January 31, 2013

Hatyai : Eating & Shopping Trip (Part 1)

Using the KTM  we arrived in Hat Yai slightly before noon. The Hat Yai Train Station is a small, dusty, old station with a few tracks running past the station. We got off and had to walk across a couple of train tracks to get onto the platform. It was hard getting directions as the officials do not speak English

Luckily, we managed to get some directions with lots of pointing and gesturing and simple English from the tuk-tuk/taxi drivers. We exited the station and took a short walk to Tune Hotel. 

First glimpse of Hat Yai. Bustling border town with a mix of Thais and Chinese. Hokkien and Mandarin is widely spoken here. 

Tune Hotel, our home for the next couple of days. Surprisingly  the rooms are huge. I've stayed before at a few of Tune Hotels and this is not a norm. Their rooms are usually small and cramp. However, Tune Hotel Hat Yai have a very spacious room with enough space for me to dance around :p

After we settled in, we headed out to look for food. First stop, Odeon Shopping Center. Food Court is located on the top floor, with a few stalls but with good enough range of food. Being a big fan of German Pork Knuckles, my dad ordered that and we had a good meal with tasty, home-cooked pork knuckles. The meat was boiled till it was soft and sweet. Great start to our first meal in Thailand. 

Next stop, Kim Yong Market, with lots of stops along the way. There was just too many things to see and every time someone stops to look at something, everyone have to stop as well. Cons of travelling in a group. 

Sad to say, Kim Yong Market was a disappointment. After reading so much about it, there was nothing much to see and buy - just lots of toys, food stuff, car accessories, etc. 

We then walked to Robinson Department Store, which is a big contrast compared to the outside. However, its not as posh as the Robinson in Kuala Lumpur (I'm not sure if its the same company). Anyway, clothes, shoes, accessories are pricier then we expected. My parents enjoyed themselves and spend quite a bit of time at the housewares department.

I did managed to get myself a piece of fried chicken for 19 bht just outside Robinson Department Stall. It tasted really good, oily and slightly crispy, or maybe it's because I was hungry.  

Walking back to Tune Hotel, my mum spotted bowls and bowls of Pork Knuckles from the back entrance of a kitchen; which my parents could not resist and thus we had a very early dinner. 

Pork Knuckles was more fatty this time. Green Curry was super spicy which made us cried. Almost. Portion was super huge and we had to tapau some. Omelette was too salty but a generous helping of prawns. 

Night view of Hat Yai from my 3rd floor Tune Hotel room. I wished I had asked for a room on the higher floor. 

Next morning, we had breakfast.. or brunch at a hawker restaurant like just opposite Tune Hotel, on the left. We had pork porridge, hokkien mee, fried rice and char kuey teow. All every different from Malaysia but nonetheless good and tasty and cheap. 

We wanted to try the pineapple as it looked very interestingly small, about half the size of our normal pineapple but the price of 120bht made us decide otherwise. Says who Thailand is cheap. 

A temple as we walked along. Just directly behind Tune Hotel. 

We headed up north, towards Lee Garden Plaza as I read good reviews about it. However, we found out later that this Lee Garden Plaza is the new one. The old one further down south is no longer around. We did passed by a few other department store, small enough that I don't really consider them department stores. But the vendors were surprisingly rude. I think it's because there are less tourists as compared to Bangkok, which is more tourist orientated, and thus friendlier. 

Lee Garden Plaza is a new mall with a nice mix of big spacious shops and small quirky shops. We spotted some brands and quite a few interesting things. However, the newness of the mall is evident with the lack of people and the unopen stores. But I have high hopes for it. A very nice place to hang out. There is a big shoe shop towards the back of the mall where we bought quite a number of things. 

Carrying our bags of shopping, we headed back towards the hotel for a shower and some rest before continuing our food and shopping trip. Travelling with my parents means going at a slower pace with lots of coffee break in between. However, I'm not complaining. It allowed me to see the roses by the roadside :)

Next up, the night market. 

January 26, 2013

24hours in Kota Bahru

Just last week, Rockstar and I took a last minute flight to Kota Bahru. Initial plan was to go visit his Popo who was in the hospital but that trip turned out too late. We arrived just in time to attend the funeral. 

Here's where we stayed, for just 1 night. Crystal Lodge is located on Jalan Che Su... OK, I got no idea where that is. We stayed in Tune Hotel (which I actually prefers) the last few times. The reason why we choose this place was the close proximity to the funeral parlour. 

The room was old, gloomy with yellowish lighting, smelling a little musty and the noises from the street below could be heard clearly through the window gap. But thankfully the sheets were clean and the toilets newly renovated with amazing fast-drying tiles and the shower wasn't far behind. 

However, the breakfast was quite good. They had a fusion choice of either kelantanese or western. I didn't managed to take any pictures as I was too busy eating the nasi dagang with chicken and prawns. 

Verdict : We were out most of the time so this place was just right for showers and a night sleep. For the price of only RM114 for a standard double room, with free wifi, 25 TV channels and breakfast for two, its's hard to find another place that could beat that price and offered all that. 

Additional : I also heard that the coffee shop opposite provides a mean roti bakar and kopi. Didn't get a chance to try it though. :(


After the funeral, we all headed for Thai food, seeing that we were so close to the Thai border. 

Restoran Payang Serai, Jalan Dusun Raja, Kot Bahru

Nothing much to shout about the deco. Just simple white walls and plastic chairs. 

Tom Yum was absolutely delicious - just the right amount of flavour and the spiciness level was just right. Enough to make me sweat a little, yet enjoying each spoonful of yummy soup. 

Hot plate taufu had a slight different taste to it. The broth was a little bit thicker as compare to chinese style but overall a good comfortable dish. 

Sweet sour fish was not that good. Hard and crispy but without much flesh for us to enjoy it. 

Mango papaya kerabu was average. The slices tasted ok but overall, there was no ummph to the whole dish.

Vegetable. Didn't try :)

Fried crispy beef. Yummy!!! Crunchy, crispy and tasty. I can't remember what sauce it was but it was brown and slightly sticky. I wish we had more of it. 

Chicken in cream sauce, I think. Chicken was kinda dry but the sauce was creamy and slightly sourish. I think there was some mango added in. But overall, a good combination. 

Verdict : Some hit and misses. I've tasted better Thai food elsewhere. Just an OK place for Thai food.  

We touch down at about 4pm, headed to KB Mall for some shopping, back to hotel to shower before attending memorial service, slept about 2am. Woke up early for breakfast, went for funeral service, followed by burial, lunch, back to hotel for a quick shower before heading to the airport. 

Sorry we couldn't see you one last time. We will miss you, Popo. 

January 21, 2013

Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Musee d'Orsay is not what you would consider a typical museum. Located in the center of Paris along the Seine River banks, the museum was installed in the former Orsay Railway Station, hence the building architecture. 

Rockstar and I walked through the Tuileries Gardens and found ourself directly opposite Musee d'Orsay. Entrance was free and easy with the Paris Pass.  

The museum display sculptures and paintings between the year 1848-1914, which was during the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist period. I spotted some well-known artists such as Monet, Rodin, Renoir and Van Gogh. (at least they were the ones I know)

Photography were not allowed inside the hall, hence the lack of pictures. But Rockstar and I managed to climb up to the viewing platform on the 5th floor where we had a bird's eye view of the entire museum. 

The giant glass arch ceiling is so beautiful and the details are so pretty. If you look closely, you'll see lots of sculptures in the open lower ground spaces, while paintings were located in the upper attic-like galleries. 

At the upper floor, in one of the attic- like rooms, we could see the back of the Musee d'Orsay's clock and also a view of Paris, across the River Seine. 

We didn't spend much time here as Rockstar didn't enjoy Impressionist much. It has a very different vibe compared to the Lourve. 

Opens Tuesday-Sunday 0930-1800
Adult entry price 8euro

January 20, 2013

Bridal Shower No.2

I was just looking through my photos and realized I didn't post pictures from my 2nd bridal shower yet. So here's what happened. 

A tea party with my cousin sisters, aunties, and some close friends. Lydia planed and coordinated everything - decoration, food, invitation, presents. 

Mushroom Salad, Tuna & Egg Sandwich, Onion Rings, Tuna Cheese Crackers, Hokaiddo Cake & Japanese Jellies

Since its a tea party, we cannot not have tea right? With 6 different types of tea, we all could pick and choose our favourites and even try new ones. Lydia also had a brilliant but sinful idea to have ice cream, topped with almond, nuts flakes and caramel sauce. Absolutely delish!!

After food, we moved on to the gifts session. Everyone brought gifts which are house related. I received pot, pan, cups, kettle, plates, multi-cooker, towels, apron, lamp and spa stuff. Just enough to start my kitchen and more. And then everyone shared some wishes and advice. 

Since everyone was so nice to bring me gifts, I decided to give them something small in appreciation. Everyone left with a rose compact mirror which I was lucky to to get in my wedding theme colours. 

Having a tea party beats having a bachelorette party any time  It's simple, meaningful and I feel so love. Thanks Lydia for everything... and to my mum, sisters, aunties, cousin sisters, and friends, thank you for your presents and advices/ wishes. Love you ladies much... :) 

* Event happened a few months back on 9th September 2012. 

January 14, 2013

Stolen Kiss on the Train

I was sitting on my bunk, bend over sorting through my luggages when I heard a slight swish followed by a head poking through the curtain. He gave me a shy smile and scrambled up my bed after I gave him an encouraging smile. He thrust an iPad and gestured to it. I lean closer and with a happy sigh, he smile and gestured for me to play with him. Mindless, nonsensical, colourful. Time passed, a bond was build. No conversation was needed. The face that we both come from different places and didn't speak each other language didn't form a barrier. When it was time for him to leave, he sat there reluctantly. Not wanting the time to end. He look at me expectantly, waiting for me to say something. When I responded with a smile, he leaned over and gave a loud, wet, warm smack on my cheek. Feeling sheepish and without another look, he scrambled down and ran off.

Yes, I was kissed by an adorable 4-year old Thai boy. 

Lok & Lek, twin Thai boys en route to Kuala Lumpur with their mum was my one of many fellow sleeper bunks companions. Active, full of life, they scrambled up and down, charming everyone with their smiles. Of cos they were a handful and I have to admit that everyone (or at least me) gave a sigh of relieve when they settled down for the night. 

Kak Ida, a friendly mak cik from Melacca was travelling with her husband and daughter on business. During the 1 1/2 hour wait for the train, we shared interesting antidotes and views on business and life. 

Another Korean couple, was our neighbours. Quiet at first but was excited when they found out we are Christians. They spend quite some time talking with my dad on train and in Hat Yai. 

Those were just a few we meet on our trip up Hat Yai. There were so many others who each, I'm sure, carried interesting stories - like the Swedish family who walked around half-naked (the guys of cos), or the Malay guy who climb up his bunk and disappear behind the curtain for the entire trip, or even the 2 German girls who smiled from a distance. 

My first long-distance train ride was interesting, full of life. That's what I love so much about travelling. The memories and experience gained is irreplaceable.

Here's to many more train trips to come :)
* updated 27th January 2013

KTMB trains runs daily from KL Sentral to Hatyai. Train leaves KL Sentral at 9.20pm and arrives in Hat Yai at approximately 9.27am. We boarded the train from Sg. Buloh station which arrived almost an hour later. 

There is a stop over in Padang Besar for the Immigration where you have to go through both the Malaysian and Thailand customs. On the way there, we left our luggages in the carriage but on our return trip, we were asked to take all our luggages with us. On the way up north, we waited for about an hour before the train left the station, but on the way back, the wait was almost 2 hours due to some engine problem (yup, its very old). So be prepared to stand or sit, if you don't mind the dirty floors, for quite a long time. There is a small canteen with about 2 stalls if you are hungry, but we didn't try them as nobody (not even the immigration officers) seem to know what time the train is leaving and we didn't want to risk missing it.

If possible, pay extra for the bunk beds as the price is just a few ringgit more then the seats. There will be less people, its quieter and most of them foreigners. The seats carriages have more locals. And between stations from Perlis to Perak, the seating carriages will be packed with students standing as the standing tickets cost only RM7. 

Buy your tickets in Kuala Lumpur or online in advance. We tried to buy our return tickets when we arrived in Hat Yai but we managed to only get 3 bunk beds and 2 seats as there wasn't any left. Oh so we were told. Later we found out that they didn't want to sell to us as there are lots of tourists foreigners who uses the train to travel. Pisshhh... However its cheaper to buy tickets in Thailand.

BRING food on board. Cost of food from the cafeteria carriage is pricy. A cup of milo costs about RM4. Noodles and rice about RM8 - 10. 

Bunk beds have clean white and clean sheets. I see cleaners moving around to clean the place up. But toilets are horrible. Really really small, even for me and I am only 5 feet. Basin is just the size of a medium size bowl. Toilets are wet, smelly and dangerous. Especially the squat toilet. 

Cost of tickets for journey up north (Sg. Buloh - Hat Yai) : RM53 for upper bunk beds, RM58 for lower bunk beds
Cost of tickets for journey down south (Hat Yai - KL Sentral) : RM50 for bunk beds, RM48 for seats (approximately as we paid in Thai Baht)

Train table