Hat Yai, a city situated at the southern region of Thailand is connected to the northern states of Malaysia. More than a decade ago, this bustling and lively city used to be well-favored by tourists; with visitors and shoppers from everywhere, but things seemed to have changed through the years.
When I was a child, our family used to visit Hat Yai so frequently. I remember we spent our Chinese New Year holidays in this city for a few consecutive years.
I recently visited this once familiar yet unfamiliar city. To my surprise, the charm of this city has faded tremendously. The shopping streets which used to be jampacked with tourists are now so quiet and with very few tourists walking around. I believe that the rise of many other vacation spots in Thailand and the terrorist attacks which happened in southern Thailand had a great impact towards the tourism industry of the city. Despite the deterioration in tourism, the locals still live their lives as usual.
Since we’ve been to this city before, this trip was solely for shopping only. Our first shopping spot was a shop named Thai Lee Seng which supposedly sells local products, but I found nothing special in there since the products being sold were easily attainable in its neighbor country, Malaysia.
Our next destination was a shop that sells leather-made products such as wallets, bags, belts etc. Even though my last visit to this shop spanned more than a decade, I still have a good memory of it because my mom used to buy her handbag here whenever she visited the shop. Those days, the shop used to be flooded with visitors but now patrons were getting fewer and fewer.
After lunch, we rushed to what used to be our most favored shopping spot, the bazaar. We used to grab a lot of cheap and beautiful clothes here, but the price was no longer as cheap as before.
There are three famous roads for shopping in Hat Yai which we used to call, ‘Road no. 1’, ‘Road no. 2’ and ‘Road no. 3’. They are actually open-space night markets on both sides of the roads. During those days, the roads were so crowded with people but nowadays, that’s no longer the case, and I actually enjoyed quite a relaxing walk there.
I’m very surprised that the hawkers or traders have now equipped themselves with the ability to communicate in Mandarin. In older days, we actually had to learn simple Thai phrases and use either Teochew or Hokkien dialect plus body language and a calculator in order to bargain with them.
Thailand is really a very beautiful country. Despite of all the attacks and demonstrations around, it still attracts many visitors all year round. Hopefully the leader of the country can stabilize the politics and economy so that the country can grow better and be more prosperous.