Doris Lim heads to Hat Yai to experience the carnival atmosphere of Khong Hae Floating Market where she could almost walk on the water’s edge.
Khong Hae Floating Market, Hat Yai
Hat Yai city, a sprawling commercial hub is a favorite tourist shopping destination. Over the long weekends, public and school holiday’s busloads of Malaysians will head north for a shopping spree. Add this to an eating adventure of an abundance of good Thai food is simply irresistible.
Away from the city center, one of the places one should visit is Khong Hae Floating Market. It’s easily accessible via taxi, a minivan or a tuk tuk.
Floating markets are a mega tourist attraction. Most visitors have an image of hundreds of boats in the river. Each boat is laden with colorful food and fresh produce. Although it is rather touristy now, floating markets are still a lot of fun for the plethora of delicious cheap meals available to visitors.
Unlike the bigger floating markets in Bangkok where the wooden boats ply up and down the river, Hat Yai’s version has “parked” boats by the dock. The lineup of hawker’s stalls on stationary small wooden boats feels like a “food court” on water. Customers stand on the side of the canal to buy food and drinks from the boats. The women hawkers wear large straw hats with plastic flowers to attract customers.
Many local Thais families enjoy buying a variety of food from the boats for a great carnival atmosphere. For visitors, it is quite an experience to jostle for space and to check out the different snacks available from the food stalls.
Lots of Food
Food and drinks are priced between 20 to 30 baht each. The hawkers cook in the boat. To serve, the food is placed in a small basket attached to a long pole for the customers to takeaway. The customer places the exact price in the basket. The hawkers are swift in their preparation and serve customers promptly. There is quite a selection from the 80 odd stalls. The food is decent, delicious and reasonably priced. I spotted a few stalls selling both soupy and fried noodles, Thai salads, fried items, and quail eggs! The Thais have a penchant for these tiny fried quail eggs.
An interesting way to serve drinks is in a hallowed out bamboo container or a clay mug. Most of the vendors are Thai Muslims so the food is kosher or halal. Generally, the food is sold in disposable paper bowls. You take it to the canal-side sitting area to eat.
There are some bamboo picnic tables and benches to sit on. The tables are on first-come-first-serve basics. If you go in a group, you can grab a table then start buying food from all the different stalls. Bring everything back to your table to start feasting.
It feels like a picnic environment and it’s great to sit down and relax as the sun sets in the evening.
There are many Muslim families enjoying their meals there. Best time to come is before 5 pm, just as the weather cools a little and before the dinner crowds show up.
More Food Stalls
Away from the floating market, there is a covered area with a good mix of food, clothing and snack stalls. However the entire are is filled with crusher run or stone chips. It does get muddy when it rains as there in no visible drainage system. There are many good buys for Muslim ladies as the clothing stores have ready stock of
Suitable long sleeves t shirt in light fabric. There are also plenty of head scarfs for Muslim women. The price is a reasonable price and the quality is decent.
If you love seafood, you’re going to love this
The food stalls on here sell an assortment of Thai deep fried seafood snack. There are battered prawns, slipper lobsters and crabs deep fried to a golden crunch. The crispy shellfish have soft sweet moist flesh inside. Other popular stalls sell Thai salads, Pad Thai, stir-fries, grilled sausages, coconut, mango sticky rice desserts, and drinks. There is an assortment of nuts, crisps, and snacks available.
Walking briskly up the slope and heading beyond the bridge, I built up a little bit more of an appetite. I found more stalls selling knick knack, clothes and light nibbles. If you’re looking for t-shirts and casual tops, there is a variety of reasonably priced tie and dye cotton wear. We saw colorful fighting fish in glass jars for sale. The snacks here are 20 baht each.
There I bought some steamed ground nuts, purple sweet potatoes, a large young sweet buttered corn and some strawberries with spicy chili sugar-salt mixture. Back at the covered stall areas I bought some coconut pancakes for my supper.
Of course, what is a trip to Thailand without the drumstick sized pineapples? These are a real treat. The pineapples are sweet, juicy, and the flesh has a crispy fresh texture. This is the perfect refreshing way to end a humid day at the Khong Hae Floating Market, Hat Yai.
The parking area is limited so it’s best to either go by tuk-tuk or a minivan rather than driving there yourself. The main road is quite narrow if you want to park along the road.
Khong Hae Floating Market is open from Fridays to Sundays, 3-9 pm. Prices are pretty reasonable. If you’re good at bargaining hard, you can score some good buys.