“Our love was lost;
But now we’ve found it.”
– Love Lost, The Temper Trap
On the theme of “Afloat” for this week’s Photo Challenge, I immediately thought of Hat Yai’s Floating Market I visited last December during one of my trips to Hat Yai and Songkhla as part of my fieldwork. I’d never heard of the market before so I had no idea what to expect; when I got there, I was over the moon when I discovered that this place was in fact a food haven, for there was an entire row of boats with men and women (who are Thai but ethnically Malay and therefore Muslims) selling some of the best food I’d come across during my visit to Southern Thailand.
I had a sample of the ais batu kacang (ABC — a sort of sweet delicacy made of crushed ice showered with syrups of all colors and some red beans, jellies, and ice cream) and chicken and beef kebab — literally one of the best I’d ever tasted, I swear to you. My only regret was having a big hearty lunch before going to the Floating Market; I had no idea this was meant to be a visit filled with many gastronomic delights, many of which were unfortunately dulled down by my satiated appetite.
The food sellers are only open for business in the afternoons though, so, if you intend to visit, like I said, best have an early lunch and leave space — lots of it — for dinner here. Speaking of space though, you might have to shove some elbows or avoid wearing heels if you want to run to book one of the limited tables around the area before they are swarmed by the other tourists and not accidentally fall into the river. Eating spaces are severely limited, so at least be prepared to eat while you stand, something which I always find awkward doing. Since my mother and I were too nice to shove our way to claim our space on that seat occupied by the other visitors’ bags, we did end up eating while we stood awkwardly on the sidewalk. However, my mother remarked that all this new infrastructure — small chalets with tables and seats and benches on the pavement along the riverbank — are all pretty new development, since they weren’t there before when she visited some time in the first half of 2014.
I must say, I was tremendously pleased to find that my taste buds absolutely agree with the spicy-and-sour-sweetness of Thai cuisine, and Southern Thailand offers plenty of opportunities for me to experiment with Thai food as it is convenient to get halal food since this region is predominantly Muslim. All that Tom Yam and deep-fried massive prawns from Phattalung I had (on more than one occasion, I must guiltily admit) and fresh, succulent, juicy sweet mangoes with glutinous rice and coconut milk certainly made fieldwork all the more bearable. I was already spending my days getting traumatized by interviewing middle-aged Malay men about polygamy and their sex life — something which they always brought to the table, I assure you, and never initiated by yours truly — so I think it’s fair game that I rewarded myself every now and then.
Let’s just hope this next phase of research will be as productive and gastronomically fulfilling.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Afloat.”