DATE: 1-2 May 2016
Sometimes Nik interrupts my travel blog postings. I have two more postings on our trip to Turkey, but, my other half wants to share our experience crossing into Thailand by land. So, here it goes……
Hat Yai in Thailand is about 180 km from our house. Nik and his buddies cross over the border to play golf at the Southern Hill Golf Course a few times a year. Apart from the golfing they enjoy the good Thai food. And, every year for the past 12 years (since we moved to our present address), Nik keeps telling me, we’d go to Hat Yai for the weekend. A few years ago we had planned to visit the town, but the day before the trip, there were explosions in Danok, the Thai town by the border. Thus, our plan was cancelled.
On Sunday, 1 May 2016, Nik, Hanif and myself left home in our car early in the morning. By 8 am we had reached Changlun and had breakfast at Yusuf Jan Nasi Jagung Changloon.
AT THE BORDER
Just after 9 am we had arrived at the immigration check point in Sadao, Thailand. We joined the queue in the open air while Nik parked the car just beyond the check point booths. Then, he returned to join us in the queue. Nik told us to place a one Ringgit note in each passport for the officer at the booth. The lady ahead of us either did not have a Ringgit note or was reluctant to do so. She ended up parting with RM 10. There were also touts offerring us the “express lane service” for RM 20 per person. This rate went up to RM 30 per person fifteen minutes later when the crowd has built up. It was a long weekend for us Malaysians due to the Labour Day public holiday falling on a Sunday. We had Monday off as well.
We could have driven passed the booths, avoiding the queue since there was no person of authority manning the area. However, that would mean, the three of us and our car are in Thailand illegally. A risk we dare not take. Having had his passport stamped, Nik joined another queue to have our car cleared. Hanif and myself waited in the car and about 30 minutes later Nik came and we carried on our journey to Hatyai town.
On our return journey the next day, when we reached the border, we thought a similar procedure applies. A tout confirmed we had to stamp our passports first. For the “express lane service” he’ll charge us RM 80, which we turned down. So, we joined the queue outside the new air-conditioned building. Hanif held the umbrella to shade us from the afternoon sun. It was a few minutes passed 3 pm. Half an hour later, Nik enquired one of the immigration staff on the procedure. Apparently we need not get out of the car, but instead should have stayed in the vehicle and proceed to the check point booth. We not only had wasted half an hour, the vehicle queue has extended to where we were. Earlier on cars we going by smoothly. The tout had lied to us about the procedure, hoping we’d pay him to avoid the long queue. It was a very long wait to reach the immigration booth.
The queue hardly moved and later we found out the booths were not manned as the staff went for a break. Our turn came around 5.30 pm. The attending officer, requested for RM 6 for our family of three. It should have been a free service. It was RM 1 per person going into Thailand and RM 2 the other way.
HAT YAI TOWN
Before reaching Hatyai town, we stopped at Home Pro, a large store selling household items similar to Ikea. Lunch was at a restaurant recommended by Jif, Nik’s brother. I did not get the full name of the restaurant, but it’s opposite Kosit Hotel. This restaurant served good, hot and spicy tom yam. Then we checked in at The Bed Hotel.
Later in the afternoon we managed to find our way to Klonghae Floating Market. The streets in Hatyai follow the grid system and there are many one-way streets. With only screen shots of the maps from Waze and several wrong turns, Nik and Hanif managed to find our way around this fairly big town.
The Klonghae Floating Market is a good place to sample local food. The sellers are largely Muslims and they sell drinks in bamboo, cooconut ice cream in small clay pots, cakes, soups, anchovy fritters, fried quail eggs and my favourite was the grilled seafood paste. The later is a mixture of fish, squids and crab roe, grounded with spices, placed in a banana leaf and then grilled over charcoal. It tastes like satar and otak-otak, the delicacies of the states of east coast Malaysia.
Before dinner all three of us went for foot massages.
On Monday morning we checked out and had breakfast at a nearby restaurant. For our next visit, Nik’s choice was the Magic Eye 3-D Museum. The museum opens at 10 am and we arrived a few minutes early. Ten minutes after opening we were called to view the magic show. It was an entertaining 30-minute show. The three of us took many pictures at the numerous 3-D scenes. Unfortunately, Nik and myself were lousy actors and not photogenic at all. And our pictures did not turn out as dramatic as they could have been. Hanif posed much better in his photographs.
We spent hardly a couple of minutes in the 3-D movie theater because the quality of the movie was poor and the seats were uncomfortable.
Hanif wanted to go on the cable car ride at the Hatyai Municipal Park. It was on the same road as the Magic Eye 3-D Museum. From the park entrance, it was another 2 km drive to the cable car station which is located near the Standing Buddha Temple. The fare for the ride was 200 baht per person and we had only 450 baht left. It would pay for 2 persons. They neither accept credit card nor Malaysian ringgit, so we ended up not going on the cable car. It’s only a short ride to the other hilltop where another temple, the shrine of Lord Brahma is located. Near the foot of the hills there is also a temple with the Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy statute.
Time to go home. We had lunch in Danok, the town just before the Thai-Malaysia border. Adinan Restaurant served good food, but it was a little pricey. And so the story continues to paragraph six above where we were kept waiting for 2.5 hours at the Thai-Malaysian border. No more road trip to Hatyai on a weekend, once is enough.