Posted by: Carolyn ODonnell | May 7, 2012

Ho hum Hat Yai

After Songkhla I was glad to get back to grey old Hat Yai wth its Pink Lady complex and crappy food. I didn’t think the Thais did crappy food, but they manage to here. Had a terrible tom yam soup, massacred with msg and too much chilli. Then I had an argument with the cook over the price, I wouldn’t have minded so much if I had enjoyed eating it, but it was a struggle to get it down and then he overcharged because he thought I was a stupid farang.

By then the farang had attracted so many customers to his lonely stall that he gave me the soup just so I would go away and he could deal with the people who now wanted to eat at his ricketty tables. Cruising the night market, all I could see was deep-fried chicken cooked in oil that was fresh when Thailand was a buffer state in the Cold War, and prawns in their shells with no sauce that were just too much hassle. So I turned to my old stand-by: a mango and a packet of peanuts. That’s comfort food for me in this part of the world.

While I ate my peanuts I watched the Asian Food Channel. Sadly at first, wondering how there could be so much good food in Asia and so little in this town. Then there were all these programmes about tapas, and I was going insane because the food on the TV looked so good, and the food in the street and the restaurants was so ordinary … This woman went to a tapas bar in Barcelona and she ate these grilled sandwiches with cheese and Iberico ham and shaved truffles and I was drooling so much the bed in my “hotel” room nearly floated out the door. Then they were eating great Spanish cheese and wild-acorn fed pig and saffron rice and grilled partridge and drinking champagne, bastards.

Of course Hat Yai was bombed a few weeks ago, killing innocent people in the shopping mall attached to the central Lee Gardens hotel. We also lost of one of the two decent cafes. People said, ‘Oooh Hat Yai is sooooooooooooo dangerous,’ but I think places that have just been bombed are the safest – Hat Yai was crawling with police and soldiers.

McDonalds was also a bomb casualty, but I didn’t care. And that closure was probably doing the locals a favour really, there are no skinny Thai people in this area, and many of the kids are looking quite chunky. Give it a few years, and obesity is going to be a huge problem. The locals are short, and expanding sideways to accommodate all the high-calorie food they are shovelling in.

‘It’s a terrible place,’ another friend to me said of Hat Yai. ‘But Malaysians love the seafood and the cheap beer. Then the women go shopping and the men have prostitutes. Pretty, young ones are much cheaper than Malaysia or Singapore.’

I’m not interested in prostitutes or shopping, no wonder I was bored.

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