Hat Yai, Pdang Besar – Evrim and Elif Yiğit Tour Journals, October 19, 2011
After staying for 2 days in Phattalung and getting our bikes repaired, we go to a town called Hat Yai 50km away. This is a big town full of people who wants to pass through Malaysia. Even if we seemed to like it at first, because there’s more bugs that we can put up with causes us to leave there after staying for a day. Here we reward ourselves and rent a room in a two-star hotel’s 5th floor away from the bugs. Next morning we go around on a city tour without our bikes and leave the town in noon. I wanted to say more about Hat Yai but since you keep looking around to see if there are any bugs, it couldn’t make much of an impact on us.
Our second and last lodging in Thailand is a border country, Pedang Besar. The beauty of here is that you can breathe the air of both Malaysia and Thailand; as you go out to the evening market-place to fill your stomach, the variety of food makes you feel the both. After we settle in an hotel and dine with Elif, we start looking for a place to drink something. But there’s no luck; there are only karaoke bars. The concept of karaoke in fact has two kinds here; First is like we commonly see in places we stay, serving foreigners, places that lonely man can meet some girls. Second type is more traditional can mostly be seen in the country side or small settlements; Here young people have a drink and sing for the ones they love. I’d watched a couple singing to one another before, whom I guessed that loved each other. Sometimes one person sang to someone sitting at another table and sometimes 2-3 people sang together and flirted with the ones at another table. For me it was quite romantic and the fact that people socialize that much in a small settlement impressed me.
At last our luck turns and we find a quite nice place to drink beer and listen to traditional music. In fact it’s a garden with someone singing which’s decorated with massive wooden furniture. We choose one of the dark colored wooden tables under big trees, between a playing corner and a couple of tiny ornamental pools and order our beers. Meanwhile, a funny dialog takes place: I try to order water but a simple water order becomes so complicated that I try to explain myself standing up with hand gestures and describe what I want. As this wasn’t enough, I go near the ornamental pool and pretend as I drink water and indicate that I want to drink water pretty clearly. This struggle period of 3-4 minutes was quite hilarious for us. Sometimes people can be so sure that you don’t want to drink water and do whatever they can not to understand that you only want some water. A similar and worse incident happened to me a couple of days ago here in Malaysia. I don’t drink milk and I want my coffee without milk. Here in a place near the road where we stopped to drink coffee, I went to the kitchen and ordered coffee. Here in Malaysia, people speak English very well. So you have the chance to explain yourself even in the countryside here. I said that I wanted coffee. He said OK and reached for the milk, I told him I didn’t want milk, then he tried to put some kind of a creamy and sugary pasteurised milk, I stated that I didn’t want it either, then he tried to prepare Nescafe. (P.S: because coffee is grown here they have a different type of a coffee and a brewing style. As the difference of our Turkish coffee, their coffee is peculiar to here and it’s quite strong. I think the traditional coffee over here is ten times better than Nescafe) I say that I don’t want Nescafe but the traditional coffee. Of course as I’m telling him, I’m using gestures to explain what I want. As I try to explain, he confirms as “OK no milk”, “OK no sugar” every time. The funny part now begins, as I mention the traditional coffee instead of Nescafe, everything resets. We turn back to the beginning and he reaches for the milk. I tell him that I don’t want milk, and then the pasteurised, I don’t want it, then the sugar, I explain it with a gesture, and finally I can convince him just for the coffee. Trying to order traditional coffee instead of Nescafe causes you to re-live all the milk-sugar chaos.
Now let’s go back to Thailand one more time and continue from where we left. After drinking our beer and enjoying the traditional song a bit, Elif wants to leave and have a massage done. I guess she won’t be able to get a massage until we come back to Thailand. I wander around and drink something in the meanwhile. Then we go back to the hotel to be able to get up early the next morning and find out if we really can cross the border without visas.
The month we spent in Thailand was quite pleasant. The small villages which were the underdeveloped and not much occupied by foreigners were the most pleasurable places for us both among the ones we visited. In places like these, we enjoyed to experience their traditional lives more. Normally, you can’t expect a dynamic social life from such small villages. But Thailand is quite different in means of this subject; because people live connected with each other, and since they have a female-dominated social structure, they’re quite social. They don’t have kitchens here in their homes, therefore, their communication starts with the breakfast in the morning. They all go to the morning markets and eat around mutual tables. It’s the same for the noon and evenings. Especially the evening markets are quite more colorful; people don’t just eat there but participate in various entertainments. For instance in lots of towns you can eat your dinner with the accompany of live music played on stages. The evening markets resemble more like a street fair and have longs of shopping counters. Wandering around second hand goods, brand new clothes, souvenirs, various toys with fried shrimps or calamari in your hands, you have the chance to taste different juices. And I don’t know how but I encounter flavors that I’ve never tasted before in these markets.
Besides the female-dominated social structure, it’s the religion that improves the social life here this much. Here Buddhism is a part of people’s lives, every morning priests gather food from local people around 6:00am. This causes the people and priests to keep together. Here people believe that priests bring good luck to them. Several times they invited us to some special rituals. As we told them that we don’t have that kind of belief thus we don’t want to go, they tell us that it’s not important to believe or not, we just must do it for good luck. Which means enhancing your luck. Here religion has quite a different nature. The world you live in, what you see, people around you, that’s all that matters to them. And I guess this religion doesn’t have any restrictions, it’s pretty cool, Buddha doesn’t care if you believe or not. Once in a hostel I stayed in Bangkok a Pakistani Muslim kept talking to me until the morning. At last I’d got bored and asked him “Alright, we’ll go to heaven in the end since we believe, and this is valid for other monotheistic members, so what about the Buddhists? ” He’d pointed at the Buddhist woman in the hotel and told that all of them were going to burn in hell. You must’ve seen the attitude of the woman. She didn’t care at all. I guess it requires more than heaven to attract them. Maybe because of the female-dominant structure, people don’t care about the houris that much. Anyway I don’t intend to compare the religions. I just realized this; Here, religion is a part of the life and it transforms with life. Which means an innovation also becomes the part of the religion. A group of experts don’t come together to discuss whether they’d make God angry if they use the cutting-edge technology. I guess it’s hard to explain all these. You start to understand the difference as you stay here for a while. However, it requires more research to understand how a country has become that indulgent and warm hearted. Apparent differences I realize are the domination of religion and females. But I wonder the most about and have difficulties to understand is how religion had become so transparent and how females had become this equal. I guess it’s not possible for me to understand the main reason behind these.
It’s time to get through the part about Thailand for now. Here’s a town at the south of the country 3km away from the border and next day, our Malaysia adventure will begin. I guess we’ll have to be contented with these memories and what we’ve written so far until we come back to Thailand.
George Town, Malaysia.