Earlier this year, mom, brother, and I decided to head to Thailand for Chinese New Year. Our first stop was Hat Yai, the Southern town that has been a pretty popular spot for Penangites since way back when Penang Bridge wasn’t even a thing.
Tanatip Restaurant, Hat Yai, Thailand
Our overall plan was to take KTM Komuter from Sungai Petani, switch over to Thai railway at Padang Besar station, spend a night at Hat Yai, and then fly to Bangkok the next day.
The primary reason was that flight from Hat Yai to Bangkok was 3 times cheaper than Penang to Bangkok at the same time period. Plus you get an extra meal or three in Hat Yai, win-win the way I see it!
fried roasted pork with basil
We arrived at late morning, the stalls at the market has already mostly stopped selling at the time, while walking around we chanced upon this restaurant with some beautiful roast pork displayed outside, which was a sign that we as a family couldn’t ignore. That’s how we ended up at Tanatip Restaurant (sign board only in Thai..)
shrimp tomyam, fried century egg with ginger
We ordered three dishes to go with steamed rice for lunch, and naturally the first dish was to fried roasted pork with basil (80 baht), and it was as you would imagine, roast pork, fried with Thai basil, fish sauce, and the all important chili padi. It was spicy, fragrant, and so delicious I wonder why nobody serves this in Malaysia, simply love this dish.
Naturally, our first Thai meal must include tomyam, the shrimp tomyam (120 baht), it was of course freshly made from scratch, spicy, sour, and tastes as strong as you’d expect. The prawns was quite fresh too.
sumptuous lunch for the three of us at Tanatip Restaurant
Our third dish was something I’ve never tried before – fried century egg with ginger (70 baht). Yeap, if you love century egg, they are actually even better deep fried (what isn’t?). There’s generous amount of cashew nuts with this dish to probably make it a whole meal by itself if you’re on keto diet.
The random chanced upon restaurant Tanatip turned out to be more than satisfying, while the restaurant itself can perhaps be cleaner and more organized, we have nothing to complain when it comes the food itself.
The biggest appeal of diving to me is the calmness I get when underwater, listening to nothing but the breath that I take and the bubbles flowing out from the regulator, the sense of weightlessness and the ability to move about without restriction in 3 dimension. It is a form of freedom you never get on land.
The magnificent seascape and underwater creatures, well, they are just a huge bonus. While no picture can convey that sense of liberty, here are some underwater pictures I took from various dive sites at Similan Islands.
My gears were Olympus E-PL3 with the underwater housing coupled, Inon UWL 100 & Dome port, and a single Sea & Sea YS-01 external flash.
swim through, Deep Six
I logged 14 dives over 4 days of diving living aboard M/V Vilai Samut operated by Liquid Adventure. (previous year experience here). The boat departs from Khao Lak at night, so night one started before day one. The sites we went to were:
West of Eden
West of Eden (night)
Ko Tachai (night)
Koh Bon (night)
Koh Bon Pinnacle
Bon Soon Wreck
tiny black reef fish atop table coral at West of Eden
We were lucky to have excellent visibility of at least 30-40 meters in more than 70% of the dives, and had at least 20 meters in the rest of the dives too. Comparing with Pulau Sembilan/Lumut’s 5-10 m visibility…
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pics, and say no to shark’s fins!
giant spiny lobster, night dive at West of Eden
sea snake, Koh Bon
the reef at Koh Bon
clown fish in anemone, night dive at Elephant Rock
an unnerving cuttle fish, night dive at Elephant Rock
lion fish, night dive at Elephant Rock
Dave convincing a lion fish to pose, Richelieu Rock
Here’s a short video compiled from the video clips I took during the dive trip to Similan Islands. Looks like I’ll need a video light or shoot almost exclusively on shallow water under bright lit condition to make this better.
Most clips were shot with Olympus E-PL3 (except those not underwater, shot with Sony Xperia Arc), using Inon wide angle converter with dome port, no red filter (which I had and probably should have made good use of.. gah!)
It is always a mystery to me as to why there are so many people who insists on eating the things they are used to eating at home while traveling to another country. The phenomenon must be very prevalent, so much so that at most touristy places, there are more Western restaurants than there are local Thai places.
Khao Lakis more of the same, the small resort town (approximately 100 km north of Phuket) where we spent the day after liveaboard to Similan islands for degassing purposes. For us, that was of course a perfect opportunity to eat everything Thai.
Fire in the hole!
motorbike is the best way to get around
While Khao Lak is relatively small and there are cabs available pretty much everywhere, the best mode of transportation is a scooter. You probably don’t even need a license to rent one, but do make sure you know what you’re doing.
Our scooter cost 200 baht per day, and you can refuel from plenty of places by buying bottled gasoline for 40 baht per liter. If you value your life, ask for helmets, they provide them without extra charge.
som tam by the roadside, I had it last year too
If you love sour & spicy stuff, som tam is a must try. Made of unripe papaya or green mango, bean sprout, peanut, chili, dried shrimps and more. Comes with a kick, we paid 40 bath, would be cheaper if this stall wasn’t parked right outside hot tourist spots.
breakfast was this rice/noodle with extremely spicy broths
On the day of departure, we decided to forgo hotel breakfast and try something a Thai would have. After riding around a bit we arrived at this kopitiam with a couple Thai ladies operating a stall that offers rice or noodle with a selection of dishes with broth.
Thai: spicy haa!
Me: we kon Malay, spicy no problem!
I was mistaken. These shit was tasty, and really, really hot. Lucky for us there were fresh cucumbers & a variety of vegetables on the table to cool things down. It was a good meal, what do you call them anyway?
noodle soup is the yums, choices of beef, chicken, or pork
A day prior to departure, just before dinner, we stopped by one of the road side stalls right on the main street at Khao Lak for some “snacks” that turned out to be really delicious noodle soup.
Here you get to choose any combination of 3 ingredients: pork, chicken, and beef. I had mine with chicken & beef while Haze opted for pork and beef. This reminded me of Vietnamese pho, and had the same basil/bean sprout on the side too, but as with anything Thai, the flavors were stronger. Yums.
50 baht for each, water was free. 100 baht well spent.
pad thai wasn’t bad, the fried oyster tho, disappointing
Our last meal there was at this little restaurant a couple kilometers away from Khao Lak (scooter brings you places!). We had pad thai with prawns & squid, and another plate of fried oyster to share.
The pad thai was rather average, and the fried oyster.. well, after the experience at Penang’s version, this was a complete disappointment. Each plate was 50 baht, with 15 baht each for coca-cola t hat comes in those classic glass bottle.
Yes, my stomach is still recovering from all those chili overload, but of course it was worth it. 😀
Just got back on another excellent live aboard diving trip at Similan Islands, as with last year, the experience was nothing short of awesome. The photos are now transferring onto the computer and waiting to be processed, in the mean time, here are a couple photos from the trip.
dive buddy Dave in picture, at Koh Bon
Proper blog post on the trip, more photos, and perhaps a video is on the way soon as I get some time to work on them.
moray eel in full view, Koh Bon, Thailand
Back to the office tomorrow, been an awesome CNY holidays away from work, and the dive trip made it so much sweeter.