Hat Yai, a Thailand’s Panorama in the Malay Land
Crowded people walking within the smell of incense of ritual is a daily unique panorama in Hat Yai city, South Thailand. At the corner of the city, the statue of Buddha, its tall about two meters, stays at the Buddhist monastery of Pra-Cin that almost sticks to the Muslim restourant.
Indeed, Malay peninsula, untill this present day, is well-known as the place of assimilation among three cultures: Malay, China and India. Yet, specifically at the north of the Malay peninsula which includes in the Thailand’s territory, the assimilation among three cultures: Thai, China and Malay becomes a very unique feature of the region.
Its strategic location that fills among four provinces of Malay residents: Satin, Yala, Naratiwat, and Pattani, causes Hat Yai as the chosen city to be the center of business at the Province of Songkla alongside as the main gate of Thailand at south. This city is located at 60 kilometers from the border between Thailand’s territory in Sadao and Kayu Hitam hill in the state of Kedah, Malaysia.
During April to Mei, 2004, the time when the government attacked the separatist movement in three province: Yala, Naratiwat, and Pattani, the nuance of Hat Yai was always normal, there was no terror and violence in the city.
Thailand’s government intends seriously of maintaining the image of stability and security of the country. Criminal news on the television can scarcely be found as that of criminal news in Indonesia. Indeed, it is important to control security and stability within the country in order to maintain the honor of nation, besides to invite foreign tourists and investors.
Not only Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai which rely on tourism as the main income, but the Province of Songkla also determines tourism as the main source of economy. Quiet condition, clean environment, kind and polite people, and unique assimilation of the cultures are the interested panorama of Hat Yai city.
It is easy for new tourists to reach Hat Yai city. It can be reached from Penang by the land transport for about three hours and thirty minutes. For the cost of small bus that full of air conditioner, the tourists no need spending a lot of money, he just needs to pay RM 20 that is equal with Rp 45.000 for one way.
Hat Yai is really nice city for enjoying a journey. The tourist may taste exotic foods, buy cheap new products, recognize Thai Buddhist culture and tradition of Thailand, and of course enjoy the show of transvestites and erotic dances of beautiful woman on the corner of the city.
Kompas and the group of Indonesian journalist began the adventure at the shopping center of handicrafts. The woven products from all over places of Thailand, especially that of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and many kinds of handicraft made of various parchment are can be found at the souvenir shops.
The prizes are surely not too expensive, it is approximately 100 to 1000 Baht that is equal with Rp. 22.000 to Rp 220.000. The same product we found in Jakarta may reach to Rp 400.000 or Rp. 500.000 for each item.
Almost all the shopkeepers are capable of speaking Malay with Malaysian dialect. The Indonesian tourist whose hobby is shopping will not find any problem to communicate.
Not only the big souvenir shops offered the cheap handicraft, but the retailers also provided the same. Unlike disorganized retailers we found in Indonesia, in Hat Yai, the retailers arrange their own merchandises accurately with giving a large space of road for the walkers.
The retailers take the center of their activity at Prachathipat Road, Duangchan Road, Niphat Unit and Sanehanusom Road. These places seems as the “paradise” of shopping for those who search for the best quality of product with very cheap prize. For instance, the best quality of T-shirts made in Thailand that are sold in Jakarta with Rp 75.000, in Hat Yai it is just about 100 Bath that is equal with Rp 22.000.
If the tourist has not satisfied with cheap souvenirs as mentioned above, he may buy the branded product such as Camel Active, Levis or Samsonite bag which all of them can be found at various shopping center which are not less luxurious than Senayan Plaza, Jakarta.
Indeed, all prizes of merchandises in Thailand are cheaper than that of in Jakarta. For instance, the prize of the new Camel Actives’s product of shirt is just about 1.000 Bath that is equal with Rp 220.000, while in Jakarta it may reach Rp 300.000. The same case occurs for another branded product such as Samsonite backpack, the prize in Thailand is about 2.000 Bath that is equal with Rp 440.000, yet in Jakarta it may reach Rp 750.000.
After having tired from purchasing many interesting merchendises, one may taste delicious meals. Many kind of halal (permissible) foods, whether Malay or Thai foods, that all of which are offered with a very cheap prize, can be found ot all cornes of the city.
One group of people contains of eight persons, for instance, may need 16 portions of Tom Yam Gong, mustard green with chilli sauce of shrim, red meat cooking, and Thai fried eggs. For those foods, they just need to spend 1.100 Bath that is equel with Rp 240.000. The rice is provided much more than imagined, and one may add as much as he wants.
It is not frightening situation if one feels hungry at mid night; the small restaurants ot the side of roads are opened and ready to service its customers in the whole night. For one portion of fried chicken completed with its stomach, one just has to pay 40 Bath that is equal with Rp 4. 400. In addition, for one snack such as big burned squid, we just need to spend 40 Bath that is equal with Rp 2.200. Among all foods mentioned above, the soup of swallow’s nest is the most expensive one: 150 Bath or is equal with Rp 33.000 for one portion. Many cheap drinks, only about 5 to 10 Bath, also can be tasted in such shop.
Lukman, the Malay Thai, said that looking for halal (permissible) food as decided its standard by Islam is not too hard. The owners of restaurant, usually, wrote the word “halal” at their own restaurant.
Now we move to the another topic of enjoying the panorama of Thailand: visiting Buddhist Temple and enjoying the joyfulness of Thai night entertainments. The statue of the Buddha that its tall is 20 meters or more stands near from the center of the city, at the corner of Saeng Sri Road that located exactly behind the monastery stands alongside the school.
That statue stands gracefully, while the environment surrounding the monastery is naturally beautiful. Whether the colored decoration of the temple, the Buddha statue or the ritual place are allowed to be visited by the tourists. It is important to be remembered that every tourist, when enter into the temple, has to adher the local attitude: putting off either sandal or shoe at the ritual place of the monastery, and avoid touching the Thai people head, this last act is absolutely taboo for them.
Hat Yai city, that most of its citizens are Tionghoa-Thai, has not only the architectural monastery of Thai, but has also temple of Chinese-Tionghoa that stands wonderfully ot the corner of Pracharak Road.
One of Buddhist landmarks in Hat Yai is the statue of Bodhisattva Kuan Yin. That wonderfull statue which was made in China is the biggest one in Thailand. Many Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai Buddhists, more often than not, visit that a sacred place. It is permittable for everyone to stay overnight at the monastery, and surely after getting the permission from the monks.
But for those tourists who usually search for worldly pleasure, it is better to enjoy the glittering night of Thailand. Khaimuk, 43 years old, the resident of Hat Yai, explained that the glittering night of Thailand is the most interesting moment for Indonesian, Malaysian, or Singaporean tourists.
The glittering night of Thailand is advertised everywhere, including on the bus ticket. In the bus ticket that take route of Thailand-Malaysia-Indonesia, for example, the advertisement of Cabaret or Sexy Show took a very big space on the ticket’s cover. Both performances that take prize about 400 Bath, actually show the art of sensuality of Thai woman and transvestites. The Cabaret shows the performance of beautiful transvestites, while the Sexy Show shows an erotic dances that is continued with the striptease. Both shows are held at hotels in the noght night with twice performance.
Another circumstance of the glittering night happens at the beautiful movie hall in Hat Yai. The ticket is very cheap, it is just about 100 Bath that is equal with Rp 22.000. Yet a unique phenomenon happened in the middle of the movie in which the it is suddenly stopped and then the picture of King Bhumibol Aduyadej and the national anthem appear instead. All the watchers rapidly stand up giving the honor upon the lovely King.
That all about the panorama of Hat Yai in the Malay peninsula. This city is as if the miniature of Bangkok where the kindness, beauty and mixed South East Asia’s cultures are assimilated.
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