disappointment. The soup carried a jolting sourness sans the seafood sweetness and the quintessential spiciness.

Steamed Squid with Garlic and Chilies (450 Baht)

Cincalok Prawns with Petai (220 Baht)

Grilled Squid (450 Baht)

Assam Prawns (450 Baht)

Deep Fried Fish Mullet with Garlic (650 Baht/ kg)

There were many familiar dishes on the table and some were not delivered appropriately. We could not agree on the Assam Prawns. The local Penang-way of cooking the dish would be to stir fry the Prawns together with the Assam Paste in lieu of just spreading them atop of the Prawns. As a result of that, the flavors did not manage to blend in and everything was just on the surface only. Also, it was way too sour to our liking. The Squids were great but we did not like the fact that all of them consisted Roe, our bodies' cholesterol readings are too high for that. Other dishes were mediocre.

After your meal, drive to the famous tourist spot along Samila Beach to witness the popularity of the Mermaid Statue as well as take a casual walk along the sandy beach. There are many activities for family members to partake in- Kite flying, Pony riding, Sand castling etc.... it can be windy but the sunny weather was chasing us off. Nevertheless, it is a must to visit and to take a photograph together with the Mermaid Statue. 

Travel Tips: There is a myth that says by rubbing the boobs of the Mermaid Status will bring you good luck. Remember not to miss that part! 

6) Chok Dee Dim Sum (好运点心-肉骨茶)
Address: 58/25, Lamaisongkrew Road, 90110, Hatyai, Thailand.
Business Hours: 6 am to 12 pm; 5 pm to 10 pm. Opens Daily.

Bak Kut Teh (100 Baht/ serves one)

Siew Mai (18 Baht)

Prawn Dumplings (18 Baht)

Lor Mai Kai/ Chicken Glutinous Rice (18 Baht)

Broccoli with Fish Paste (18 Baht)

Who would have thought Dim Sum and Bak Kut Teh make a good combination? The locals at Hatyai, specifically at Chinatown, serves the aforementioned Chinese delicacies at one go. A 10-minute walk from city center (nearby Lee Garden Mall) will land you at Chok Dee. It is hard to miss the place as you will notice the regular patrons constantly flocking in the restaurant. We would not recommend walking there from city center so taking a Tuk Tuk would probably be a better choice.

Freshness is the main selling point- Dim Sum dishes are raw and will only be steamed after receiving orders. Having said that... the waiting time can be very long. Nothing was enticing but one particular dish left us with the deepest impression- Sweet Corn with sliced Pork. The Corns were unbelievably sweet and pulpy. Other dishes however, were disappointingly average; not even the simple ones (like Siew Mai) pass the test. While waiting for the Dim Sum to be served, try their Bak Kut Teh. The soup carried a hint of artificial sweetness, the Herbal aroma was bold though. Not particularly toothsome but very comforting.

7) Khlong Hae Floating Market
Address: Khlong Hae Khutao Road, 90110, Hatyai, Thailand. 
Business Hours: 3 pm to 9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only.

Coconut Drink (50 Baht)

Tab Tim Krob (20 Baht)

Khlong Hae Floating Market is one of the must visit markets in Hatya but the location is a little off city center so the Tuk Tuk ride would probably take 15 to 20 minutes. It is a good novelty experience but if you wish to shop for some goods... try not to put in high hopes. It is a very tourist-centric market, souvenirs and crafts are often sold at higher prices here. The market is not big but there are some stalls up the slope, at terra firma.

Most goods sold at the canal are repetitive but one particular item sees the most appearance. Almost every visitor would hold one in the hand- Clay Cup. Here's the catch: you may choose your preferred designs of clay mug and order your drinks, pay 20 Baht and both the drink and clay mug are yours (you can take the clay mug home). Though the Coconut Drink (what we ordered) was a thirst-quencher but we thought it was a tad too sweet to our liking (sugar must have been added in lieu of pure Coconut juice).

Skip the rest but not their Tab Tim Krob (can be found at the canal, only ONE stall/ boat selling); for 20 Baht, you get a bowl-full of Red Rubies (Tapioca-floured Water Chestnuts served with Jackfruit and Coconut Cream). It was reasonably sweetened and the Red Rubies were expertly crafted (jelly-like skin with crunchy filling) but the generosity of the Red Rubies was amazing, we could not ask for more considering a mere 20 Baht.

Travel Tips: Travel light not try not to wear unnecessary piece as the place can be quite humid and sweat-inducing.

Thai Sweet Snacks with Mung Bean Filling

8) Bodhisattva Kuan Yin and Standing Buddha Temple (Hatyai Municipal Park)
 Address: Kanchanawanit Road, Kho Hong, 90110, Hatyai, Thailand.
 Opening Hours: 9 am to 8 pm. Opens Daily.

Bodhisattva Kuan Yin

Standing Buddha Temple

Enjoy a breath-taking panoramic view of Hatyai City from the hill of Municipal Park; there two places of attraction up there- Guan Yin and Buddha Temple. More like a place to please the eye and a short escape from the bustling streets; an ideal place for selfies and group photos either. However, beware of the sultry weather which may torch your skin; unless you want to be tanned, prepare some Sun Screen can be handy. Entrance is free if you must know.

Have Fun and Enjoy Your Trip!