The Harold Diaries: journey to the deep south

For those of you who don’t know who Harold is, he is my trusty steed, the green beast, AKA probably the cheapest car in Thailand owned by a farang.

The beast himself.
The beast himself.

Harold has been serving me well during the school holidays, allowing me the freedom I so wanted but couldn’t have due to my inability to balance/turn corners/generally ride a motorbike.  He had been doing so well in fact, that T and I decided he was ready for his first trip off the island, and we don’t do road trips by halves, so we decided to drive him 450 km to the deep south of Thailand to our home-from-home; Hat Yai.

After a full oil change and a good dose of brake fluid, and Cat safely tucked up in her carry case on the back seat (you didn’t think we were leaving her at home, did you?!)  Harold was good to go.  His stereo isn’t in full working order yet (read: the speakers are rusted to sh*t) so I created a USB powered iPhone/computer speaker set up that meant that we had some tunage for the journey.  Five hours in silence, with only the annoying squeak of the drivers door to listen to would not have been fun.

The drive itself is easy enough, just head south on highway 4, no deviations, nothing.  We drove through Phuket, a little of Phang Nga, Krabi, Trang, Phattalung, Songkhla and finally, Hat Yai.  Unfortunately for us what should be a smooth journey was interspersed with some pretty full on road works resulting in the road being anything but smooth.  Did I mention that Harold’s suspension is completely screwed?  Some of those stretches of road had to be taken at less than 20 km an hour – the super-speed-crazy-shiny-white pick up drivers were so happy to be stuck behind us.  We got some angry beeps and flashes but would those drivers be any happier if we drove at full speed and one of Harold’s doors fell off into the road in front of them?  No.  So deal with it.

map
Our journey, all 450 km of it.

The further south we drove the cooler and fresher the air got as we drove through mountains and jungle.  The pungent stench smell of rubber plantations permeated the air, and as much as I hate that smell it had a certain feeling of home that I had been missing.  Rows of rubber trees lined the road, and we knew that we were almost at our destination.  We didn’t have any plans for our trip other than to chill out at our old next door neighbour (and friend)’s house, and chill we did.  We fell asleep to the sound of jungle frogs, crickets and cicadas – no need to pay for a jungle sounds relaxation CD here, this is the real deal.

So, Harold made his first big trip and hopefully it will be the first of many.  Time to invest in a road map of south Thailand.  Watch this space.

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Khlong Hae Floating Market

The floating market is one of the main tourist attractions of Hat Yai yet we only visited for the first time today, nearly 8 months after moving here.  It has had mixed reviews online, with most concluding that it is a little disappointing if you have been to a ‘proper’ floating market such as the one in Bangkok.  Having never been to a floating market I really enjoyed our visit this afternoon; I love shopping, and street food, so combining the two was perfect for me.

The floating market is in the Khlong Hae area just on the outskirts of Hat Yai.  We used our own motorbike but I know for sure there is no public transport so if you are looking to visit you will need to take a tuk tuk or befriend a Thai person with a car!  The sign indicating the turn-off for the entrance is covered with bushes so make sure you have a keen eye.  Click here to see a map.

I think the main reason that people are disappointed with this place is that it is 100% set up for tourists.  There isn’t an essence of traditional living and you can tell that the market sellers just rock up every day and plonk themselves in their little boats.  You don’t go on a boat at this market; the sellers each have a little longtail and you stay on a walkway, exchanging food and money using a basket on a long stick.  There is also a market off the water selling clothes and touristy knick-knacks, but I assumed the prices would be marked up so I didn’t really have a proper look.

The main reason that we visited was to try the different types of street food that is on offer there.  Each little boat offers something different, most signs are translated into English (!) and prices range from 10 – 30 THB.  It’s cheap!  There was BBQ meat on a stick, squid, fish curry, noodle soup, chicken and rice, samosas, unidentifiable deep fried things, Thai pancakes, sticky rice, coconut ice cream, more unidentifiable sweet things… in all there are around 40 sellers, each selling something different apart from those selling drinks.

We had some yellow rice with chicken, some chicken samosas and BBQ chicken.  You may notice a bit of a chicken theme here – all the sellers are Muslim so there is no pork on offer – although there is a bar selling towers of Chang beer and playing house music in another part of the market – a bit out of place really!  We also had some drinks served in clay pots that you get to keep (OK, so you pay more for the privilege…) which I found more exciting than it should have been!  The little girl in me wanted to go for the Hello Kitty clay mug but instead I made the grown up decision to get some pots that we could probably use in the garden – how very sensible of me!

Overall, I think that it’s worth a visit and I would go back again – the food is good, you can have a nice little browse at the different stalls and it’s not too far out of town.  There are benches and tables to sit and relax at while you let your food go down and it’s great for people watching and getting a few photographs – I was even papped by a young Indonesian student who was here on holiday and was very excited to see a white girl – that hasn’t happened for a while! 

Here are a few pics of the market and our food (yes, I have started photographing food now but I am yet to instagram them!).